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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (5): 487-499    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0098-x
Research article     
Gross nitrogen transformations and N2O emission sources in sandy loam and silt loam soils
LANG Man1,2, LI Ping1,2,*(), WEI Wei1,2
1Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Agricultural Meteorology, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
2Department of Agricultural Resources and Environment, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
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The soil type is a key factor influencing N (nitrogen) cycling in soil; however, gross N transformations and N2O emission sources are still poorly understood. In this study, a laboratory 15N tracing experiment was carried out at 60% WHC (water holding capacity) and 25oC to evaluate the gross N transformation rates and N2O emission pathways in sandy loam and silt loam soils in a semi-arid region of Heilongjiang Province, China. The results showed that the gross rates of N mineralization, immobilization, and nitrification were 3.60, 1.90, and 5.63 mg N/(kg·d) in silt loam soil, respectively, which were 3.62, 4.26, and 3.13 times those in sandy loam soil, respectively. The ratios of the gross nitrification rate to the ammonium immobilization rate (n/ia) in sandy loam soil and silt loam soil were all higher than 1.00, whereas the n/ia in sandy loam soil (4.36) was significantly higher than that in silt loam soil (3.08). This result indicated that the ability of sandy loam soil to release and conserve the available N was relatively poor in comparison with silt loam soil, and the relatively strong nitrification rate compared to the immobilization rate may lead to N loss through NO3- leaching. Under aerobic conditions, both nitrification and denitrification made contributions to N2O emissions. Nitrification was the dominant pathway leading to N2O production in soils and was responsible for 82.0% of the total emitted N2O in sandy loam soil, which was significantly higher than that in silt loam soil (71.7%). However, the average contribution of denitrification to total N2O production in sandy loam soil was 17.9%, which was significantly lower than that in silt loam soil (28.3%). These results are valuable for developing reasonable fertilization management and proposing effective greenhouse gas mitigation strategies in different soil types in semiarid regions.

Key wordsgross N transformation rates      15N tracing      N2O emission sources      sandy loam      silt loam      semi-arid region     
Received: 28 December 2020      Published: 10 May 2021
Corresponding Authors: LI Ping     E-mail:
About author: *LI Ping (E-mail:
Cite this article:

LANG Man, LI Ping, WEI Wei. Gross nitrogen transformations and N2O emission sources in sandy loam and silt loam soils. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(5): 487-499.

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Property Sandy loam soil Silt loam soil
pH 6.3±0.5a 5.7±0.4a
WHC (%) 39.3±3.2b 55.5±3.9a
SOC (g/kg) 14.6±2.6b 21.4±2.1a
TN (g/kg) 1.1±0.1b 2.1±0.2a
C/N ratio 12.9±2.0a 10.3±1.0a
WSOC (mg C/kg) 154.1±13.0b 257.2±11.3a
WSON (mg N/kg) 16.4±2.1b 28.9±2.3a
Sand (>50 μm) (%) 80.5±4.1a 23.4±1.9b
Silt (2-50 μm) (%) 11.1±0.7b 62.3±2.1a
Clay (<2 μm) (%) 8.4±0.4b 14.3±2.1a
NH4+-N (mg/kg) 1.8±0.1b 5.1±0.3a
NO3--N (mg/kg) 9.7±1.5b 14.8±1.4a
Table 1 Basic physical and chemical properties of the tested soils
Fig. 1 Concentrations of NH4+ and NO3- in sandy loam and silt loam soils over the 7-d incubation time. Since the values of N (nitrogen) were equivalent for the 15N labeled NH4+ and NO3- treatments, the data were pooled together. Vertical bars indicate standard deviations (n=6).
Fig. 2 15N isotopic excess of NH4+, NO3-, and N2O in the studied soils over the 7-d incubation time. (a), 15N isotopic excess of sandy loam soil in the 15NH4NO3 treatment; (b), 15N isotopic excess of silt loam soil in the 15NH4NO3 treatment; (c), 15N isotopic excess of sandy loam soil in the NH415NO3 treatment; (d), 15N isotopic excess of silt loam soil in the NH415NO3 treatment. Vertical bars indicate standard deviations (n=3).
Gross N transformation rate (mg N/(kg·d)) Soil type Time interval
Day 0-1 Day 1-3 Day 3-5 Day 5-7
m Sandy loam 0.133±0.071 0.289±0.051 2.831±0.427 0.289±0.061
Silt loam 6.169±0.776 5.119±0.864 3.340±0.520 1.041±0.433
i Sandy loam 0.980±0.104 0.377±0.107 0.280±0.051 0.412±0.024
Silt loam 5.025±0.863 1.951±0.233 1.985±0.325 0.191±0.062
ia Sandy loam 0.917±0.090 0.350±0.124 0.258±0.063 0.377±0.068
Silt loam 4.927±0.792 1.881±0.290 1.923±0.144 0.134±0.110
in Sandy loam 0.064±0.014 0.027±0.004 0.023±0.014 0.035±0.024
Silt loam 0.098±0.068 0.070±0.014 0.062±0.011 0.057±0.022
n Sandy loam 2.198±0.331 2.089±0.411 2.273±0.313 0.826±0.091
Silt loam 5.093±0.663 6.854±0.950 6.043±0.740 4.270±0.225
Table 2 Gross N transformation rates in sandy loam and silt loam soils at different time intervals
Fig. 3 Time-weighted average gross N transformation rates during day 0-7 in sandy loam and silt loam soils. m, gross N mineralization rate; i, gross N immobilization rate; ia, NH4+ immobilization rate; n, gross nitrification rate. Vertical bars indicate standard deviations (n=3). Different lowercase letters on a pair of columns represent significant differences between the two soils at P<0.05 level.
Fig. 4 N2O flux from sandy loam and silt loam soils over the 7-d incubation time. Since the values of the N2O flux were equivalent for the 15N labeled NH4+ and NO3- treatments, the data were pooled together. Vertical bars indicate the standard deviations (n=6).
Fig. 5 N2O emission fraction derived from the processes of nitrification and denitrification in sandy loam and silt loam soils over the 7-d incubation time
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