Tools for quantifying N2O emissions from agroecosystems

E. Pattey*, G. C. Edwards, R. L. Desjardins, D. J. Pennock, W. Smith, B. Grant, J. I. MacPherson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


The importance of constraining the global budget of nitrous oxide (N2O) has been well established. The current global estimate of the contribution of N2O to total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture is about 69%. Considerable progress has been made over the past few years in developing tools for quantifying the emissions from agricultural sources, at the local and field scale (i.e., chamber and tower-based measurements) as well as at the landscape and regional levels (i.e., aircraft-based measurement and modelling). However, aggregating these emissions over space and time remains a challenge because of the high degree of temporal and spatial variability. Emissions of N2O in temperate climate are largely event driven, e.g., in Eastern Canada, large emissions are observed right after snowmelt. The average emissions during the snowmelt period vary considerably, reflecting the influence of many controlling factors. Cumulative emissions reported here range from 0.05 kg N2O-N ha-1 in Western Canada to 1.26 kg N2O-N ha-1 in Eastern Canada, values that reflect differences in climatic zones and fertilizer management practices. This paper describes the tools for refining the global N2O budget and provides examples of measurements at various scales. Tower-based and aircraft measurement platforms provide good data for quantifying the variability associated with the measurements. Chamber-based methods lack the temporal and spatial resolution required to follow the event driven nature of N2O fluxes but provide valuable information for evaluating management practices. The model DeNitrification and DeComposition is an example of a technique to estimate N2O emissions when no data is available. Crown

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-119
Number of pages17
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Flux measurement tools
  • Modelling
  • Snowmelt NO release


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