The importance of climate change and nitrogen use efficiency for future nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture

David R. Kanter, Xin Zhang, Denise Leonore Mauzerall, Sergey Malyshev, Elena Shevliakova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and ozone depleting substance. Previous projections of agricultural N2O (the dominant anthropogenic source) show emissions changing in tandem, or at a faster rate than changes in nitrogen (N) consumption. However, recent studies suggest that the carbon dioxide (CO2) fertilization effect may increase plant N uptake, which could decrease soil N losses and dampen increases in N2O. To evaluate this hypothesis at a global scale, we use a process-based land model with a coupled carbon-nitrogen cycle to examine how changes in climatic factors, land-use, and N application rates could affect agricultural N2O emissions by 2050. Assuming little improvement in N use efficiency (NUE), the model projects a 24%-31% increase in global agricultural N2O emissions by 2040-2050 depending on the climate scenario - a relatively moderate increase compared to the projected increases in N inputs (42%-44%) and previously published emissions projections (38%-75%). This occurs largely because the CO2 fertilization effect enhances plant N uptake in several regions, which subsequently dampens N2O emissions. And yet, improvements in NUE could still deliver important environmental benefits by 2050: equivalent to 10 Pg CO2 equivalent and 0.6 Tg ozone depletion potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number094003
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume11
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 30 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Keywords

  • CO2
  • agriculture
  • fertilization
  • nitrogen use efficiency
  • nitrous oxide

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