Source Determination of Nitrous Oxide Based on Nitrogen and Oxygen Isotope Tracing: Dealing with Oxygen exchange

Kool, D.M.; Groenigen, J.W. van; Wrage, N.


Source determination of nitrous oxide (N2O) from soils has so far been complicated by methodological constraints: the frequently used 15N tracer method could not differentiate between pathways related to nitrification, that is, nitrifier nitrification (NN), nitrifier denitrification (ND), and nitrification-coupled denitrification (NCD). To overcome this problem, a dual isotope method using both 15N and 18O was proposed. However, O exchange between nitrogen oxides and water has been found to disturb such a method. We here explain in detail a novel dual isotope method that allows to quantify O exchange in denitrification and to differentiate N2O production from NN, ND, NCD, and fertilizer denitrification (FD). The method has already been applied to a range of soils with good success. Potential of and scope for further improvement of the method are discussed