Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 1–24

Field measurements of NO and NO2 emissions from fertilized and unfertilized soils

  • F. Slemr
  • W. Seiler


Field measurements of NO and NO2 emissions from soils have been performed in Finthen near Mainz (F.R.G.) and in Utrera near Seville (Spain). The applied method employed a flow box coupled with a chemiluminescent NOx detector allowing the determination of minimum flux rates of 2 μg N m-2 h-1 for NO and 3 μg m-2 h-1 for NO2.

The NO and NO2 flux rates were found to be strongly dependent on soil surface temperatures and showed strong daily variations with maximum values during the early afternoon and minimum values during the early morning. Between the daily variation patterns of NO and NO2, there was a time lag of about 2 h which seem to be due to the different physico-chemical properties of NO and NO2. The apparent activation energy of NO emission calculated from the Arrhenius equation ranged between 44 and 103 kJ per mole. The NO and NO2 emission rates were positively correlated with soil moisture in the upper soil layer.

The measurements carried out in August in Finthen clearly indicate the establishment of NO and NO2 equilibrium mixing ratios which appeared to be on the order of 20 ppbv for NO and 10 ppbv for NO2. The soil acted as a net sink for ambient air NO and NO2 mixing ratios higher than the equilibrium values and a net source for NO and NO2 mixing ratios lower than the equilibrium values. This behaviour as well as the observation of equilibrium mixing ratios clearly indicate that NO and NO2 are formed and destroyed concurrently in the soil.

Average flux rates measured on bare unfertilized soils were about 10 μg N m-2 h-1 for NO2 and 8 μg N m-2 h-1 for NO. The NO and NO2 flux rates were significantly reduced on plant covered soil plots. In some cases, the flux rates of both gases became negative indicating that the vegetation may act as a sink for atmospheric NO and NO2.

Application of mineral fertilizers increased the NO and NO2 emission rates. Highest emission rates were observed for urea followed by NH4Cl, NH4NO3 and NaNO3. The fertilizer loss rates ranged from 0.1% for NaNO3 to 5.4% for urea. Vegetation cover substantially reduced the fertilizer loss rate.

The total NOx emission from soil is estimated to be 11 Tg N yr-1. This figure is an upper limit and includes the emission of 7 Tg N yr-1 from natural unfertilized soils, 2 Tg N yr-1 from fertilized soils as well as 2 Tg N yr-1 from animal excreta. Despite its speculative character, this estimation indicates that NOx emission by soil is important for tropospheric chemistry especially in remote areas where the NOx production by other sources is comparatively small.

Key words

NO NO2 soil decomposition production global budget mineral fertilizer 


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Slemr
    • 1
  • W. Seiler
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für ChemieMainzF.R. Germany

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