Articles | Volume 3, issue 3
04 Aug 2006
04 Aug 2006

The relationship between NH3 emissions from a poultry farm and soil NO and N2O fluxes from a downwind forest

U. Skiba, J. Dick, R. Storeton-West, S. Lopez-Fernandez, C. Woods, S. Tang, and N. vanDijk

Abstract. Intensive livestock farms emit large concentrations of NH3, most of which is deposited very close to the source. The presence of trees enhances the deposition. Rates to downwind forests can exceed 40 kg N ha−1 y−1. The steep gradient in large NH3 concentrations of 34.3±20.4, 47.6±24.9, 21.7±16.8 µg NH3 m3 at the edge of a forest 15, 30 and 45 m downwind of the farm to near background concentrations within 270 m downwind (1.15±0.7 µg NH3 m3) provides an ideal site to study the effect of different rates of atmospheric NH3 concentrations and inferred deposition on biological and chemical processes under similar environmental conditions. We have investigated the effect of different NH3 concentrations and implied deposition rates on the flux of NO and N2O from soil in a mixed woodland downwind of a large poultry farm (160 000 birds) in Scotland, which has been operating for about 40 years. Measurements were carried out for a 6 month period, with hourly NO flux measurements, daily N2O fluxes close to the farm and monthly at all sites, and monthly cumulative wet and dry N deposition. The increased NH3 and NH4+ deposition to the woodland increased emissions of NO and N2O and soil available NH4+ and NO3 concentrations. Average NO and N2O fluxes measured 15, 25 and 45 m downwind of the farm were 111.2±41.1, 123.3±40.7, 38.3±28.8 µg NO-N m−2 h−1 and 9.9±7.5, 34.3±33.3 and 21.2±6.1 µg N2O-N m−2 h−1, respectively. At the background site 270 m downwind the N2O flux was reduced to 1.75±2.1 µg N2O-N m−2 h−1. NO emissions were significantly influenced by seasonal and daily changes in soil temperature and followed a diurnal pattern with maximum emissions approximately 3 h after noon. For N2O no consistent diurnal pattern was observed. Changes in soil moisture content had a less clear effect on the NO and N2O flux. In spite of the large NO and N2O emissions accounting for >3% of the N deposited to the woodland downwind of the farm, extrapolation to the entire British poultry flock suggests that these NH3 emissions contribute to less than 0.5% and 0.02%, respectively of the total annual UK NOx and N2O emissions.

Final-revised paper