EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Low vs. upland - copper addition regulates denitrification in cropland soils from N2O emissions hotspots in Denmark

Yujia Liu1, Daniel Mika-Nsimbi Poultney1, Florian Wichern2, Per Ambus1, and Carsten W. Müller1
Yujia Liu et al.
  • 1University of Copenhagen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Geography, København, Denmark (
  • 2Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, Institute of Biogenic Resources in Sustainable Food Systems-From Farm to Function, Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Marie-Curie-Str. 1, 47533 Kleve, Germany

Agricultural land-use makes up around 38% of the total global land surface. Farming activities are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) worldwide. Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from agricultural land are an important contributor to the overall greenhouse gas budget. The high spatial and temporal variation of N2O emissions in agricultural lands makes it more challenging and important to quantify the actual emissions. Denmark’s glacial landscape is characterized by a high abundance of topographic depressions. These are typically flooded for 1-3 months per year, mainly during late winter and spring season. As these depressions are frequent in agricultural areas, their soils are exposed to an increased nitrate availability due to regular fertilization. The combination of high-water saturation and high nitrate availability results in distinct landscape denitrification and thus N2O emission “hotspots”.

The reduction of N2O to N2 by N2O reductase can be an important mechanism to mitigate N2O emissions. The N2O reductase is both Cu and pH sensitive. Studies have showed Cu-modified organic fertilizer have the potential to enhance the reduction from N2O to N2, and therefore decrease N2O emissions from fields.

In this study, we aimed to elucidate if Cu addition alters the emission of N2O from upland and depression soils in a different way. Therefore, we conducted an incubation experiment with both upland and depression soils, testing how different levels of Cu addition and two different water levels affect the emission of N2O. In order to differentiate the N2O production pathways (nitrification or denitrification), we applied 15N tracer in the form of 15NH415NO3 or 14NH415NO3. We also added 13C labelled maize residues to be able to trace the consumption of fresh substrate in the course of denitrification as affected by different Cu and water levels.

Interestingly, although the soils were homogenized and incubated at the same water availability, we demonstrated a clearly higher N2O emission from the depression soils compared to the upland soils. In general, we were able to demonstrate that Cu addition clearly reduces the level of N2O emissions from upland soils, which is clearly more pronounced at higher soil water levels.

How to cite: Liu, Y., Poultney, D. M.-N., Wichern, F., Ambus, P., and Müller, C. W.: Low vs. upland - copper addition regulates denitrification in cropland soils from N2O emissions hotspots in Denmark, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8878,, 2023.