What can we learn from N2O isotope data? - Analytics, processes and modelling

Yu, Longfei and Harris, Eliza and Lewicka-Szczebak, Dominika and Barthel, Matti and Blomberg, Margareta R. A. and Harris, Stephen J. and Johnson, Matthew S. and Lehmann, Moritz F. and Liisberg, Jesper and Müller, Christoph and Ostrom, Nathaniel E. and Six, Johan and Toyoda, Sakae and Yoshida, Naohiro and Mohn, Joachim. (2020) What can we learn from N2O isotope data? - Analytics, processes and modelling. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 34 (20). e8858.

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The isotopic composition of nitrous oxide (N2O) provides useful information for evaluating N2O sources and budgets. Due to the co-occurrence of multiple N2O transformation pathways, it is, however, challenging to use isotopic information to quantify the contribution of distinct processes across variable spatiotemporal scales. Here, we present an overview of recent progress in N2O isotopic studies and provide suggestions for future research, mainly focusing on: analytical techniques; production and consumption processes; and interpretation and modelling approaches. Comparing isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) with laser absorption spectroscopy (LAS), we conclude that IRMS is a precise technique for laboratory analysis of N2O isotopes, while LAS is more suitable forin situ/inline studies and offers advantages for site-specific analyses. When reviewing the link between the N2O isotopic composition and underlying mechanisms/processes, we find that, at the molecular scale, the specific enzymes and mechanisms involved determine isotopic fractionation effects. In contrast, at plot-to-global scales, mixing of N2O derived from different processes and their isotopic variability must be considered. We also find that dual isotope plots are effective for semi-quantitative attribution of co-occurring N2O production and reduction processes. More recently, process-based N2O isotopic models have been developed for natural abundance and(15)N-tracing studies, and have been shown to be effective, particularly for data with adequate temporal resolution. Despite the significant progress made over the last decade, there is still great need and potential for future work, including development of analytical techniques, reference materials and inter-laboratory comparisons, further exploration of N2O formation and destruction mechanisms, more observations across scales, and design and validation of interpretation and modelling approaches. Synthesizing all these efforts, we are confident that the N2O isotope community will continue to advance our understanding of N2O transformation processes in all spheres of the Earth, and in turn to gain improved constraints on regional and global budgets.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Aquatic and Isotope Biogeochemistry (Lehmann)
UniBasel Contributors:Lehmann, Moritz F
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:14 Apr 2021 12:25
Deposited On:14 Apr 2021 12:25

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