Production of Methane and Nitrous Oxide by Organic Soils within a Northern Hardwood Forest Ecosystem

  • Joseph B. Yavitt
  • Timothy J. Fahey


Methane and nitrous oxide fluxes and the processes governing these fluxes were measured in a well-drained, upland forest soil (Spodosol) and a water-logged, organic soil (Histosol) in the northern hardwood forest at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, USA, to determine the extent to which fluxes and processes varied between soil types. Field measurements were carried out between April and November 1990 and indicated that methane fluxes were mostly negative (net consumption of atmospheric methane) for the forest soil and positive (net emission into the atmosphere) for the organic soil. The rate of methane consumption by the forest soil was highest when the soil was relatively dry. Methane production by the organic soil seemed to be controlled by sulfate deposition in rain which may have stimulated sulfate reduction at the expense of methane production. Nitrous oxide fluxes were negligible for the forest soil and relatively high for the organic soil. Interactions of several processes seemed to control nitrous oxide production by the soils and nitrous oxide fluxes observed in situ. When fluxes were weighted by the areal extent of these soil types in the forest, the ecosystem became a net source of atmospheric methane, with a mean daily flux of 0.5 mg m-2 d-1, rather than a methane sink as commonly thought and a slightly larger nitrous oxide source than expected.


Nitrous Oxide Forest Soil Methane Production Temperate Forest Organic Soil 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    American Public Health Association. 1981. Standard Methods for Examination of Water and Wastewater, 15th ed., American Public Health Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Born, M., H. Don, and I. Levin. 1990. Methane consumption in aerated soils of the temperate zone. Tellus 42B:2–8.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bowden, R.D., P.A. Steudler, J.M. Melillo, and J.D. Aber. 1990. Annual nitrous oxide fluxes from temperate forest soils in the northeastern United States. J. Geophys. Res. 95:13997–14005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cicerone, R.J., and R.S. Oremland. 1988. Biogeochemical aspects of atmospheric methane. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 2:299–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Crill, P.M. 1991. Seasonal patterns of methane uptake and carbon dioxide release by a temperate woodland soil. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 5:319–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Crill, P.M., K.B. Bartlett, R.C. Harriss, E. Gorham, E.S. Verry, D.I. Sebacher, L. Madzar, and W. Sanner. 1988. Methane flux from Minnesota peatlands. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 2:371–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Davidson, E.A. 1991. Fluxes of nitrous oxide and nitric oxide from terrestrial ecosystems. In J.E. Rogers and W.B. Whitman (eds.), Microbial Production and Consumption of Greenhouse Gases: Methane, Nitrogen Oxides, and Halomethanes, American Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC, pp. 219–235.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Firestone, M.K., and E.A. Davidson. 1989. Microbial basis of NO and N2O production and consumption in soil. In M.O. Andreae and D.S. Schimel (eds.), Exchange of Trace Gases between Terrestrial Ecosystems and the Atmosphere, J. Wiley and Sons, New York, pp. 7–22.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Fisher, S.G., and G.E. Likens. 1973. Energy flow in Bear Brook, New Hampshire: an integrative approach to stream ecosystem metabolism. Ecol. Monogr. 43:421–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Flett, R.J., R.D. Hamilton, and N.E.R. Campbell. 1976. Aquatic acetylene reduction techniques: solutions to several problems. Can. J. Microbiol. 22:43–51.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Goodroad, L.L., and D.R. Keeney. 1984. Nitrous oxide emission from forest, marsh, and prairie ecosystems. J. Environ. Qual. 13:448–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Keller, M., T.J. Goreau, S.C. Wofsy, W.A. Kaplan, and M.B. McElroy. 1983. Production of nitrous oxide and consumption of methane by forest soils. Geophys. Res. Lett. 10:1156–1159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Robertson, G.P., and J.M. Tiedje. 1984. Denitrification and nitrous oxide production in successional and old-growth Michigan forests. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 48:383–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Robertson, G.P., and J.M. Tiedje. 1987. Nitrous oxide sources in aerobic soils: nitrification, denitrification and other biological processes. Soil Biol. Biochem. 19:187–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Schmidt, J., W. Seiler, and R. Conrad. 1988. Emission of nitrous oxide from temperate forest soils into atmosphere. J. Atmos. Chem. 6:95–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Steudler, P.A., R.D. Bowden, J.M. Melillo, and J.D. Aber. 1989. Influence of nitrogen fertilization on methane uptake in temperate forest soils. Nature 341: 314–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Tiedje, J.M., A.J. Sexstone, D.D. Myrold, and J.A. Robinson. 1982. Denitrification: ecological niches, competition, and survival. Antonie Leeuwenhoek J. Microbiol. Serol. 48:569–583.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Urban, N.R., S.J. Eisenreich, and S.E. Bayley. 1988. The relative importance of denitrification and nitrate assimilation in midcontinental bogs. Limnol Oceanogr. 33:1611–1617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Urban, N.R., S.J. Eisenreich, and D.F. Grigal. 1989. Sulfur cycling in a forested Sphagnum bog in northern Minnesota. Biogeochemistry 7:81–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    van de Griend, A.A., and E.T. Engman. 1985. Partial area hydrology and remote sensing. J. Hydrol. 81:211–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Waughman, G.J. 1980. Chemical aspects of the ecology of some south German peatlands. J. Ecol. 68:1025–1046.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Winfrey, M.R., D.G. Marty, A.J.M. Bianchi, and D.M. Ward. 1981. Vertical distribution of sulfate reduction, methane production, and bacteria in marine sediments. Geomicrobiol. J. 2:341–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Yavitt, J.B., D.M. Downey, G.E. Lang, and A.J. Sexstone. 1990. Methane consumption in two temperate forest soils. Biogeochemistry 9:39–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Yavitt, J.B., G.E. Lang, and R.K. Wieder. 1987. Control of carbon mineralization to CH, and CO2 in anaerobic, Sphagnum-derived peat from Big Run Bog, West Virginia. Biogeochemistry 4:141–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Yoshinari, T, and R. Knowles. 1976. Acetylene inhibition of nitrous oxide reduction by denitrifying bacteria. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 69:705–710.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph B. Yavitt
    • 1
  • Timothy J. Fahey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

Personalised recommendations