Global oceanic production of nitrous oxide

We use transient time distributions calculated from tracer data together with in situ measurements of nitrous oxide (N2O) to estimate the concentration of biologically produced N2O and N2O production rates in the ocean on a global scale. Our approach to estimate the N2O production rates integrates the effects of potentially varying production and decomposition mechanisms along the transport path of a water mass. We estimate that the oceanic N2O production is dominated by nitrification with a contribution of only approximately 7 per cent by denitrification. This indicates that previously used approaches have overestimated the contribution by denitrification. Shelf areas may account for only a negligible fraction of the global production; however, estuarine sources and coastal upwelling of N2O are not taken into account in our study. The largest amount of subsurface N2O is produced in the upper 500 m of the water column. The estimated global annual subsurface N2O production ranges from 3.1 ± 0.9 to 3.4 ± 0.9 Tg N yr−1. This is in agreement with estimates of the global N2O emissions to the atmosphere and indicates that a N2O source in the mixed layer is unlikely. The potential future development of the oceanic N2O source in view of the ongoing changes of the ocean environment (deoxygenation, warming, eutrophication and acidification) is discussed.

Freing A., Wallace D. W. R. & Bange H. W., 2012. Global oceanic production of nitrous oxide. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B – Biological Sciences 367(1593): 1245-1255. Article (subscription required).

1 Response to “Global oceanic production of nitrous oxide”


  1. 1 Sudheesh V 28 September 2012 at 08:47

    Dear Sir,
    I am interested to read this article as I am work in the same field. May I get the full article…?


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