Nitrous oxide emission from denitrification in stream and river networks

Jake J. Beaulieu, Jennifer L. Tank, Stephen K. Hamilton, Wilfred M. Wollheim, Robert O. Hall, Patrick J. Mulholland, Bruce J. Peterson, Linda R. Ashkenas, Lee W. Cooper, Clifford N. Dahm, Walter K. Dodds, Nancy Grimm, Sherri L. Johnson, William H. McDowell, Geoffrey C. Poole, H. Maurice Valett, Clay P. Arango, Melody J. Bernot, Amy J. Burgin, Chelsea L. CrenshawAshley M. Helton, Laura T. Johnson, Jonathan M. O'Brien, Jody D. Potter, Richard W. Sheibley, Daniel J. Sobota, Suzanne M. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

279 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and stratospheric ozone destruction. Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) loading to river networks is a potentially important source of N 2O via microbial denitrification that converts N to N2O and dinitrogen (N2). The fraction of denitrified N that escapes as N2O rather than N2 (i.e., the N2O yield) is an important determinant of how much N2O is produced by river networks, but little is known about the N2O yield in flowing waters. Here, we present the results of whole-stream 15N-tracer additions conducted in 72 headwater streams draining multiple land-use types across the United States. We found that stream denitrification produces N2O at rates that increase with stream water nitrate (NO3-) concentrations, but that <1% of denitrified N is converted to N2O. Unlike some previous studies, we found no relationship between the N2O yield and stream water NO3-. We suggest that increased stream NO3- loading stimulates denitrification and concomitant N2O production, but does not increase the N2O yield. In our study, most streams were sources of N2O to the atmosphere and the highest emission rates were observed in streams draining urban basins. Using a global river network model, we estimate that microbial N transformations (e.g., denitrification and nitrification) convert at least 0.68 Tg·y -1 of anthropogenic N inputs to N2O in river networks, equivalent to 10% of the global anthropogenic N2O emission rate. This estimate of stream and river N2O emissions is three times greater than estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-219
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume108
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 4 2011

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Denitrification
Nitrous Oxide
Rivers
Climate Change
Water
Stratospheric Ozone
Nitrification
Atmosphere
Nitrates
Nitrogen
Gases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Beaulieu, J. J., Tank, J. L., Hamilton, S. K., Wollheim, W. M., Hall, R. O., Mulholland, P. J., ... Thomas, S. M. (2011). Nitrous oxide emission from denitrification in stream and river networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(1), 214-219. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1011464108

Nitrous oxide emission from denitrification in stream and river networks. / Beaulieu, Jake J.; Tank, Jennifer L.; Hamilton, Stephen K.; Wollheim, Wilfred M.; Hall, Robert O.; Mulholland, Patrick J.; Peterson, Bruce J.; Ashkenas, Linda R.; Cooper, Lee W.; Dahm, Clifford N.; Dodds, Walter K.; Grimm, Nancy; Johnson, Sherri L.; McDowell, William H.; Poole, Geoffrey C.; Maurice Valett, H.; Arango, Clay P.; Bernot, Melody J.; Burgin, Amy J.; Crenshaw, Chelsea L.; Helton, Ashley M.; Johnson, Laura T.; O'Brien, Jonathan M.; Potter, Jody D.; Sheibley, Richard W.; Sobota, Daniel J.; Thomas, Suzanne M.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 108, No. 1, 04.01.2011, p. 214-219.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Beaulieu, JJ, Tank, JL, Hamilton, SK, Wollheim, WM, Hall, RO, Mulholland, PJ, Peterson, BJ, Ashkenas, LR, Cooper, LW, Dahm, CN, Dodds, WK, Grimm, N, Johnson, SL, McDowell, WH, Poole, GC, Maurice Valett, H, Arango, CP, Bernot, MJ, Burgin, AJ, Crenshaw, CL, Helton, AM, Johnson, LT, O'Brien, JM, Potter, JD, Sheibley, RW, Sobota, DJ & Thomas, SM 2011, 'Nitrous oxide emission from denitrification in stream and river networks', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 108, no. 1, pp. 214-219. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1011464108
Beaulieu, Jake J. ; Tank, Jennifer L. ; Hamilton, Stephen K. ; Wollheim, Wilfred M. ; Hall, Robert O. ; Mulholland, Patrick J. ; Peterson, Bruce J. ; Ashkenas, Linda R. ; Cooper, Lee W. ; Dahm, Clifford N. ; Dodds, Walter K. ; Grimm, Nancy ; Johnson, Sherri L. ; McDowell, William H. ; Poole, Geoffrey C. ; Maurice Valett, H. ; Arango, Clay P. ; Bernot, Melody J. ; Burgin, Amy J. ; Crenshaw, Chelsea L. ; Helton, Ashley M. ; Johnson, Laura T. ; O'Brien, Jonathan M. ; Potter, Jody D. ; Sheibley, Richard W. ; Sobota, Daniel J. ; Thomas, Suzanne M. / Nitrous oxide emission from denitrification in stream and river networks. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011 ; Vol. 108, No. 1. pp. 214-219.
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AU - Beaulieu, Jake J.

AU - Tank, Jennifer L.

AU - Hamilton, Stephen K.

AU - Wollheim, Wilfred M.

AU - Hall, Robert O.

AU - Mulholland, Patrick J.

AU - Peterson, Bruce J.

AU - Ashkenas, Linda R.

AU - Cooper, Lee W.

AU - Dahm, Clifford N.

AU - Dodds, Walter K.

AU - Grimm, Nancy

AU - Johnson, Sherri L.

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AU - Bernot, Melody J.

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AU - Crenshaw, Chelsea L.

AU - Helton, Ashley M.

AU - Johnson, Laura T.

AU - O'Brien, Jonathan M.

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N2 - Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and stratospheric ozone destruction. Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) loading to river networks is a potentially important source of N 2O via microbial denitrification that converts N to N2O and dinitrogen (N2). The fraction of denitrified N that escapes as N2O rather than N2 (i.e., the N2O yield) is an important determinant of how much N2O is produced by river networks, but little is known about the N2O yield in flowing waters. Here, we present the results of whole-stream 15N-tracer additions conducted in 72 headwater streams draining multiple land-use types across the United States. We found that stream denitrification produces N2O at rates that increase with stream water nitrate (NO3-) concentrations, but that <1% of denitrified N is converted to N2O. Unlike some previous studies, we found no relationship between the N2O yield and stream water NO3-. We suggest that increased stream NO3- loading stimulates denitrification and concomitant N2O production, but does not increase the N2O yield. In our study, most streams were sources of N2O to the atmosphere and the highest emission rates were observed in streams draining urban basins. Using a global river network model, we estimate that microbial N transformations (e.g., denitrification and nitrification) convert at least 0.68 Tg·y -1 of anthropogenic N inputs to N2O in river networks, equivalent to 10% of the global anthropogenic N2O emission rate. This estimate of stream and river N2O emissions is three times greater than estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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