Articles | Volume 3, issue 4
18 Dec 2006
18 Dec 2006

Factors controlling regional differences in forest soil emission of nitrogen oxides (NO and N2O)

K. Pilegaard, U. Skiba, P. Ambus, C. Beier, N. Brüggemann, K. Butterbach-Bahl, J. Dick, J. Dorsey, J. Duyzer, M. Gallagher, R. Gasche, L. Horvath, B. Kitzler, A. Leip, M. K. Pihlatie, P. Rosenkranz, G. Seufert, T. Vesala, H. Westrate, and S. Zechmeister-Boltenstern

Abstract. Soil emissions of NO and N2O were measured continuously at high frequency for more than one year at 15 European forest sites as part of the EU-funded project NOFRETETE. The locations represent different forest types (coniferous/deciduous) and different nitrogen loads. Geographically they range from Finland in the north to Italy in the south and from Hungary in the east to Scotland in the west.

The highest NO emissions were observed from coniferous forests, whereas the lowest NO emissions were observed from deciduous forests. The NO emissions from coniferous forests were highly correlated with N-deposition. The site with the highest average annual emission (82 μg NO-N m−2 h−1) was a spruce forest in South-Germany (Höglwald) receiving an annual N-deposition of 2.9 g m−2. NO emissions close to the detection limit were observed from a pine forest in Finland where the N-deposition was 0.2 g N m−2 a−1. No significant correlation between N2O emission and N-deposition was found. The highest average annual N2O emission (20 μg N2O-N m−2 h−1) was found in an oak forest in the Mátra mountains (Hungary) receiving an annual N-deposition of 1.6 g m−2. N2O emission was significantly negatively correlated with the C/N ratio.

The difference in N-oxide emissions from soils of coniferous and deciduous forests may partly be explained by differences in N-deposition rates and partly by differences in characteristics of the litter layer and soil. NO was mainly derived from nitrification whereas N2O was mainly derived from denitrification. In general, soil moisture is lower at coniferous sites (at least during spring time) and the litter layer of coniferous forests is thick and well aerated favouring nitrification and thus release of NO. Conversely, the higher rates of denitrification in deciduous forests due to a compact and moist litter layer lead to N2O production and NO consumption in the soil.

The two factors soil moisture and soil temperature are often explaining most of the temporal variation within a site. When comparing annual emissions on a regional scale, however, factors such as nitrogen deposition and forest and soil type become much more important.

Final-revised paper