Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 117–133 | Cite as

Overwinter greenhouse gas fluxes in two contrasting agricultural habitats

  • P. Dörsch
  • A. Palojärvi
  • S. Mommertz


Mid-day field fluxes of nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) were measured during late winter/early spring in an arable field and an adjacent fallow in southern Germany. On the arable field, 2 dm high ridges, drawn as seed-beds for potato, were exposed to mild, partly diurnal freezing–thawing. Substantially elevated N2O emission rates (6–750 µg N2O-N m–2 h–1) were observed throughout the investigation period which coincided with freezing–thawing events in the surface soil (0–5 cm). Soil temperatures in the densely vegetated fallow were more isothermal due to an insulating snow/ice cover, resulting in much lower N2O emission rates (0–57 µg N2O-N m–2 h–1). CH4 uptake rates were low in both habitats during soil frost (+2 to −7.5 µg CH4-C m–2 h–1) but increased markedly in the fallow after spring thaw. Our data suggest that N2O emission peaks may occur recurrently throughout the winter when soils are subjected to diurnal surface thawing. We concluded that microclimatic conditions strongly control N2O winter loss, thus overriding ecosystem-level differences in off-season nutrient cycling. To further characterize winter-time nutrient cycling and habitat functioning in our sites, we determined NO3 and NH4+ contents, fumigation-extractable carbon (Cmic) and nitrogen (Nmic) and enumerated protozoa and nematoda throughout the investigation period. Cmic and microbial C:N ratios in the fallow were higher in winter than during the rest of the year as indicated by a 2-year study, reflecting favorable conditions for microbial C assimilation at low temperatures in the absence of freeze–thaw perturbation. In the arable soil, Cmic contents were significantly reduced during soil freezing but recovered quickly upon warming of the soil. Dynamics of Cmic in the arable soil were paralleled by protozoan biomass and transient shifts in functional composition of the nematode community, indicating that microfaunal predation played an important role in nutrient cycling after freeze–thaw perturbation. Only minor microfaunal dynamics were observed in the climatically more stable fallow, essentially confirming the absence of perturbation at this site. Our findings provide strong evidence that overwinter N2O formation is regulated by both the physical freeze–thaw susceptibility of the soil and the ecological functioning of the habitat.

CH4 Denitrification Microbial biomass N2Nematodes Nitrogen cycling Protozoa 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adamsen A.P.S. and King G.M. 1993. Methane consumption in temperate and subarctic forest soils: Rates, vertical zonation and responses to water and nitrogen. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 59: 485–490.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Alm J., Saarnio S., Nykänen H., Silvola J. and Martikainen P. 1999. Winter CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes in some natural and drained boreal peatlands. Biogeochemistry 44: 163–187.Google Scholar
  3. Ball B.C., Dobbie K.E., Parker J.P. and Smith K.A. 1997. The influence of gas transport and porosity on methane oxidation in soils. J. Geophys. Res. 102: 23301–23308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bongers A. and Bongers M. 1998. Functional diversity of nematodes. Appl. Soil Ecol. 10: 239–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brookes P.C., Landman A., Pruden G. and Jenkinson D.S. 1985. Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: A rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 17: 837–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooks P.D., Schmidt S.K. and Williams M.W. 1997. Winter production of CO2 and N2O from alpine tundra; environmental controls and relationship to inter-system C and N fluxes. Oecologia 110: 403–413.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Brooks P.D., Williams M.W. and Schmidt S.K. 1998. Inorganic nitrogen and microbial biomass dynamics before and during snowmelt. Biogeochemistry 43: 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burton D.L. and Beauchamp E.G. 1994. Profile nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide concentrations in a soil subjected to freezing. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 58: 115–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Castro M.S., Steudler P.A., Melillo J.M., Aber J.D. and Bowden R.D. 1995. Factors controlling atmospheric methane consumption by temperate forest soils. Global Biochem. Cycles 9: 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Christensen S. and Christensen B.T. 1991. Organic matter available for denitrification in different soil fractions: effect of freeze/thaw cycles and straw disposal. J. Soil Sci. 42: 637–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christensen S. and Tiedje J.M. 1990. Brief and vigorous N2O production by soil at spring thaw. J. Soil Sci. 41: 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Christensen S., Rønn R., Ekelund F., Andersen B., Damgaard J., Friberg-Jensen U. et al. 1996. Soil respiration profiles and protozoan enumeration agree as microbial growth indicators. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28: 865–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Christianson C.B. and Cho C.M. 1983. Chemical denitrification of nitrite in frozen soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 47: 38–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clein J.S. and Schimel J. 1995. Microbial activity of tundra and taiga soils at sub-zero temperatures. Soil Biol. Biochem. 27: 1231–1234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Coleman D.C., Anderson R.V., Cole C.V., Elliot E.T., Woods C. and Campion M.K. 1978. Trophic interactions in soils as they affect energy and nutrient dynamics, IV. Flows of metabolic and biomass carbon. Microb. Ecol. 4: 373–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Corre M.D., van Kessel C. and Pennkock D.J. 1996. Landscape and seasonal patterns of nitrous oxide emissions in a semiarid region. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 60: 1806–1815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Coxson D.S. and Parkinson D. 1987. Winter respiratory activity in Aspen woodland forest floor litter and soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 19: 49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Crill P.M. 1991. Seasonal patterns of methane uptake and carbon dioxide release by a temperate woodland soil. Global Biochem. Cycles 5: 319–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dejoux J.-F., Recous S., Meynard J.-M., Trinsoutrot I. and Leterme P. 2000. The fate of nitrogen from winter-frozen rapeseed leaves: mineralization, fluxes to the environment and uptake by rapeseed crop in the spring. Plant Soil 218: 257–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. DeLuca T.H., Keeney D.R. and McCarty G.W. 1992. Effect of freeze–thaw events on mineralization of soil nitrogen. Biol. Fertil. Soils 14: 116–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dorland S. and Beauchamp E.G. 1991. Denitrification and ammonification at low soil temperatures. Can. J. Soil Sci. 42: 637–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dörsch P. 2000. Nitrous oxide and methane fluxes in differentially managed agricultural soils of a hilly landscape in Southern Germany. Ph.D. Thesis, Technical University Munich, Germany, pp. 1–226.Google Scholar
  23. Flessa H., Dörsch P. and Beese F. 1995. Seasonal-variation of N2O and CH4 fluxes in differently managed arable soils in southern Germany. J. Geophys. Res. 100: 23115–23124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Freckman D.W. and Baldwin J.G. 1990. Nematoda. In: Dindal D.L. (ed.), Soil Biology Guide. Wiley and Sons, New York, New York, USA, pp. 155–200.Google Scholar
  25. Goodroad L.L. and Keeney D.R. 1984. Nitrogen oxide emissions from soils during thawing. Can. J. Soil Sci. 64: 187–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Griffith B.S and Ritz K. 1988. A technique to extract, enumerate and measure protozoa from mineral soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 20: 163–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Griffith B.S. 1994. Microbial-feeding nematodes and protozoa in soil: Their effects on microbial activity and nitrogen mineralization in decomposition hot spots and the rhizosphere. Plant Soil 164: 25–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Groffman P.M., Driscoll C.T., Fahey T.J., Hardy J.P., Fitzhugh R.D. and Tierney G.L. 2001. Effects of mild winter freezing on soil nitrogen and carbon dynamics in a northern hardwood forest. Biogeochemistry 56: 191–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heaney D.J., Nyborg M., Solberg E.D., Malhi S.S. and Ashworth J. 1992. Overwinter nitrate loss and denitrification potential of cultivated soils in Alberta. Soil Biol. Biochem. 24: 877–884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Holtan-Hartwig L., Dörsch P. and Bakken L.R. 2000. Comparison of denitrifying communities in organic soils: kinetics of NO3–and N2O reduction. Soil Biol. Biochem. 32: 833–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Holtan-Hartwig L., Dörsch P. and Bakken L.R. 2002. Low temperature control of soil denitrifying communities; kinetics of N2O production and reduction. Soil Biol. Biochem. 24: 1797–1806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hutchinson G.L. and Mosier A.R. 1981. Improved soil cover method for field measurement of nitrous oxide flux. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 45: 311–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. IPCC 2000. Technical Annex, spm2201.pdfGoogle Scholar
  34. Jiang Q.Q. and Bakken L.R. 1999. Nitrous oxide production and methane oxidation by different ammonium oxidizing bacteria. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 65: 2679–2648.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. King G.M. and Adamsen A.P.S. 1992. Effects of temperature on methane consumption in a forest soil and in pure cultures of the methylotroph Methylomonas rubra. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 58: 2758–2763.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. Kaiser E.A., Kohrs K., Kücke M., Schnugg E., Heinemeyer O. and Munch J.C. 1998. Nitrous oxide release from arable soil: Importance of N-fertilization, crops and temporal variations. Soil Biol. Biochem. 30: 1553–1563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lemke R.L., Izurralde R.C., Malhi S.S., Arshad M.A. and Nyborg M. 1998a. Nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils of the boreal and parkland regions of Alberta. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 62: 1096–1102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lemke R.L., Izaurralde R.C. and Nyborg M. 1998b. Seasonal distribution of nitrous oxide emissions from soils in the parkland region. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 62: 1320–1326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Loftfield N., Flessa H., Augustin J. and Beese F. 1997. Automated gas chromatographic system for rapid analysis of the atmospheric trace gases methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. J. Environ. Qual. 26: 560–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Malhi S.S. and Nyborg M. 1979. Nitrate formation during winter from fall-applied urea. Soil Biol. Biochem. 11: 439–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Malhi S.S., McGill W.B. and Nyborg M. 1990. Nitrate losses in soils: effects of temperature, moisture and substrate concentration. Soil Biol. Biochem. 22: 733–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Morley C.R., Trofymow J.A., Coleman D.C. and Cambardella C. 1983. Effects of freeze-thaw stress on bacterial populations in soil microcosms. Microb. Ecol. 9: 329–340.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mosier A.R., Schimel D., Valentine D., Bronson K. and Parton W.J. 1991. Methane and nitrous oxide fluxes in native, fertilized, and cultivated grasslands. Nature 350: 330–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Müller C., Martin M., Stevens R.J., Laughlin R.J., Kammann C., Ottow J.C.G. and Jäger H.-J. 2002. Processes leasing to N2O emissions in grassland soil during freezing and thawing. Soil Biol. Biochem. 24: 1325–1331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nyborg M., Laidlaw J.W., Solberg E.D. and Malhi S.S. 1997. Denitrification and nitrous oxide emissions from a Black Chernozemic soil during spring thaw in Alberta. Can. J. Soil Sci. 77: 153–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Priemé A. and Christensen S. 1997. Seasonal and spatial variation of methane oxidation in a Danish spruce forest. Soil Biol. Biochem. 29: 1165–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ritz K. and Griffith B.S. 1987. Effects of carbon and nitrogen additions to soil upon leaching of nitrate, microbial predators and nitrogen uptake by plants. Plant Soil 102: 229–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rogerson A. and Berger J. 1980. The effects of cold temperature and crude oil on the abundance and activity of protozoa in a garden soil. Can. J. Zool. 59: 1554–1560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Röver M., Heinemeyer O. and Kaiser E.A. 1998. Microbial induced nitrous oxide emissions from an arable soil during winter. Soil Biol. Biochem. 30: 1859–1865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Savin M.C., Görres J.H., Neher D.A. and Amador J.A. 2001. Uncoupling of carbon and nitrogen mineralization: role of microbivorous nematodes. Soil Biol. Biochem. 33: 1463–1472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schimel J.P. and Clein J.S. 1996. Microbial response to freeze-thaw cycles in tundra and taiga soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28: 1061–1066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sitaula B.K., Bakken L.R. and Abrahamsen G. 1995. CH4 uptake by temperate forest soil: Effect of N input and soil acidification. Soil Biol. Biochem. 27: 871–880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sommerfeld R.A., Mosier A.R. and Musselman R.C. 1993. CO2, CH4 and N2O flux through a Wyoming snowpack and implications for global budgets. Nature 361: 140–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stähli M. and Stadler D. 1997. Measurement of water and solute dynamics in freezing soil columns with time domain reflectometry. J. Hydrol. 195: 352–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Teepe R., Brumme R. and Beese F. 2001. Nitrous oxide emissions from soil during freezing and thawing periods. Soil Biol. Biochem. 33: 1269–1275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vance E.D., Brookes P.C. and Jenkinson D.S. 1987. An extraction method for measuring soil microbial C. Soil Biol. Biochem. 19: 703–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. VDLUFA 1991. Verband deutscher landwirtschaftlicher Untersuchungsund Forschungsanstalten–Methodenhandbuch, Band 1: Die Untersuchung von Böden. Darmstadt, Germany.Google Scholar
  58. Wharton D.A. 1995. Cold tolerance strategies in nematodes. Biol. Rev. Cambridge Phil. Soc. 70: 161–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Winter J.P., Zhang Z., Tenuta M. and Voroney R.P. 1994. Measurement of microbial biomass by fumigation-extraction in soil stored frozen. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 58: 1645–1651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wu J., Joergensen R.G., Pommerening G., Chaussod R. and Brookes P.C. 1990. Measurement of soil microbial biomass C–an automated procedure. Soil Biol. Biochem. 22: 1167–1169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yeates G.W., Bongers T., De Goede R.G.M., Freckman D.W. and Georgieva S.S. 1993. Feeding habits in soil nematode families and genera–An outline for soil ecologists. J. Nematol. 25: 315–330.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Dörsch
    • 1
  • A. Palojärvi
    • 2
  • S. Mommertz
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesAgricultural University of NorwayNorway
  2. 2.MTT Agrifood Research CentreEnvironmental Research, Soils and EnvironmentJokioinenFinland
  3. 3.St.-Anna-Platz 4MünchenGermany

Personalised recommendations