Soil-Borne Gases and Their Influence on Environment and Human Health

  • Rolf Nieder
  • Dinesh K. Benbi
  • Franz X. Reichl


The major soil-borne gases produced as a consequence of chemical and biological processes in soil include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ammonia (NH3). The first three gases are referred to as greenhouse gases (GHGs) as these are considered to force global climate change. These GHGs respectively account for 76%, 16% and 6% of total anthropogenic emissions. Most of the anthropogenic emissions of GHGs come from the combustion and production of fossil fuel and from industrial processes, but there is considerable contribution from agriculture and land use changes. Emission of CO2 from soil to the atmosphere is governed by the mineralization of soil organic carbon and the rates of soil CO2 efflux are significantly related to climatic factors such as temperature and precipitation. Most dominant soil-borne source of global CH4 flux is emissions from wetlands and rice cultivation. Denitrification process in soil is the major source of nitrogen oxide emission and the soil-borne flux accounts for 60% of the total emissions. Emissions of GHGs besides causing global warming, deplete the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere and contribute to acid deposition, which adversely impacts human health. Climate change can impact human health directly by affecting body’s physiological functions because of high temperature and extreme weather events; and indirectly by affecting the spread of vector-borne pathogens and increased risk of water-, food-, and rodent-borne diseases. Shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns can also impact agriculture productivity and thus affect food security in many parts of the world. Besides agricultural production and food availability, elevated CO2 concentration in the atmosphere may affect human health by altering nutrient content of food crops. Ammonia influences the environment and human health through its role in the formation of aerosols and particulate matter (PM). Both short-term and long-term exposure to inhalable PM cause adverse health effects including aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms and mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Adoption of improved plant-, nutrient-, water- and soil management practices and mitigation technologies could help in reducing emissions and mitigating adverse effect of climate change on human health. In this chapter, we present information on sources of soil-borne gases, their impacts on climate and ecosystems. Further, we discuss the probable impacts of climate change and climate variability as well as atmospheric pollutants, NH3 and aerosols, on human health and delve over opportunities for mitigation.


Greenhouse gas emissions Climate change Ammonia emissions Aerosols Particulate matter Vector-borne diseases Mitigation options Mitigating climate change Methane Carbon dioxide Nitrous oxide 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolf Nieder
    • 1
  • Dinesh K. Benbi
    • 2
  • Franz X. Reichl
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of GeoecologyTechnische Universität BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany
  2. 2.Department of Soil SciencePunjab Agricultural University LudhianaLudhianaIndia
  3. 3.Walther-Straub Institute of Pharmacology and ToxicologyLMUMunichGermany

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