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Ecology of the Shortgrass SteppeA Long-Term Perspective$
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W. K. Lauenroth and I. C. Burke

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195135824

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195135824.001.0001

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Soil–Atmosphere Exchange of Trace Gases in the Colorado Shortgrass Steppe

Soil–Atmosphere Exchange of Trace Gases in the Colorado Shortgrass Steppe

(p.342) 14 Soil–Atmosphere Exchange of Trace Gases in the Colorado Shortgrass Steppe
Ecology of the Shortgrass Steppe

Arvin R. Mosier

William J. Parton

Oxford University Press

During the past half century, atmospheric concentrations of important greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) have been increasing at unprecedented rates ( I PCC, 1996, 2007). Trace gases such as methane (CH4), nitric oxide (NO), and nitrous oxide (N2O) are exchanged regularly between the soil and atmosphere, playing important roles in the greenhouse effect, in atmospheric chemistry, and in the redistribution of ecosystem nitrogen (N). Soils can be important sources of greenhouse gases, commonly contributing up to two thirds of atmospheric N2O and more than one third of atmospheric CH4 (Monson and Holland, 2001; Smith et al., 2003). Recent extensive changes in land management and in cultivation, which can stimulate N2O production and/or decrease CH4 uptake, could be contributing to the observed increases of both CH4 and N2O in the atmosphere (IPCC, 2007). Although the absolute amount of trace gases (such as CH4, NO, and N2O) released into the atmosphere from soils may be small, these gases are extremely effective at absorbing infrared radiation (Smith et al., 2003). Methane, for example, is 20 to 30 times more effcient than CO2 as a greenhouse gas (LeMer and Roger, 2001). As a result, even small changes in the production or consumption of these gases by soils could dramatically influence climate change. Of the gases exchanged between the soil and atmosphere, the major reactive ones are oxides of N (NO and NO2, collectively referred to as NOx). Combustion is a major source of NOx, but native and N-fertilized soils also contribute signi3 - cant amounts of NOx to the atmosphere (Williams et al., 1992). Nitric and nitrous oxide play a complex role in atmospheric chemistry. At low concentrations, it catalyzes the breakdown of ozone. At higher concentrations it can interact with carbon monoxide (CO), hydroxyl radicals (OH.), and hydrocarbons to produce ozone. Atmospheric NOx is converted within days to nitric acid, which is an important component (30% to 50%) of acidity in precipitation (Williams et al., 1992).

Keywords:   Denitrification, Ecosystem respiration, Greenhouse gases, Nitrogen oxides, Plowing, Soil respiration, Tropical grasslands, Wheat-fallow agriculture

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