Towards standards for measuring greenhouse gas fluxes from agricultural fields using instrumented towers

E. Pattey*, G. Edwards, I. B. Strachan, R. L. Desjardins, S. Kaharabata, C. Wagner Riddle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


This is a discussion of the available technology for measuring turbulent fluxes using instrumented towers. This review focuses on the flux measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) for agricultural systems and the development of standards and protocols for measuring them. Agroecosystems present unique challenges because they undergo large leaf area index (LAI) and canopy architecture changes in a relatively short period of time (i.e., months) coupled with the fact that many of the greenhouse gas sources are diffuse. This review examines all aspects of the theory and application of the micrometeorological techniques, with focus on the flux gradient, eddy accumulation and eddy covariance techniques. Instrument placement, sensor response and noise characteristics are also explored. Innovative applications of micrometeorological methods are discussed for closed- and open-path trace gas sensors and commonly used meteorological instrumentation. The use of fast-response single-pass optical tunable diode laser (i.e., CH4, N2O) and infrared gas analyzers (i.e., CO2, H2O) is described. Consideration is also taken of the trace gas sensors' flow system design, mixing ratio measurement, and data acquisition and reduction requirements for micrometeorological flux measurement. Procedures are outlined for the meteorological instrumentation necessary for eddy covariance-based energy budget measurement including ultrasonic anemometry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-400
Number of pages28
JournalCanadian Journal of Soil Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Tower-based greenhouse gas flux measurements
  • Tunable diode laser


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