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Testing models of aquatic N2O flux for inland waters

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The current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) method for tabulating agricultural nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions suggests that aquatic ecosystems may be important N2O sources. However, estimates are highly uncertain, and the method to estimate emissions is rarely tested. The default IPCC emission factor for groundwater and surface drainage (EF5-g; defined as N2O-N:nitrate-N) has been lowered recently. Our data support further reduction. Notably, we present the first EF5-g data under ice, which reflects groundwater inputs not confounded by gas exchange. These under-ice data suggest an EF5-g of 0.13%, approximately half the current IPCC default value. Our data from the open-water season also suggest a reduction to 0.11% (based on annual means). The data highlight major problems with the IPCC method. EF5-g was extremely variable, with the highest values observed in a stream that was a net sink of N2O. Testing the overall method for freshwater emissions is more problematic because of the multidecade transit time from headwaters in our study region to the Atlantic Ocean and limited information on emissions from lakes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada. 2: Département de sciences biologiques, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada. 3: Department of Environmental and Resource Studies, Trent University, 1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada.

Publication date: January 16, 2012

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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