Articles | Volume 6, issue 11
Biogeosciences, 6, 2461–2473, 2009

Special issue: Greenhouse gas exchanges, carbon balances and processes of...

Biogeosciences, 6, 2461–2473, 2009

  05 Nov 2009

05 Nov 2009

Nitrous oxide production in boreal soils with variable organic matter content at low temperature – snow manipulation experiment

M. Maljanen1,*, P. Virkajärvi2, J. Hytönen3, M. Öquist4, T. Sparrman5, and P. J. Martikainen1 M. Maljanen et al.
  • 1University of Kuopio, Department of Environmental Science, P.O. Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland
  • 2Agrifood Research Finland, Animal Production Research, Halolantie 31 A, 71750 Maaninka, Finland
  • 3Finnish Forest Research Institute, Kannus Research Unit, P.O. Box 44, 69101 Kannus, Finland
  • 4Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Skogsmarksgränd, 90183 Umeå, Sweden
  • 5Umeå University, Department of Chemistry, 90187 Umeå, Sweden
  • *Renaming from 1 January 2010: University of Kuopio to University of Eastern Finland,

Abstract. Agricultural soils are the most important sources for the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O), which is produced and emitted from soils also at low temperatures. The processes behind emissions at low temperatures are still poorly known. Snow is a good insulator and it keeps soil temperature rather constant. To simulate the effects of a reduction in snow depth on N2O emission in warming climate, snow pack was removed from experimental plots on three different agricultural soils (sand, mull, peat). Removal of snow lowered soil temperature and increased the extent and duration of soil frost in sand and mull soils. This led to enhanced N2O emissions during freezing and thawing events. The cumulative emissions during the first year when snow was removed over the whole winter were 0.25, 0.66 and 3.0 g N2O-N m−2 yr−1 in control plots of sand, mull and peat soils, respectively. In the treatment plots, without snow cover, the respective cumulative emissions were 0.37, 1.3 and 3.3 g N2O-N m−2 yr−1. Shorter snow manipulation during the second year did not increase the annual emissions. Only 20% of the N2O emission occurred during the growing season. Thus, these results highlight the importance of the winter season for this exchange and that the year-round measurements of annual N2O emissions from boreal soils are integral for estimating their N2O source strength. N2O accumulated in the frozen soil during winter and the soil N2O concentration correlated with the depth of frost but not with the winter N2O emission rates per se. Also laboratory incubations of soil samples showed high production rates of N2O at temperatures below 0°C, especially in the sand and peat soils.

Final-revised paper