Indirect emissions of nitrous oxide from regional aquifers in the United Kingdom

KM Hiscock, AS Bateman, IH Mühlherr, T Fukada, PF Dennis

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59 Citations (Scopus)


Diffuse pollution of groundwater by agriculture has caused elevated concentrations of nitrate (NO3-) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in regional aquifers. N2O is an important “greenhouse” gas, yet there are few estimates of indirect emissions of N2O from regional aquifers. In this study, high concentrations of N2O (mean 602 nM) were measured in the unconfined Chalk aquifer of eastern England, in an area of intensive agriculture. In contrast, pristine groundwaters from upland regions of England and Scotland, with predominantly natural vegetation cover, were found to have much lower concentrations of N2O (mean 27 nM). A positive relationship between N2O and NO3- concentra tions and d18O-NO3 values of between 3.36 and 16.00‰ suggest that nitrification is the principal source of N2O. A calculated emission factor (EF5-g) of 0.0019 for indirect losses of N2O from Chalk groundwater is an order of magnitude lower than the value of 0.015 currently used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methodology for assessing agricultural emissions. A flux of N2O from the major UK aquifers of 0.04 kg N2O-N ha-1 a-1 has been calculated using two approaches and suggests that indirect losses of N2O from regional aquifers are much less significant (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3507-3512
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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