07 Sep 2023
 | 07 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Exploring temporal and spatial variation of nitrous oxide flux using several years of peatland forest automatic chamber data

Helena Rautakoski, Mika Korkiakoski, Jarmo Mäkelä, Markku Koskinen, Kari Minkkinen, Mika Aurela, Paavo Ojanen, and Annalea Lohila

Abstract. The urgent need to mitigate climate change has evoked a broad interest in better understanding and estimating nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from different ecosystems. Part of the uncertainty in N2O emission estimates still comes from an inadequate understanding of the temporal and small-scale spatial variability of N2O fluxes. Using 4.5 years of N2O flux data collected in a drained peatland forest with six automated chambers, we explored temporal and small-scale spatial variability of N2O fluxes. A Random forest with conditional inference trees was used to find immediate and time-lagged relationships between N2O flux and environmental conditions across seasons and years with different environmental conditions.

The temporal variation of N2O flux was large, and the daily mean flux varied between –11 and 1760 µg N2O m⁻² h⁻¹. Three of the six measurement chambers had a maximum N2O flux of less than 400 µg N2O m⁻² h⁻¹, while the fluxes in the other three chambers exceeded 1000 µg N2O m⁻² h⁻¹. Spatial differences in the flux persisted over time, and despite the high small-scale spatial variability, the temporal patterns of the fluxes were relatively similar across the chambers. Soil moisture as well as air and soil surface temperature were the most important variables in the random forest, with lagged soil moisture also considered important. N2O flux responded to soil wetting with a time lag of 1–7 days, but the length of the time lag varied spatially and between seasons indicating interactions with other spatially and temporally variable environmental conditions.

The high temporal variation in N2O flux was related to a) seasonally variable environmental conditions, with the highest N2O fluxes measured after summer dry-wet cycles and winter soil freezing, and b) to annually variable seasonal weather conditions, which lead to high year-to-year variability in N2O budget. Changes especially in the frequency of summer precipitation events and in winter temperature and snow conditions may increase the variability of annual N2O emissions if the variability in summer and winter weather conditions increases due to climate change.

Helena Rautakoski et al.

Status: open (until 02 Nov 2023)

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  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1795', Mi"a<dd> N"a<tt>, 08 Sep 2023 reply
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Helena Rautakoski et al.

Data sets

4.5 years of peatland forest N2O flux data data measured using automatic chambers Helena Rautakoski

Helena Rautakoski et al.


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Short summary
Current and future nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions are difficult to estimate due to their high variability in space and time. Several years of N2O fluxes from drained boreal peatland forest indicate high importance of summer precipitation, winter temperature and snow conditions in controlling annual N2O emissions. The results indicate increasing year-to-year variation in N2O emissions in changing climate with more extreme seasonal weather conditions.