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Ecol Lett. 2009 Oct;12(10):1103-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01351.x. Epub 2009 Aug 20.

A review of nitrogen enrichment effects on three biogenic GHGs: the CO2 sink may be largely offset by stimulated N2O and CH4 emission.

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Environmental Media Assessment Group - MD B243-01, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, U.S. EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA.


Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) enrichment of ecosystems, mainly from fuel combustion and fertilizer application, alters biogeochemical cycling of ecosystems in a way that leads to altered flux of biogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs). Our meta-analysis of 313 observations across 109 studies evaluated the effect of N addition on the flux of three major GHGs: CO(2), CH(4) and N(2)O. The objective was to quantitatively synthesize data from agricultural and non-agricultural terrestrial ecosystems across the globe and examine whether factors, such as ecosystem type, N addition level and chemical form of N addition influence the direction and magnitude of GHG fluxes. Results indicate that N addition increased ecosystem carbon content of forests by 6%, marginally increased soil organic carbon of agricultural systems by 2%, but had no significant effect on net ecosystem CO(2) exchange for non-forest natural ecosystems. Across all ecosystems, N addition increased CH(4) emission by 97%, reduced CH(4) uptake by 38% and increased N(2)O emission by 216%. The net effect of N on the global GHG budget is calculated and this topic is reviewed. Most often N addition is considered to increase forest C sequestration without consideration of N stimulation of GHG production in other ecosystems. However, our study indicated that although N addition increased the global terrestrial C sink, the CO(2) reduction could be largely offset (53-76%) by N stimulation of global CH(4) and N(2)O emission from multiple ecosystems.

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