Biological sources and sinks of nitrous oxide and strategies to mitigate emissions

Andrew J. Thomson, Georgios Giannopoulos, Jules Pretty, Elizabeth M. Baggs, David J. Richardson

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375 Citations (Scopus)


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful atmospheric greenhouse gas and cause of ozone layer depletion. Global emissions continue to rise. More than two-thirds of these emissions arise from bacterial and fungal denitrification and nitrification processes in soils, largely as a result of the application of nitrogenous fertilizers. This article summarizes the outcomes of an interdisciplinary meeting, 'Nitrous oxide (N2O) the forgotten greenhouse gas', held at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, from 23 to 24 May 2011. It provides an introduction and background to the nature of the problem, and summarizes the conclusions reached regarding the biological sources and sinks of N2O in oceans, soils and wastewaters, and discusses the genetic regulation and molecular details of the enzymes responsible. Techniques for providing global and local N2O budgets are discussed. The findings of the meeting are drawn together in a review of strategies for mitigating N2O emissions, under three headings, namely: (i) managing soil chemistry and microbiology, (ii) engineering crop plants to fix nitrogen, and (iii) sustainable agricultural intensification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1157-1168
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1593
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2012

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  • nitrous oxide
  • denitrification
  • greenhouse gas
  • climate change
  • mitigating emissions


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