Articles | Volume 12, issue 23
Biogeosciences, 12, 7299–7313, 2015

Special issue: Hotspots of greenhouse emissions from terrestrial ecosystems...

Biogeosciences, 12, 7299–7313, 2015

Reviews and syntheses 14 Dec 2015

Reviews and syntheses | 14 Dec 2015

Reviews and syntheses: Soil N2O and NO emissions from land use and land-use change in the tropics and subtropics: a meta-analysis

J. van Lent2,1, K. Hergoualc'h1, and L. V. Verchot3,1 J. van Lent et al.
  • 1Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Jl. CIFOR, Situ Gede, Bogor 16115, Indonesia
  • 2Department of Soil Quality, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 3Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, Columbia University, New York, USA

Abstract. Deforestation and forest degradation in the tropics may substantially alter soil N-oxide emissions. It is particularly relevant to accurately quantify those changes to properly account for them in a REDD+ climate change mitigation scheme that provides financial incentives to reduce the emissions. With this study we provide updated land use (LU)-based emission rates (104 studies, 392 N2O and 111 NO case studies), we determine the trend and magnitude of flux changes with land-use change (LUC) using a meta-analysis approach (44 studies, 135 N2O and 37 NO cases) and evaluate biophysical drivers of N2O and NO emissions and emission changes for the tropics.

The average N2O and NO emissions in intact upland tropical forest amounted to 2.0 ± 0.2 (n = 90) and 1.7 ± 0.5 (n = 36) kg N ha−1 yr−1, respectively. In agricultural soils annual N2O emissions were exponentially related to N fertilization rates and average water-filled pore space (WFPS) whereas in non-agricultural sites a Gaussian response to WFPS fit better with the observed NO and N2O emissions. The sum of soil N2O and NO fluxes and the ratio of N2O to NO increased exponentially and significantly with increasing nitrogen availability (expressed as NO3 / [NO3+NH4+]) and WFPS, respectively; following the conceptual Hole-In-the-Pipe model. Nitrous and nitric oxide fluxes did not increase significantly overall as a result of LUC (Hedges's d of 0.11 ± 0.11 and 0.16 ± 0.19, respectively), however individual LUC trajectories or practices did. Nitrous oxide fluxes increased significantly after intact upland forest conversion to croplands (Hedges's d = 0.78 ± 0.24) and NO increased significantly following the conversion of low forest cover (secondary forest younger than 30 years, woodlands, shrublands) (Hedges's d of 0.44 ± 0.13). Forest conversion to fertilized systems significantly and highly raised both N2O and NO emission rates (Hedges's d of 1.03 ± 0.23 and 0.52 ± 0.09, respectively).

Changes in nitrogen availability and WFPS were the main factors explaining changes in N2O emissions following LUC, therefore it is important that experimental designs monitor their spatio-temporal variation. Gaps in the literature on N oxide fluxes included geographical gaps (Africa, Oceania) and LU gaps (degraded forest, wetland (notably peat) forest, oil palm plantation and soy cultivation).

Short summary
We summarized all available data on N-oxides and land use change, which could improve current IPCC tier 1 and 2 approaches for tropical countries. The meta-analysis showed that conversion to (non) fertilized agriculture had the largest effect. Further, we synthesize that the first years after conversion and land management practices are crucial for correctly accounting N2O and NO fluxes. Knowledge gaps remain for degraded forests, peat forests and dominant world crops such as oil palm and soy.
Final-revised paper