Global NO and HONO emissions of biological soil crusts estimated by a process-based non-vascular vegetation model

Porada, Philipp; Tamm, Alexandra; Raggio, Jose; Cheng, Yafang; Kleidon, Axel; Pöschl, Ulrich; Weber, Bettina

The reactive trace gases nitric oxide (NO) and nitrous acid (HONO) are crucial for chemical processes in the atmosphere, including the formation of ozone and OH radicals, oxidation of pollutants, and atmospheric self-cleaning. Recently, empirical studies have shown that biological soil crusts are able to emit large amounts of NO and HONO, and they may therefore play an important role in the global budget of these trace gases. However, the upscaling of local estimates to the global scale is subject to large uncertainties, due to unknown spatial distribution of crust types and their dynamic metabolic activity. Here, we perform an alternative estimate of global NO and HONO emissions by biological soil crusts, using a process-based modelling approach to these organisms, combined with global data sets of climate and land cover. We thereby consider that NO and HONO are emitted in strongly different proportions, depending on the type of crust and their dynamic activity, and we provide a first estimate of the global distribution of four different crust types. Based on this, we estimate global total values of 1.04 Tg yr−1 NO–N and 0.69 Tg yr−1 HONO–N released by biological soil crusts. This corresponds to around 20 % of global emissions of these trace gases from natural ecosystems. Due to the low number of observations on NO and HONO emissions suitable to validate the model, our estimates are still relatively uncertain. However, they are consistent with the amount estimated by the empirical approach, which confirms that biological soil crusts are likely to have a strong impact on global atmospheric chemistry via emissions of NO and HONO.

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Porada, Philipp / Tamm, Alexandra / Raggio, Jose / et al: Global NO and HONO emissions of biological soil crusts estimated by a process-based non-vascular vegetation model. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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