, Volume 49, Issue 1-3, pp 7-16

Sources of nitrous oxide in soils

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Research to identify sources of nitrous oxide (N2O) in soils has indicated that most, if not all, of the N2O evolved from soils is produced by biological processes and that little, if any, is produced by chemical processes such as chemodenitrification. Early workers assumed that denitrification was the only biological process responsible for N2O production in soils and that essentially all of the N2O evolved from soils was produced through reduction of nitrate by denitrifying microorganisms under anaerobic conditions. It is now well established, however, that nitrifying microorganisms contribute significantly to emissions of N2O from soils and that most of the N2O evolved from aerobic soils treated with ammonium or ammonium-yielding fertilizers such as urea is produced during oxidation of ammonium to nitrate by these microorganisms. Support for the conclusion that chemoautotrophic nitrifiers such as Nitrosomonas europaea contribute significantly to production of N2O in soils treated with N fertilizers has been provided by studies showing that N2O emissions from such soils can be greatly reduced through addition of nitrification inhibitors such as nitrapyrin, which retard oxidation of ammonium by chemoautotrophic nitrifiers but do not retard reduction of nitrate by denitrifying microorganisms.