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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Influence of Sample Size on Measurement of Soil Denitrification1


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 51 No. 6, p. 1492-1501
    Received: Aug 27, 1986

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  1. T. B. Parkin,
  2. J. L. Starr and
  3. J. J. Meisinger2



The influence of sample size on the magnitude and variability of soil denitrification was studied by collecting soil cores, ranging in size from 1.7 to 5.4 cm in diameter, from no-till and conventionaltill corn plots. Estimates of natural denitrification rates were obtained by incubating intact soil cores with C2H2 and monitoring gaseous N2O production. In addition, maximum denitrification potential was determined by monitoring N2O production in anaerobic slurries amended with glucose, NO-3 and C2H2. Natural rate estimates were highly skewed and approximated lognormal distributions. The spatial variability of denitrification was characterized by large variation at small distances of <10 cm and only weak spatial dependence at distances of 10 to 100 cm. Studies of the effect of sample size on denitrification suggest that soil cores >4.2 cm in diameter yielded the most reliable estimates of natural denitrification rates. Using a computerized random resampling technique, we estimated that approximately 10 to 15 kg of soil was necessary to obtain a representative soil mass for estimating natural denitrification rates. The results of this study are consistent with the hypothesis that the source of variability associated with the natural denitrification rates is the patchy distribution of denitrifying “hot spots” in soil. Some implications associated with the application of classical statistical methods to lognormal data are also discussed.

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