Transport and Loss of Nitrous Oxide in Soil Water After Forest Clear-Cutting

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Science  22 Aug 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4766, pp. 867-869
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4766.867


Whole-tree harvesting increased the concentration of nitrous oxide dissolved in soil water by two orders of magnitude over the concentration expected in equilibrium with the atmosphere. In contrast, the nitrous oxide content of soil water in an intact, second-growth forest was close to the expected theoretical value. Nitrous oxide, produced at active sites in the soil, dissolves in soil water and is transported to seeps and streams where it rapidly degasses from the solution and is released into the atmosphere. This loss of nitrous oxide after clear-cutting is not important to the nitrogen economy of the site; however, it may be important to the global atmospheric budget of nitrous oxide. Sources of nitrous oxide may have been overlooked because nitrous oxide emissions can be separated in time and space from the sites of the most intense production of nitrous oxide.