Weakened growth of cropland‐N2O emissions in China associated with nationwide policy interventions

Ziyin Shang, Feng Zhou* (Corresponding Author), Pete Smith, Eri Saikawa, Philippe Ciais, Jinfeng Chang, Hanqin Tian, Stephen J. Del Grosso, Akihiko Ito, Minpeng Chen, Qihui Wang, Yan Bo, Xiaoqing Cui, Simona Castaldi, Radoslaw Juszczak, Åsa Kasimir, Enzo Magliulo, Sergiy Medinets, Volodymyr Medinets, Robert M. ReesGeorg Wohlfahrt, Simone Sabbatini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


China has experienced rapid agricultural development over recent decades, accompanied by increased fertilizer consumption in croplands, yet the trend and drivers of the associated nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions remain uncertain. The primary sources of this uncertainty are the coarse spatial variation of activity data and the incomplete model representation of N2O emissions in response to agricultural management. Here we provide new data-driven estimates of cropland N2O emissions across China in 1990-2014, compiled using a global cropland-N2O flux observation dataset, nationwide survey-based reconstruction of N-fertilization and irrigation, and an updated nonlinear model. In addition, we have evaluated the drivers behind changing cropland N2O patterns using an index decomposition analysis approach. We find that Chinaís annual cropland-N2O emissions increased on average by 11.2 Gg N yr-2 (P < 0.001) from 1990 to 2003, after which emissions plateaued until 2014 (2.8 Gg N yr-2,P = 0.02), consistent with the output from an ensemble of process-based terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs). The slowdown of the increase in cropland-N2O emissions after 2003 was pervasive across two thirds of Chinaís sowing areas. This change was mainly driven by the nationwide reduction of N-fertilizer applied per area, partially due to the prevalence of the Nationwide Soil Testing and Formulation Fertilization Program that was launched in the early 2000s. This reduction has almost offset the N2O emissions induced by policy-driven expansion of sowing areas, particularly in the Northeast Plain and the lower Yangtze River Basin. Our results underline the importance of high-resolution activity data and adoption of nonlinear model of N2O emission for capturing cropland-N2O emission changes. Improving the representation of policy interventions is also recommended for future projections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3706-3719
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number11
Early online date19 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41671464; 7181101181), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0800501; 2018YFC0213304), 111 Project (B14001), the GCP-INI Global N2O Budget and the INMS Asia Demo Activities. The input of P.S. contributes to the UK-China Virtual Joint Centre on Nitrogen ìN-Circleî funded by the Newton Fund via UK BBSRC/NERC (BB/N013484/1). We acknowledged Eric Ceschia, Kristiina Regina, Dario Papale, and the NANORP for sharing a part of observation data.


  • Nitrous oxide
  • agricultural soils
  • emission inventory
  • flux upscaling
  • agricultural management
  • process-based model
  • temporal trend
  • spatial pattern
  • land surface model
  • nitrous oxide
  • policy analysis
  • China
  • Agriculture
  • Crops, Agricultural
  • Fertilizers
  • Soil
  • Nitrous Oxide


Dive into the research topics of 'Weakened growth of cropland‐N2O emissions in China associated with nationwide policy interventions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this