The effect of aggregates on N2O emission from denitrification in an agricultural peat soil

P.C. Stolk, R.F.A. Hendriks, C.M.J. Jacobs, E.J. Moors, P. Kabat

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions are highly variable in time, with high peak emissions lasting as couple of days to weeks and low background emissions. This temporal variability is poorly understood which hampers the simulation of daily N2O emissions. In structured soils, like clay and peat, aggregates hamper the diffusion of oxygen, which leads to anaerobic microsites in the soil, favourable for denitrification. In this paper we studied the effect of aggregates in soils on the N2O emissions from denitrification. We presented a parameterization to simulate the effects of aggregates on N2O, following the mobile-immobile model concept. This parameterization was implemented in a field-scale hydrological-biogeochemical model combination. We compared the simulated fluxes with observed fluxes from a fertilized and drained peat soil with grass. The results of this study showed that aggregates strongly affect N2O emissions: peak emissions are lower, whereas the background emissions are slightly higher. Implementation of the effect of aggregates caused a decrease in the simulated annual emissions of more than 40%. The new parameterization also significantly improved the model performance to simulate observed N2O fluxes. Aggregates have more impact on the reduction of N2O than on the production of N2O. Reduction of N2O is more sensitive to changes in the drivers than production of N2O and is in that sense the key process to understand N2O emissions from denitrification. The effects of changing conditions on reduction of N2O relative to N2O production is dependent on the NO3 content of the soil. It is expected that in soils with a low NO3 content the influence of aggregates on the NO3 concentration is not negligible. This study showed that the current knowledge of the hydrological, biogeochemical and physical processes is sufficient to understand the observed N2O fluxes from a fertilized peatland. Further research is needed to test how aggregates affect the N2O fluxes in areas or periods with little NO3 in the soil.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCopernicus Publications
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2011

Publication series

NameBiogeosciences Discussions
PublisherEuropean Geosciences Union
ISSN (Print)1810-6277


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  • ESS-CC

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