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Agriculture is a major source of NO x pollution in California.

  • Author(s): Almaraz, Maya;
  • Bai, Edith;
  • Wang, Chao;
  • Trousdell, Justin;
  • Conley, Stephen;
  • Faloona, Ian;
  • Houlton, Benjamin Z
  • et al.
Abstract

Nitrogen oxides (NO x = NO + NO2) are a primary component of air pollution-a leading cause of premature death in humans and biodiversity declines worldwide. Although regulatory policies in California have successfully limited transportation sources of NO x pollution, several of the United States' worst-air quality districts remain in rural regions of the state. Site-based findings suggest that NO x emissions from California's agricultural soils could contribute to air quality issues; however, a statewide estimate is hitherto lacking. We show that agricultural soils are a dominant source of NO x pollution in California, with especially high soil NO x emissions from the state's Central Valley region. We base our conclusion on two independent approaches: (i) a bottom-up spatial model of soil NO x emissions and (ii) top-down airborne observations of atmospheric NO x concentrations over the San Joaquin Valley. These approaches point to a large, overlooked NO x source from cropland soil, which is estimated to increase the NO x budget by 20 to 51%. These estimates are consistent with previous studies of point-scale measurements of NO x emissions from the soil. Our results highlight opportunities to limit NO x emissions from agriculture by investing in management practices that will bring co-benefits to the economy, ecosystems, and human health in rural areas of California.

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