Diurnal variability in soil nitrous oxide emissions is a widespread phenomenon

Yuk-Faat Wu, Whitaker Jeanette, Sylvia Toet, Bradley Amy, Christian Davies, Niall McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Manual measurements of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions with static chambers are 2Department of Environment and Geography, University of York, Heslington, commonly practised. However, they generally do not consider the diurnal variability of N2O flux, and little is known about the patterns and drivers of such variability. We systematically reviewed and analysed 286 diurnal data sets of N2O fluxes from pub- lished literature to (i) assess the prevalence and timing (day or night peaking) of diurnal N2O flux patterns in agricultural and forest soils, (ii) examine the relationship between N2O flux and soil temperature with different diurnal patterns, (iii) identify whether non-diurnal factors (i.e. land management and soil properties) influence the occur- rence of diurnal patterns and (iv) evaluate the accuracy of estimating cumulative N2O emissions with single-daily flux measurements. Our synthesis demonstrates that diur- nal N2O flux variability is a widespread phenomenon in agricultural and forest soils. Of the 286 data sets analysed, ~80% exhibited diurnal N2O patterns, with ~60% peak- ing during the day and ~20% at night. Contrary to many published observations, our analysis only found strong positive correlations (R > 0.7) between N2O flux and soil temperature in one-third of the data sets. Soil drainage property, soil water-filled pore space (WFPS) level and land use were also found to potentially influence the occur- rence of certain diurnal patterns. Our work demonstrated that single-daily flux meas- urements at mid-morning yielded daily emission estimates with the smallest average bias compared to measurements made at other times of day, however, it could still lead to significant over- or underestimation due to inconsistent diurnal N2O patterns. This inconsistency also reflects the inaccuracy of using soil temperature to predict the time of daily average N2O flux. Future research should investigate the relationship between N2O flux and other diurnal parameters, such as photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and root exudation, along with the consideration of the effects of soil moisture, drainage and land use on the diurnal patterns of N2O flux. The information could be incorporated in N2O emission prediction models to improve accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1111/gcb.15791
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • climate mitigation, diurnal variability, emission factors, greenhouse gas, soil N2O emissions, temporal variability

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