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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

New Formulae for Mass Spectrometric Analysis of Nitrous Oxide and Dinitrogen Emissions


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 56 No. 3, p. 795-800
    Received: June 18, 1991

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. J. R. M. Arah 
  1. Soil Science Dep., Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, Scotland, U.K.



Formulae currently used in mass spectrometric studies of N2 and N2O emissions require the initial atmosphere to be in a state of isotopic equilibrium with a 15N atom fraction equal to that of the global background (γ). This is not always the case (e.g., in sequentially sampled incubations and those conducted under artificial atmospheres). Here I present new formulae that are valid whatever the initial conditions. These formulae are simpler than previous versions. They are expressed directly in terms of the 15N atom fractions and 30N2 molecular fractions of two gas samples (taken before and after emission). I have provided secondary expressions for converting the instrumental output of any (single- or dual-inlet, double- or triple-collector) mass spectrometer into the atomic and molecular fractions required. In common with previous treatments, my new calculations hypothesize a homogeneous soil N pool. I have proven that where this hypothesis is false the calculated value of the apparent pool enrichment is wrong (too high where the actual enrichment exceeds that of the atmosphere; too low in the exceptional case where the atmospheric enrichment exceeds that of the pool) and the flux is invariably underestimated. Computer simulations suggest that this underestimation may be relatively constant (about 25%) if the atmosphere is initially at isotopic equilibrium with 15N fraction γ, but that it may be larger (about 40%) and more variable where this is not the case.

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