Dinitrogen Emissions Dominate Nitrogen Gas Emissions From Soils With Low Oxygen Availability in a Moist Tropical Forest

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Almaraz, Maya
Groffman, Peter M.
Silver, Whendee L.
Lin, Yang
O’Connell, Christine
Porder, Stephen
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© 2023 American Geophysical Union
Hall, Steven
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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology seeks to teach the studies of ecology (organisms and their environment), evolutionary theory (the origin and interrelationships of organisms), and organismal biology (the structure, function, and biodiversity of organisms). In doing this, it offers several majors which are codirected with other departments, including biology, genetics, and environmental sciences.

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology was founded in 2003 as a merger of the Department of Botany, the Department of Microbiology, and the Department of Zoology and Genetics.

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Lowland tropical forest soils are relatively N rich and are the largest global source of N2O (a powerful greenhouse gas) to the atmosphere. Despite the importance of tropical N cycling, there have been few direct measurements of N2 (an inert gas that can serve as an alternate fate for N2O) in tropical soils, limiting our ability to characterize N budgets, manage soils to reduce N2O production, or predict the future role that N limitation to primary productivity will play in buffering against climate change. We collected soils from across macro- and micro-topographic gradients that have previously been shown to differ in O2 availability and trace gas emissions. We then incubated these soils under oxic and anoxic headspaces to explore the relative effect of soil location versus transient redox conditions. No matter where the soils came from, or what headspace O2 was used in the incubation, N2 emissions dominated the flux of N gas losses. In the macrotopography plots, production of N2 and N2O were higher in low O2 valleys than on more aerated ridges and slopes. In the microtopography plots, N2 emissions from plots with lower mean soil O2 (5%–10%) were greater than in plots with higher mean soil O2 (10%–20%). We estimate an N gas flux of ∼37 kg N/ha/yr from this forest, 99% as N2. These results suggest that N2 fluxes may have been systematically underestimated in these landscapes, and that the measurements we present call for a reevaluation of the N budgets in lowland tropical forest ecosystems.
This article is published as Almaraz, Maya, Peter M. Groffman, Whendee L. Silver, Steven J. Hall, Yang Lin, Christine O’Connell, and Stephen Porder. "Dinitrogen emissions dominate nitrogen gas emissions from soils with low oxygen availability in a moist tropical forest." Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 128 (2023): e2022JG007210. doi:10.1029/2022JG007210. Posted with permission.