Review and analysis of global agricultural N2O emissions relevant to the UK

S Buckingham, S Anthony, PH Bellamy, LM Cardenas, S Higgins, K McGeough, CFE Topp

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38 Citations (Scopus)


As part of a UK government funded research project to update the UK N2O inventory methodology, a systematic review of published nitrous oxide (N2O) emission factorswas carried out of non-UK research, for future comparison and synthesis with the UKmeasurement based evidence base. The aim of the study is to assess how the UK IPCC default emission factor for N2O emissions derived fromsynthetic or organic fertiliser inputs (EF1) compares to international values reported in published literature. The availability of data for comparing and/or refining the UK IPCC default value and the possibility of analysing sufficient auxiliary data to propose a Tier 2 EF1 reporting strategy is evaluated. The review demonstrated a lack of consistency in reporting error bounds for fertiliser-derived EFs and N2O flux data with 8% and 44% of publications reporting EF and N2O flux error bounds respectively. There was also poor description of environmental (climate and soil) and experimental design auxiliary data. This is likely to be due to differences in study objectives, however potential improvements to soil parameter reporting are proposed. The review demonstrates that emission factors for agricultural-derived N2O emissions ranged −0.34% to 37% showing high variation compared to the UK Tier 1 IPCC EF1 default values of 1.25% (IPCC 1996) and 1% (IPPC 2006). However, themajority (83%) of EFs reported for UK-relevant soils fell within the UK IPCC EF1 uncertainty range of 0.03% to 3%. Residual maximumlikelihood (REML) analysis of the data collated in the reviewshowed that the type and rate of fertiliserN applied and soil typewere significant factors influencing EFs reported. Country of emission, the length of themeasurement period, the number of splits, the crop type, pH and SOC did not have a significant impact on N2O emissions. A subset of publications where sufficient data was reported for meta-analysis to be conducted was identified. Meta-analysis of effect sizes of 41 treatments demonstrated that the application of fertiliser has a significant effect on N2O emissions in comparison to control plots and that emission factors were significantly different to zero. However no significant relationships between the quantity of fertiliser applied and the effect size of the amount of N2O emitted from fertilised plots compared to control plots were found. Annual addition of fertiliser of 35 to 557 kgN/ha gave a mean increase inemissions of 2.02±0.28 g N2O/ha/day compared to control treatments (p b 0.01). Emission factors were significantly different from zero, with a mean emission factor estimated directly from the meta analysis of 0.17 ± 0.02%. This is lower than the IPCC 2006 Tier 1 EF1 value of 1% but falling within the uncertainty bound for the IPCC 2006 Tier 1 EF1 (0.03% to 3%).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164 - 172
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusFirst published - 2014

Bibliographical note



  • Agricultural soil
  • Emissions factors
  • Nitrous oxide emissions


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