Spatially explicit estimates of N2O emissions from croplands suggest climate mitigation opportunities from improved fertilizer management

James S Gerber, Kimnerley M Carlson, Iñaki Garcia de Cortazar-Atauri, Petr Havlík, Mario Herrero, Marie Launay, David Makowski, Nathaniel D Mueller, Christine S O’Connell, Pete Smith, Paul C West

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Abstract

With increasing nitrogen (N) application to croplands required to support growing food demand, mitigating N2O emissions from agricultural soils is a global challenge. National greenhouse gas emissions accounting typically estimates N2O emissions at the country scale by aggregating all crops, under the assumption that N2O emissions are linearly related to N application. However, field studies and meta-analyses indicate a nonlinear relationship, in which N2O emissions are relatively greater at higher N application rates. Here we apply a super-linear emissions response model to crop-specific, spatially-explicit synthetic N fertilizer and manure N inputs to provide subnational accounting of global N2O emissions from croplands. We estimate 0.66 Tg of N2O-N direct global emissions circa 2000, with 50% of emissions concentrated in 13% of harvested area. Compared to estimates from the IPCC Tier 1 linear model, our updated N2O emissions range from 20-40% lower throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe, to >120% greater in some Western European countries. At low N application rates, the weak non-linear response of N2O emissions suggests that relatively large increases in N fertilizer application would generate relatively small increases in N2O emissions. Since aggregated fertilizer data generate underestimation bias in nonlinear models, high-resolution N application data are critical to support accurate N2O emissions estimates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3383-3394
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume22
Issue number10
Early online date4 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016

Keywords

  • nitrogen
  • climate change
  • nitrous oxide
  • sustainable agriculture
  • greenhouse gas
  • global
  • meta-analysis

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    Gerber, J. S., Carlson, K. M., de Cortazar-Atauri, I. G., Havlík, P., Herrero, M., Launay, M., Makowski, D., Mueller, N. D., O’Connell, C. S., Smith, P., & West, P. C. (2016). Spatially explicit estimates of N2O emissions from croplands suggest climate mitigation opportunities from improved fertilizer management. Global Change Biology, 22(10), 3383-3394. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13341