Global agriculture and nitrous oxide emissions

Dave S. Reay, Eric A. Davidson, Keith A. Smith, Pete Smith, Jerry M. Melillo, Frank Dentener, Paul J. Crutzen

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

606 Citations (Scopus)


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important anthropogenic greenhouse gas and agriculture represents its largest source. It is at the heart of debates over the efficacy of biofuels, the climate-forcing impact of population growth, and the extent to which mitigation of non-CO2 emissions can help avoid dangerous climate change. Here we examine some of the major debates surrounding estimation of agricultural N2O sources, and the challenges of projecting and mitigating emissions in coming decades. We find that current flux estimates using either top-down or bottom-up methods are reasonably consistent at the global scale, but that a dearth of direct measurements in some areas makes national and sub-national estimates highly uncertain. We also highlight key uncertainties in projected emissions and demonstrate the potential for dietary choice and supply-chain mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-416
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number6
Early online date13 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • agriculture
  • atmospheric science
  • biogeochemistry and geochemistry
  • biology
  • ecology
  • mitigation


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