Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 48, Issue 1–2, pp 37–50 | Cite as

A global inventory of nitric oxide emissions from soils

  • Eric A. Davidson
  • Wendy Kingerlee


Over 60 published papers reporting field measurements of emissions of nitric oxide (NO) from soil are reviewed, and over 100 annual estimates of NO emissions were made for various types of ecosystems, including agricultural fields. These data were stratified by biome and the mean of each stratum was multiplied by an estimate of the biome area. A few strata were identified as clearly having low NO emissions: montane forests, swamps and marshes, tundra, and temperate forests that are not heavily affected by N deposition. The largest emissions were observed in tropical savanna/woodland, chaparral, and cultivated agriculture, but variation in NO emissions within these strata was also large. Although the stratification scheme fails to partition this within-stratum variation, it does clearly identify these biomes as globally important sources of NO and as areas where more research is needed to investigate within-biome variation in NO emissions. It is too early to tell whether differences in NO emissions between temperate and tropical agriculture are significant, but it is clear that agriculture is an important source of NO and that management practices affect NO emissions. The best current estimate of the global soil source of NO is 21 Tg N yr-1. Adsorption of NOx onto plant canopy surfaces may reduce emissions to the atmosphere to as low as 13 Tg N yr-1, although the absorption effect is probably smaller than this. An error term for the global estimate is difficult to determine, but it is at least ±4 and perhaps as large at ±10 Tg N yr-1. Hence, only modest progress has been made in narrowing uncertainties in the estimate of the global soil source of NO, although some published lower estimates appear unlikely. This inventory reconfirms that the soil source of NO is similar in magnitude to fossil fuel emissions of NOx. Further narrowing of the uncertainty of the estimate of global soil NO emissions will require more sophisticated and carefully chosen stratification schemes to address variation within biomes based on soil fertility, soil texture, climate, and management and will require linking this type of inventory and stratification with mechanistic models.

greenhouse gases nitrogen NOx nitrous oxide ozone precursors trace gases 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric A. Davidson
    • 1
  • Wendy Kingerlee
    • 1
  1. 1.The Woods Hole Research CenterWoods HoleUSA

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