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Keywords:

  • beech (Fagus sylvatica);
  • leaves;
  • new mechanism;
  • nitrous oxide emission;
  • plant-mediated;
  • trees

Summary

  • • 
    Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission estimates from forest ecosystems are based currently on emission measurements using soil enclosures. Such enclosures exclude emissions via tall plants and trees and may therefore underestimate the whole-ecosystem N2O emissions.
  • • 
    Here, we measured plant-mediated N2O emissions from the leaves of potted beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedlings after fertilizing the soil with 15N-labelled ammonium nitrate (15NH415NO3), and after exposing the roots to elevated concentrations of N2O.
  • • 
    Ammonium nitrate fertilization induced N2O + 15N2O emissions from beech leaves. Likewise, the foliage emitted N2O after beech roots were exposed to elevated concentrations of N2O. The average N2O emissions from the fertilization and the root exposure experiments were 0.4 and 2.0 µg N m−2 leaf area h−1, respectively. Higher than ambient atmospheric concentrations of N2O in the leaves of the forest trees indicate a potential for canopy N2O emissions in the forest.
  • • 
    Our experiments demonstrate the existence of a previously overlooked pathway of N2O to the atmosphere in forest ecosystems, and bring about a need to investigate the magnitude of this phenomenon at larger scales.