Soil–atmosphere exchange of ammonia in a non-fertilized grassland: measured emission potentials and inferred fluxes

Wentworth, G. R.; Murphy, J. G.; Gregoire, P. K.; Cheyne, C. A. L.; Tevlin, A. G.; Hems, R.

A 50-day field study was carried out in a semi-natural, non-fertilized grassland in south-western Ontario, Canada during the late summer and early autumn of 2012. The purpose was to explore surface–atmosphere exchange processes of ammonia (NH 3) with a focus on bi-directional fluxes between the soil and atmosphere. Measurements of soil pH and ammonium concentration ([NH 4+]) yielded the first direct quantification of soil emission potential (Γ soil = [NH 4+]/[H +]) for this land type, with values ranging from 35 to 1850 (an average of 290). The soil compensation point, the atmospheric NH 3 mixing ratio below which net emission from the soil will occur, exhibited both a seasonal trend and diurnal trend. Higher daytime and August compensation points were attributed to higher soil temperature. Soil–atmosphere fluxes were estimated using NH 3 measurements from the Ambient Ion Monitor Ion Chromatograph (AIM-IC) and a simple resistance model. Vegetative effects were ignored due to the short canopy height and significant Γ soil. Inferred fluxes were, on average, 2.6 ± 4.5 ng m −2 s −1 in August (i.e. net emission) and −5.8 ± 3.0 ng m −2 s −1 in September (i.e. net deposition). These results are in good agreement with the only other bi-directional exchange study in a semi-natural, non-fertilized grassland. A Lagrangian dispersion model (Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory – HYSPLIT) was used to calculate air parcel back-trajectories throughout the campaign and revealed that NH 3 mixing ratios had no directional bias throughout the campaign, unlike the other atmospheric constituents measured. This implies that soil–atmosphere exchange over a non-fertilized grassland can significantly moderate near-surface NH 3 concentrations. In addition, we provide indirect evidence that dew and fog evaporation can cause a morning increase of [NH 3] g. Implications of our findings on current NH 3 bi-directional exchange modelling efforts are also discussed.

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Wentworth, G. R. / Murphy, J. G. / Gregoire, P. K. / et al: Soil–atmosphere exchange of ammonia in a non-fertilized grassland: measured emission potentials and inferred fluxes. 2014. Copernicus Publications.

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