Global trends and uncertainties in terrestrial denitrification and N2O emissions

A.F. Bouwman, A.H.W. Beusen, J. Griffioen, J.W. van Groenigen, M.M. Hefting, O. Oenema, P.J.T.M. van Puijenbroek, S. Seitzinger, C.P. Slomp, E. Stehfest

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134 Citations (Scopus)


Soil nitrogen (N) budgets are used in a global, distributed flow-path model with 0.5 degrees x 0.5 degrees resolution, representing denitrification and N2O emissions from soils, groundwater and riparian zones for the period 1900-2000 and scenarios for the period 2000-2050 based on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Total agricultural and natural N inputs from N fertilizers, animal manure, biological N-2 fixation and atmospheric N deposition increased from 155 to 345 Tg N yr(-1) (Tg = teragram; 1 Tg = 10(12) g) between 1900 and 2000. Depending on the scenario, inputs are estimated to further increase to 408-510 Tg N yr(-1) by 2050. In the period 1900-2000, the soil N budget surplus (inputs minus withdrawal by plants) increased from 118 to 202 Tg yr(-1), and this may remain stable or further increase to 275 Tg yr(-1) by 2050, depending on the scenario. N-2 production from denitrification increased from 52 to 96 Tg yr(-1) between 1900 and 2000, and N2O-N emissions from 10 to 12 Tg N yr(-1). The scenarios foresee a further increase to 142 Tg N-2-N and 16 Tg N2O-N yr(-1) by 2050. Our results indicate that riparian buffer zones are an important source of N2O contributing an estimated 0.9 Tg N2O-N yr(-1) in 2000. Soils are key sites for denitrification and are much more important than groundwater and riparian zones in controlling the N flow to rivers and the oceans.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Biological sciences
Issue number1621
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • nitrous-oxide
  • aquatic ecosystems
  • nitrate removal
  • riparian zones
  • soil-ph
  • groundwater
  • future
  • no
  • reduction
  • networks

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