Plants are a natural source of nitrous oxide even in field conditions as explained by 15N site preference

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Jan 20:805:150262. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150262. Epub 2021 Sep 11.


Plants are either recognized to produce nitrous oxide (N2O) or considered as a medium to transport soil-produced N2O. To date, it is not clear whether in their habitat plants conduit N2O produced in soil or are a natural source. We aimed to understand role of plants in N2O emissions in field conditions. Therefore, rubber plants (Ficus elastica) were planted in the field; then plant and soil chambers were deployed simultaneously to collect gas samples, and 15N site preference (SP) of N2O was evaluated. The mean SP values of plant and soil emitted N2O were -20.85 ± 2.8‰ and -8.85 ± 1.08‰, respectively, and were significantly different (p < 0.0001); while bulk 15N of plant and soil emitted N2O were -10.83 ± 3.33‰ and -22.56 ± 3.37‰, respectively and were similar (p = 0.06). In the current study, soil always acted as a source of N2O, while plants were both source and sink. Plant and soil N2O fluxes had significant positive exponential relationship with both soil and air temperature. Soil water-filled pore space (WFPS) had significant negative linear relationship with only soil N2O fluxes. Plant N2O fluxes had significant positive linear relationship with plant respiration rates and negative linear relationship with plant surface areas. Based on the relationship between plant respiration rates and N2O fluxes, we suggest that mitochondria are the possible sites of N2O formation in plant cells while the relationship between plant surface areas and N2O fluxes suggests that roots are the parts of its formation in natural and field conditions. Our results suggest that plants are a natural source of N2O even at field conditions and challenge a view that plants are a medium to transport soil-produced N2O into the atmosphere.

Keywords: (15)N site preference; N(2)O; Natural source; Plant emission; Respiration; Soil emission.

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere
  • Nitrous Oxide* / analysis
  • Plants
  • Soil*
  • Water


  • Soil
  • Water
  • Nitrous Oxide