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Quantifying N2O reduction to N2 during denitrification in soils via isotopic mapping approach: Model evaluation and uncertainty analysis

Wu, Di, Well, Reinhard, Cárdenas, Laura M., Fuß, Roland, Lewicka-Szczebak, Dominika, Köster, Jan Reent, Brüggemann, Nicolas, Bol, Roland
Environmental research 2019 v.179
data collection, denitrification, isotope fractionation, model validation, models, nitrogen fertilizers, nitrous oxide, nitrous oxide production, oxygen, quantitative analysis, soil, stable isotopes, uncertainty, uncertainty analysis
The last step of denitrification, i.e. the reduction of N2O to N2, has been intensively studied in the laboratory to understand the denitrification process, predict nitrogen fertiliser losses, and to establish mitigation strategies for N2O. However, assessing N2 production via denitrification at large spatial scales is still not possible due to lack of reliable quantitative approaches. Here, we present a novel numerical “mapping approach” model using the δ15Nsp/δ18O slope that has been proposed to potentially be used to indirectly quantify N2O reduction to N2 at field or larger spatial scales. We evaluate the model using data obtained from seven independent soil incubation studies conducted under a He–O2 atmosphere. Furthermore, we analyse the contribution of different parameters to the uncertainty of the model. The model performance strongly differed between studies and incubation conditions. Re-evaluation of the previous data set demonstrated that using soils-specific instead of default endmember values could largely improve model performance. Since the uncertainty of modelled N2O reduction was relatively high, further improvements to estimate model parameters to obtain more precise estimations remain an on-going matter, e.g. by determination of soil-specific isotope fractionation factors and isotopocule endmember values of N2O production processes using controlled laboratory incubations. The applicability of the mapping approach model is promising with an increasing availability of real-time and field based analysis of N2O isotope signatures.