Global distribution of N2O emissions from aquatic systems : natural emissions and anthropogenic effects

S.P. Seitzinger, R.V. Styles, C. Kroeze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

157 Citations (Scopus)


Context Abstract: Atmospheric concentrations of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, are increasing due to human activities. Our analysis suggests that a third of global anthropogenic N2O emission is from aquatic sources (rivers, estuaries, continental shelves) and the terrestrial sources comprise the remainder. Over 80␘f aquatic anthropogenic N2O emissions are from the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes consistent with the geographic distribution of N fertilizer use, human population and atmospheric N deposition. These N inputs to land have increased aquatic as well as terrestrial anthropogenic N2O emissions because a substantial portion enters aquatic systems and results in increased N2O production. Thus, wise management of N in the terrestrial environment could help reduce/control both aquatic and terrestrial N2O emissions. Main Abstract: The global distribution of N2O emissions from rivers, estuaries, continental shelves, and oceans are compared to each other, and to terrestrial emissions, using existing gridded inventories. Rivers, estuaries and continental shelves (1.9 Tg N y−1) account for about 35␘f total aquatic N2O emissions; oceanic emissions comprise the remainder. Oceanic N2O emissions are approximately equally distributed between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; however, over 90␘f emissions from estuaries and rivers are in the Northern Hemisphere. N2O emissions from rivers, estuaries, and continental shelves combined equal oceanic emissions in both the 20°–45°N and 45°–66°N latitudinal zones. Over 90␘f river and estuary emissions are considered anthropogenic (1.2 Tg N y−1); only 25␘f continental shelf emissions are considered anthropogenic (0.1 Tg N y−1); oceanic emissions are considered natural. Overall, approximately one third of both aquatic and of terrestrial emissions are anthropogenic. Natural terrestrial emissions are highest in tropical latitudes while natural aquatic emissions are relatively evenly distributed among latitudinal zones. Over half of both the anthropogenic terrestrial and aquatic emissions occur between 20° and 66°N. Anthropogenic N inputs to the terrestrial environment drive anthropogenic N2O emissions from both land and aquatic ecosystems, because a substantial portion of the anthropogenic N applied to watersheds enters rivers, estuaries and continental shelves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-279
JournalChemosphere : global change science
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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