Plant and Soil

, Volume 309, Issue 1–2, pp 169–189 | Cite as

N2O emissions from agricultural lands: a synthesis of simulation approaches

  • Deli Chen
  • Yong Li
  • Peter Grace
  • Arvin R. Mosier
Regular Article


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is primarily produced by the microbially-mediated nitrification and denitrification processes in soils. It is influenced by a suite of climate (i.e. temperature and rainfall) and soil (physical and chemical) variables, interacting soil and plant nitrogen (N) transformations (either competing or supplying substrates) as well as land management practices. It is not surprising that N2O emissions are highly variable both spatially and temporally. Computer simulation models, which can integrate all of these variables, are required for the complex task of providing quantitative determinations of N2O emissions. Numerous simulation models have been developed to predict N2O production. Each model has its own philosophy in constructing simulation components as well as performance strengths. The models range from those that attempt to comprehensively simulate all soil processes to more empirical approaches requiring minimal input data. These N2O simulation models can be classified into three categories: laboratory, field and regional/global levels. Process-based field-scale N2O simulation models, which simulate whole agroecosystems and can be used to develop N2O mitigation measures, are the most widely used. The current challenge is how to scale up the relatively more robust field-scale model to catchment, regional and national scales. This paper reviews the development history, main construction components, strengths, limitations and applications of N2O emissions models, which have been published in the literature. The three scale levels are considered and the current knowledge gaps and challenges in modelling N2O emissions from soils are discussed.


Nitrous oxide emissions Agroecosystem modelling Nitrification Denitrification Soil nitrogen Greenhouse gases 



This work was sponsored by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research project (LWR-2003-039) and Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deli Chen
    • 1
  • Yong Li
    • 1
  • Peter Grace
    • 2
  • Arvin R. Mosier
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Resource Management, Faculty of Land and Food ResourcesThe University of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia
  2. 2.School of Natural Resource SciencesQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Mount PleasantUSA

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