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Global Nitrous Oxide Emissions From Pasturelands and Rangelands: Magnitude, Spatiotemporal Patterns, and Attribution


Dangal, Shree R. S.
Tian, Hanqin
Xu, Rongting
Chang, Jinfeng
Canadell, Josep G.
Ciais, Philippe
Pan, Shufen
Yang, Jia
Zhang, Bowen


The application of manure and mineral nitrogen (N) fertilizer, and livestock excreta deposition are the main drivers of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in agricultural systems. However, the magnitude and spatiotemporal variations of N2O emissions due to different management practices (excreta deposition and manure/fertilizer application) from grassland ecosystems remain unclear. In this study, we used the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model to simulate the spatiotemporal variation in global N2O emissions and their attribution to different sources from both intensively managed (pasturelands) and extensively managed (rangelands) grasslands during 1961-2014. Over the study period, pasturelands and rangelands experienced a significant increase in N2O emissions from 1.74 Tg N2O-N in 1961 to 3.11 Tg N2O-N in 2014 (p < 0.05). Globally, pasturelands and rangelands were responsible for 54% (2.2 Tg N2O-N) of the total agricultural N2O emissions (4.1 Tg N2O-N) in 2006. Natural and anthropogenic sources contributed 26% (0.64 Tg N2O-N/year) and 74% (1.78 Tg N2O-N/year) of the net emissions, respectively. Across different biomes, pasturelands (i.e., C3 and C4) were the single largest contributor to N2O fluxes, accounting for 86% of the net global emissions from grasslands. Among different sources, livestock excreta deposition contributed 54% of the net emissions, followed by manure N (13%) and mineral N (7%) application. Regionally, southern Asia contributed 38% of the total emissions, followed by Europe (29%) and North America (16%). Our modeling study demonstrates that livestock excreta deposition and manure/fertilizer application have dramatically altered the N cycle in pasturelands, with a substantial impact on the climate system.