Denitrification and N2O: N2 production in temperate grasslands: Processes, measurements, modelling and mitigating negative impacts

Surinder Saggar, N. Jha, J. Deslippe, N. S. Bolan, J. Luo, D. L. Giltrap, D. G. Kim, M. Zaman, R. W. Tillman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

417 Citations (Scopus)


In this review we explore the biotic transformations of nitrogenous compounds that occur during denitrification, and the factors that influence denitrifier populations and enzyme activities, and hence, affect the production of nitrous oxide (N2O) and dinitrogen (N2) in soils. Characteristics of the genes related to denitrification are also presented. Denitrification is discussed with particular emphasis on nitrogen (N) inputs and dynamics within grasslands, and their impacts on the key soil variables and processes regulating denitrification and related gaseous N2O and N2 emissions. Factors affecting denitrification include soil N, carbon (C), pH, temperature, oxygen supply and water content. We understand that the N2O:N2 production ratio responds to the changes in these factors. Increased soil N supply, decreased soil pH, C availability and water content generally increase N2O:N2 ratio. The review also covers approaches to identify and quantify denitrification, including acetylene inhibition, 15N tracer and direct N2 quantification techniques. We also outline the importance of emerging molecular techniques to assess gene diversity and reveal enzymes that consume N2O during denitrification and the factors affecting their activities and consider a process-based approach that can be used to quantify the N2O:N2 product ratio and N2O emissions with known levels of uncertainty in soils. Finally, we explore strategies to reduce the N2O:N2 product ratio during denitrification to mitigate N2O emissions. Future research needs to focus on evaluating the N2O-reducing ability of the denitrifiers to accelerate the conversion of N2O to N2 and the reduction of N2O:N2 ratio during denitrification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-195
Number of pages23
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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