Greenhouse gas emission from a Prairie pothole landscape in Western Canada

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Dunmola, Adedeji Samuel
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Knowing the control of landscape position in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from the Prairie pothole region is necessary to provide reliable emission estimates needed to formulate strategies for reducing emission from the region. Presented here are results of a study investigating the control of landscape position on the flux of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) from an agricultural soil. Field flux of N2O and CH4 and associated soil parameters from the Upper, Middle, Lower and Riparian slope positions were monitored from spring to fall of 2005, and spring of 2006, at the Manitoba Zero-Tillage Research Association (MTRZA) farm, 17.6km North of Brandon, MB. The field site consisted of a transect of 128 chambers segmented into the four landscape positions, with either all chambers or a subset of the chambers (32) sampled on select days. Spring thaw is an important period for annual inventory of N2O emission, thus, soil samples were also collected from the four slope positions in fall 2005, and treated in the laboratory to examine how antecedent moisture and landscape position affect the freeze-thaw emission of N2O from soil. Daily emissions of N2O and CH4 for 2005 were generally higher than for 2006, the former being a wetter year. There was high temporal variability in N2O and CH4 emission, with high fluxes associated with events like spring thaw and fertilizer application in the case of N2O, and rapid changes in soil moisture and temperature in the case of CH4. There was a high occurrence of hotspots for N2O emission at the Lower slope, associated with its high soil water-filled porosity (WFP) and carbon (C) availability. The Riparian zone was not a source of N2O emission, despite its soil WFP and organic C being comparable with the Lower slope. The hotspot for CH4 emission was located at the Riparian zone, associated with its high soil WFP and C availability. The Upper and Middle slope positions gave low emission or consumed CH4, associated with having low soil WFP and available C. This pattern in N2O and CH4 emission over the landscape was consistent with examination of entire 128 chambers on the transect or the 32 subset chambers. Significantly lowering the antecedent moisture content of soil by drying eliminated the freeze-thaw emission of N2O, despite the addition of nitrate to the soil. This was linked to drying slightly reducing the denitrifying enzyme activity (DEA) of soil. The highest and earliest freeze-thaw emission of N2O was from the Riparian zone, associated with its high antecedent moisture content, DEA and total organic C content. The addition of nitrate to soil before freezing failed to enhance freeze-thaw emission of N2O from the Upper, Middle and Lower slope positions, but increased emission three-fold for the Riparian zone. Despite the greater potential of the Riparian zone to produce N2O at thaw compared to the Upland slopes, there was no spring-thaw emission of N2O from the zone on the field. This was because this zone did not freeze over the winter, due to insulation by high and persistent snow cover, vegetation and saturated condition. The denitrifying potential and freeze-thaw N2O emission increased in going from the Upper to the Lower slope position, similar to the pattern of N2O emission observed on the field. The localization of hotspots for N2O and CH4 emission within the landscape was therefore found to be driven by soil moisture and C availability. When estimating GHG emission from soil, higher emission index for N2O and CH4 should be given to poorly-drained cropped and vegetated areas of the landscape, respectively. The high potential of the Riparian zone for spring-thaw emission of N2O should not be discountenanced when conducting annual inventory of N2O emission at the landscape scale. When fall soil moisture is high, snow cover is low, and winter temperature is very cold, freeze-thaw emission of N2O at the Riparian zones of the Prairie pothole region may be very high.
greenhouse gas, landscape, prairie pothole, emission, freeze-thaw, nitrous oxide, estimate, modelling