The challenge of modelling nitrogen management at the field scale: simulation and sensitivity analysis of N2O fluxes across nine experimental sites using DailyDayCent

N Fitton, A Datta, A Hastings, M Kuhnert, CFE Topp, JM Cloy, RM Rees, LM Cardenas, JR Williams, K Smith, D Chadwick, P Smith

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The United Kingdom currently reports nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture using the IPCC default Tier 1 methodology. However Tier 1 estimates have a large degree of uncertainty as they do not account for spatial variations in emissions. Therefore biogeochemical models such as DailyDayCent (DDC) are increasingly being used to provide a spatially disaggregated assessment of annual emissions. Prior to use, an assessment of the ability of the model to predict annual emissions should be undertaken, coupled with an analysis of how model inputs influence model outputs, and whether the modelled estimates are more robust that those derived from the Tier 1 methodology. The aims of the study were (a) to evaluate if the DailyDayCent model can accurately estimate annual N2O emissions across nine different experimental sites, (b) to examine its sensitivity to different soil and climate inputs across a number of experimental sites and (c) to examine the influence of uncertainty in the measured inputs on modelled N2O emissions. DailyDayCent performed well across the range of cropland and grassland sites, particularly for fertilized fields indicating that it is robust for UK conditions. The sensitivity of the model varied across the sites and also between fertilizer/manure treatments. Overall our results showed that there was a stronger correlation between the sensitivity of N2O emissions to changes in soil pH and clay content than the remaining input parameters used in this study. The lower the initial site values for soil pH and clay content, the more sensitive DDC was to changes from their initial value. When we compared modelled estimates with Tier 1 estimates for each site, we found that DailyDayCent provided a more accurate representation of the rate of annual emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number095003
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number9
Early online date8 Sep 2014
Publication statusFirst published - 8 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note



  • DailyDayCent
  • Monte-Carlo simulation
  • Nitrous oxide emissions
  • Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis
  • UK croplands and grasslands


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