nitrous oxide

When Wet Gets Wetter: Decoupling of Moisture, Redox Biogeochemistry, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in a Humid Tropical Forest Soil

Hall S. J., McDowell W.H., Silver W.L. When Wet Gets Wetter: Decoupling of Moisture, Redox Biogeochemistry, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in a Humid Tropical Forest Soil. Ecosystems. ISSN 1432-9840. DOI 10.1007/s10021-012-9631-2

Upland humid tropical forest soils are often characterized by fluctuating redox dynamics that vary temporally and spatially across the landscape. An increase in the frequency and intensity of rainfall events with climate change is likely to affect soil redox reactions that control the production and emissions of greenhouse gases. We used a 24-day rainfall manipulation experiment to evaluate temporal and spatial trends of surface soil (0–20 cm) redox-active chemical species and greenhouse gas fluxes in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Treatments consisted of a high rainfall simulation (60 mm day-1), a fluctuating rainfall regime, and a control. Water addition generated high temporal and spatial variation in soil moisture (0.3–0.6 m3 m-3), but had no significant effect on soil oxygen(O2) concentrations. Extractablenitrate(NO3 -) concentrations decreased with daily water additions and reduced iron (Fe(II)) concentrations increased towards the end of the experiment. Overall, redox indicators displayed a weak, non-deterministic, nonlinear relationship with soil moisture. High concentrations of Fe(II) and manganese (Mn) were present even where moisture was relatively low, and net Mn reduction occurred in all plots including controls. Mean CO2 fluxeswere best explained by soil C concentrations and a composite redox indicator, and not water addition. Several plots were CH4 sources irrespective of water addition, whereas other plots oscillated between weak CH4 sources and sinks. Fluxes of N2O were highest in control plots and were consistently low in water-addition plots. Together, these data suggest (1) a relative decoupling between soil moisture and redox processes at our spatial and temporal scales of measurement, (2) the co-occurrence of aerobic and anaerobic biogeochemical processes inwell-drained surface soils, and (3) an absence of threshold effects from sustained precipitation on redox reactions over the scale of weeks. Our data suggest a need to re-evaluate representations of moisture in biogeochemical models.

Impact of experimental drought on greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient availability in a humid tropical forest

We excluded throughfall from humid tropical forests in Puerto Rico for a period of three months to determine how drought affects greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forest soils. We established five 1.24 m2 throughfall exclusion and five control plots of equal size in three sites located on ridges, slopes, and an upland valley dominated by palms (total of 30 plots). We measured weekly changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) and bi-weekly changes in nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) in response to manipulation. We additionally measured the effects of throughfall exclusion on soil temperature and moisture, nutrient availability, and pH. Rainout shelters significantly reduced throughfall by 22 to 32 % and decreased soil moisture by 16 to 36% (top 10 cm). Rates of CO2 emissions decreased significantly in the ridge and slope sites (30%, 28%, respectively), but not the palm during the experimental drought. In contrast, the palm site became a significantly stronger sink for CH4 in response to drying (480% decline relative to controls), while CH4 fluxes in the ridge and slope sites did not respond to drought. Both the palm and ridge site became a sink for N2O in response to drought and the slope site followed a similar trend. Soil pH and available P decreased significantly in response to soil drying; however, available N was not affected. Variability in the response of greenhouse gas emissions to drought among the three sites highlights the complexity of biogeochemical cycling in tropical forested ecosystems, as well as the need for research that incorporates the high degree of spatial heterogeneity in experimental designs. Our results show that humid tropical forests are sensitive to climate change and that short-term declines in rainfall could result in a negative feedback to climate change via lowered greenhouse gas emissions and increased greenhouse gas consumption by soils.

Dissimilatory Nitrate Reduction to Ammonium in Upland Tropical Forest Soils

Dissimilatory Nitrate Reduction to Ammonium in Upland Tropical Forest Soils
Whendee L. Silver, Donald J. Herman and Mary K. Firestone
Vol. 82, No. 9 (Sep., 2001), pp. 2410-2416

The internal transformations of nitrogen in terrestrial ecosystems exert strong controls over nitrogen availability to net primary productivity, nitrate leaching into groundwater, and emissions of nitrogen-based greenhouse gas. Here we report a reductive pathway for nitrogen cycling in upland tropical forest soils that decreases the amount of nitrate susceptible to leaching and denitrification, thus conserving nitrogen in the ecosystem. Using 15N tracers we measured rates of dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) in upland humid tropical forest soils averaging ;0.6 mg·g21·d21. Rates of DNRA were three times greater than the combined N2O and N2 fluxes from nitrification and denitrification and accounted for 75% of the turnover of the nitrate pool. To determine the relative importance of ambient C, O2, and NO3 concentrations on rates of DNRA, we estimated rates of DNRA in laboratory assays using soils from three tropical forests (cloud forest, palm forest, and wet tropical forest) that differed in ambient C and O2 concentrations. Rates of DNRA measured in laboratory assays ranged from 0.5 to 9 mg·g21·d21 in soils from the three different forests and appeared to be primarily limited by the availability of NO3, as opposed to C or O2. Tests of sterile soils indicated that the dominant reductive pathway for both NO2 and NO3 was biotic and not abiotic. Because NH4 is the form of N generally favored for assimilation by plants and microbes, and NO3 is easily lost from the ecosystem, the rapid and direct transformation of NO3 to NH4 via DNRA has the potential to play an important role in ecosystem N conservation.

Distribution of Nitrous Oxide and Regulators of Its Production across a Tropical Rainforest Catena in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

MCSWINEY, CLAIRE P.; MCDOWELL, WILLIAM H.; KELLER, MICHAEL 2001. Distribution of nitrous oxide and regulators of its production across a tropical rainforest catena in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Biogeochemistry 56: 265-286.

Understanding of N2O fluxes to the atmosphere is complicated by interactions between chemical and physical controls on both production and movement of the gas. To better understand how N2O production is controlled in the soil, we measured concentrations of N2O and of the proximal controllers on its production in soil water and soil air in a field study in the Rio Icacos basin of the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. A toposequence (ridge, slope-ridge break, slope, slope-riparian break, riparian, and streambank) was used that has been previously characterized for groundwater chemistry and surface N2O fluxes. The proximal controls on N2O production include NO−3 , NH+4 , DOC, and O2. Nitrous oxide and O2 were measured in soil air and NO−3 , NH+4 , and DO were measured in soil water. Nitrate and DOC disappeared from soil solution at the slope-riparian interface, where soil N2O concentrations increased dramatically. Soil N2O concentrations continued to increase through the flood plain and the streambank. Nitrous oxide concentrations were highest in soil air probes that had intermediate O2 concentrations. Changes in N2O concentrations in groundwater and soil air in different environments along the catena appear to be controlled by O2 concentrations. In general, N processing in the unsaturated and saturated zones differs within each topographic position apparently due to differences in redox status.

Control of Nitrogen Export from Watersheds by Headwater Streams

Peterson, B.J. et al. 2001. Control of Nitrogen Export from Watersheds by Headwater Streams.
Science 6 April 2001:
Vol. 292 no. 5514 pp. 86-90
DOI: 10.1126/science.1056874

A comparative 15N-tracer study of nitrogen dynamics in headwater streams from biomes throughout North America demonstrates that streams exert control over nutrient exports to rivers, lakes, and estuaries. The most rapid uptake and transformation of inorganic nitrogen occurred in the smallest streams. Ammonium entering these streams was removed from the water within a few tens to hundreds of meters. Nitrate was also removed from stream water but traveled a distance 5 to 10 times as long, on average, as ammonium. Despite low ammonium concentration in stream water, nitrification rates were high, indicating that small streams are potentially important sources of atmospheric nitrous oxide. During seasons of high biological activity, the reaches of headwater streams typically export downstream less than half of the input of dissolved inorganic nitrogen from their watersheds.

Riparian Nitrogen Dynamics in Two Geomorphologically Distinct Tropical Rain Forest Watersheds: Nitrous Oxide Fluxes

Riparian Nitrogen Dynamics in Two Geomorphologically Distinct Tropical Rain Forest Watersheds: Nitrous Oxide Fluxes
William B. Bowden, William H. McDowell, Clyde E. Asbury and Amy M. Finley
Vol. 18, No. 2 (1992), pp. 77-99

Fluxes of N<sub>2</sub>O at the soil surface, dissolved N<sub>2</sub>O in near-surface groundwater, and potential N<sub>2</sub>O production rates were measured across riparian catenas in two rain forest watersheds in Puerto Rico. In the Icacos watershed, mean N<sub>2</sub>O fluxes were highest at topographic breaks in the landscape (∼40-300 μg N<sub>2</sub>O-N m<sup>-2</sup> h<sup>-1</sup>). At other locations in the riparian zone and hillslope, fluxes were lower (≤ 2 μg N<sub>2</sub>O-N m<sup>-2</sup> h<sup>-1</sup>). This pattern of surface N<sub>2</sub>O fluxes was persistent. In the Bisley watershed, mean suface N<sub>2</sub>O fluxes were lower (<40 μg N<sub>2</sub>O-N m<sup>-2</sup> h<sup>-1</sup>) and no identifiable spatial or temporal pattern. Although the spatial patterns and intensities of N<sub>2</sub>O emissions differed between the two watersheds, surface soils from both sites had a high potential to reduce NO<sub>3</sub> to N<sub>2</sub>O (and perhaps N<sub>2</sub>). This potential declined sharply with depth as did soil %C, %N, and potential N-mineralization. Simple controls on denitrification (i.e. aeration, nitrate, and carbon) explained characteristics of potential N<sub>2</sub>O production in surface and deep soils from riparian and upslope locations. In the field, spatial patterns in these controlling variables were defined by geomorphological differences between the two watersheds, which then explained the spatial patterns of observed N<sub>2</sub>O flux.
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