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Geobiology. 2011 May;9(3):294-300. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2011.00276.x.

Decreased N2O reduction by low soil pH causes high N2O emissions in a riparian ecosystem.

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Department of Ecology and Biodiversity, Utrecht University, Urecht, The Netherlands.


Quantification of harmful nitrous oxide (N(2)O) emissions from soils is essential for mitigation measures. An important N(2)O producing and reducing process in soils is denitrification, which shows deceased rates at low pH. No clear relationship between N(2)O emissions and soil pH has yet been established because also the relative contribution of N(2)O as the denitrification end product decreases with pH. Our aim was to show the net effect of soil pH on N(2)O production and emission. Therefore, experiments were designed to investigate the effects of pH on NO(3)(-) reduction, N(2)O production and reduction and N(2) production in incubations with pH values set between 4 and 7. Furthermore, field measurements of soil pH and N(2)O emissions were carried out. In incubations, NO(3)(-) reduction and N(2) production rates increased with pH and net N(2)O production rate was highest at pH 5. N(2)O reduction to N(2) was halted until NO(3)(-) was depleted at low pH values, resulting in a built up of N(2)O. As a consequence, N(2)O:N(2) production ratio decreased exponentially with pH. N(2)O reduction appeared therefore more important than N(2)O production in explaining net N(2)O production rates. In the field, a negative exponential relationship for soil pH against N(2)O emissions was observed. Soil pH could therefore be used as a predictive tool for average N(2)O emissions in the studied ecosystem. The occurrence of low pH spots may explain N(2)O emission hotspot occurrence. Future studies should focus on the mechanism behind small scale soil pH variability and the effect of manipulating the pH of soils.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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