Gross nitrous oxide production drives net nitrous oxide fluxes across a salt marsh landscape.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13203
Sea level rise will change inundation regimes in salt marshes, altering redox dynamics that control nitrification - a potential source of the potent greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide (N2 O) - and denitrification, a major nitrogen (N) loss pathway in coastal ecosystems and both a source and sink of N2 O. Measurements of net N2 O fluxes alone yield little insight into the different effects of redox conditions on N2 O production and consumption. We used in situ measurements of gross N2 O fluxes across a salt marsh elevation gradient to determine how soil N2 O emissions in coastal ecosystems may respond to future sea level rise. Soil redox declined as marsh elevation decreased, with lower soil nitrate and higher ferrous iron in the low marsh compared to the mid and high marshes (P < 0.001 for both). In addition, soil oxygen concentrations were lower in the low and mid-marshes relative to the high marsh (P < 0.001). Net N2 O fluxes differed significantly among marsh zones (P = 0.009), averaging 9.8 ± 5.4 μg N m(-2) h(-1) , -2.2 ± 0.9 μg N m(-2) h(-1) , and 0.67 ± 0.57 μg N m(-2) h(-1) in the low, mid, and high marshes, respectively. Both net N2 O release and uptake were observed in the low and high marshes, but the mid-marsh was consistently a net N2 O sink. Gross N2 O production was highest in the low marsh and lowest in the mid-marsh (P = 0.02), whereas gross N2 O consumption did not differ among marsh zones. Thus, variability in gross N2 O production rates drove the differences in net N2 O flux among marsh zones. Our results suggest that future studies should focus on elucidating controls on the processes producing, rather than consuming, N2 O in salt marshes to improve our predictions of changes in net N2 O fluxes caused by future sea level rise.