Importance of indirect nitrous oxide emissions at the field, farm and catchment scale

DS Reay, AC Edwards, KA Smith

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39 Citations (Scopus)


Direct and indirect nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions and leaching losses from an intensively managed grazed pasture in the Ythan catchment, Aberdeenshire, UK, were measured and compared over a 17-month period. Simultaneous measurements of farm-wide leaching losses of N2O were also made and catchment-wide fluxes were estimated from existing N leaching data. The relative importance of direct and indirect N2O fluxes at the field, farm and catchment scale was then assessed. At the field scale we found that direct N2O emissions were low (1.2 kg N ha−1 year−1, 0.6% of N input) with indirect N2O emissions via drainage waters comprising a significant proportion (25%) of total N2O emissions. At the whole-farm scale, the N2O-N emission factor (0.003) for leached NO3-N (EF5-g) was in line with the IPCC's recent downward revision. At the catchment scale, a direct N2O flux of 1.9 kg N ha−1 year−1 and an indirect flux of 0.06 kg N2O-N ha−1 year−1 were estimated. This study lends further support to the recent downward revision of the IPCC emission factor for N2O arising from leached N in surface and ground waters (EF5-g) and highlights the need for multiple point sampling to ensure that the importance of indirect N2O losses via drainage waters is not misrepresented at the farm and catchment scales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163 - 169
Number of pages7
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number3-4
Publication statusFirst published - 2009


  • Denitrification
  • Drainage
  • Emission factor
  • Leaching


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