, Volume 119, Issue 1–3, pp 371–386 | Cite as

Warming-induced enhancement of soil N2O efflux linked to distinct response times of genes driving N2O production and consumption

  • S. A. BillingsEmail author
  • L. K. Tiemann


Temperature responses of denitrifying microbes likely play a governing role in the production and consumption of N2O. We investigated temperature effects on denitrifier communities and their potential to produce N2O and N2 by incubating grassland soils collected in multiple seasons at four temperatures with 15N-enriched NO3 for ~24 h. We quantified [N2O] concentration across time, estimated its production and reduction to N2, and quantified relative abundance of genes responsible for N2O production (cnorB) and reduction (nosZ). In all seasons, net N2O production was positively linked to incubation temperature, with highest estimates of net and gross N2O production in late spring soils. N2O dynamics were tightly coupled to changes in denitrifier community structure, which occurred on both seasonal and incubation time scales. We observed increases in nosZ abundance with increasing incubation temperature after 24 h, and relatively larger increases in cnorB abundance from winter to late June. The difference between incubation and in situ temperature was a robust predictor of cnorB:nosZ. These data provide convincing evidence that short-term increases in temperature can induce remarkably rapid changes in community structure that increase the potential for reduction of N2O to N2, and that seasonal adaptation of denitrifying communities is linked to seasonal changes in potential N2O production, with warmer seasons linked to large increases in N2O production potential. This work helps explain observations of high spatial and temporal variation in N2O effluxes, and highlights the importance of temperature as an influence on denitrification enzyme kinetics, denitrifier physiology and community adaptations, and associated N2O efflux and reduction.


Nitrous oxide norB nosZ Denitrifiers Anaerobic denitrification Relative gene abundance qPCR 15N tracer 



This research was supported by NSF DEB-0910343. We thank Stefany Molina and Ryan Rastok, who assisted with field and lab work, and Dr. Jude Kastens and Dr. Bryan Young who provided insights during data analysis. Three anonymous reviewers provided valuable feedback. This study was conducted at and supported by the University of Kansas Field station, a research unit of the Kansas Biological Survey and the University of Kansas.

Supplementary material

10533_2014_9973_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Kansas Biological SurveyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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