Plant and Soil

, Volume 343, Issue 1–2, pp 17–35 | Cite as

Greenhouse gas fluxes respond to different N fertilizer types due to altered plant-soil-microbe interactions

  • Erich Inselsbacher
  • Wolfgang Wanek
  • Katrin Ripka
  • Evelyn Hackl
  • Angela Sessitsch
  • Joseph Strauss
  • Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern
Regular Article


The application of inorganic nitrogen (N) fertilizers strongly influences the contribution of agriculture to the greenhouse effect, especially by potentially increasing emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) from soils. The present microcosm-study investigates the effect of different forms of inorganic N fertilizers on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from two different agricultural soils. The relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and soil microbial communities, N transformation rates and plant (Hordeum vulgare L. cv. Morex) growth were investigated. Repeated N fertilization led to increased N2O emissions. In a parallel survey of functional microbial population dynamics we observed a stimulation of bacterial and archaeal ammonia oxidisers accompanied with these N2O emissions. The ratio of archaeal to bacterial ammonium monooxygenase subunit A (amoA) gene copies (data obtained from Inselsbacher et al., 2010) correlated positively with N2O fluxes, which suggests a direct or indirect involvement of archaea in N2O fluxes. Repeated N fertilization also stimulated methane oxidation, which may also be related to a stimulation of ammonia oxidizers. The fertilizer effects differed between soil types: In the more organic Niederschleinz soil N-turnover rates increased more strongly after fertilization, while in the sandy Purkersdorf soil plant growth and soil respiration were accelerated depending on fertilizer N type. Compared to addition of NH 4 + and NO 3 , addition of NH4NO3 fertilizer resulted in the largest increase in global warming potential as a summary indicator of all GHG related effects. This effect resulted from the strongest increase of both N2O and CO2 emission while plant growth was not equally stimulated, compared to e.g. KNO3 fertilization. In order to decrease N losses from agricultural ecosystems and in order to minimize soil derived global warming potential, this study points to the need for interdisciplinary investigations of the highly complex interactions within plant-soil-microbe-atmosphere systems. By understanding the microbial processes underlying fertilizer effects on GHG emissions the N use efficiency of crops could be refined.


Nitrous oxide Carbon dioxide Methane Greenhouse gases Agricultural soil N fertilizer Microbial community structure 



This work was supported by Project Nitrogenome (Enhancing nitrogen use efficiency by opening up the microbial black-box) LS-05-36 granted by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund WWTF. It was also partly funded by the European Commission through the NitroEurope Integrated Project 017841.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erich Inselsbacher
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Wolfgang Wanek
    • 1
  • Katrin Ripka
    • 3
  • Evelyn Hackl
    • 3
  • Angela Sessitsch
    • 3
  • Joseph Strauss
    • 3
    • 4
  • Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Chemical Ecology and Ecosystem Research, Faculty Centre for Ecology, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Forest Ecology and Soils, Unit of Soil Biology, Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape (BFW)ViennaAustria
  3. 3.AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, Bioresources UnitSeibersdorfAustria
  4. 4.Fungal Genetics and Genomics Unit, Department for Applied Genetics and Cell BiologyBOKU University ViennaViennaAustria
  5. 5.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSLU—Swedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden

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