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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #387109

Research Project: Reducing the Environmental Footprint from Agricultural Systems through Managing Resources and Nutrient Inputs

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: N2O is an important piece of the puzzle, but seeing the whole picture strengthens denitrification research

item Emmett, Bryan

Submitted to: Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences
Publication Type: Research Notes
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/21/2021
Publication Date: 9/25/2021
Citation: Emmett, B.D. 2021. N2O is an important piece of the puzzle, but seeing the whole picture strengthens denitrification research. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences. 126(10). Article e2021JG006576.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: For decades, denitrification research has been limited by the challenge of measuring fluxes of N2 against a background of high atmospheric concentrations. The methods developed to overcome this challenge all have strengths and weaknesses. A recent paper published here in JGR-Biogeosciences demonstrates the potential of one technique, the Nitrogen-Free Air Recirculation Method to measure denitrification end products in relatively undisturbed soil cores. This work reinforces the importance of N2 as the primary end-product of denitrification, accounting for over 86% of measured fluxes in all cores sampled, and reveals unforeseen hotspots of denitrification at depth in soil. Similar efforts to improve estimates of N2O: N2O + N2 yield from denitrification predict N2 fluxes at the field scale roughly double those predicted using previous techniques. By providing a more complete picture of N2O and N2 production in terrestrial systems, these efforts can strengthen denitrification research and support essential refinement of ecosystem models. The identification of unforeseen denitrification hotspots highlights the continued surprises of soil nitrogen cycle and should inspire mechanistic research into the biophysical drivers and communities that mediate denitrification hotspots.