Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 329–336 | Cite as

Denitrification rates in relation to groundwater level in a peat soil under grassland

  • C. L. van Beek
  • E. W. J. Hummelink
  • G.L. Velthof
  • O. Oenema
Original Paper


In this study spatial and temporal relations between denitrification rates and groundwater levels were assessed for intensively managed grassland on peat soil where groundwater levels fluctuated between 0 and 1 m below the soil surface. Denitrification rates were measured every 3–4 weeks using the C2H2 inhibition technique for 2 years (2000–2002). Soil samples were taken every 10 cm until the groundwater level was reached. Annual N losses through denitrification averaged 87 kg N ha-1 of which almost 70% originated from soil layers deeper than 20 cm below the soil surface. N losses through denitrification accounted for 16% of the N surplus at farm-level (including mineralization of peat), making it a key-process for the N efficiency of the present dairy farm. Potential denitrification rates exceeded actual denitrification rates at all depths, indicating that organic C was not limiting actual denitrification rates in this soil. The groundwater level appeared to determine the distribution of denitrification rates with depth. Our results were explained by the ample availability of an energy source (degradable C) throughout the soil profile of the peat soil.


Denitrification Groundwater level Peat Grassland Nitrous oxide 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. L. van Beek
    • 1
  • E. W. J. Hummelink
    • 1
  • G.L. Velthof
    • 1
  • O. Oenema
    • 1
  1. 1.Alterra, Soil Sciences CentreWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands

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