• Factors affecting nitrate distribution in shallow groundwater under a beef farm in South Eastern Ireland

      Fenton, Owen; Richards, Karl G.; Kirwan, Laura; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Healy, Mark G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; RSF 07 525 (Elsevier, 2009-07)
      Groundwater contamination was characterised using a methodology which combines shallow groundwater geochemistry data from 17 piezometers over a 2 yr period in a statistical framework and hydrogeological techniques. Nitrate-N (NO3-N) contaminant mass flux was calculated across three control planes (rows of piezometers) in six isolated plots. Results showed natural attenuation occurs on site although the method does not directly differentiate between dilution and denitrification. It was further investigated whether NO3-N concentration in shallow groundwater (<5 m below ground level) generated from an agricultural point source on a 4.2 ha site on a beef farm in SE Ireland could be predicted from saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) measurements, ground elevation (m Above Ordnance Datum), elevation of groundwater sampling (screen opening interval) (m AOD) and distance from a dirty water point pollution source. Tobit regression, using a background concentration threshold of 2.6 mg NO3-N L-1 showed, when assessed individually in a step wise procedure, Ksat was significantly related to groundwater NO3-N concentration. Distance of the point dirty water pollution source becomes significant when included with Ksat in the model. The model relationships show areas with higher Ksat values have less time for denitrification to occur, whereas lower Ksat values allow denitrification to occur. Areas with higher permeability transport greater NO3-N fluxes to ground and surface waters. When the distribution of Cl- was examined by the model, Ksat and ground elevation had the most explanatory power but Ksat was not significant pointing to dilution having an effect. Areas with low NO3 concentration and unaffected Cl- concentration points to denitrification, low NO3 concentration and low Cl- chloride concentration points to dilution and combining these findings allows areas of denitrification and dilution to be inferred. The effect of denitrification is further supported as mean groundwater NO3-N was significantly (P<0.05) related to groundwater N2/Ar ratio, redox potential (Eh), dissolved O2 and N2 and was close to being significant with N2O (P=0.08). Calculating contaminant mass flux across more than one control plane is a useful tool to monitor natural attenuation. This tool allows the identification of hot spot areas where intervention other than natural attenuation may be needed to protect receptors.
    • Factors affecting nitrate distribution in shallow groundwater under a beef farm in South Eastern Ireland

      Fenton, Owen; Richards, Karl G.; Kirwan, Laura; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Healy, Mark G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Elsevier, 2009-07)
      Groundwater contamination was characterised using a methodology which combines shallow groundwater geochemistry data from 17 piezometers over a 2 yr period in a statistical framework and hydrogeological techniques. Nitrate–N (NO3-N) contaminant mass flux was calculated across three control planes (rows of piezometers) in six isolated plots. Results showed natural attenuation occurs on site although the method does not directly differentiate between dilution and denitrification. It was further investigated whether NO3-N concentration in shallow groundwater (<5 m below ground level) generated from an agricultural point source on a 4.2 ha site on a beef farm in SE Ireland could be predicted from saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) measurements, ground elevation (m Above Ordnance Datum), elevation of groundwater sampling (screen opening interval) (m AOD) and distance from a dirty water point pollution source. Tobit regression, using a background concentration threshold of 2.6 mg NO3-N L−1 showed, when assessed individually in a step wise procedure, Ksat was significantly related to groundwater NO3-N concentration. Distance of the point dirty water pollution source becomes significant when included with Ksat in the model. The model relationships show areas with higher Ksat values have less time for denitrification to occur, whereas lower Ksat values allow denitrification to occur. Areas with higher permeability transport greater NO3-N fluxes to ground and surface waters. When the distribution of Cl− was examined by the model, Ksat and ground elevation had the most explanatory power but Ksat was not significant pointing to dilution having an effect. Areas with low NO3 concentration and unaffected Cl− concentration points to denitrification, low NO3 concentration and low Cl− chloride concentration points to dilution and combining these findings allows areas of denitrification and dilution to be inferred. The effect of denitrification is further supported as mean groundwater NO3-N was significantly (P < 0.05) related to groundwater N2/Ar ratio, redox potential (Eh), dissolved O2 and N2 and was close to being significant with N2O (P = 0.08). Calculating contaminant mass flux across more than one control plane is a useful tool to monitor natural attenuation. This tool allows the identification of hot spot areas where intervention other than natural attenuation may be needed to protect receptors.
    • Farming for Nature. The Role of Results-Based Payments

      O'Rourke, Eileen; Finn, John (Teagasc and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), 2020)
      Agricultural habitats cover approximately half the European Union (EU) and an estimated 50% of all species and several habitats of conservation concern in the EU depend on agricultural management. Reversing the loss of European biodiversity is clearly dependent on the conservation of farmland biodiversity. Results-based approaches are the focus of a growing discussion about improved biodiversity conservation and environmental performance of EU agri-environmental policies. This book outlines lessons learned from a collection of Irish case studies that have implemented results-based approaches and payments for the conservation of farmland habitats and species. The case studies include prominent projects and programmes: the Burren Programme, AranLIFE, KerryLIFE, the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme and Result-Based Agri-environmental Payment Schemes (RBAPS) project. This work is intended for an international audience of practitioners, policymakers and academics interested in results-based approaches for the conservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services.
    • The Farmland Wildlife Survey – raising awareness of wildlife habitats

      Gabbett, Mairead; Finn, John; The Heritage Council (Teagasc, 01/08/2005)
      The Farmland Wildlife Survey involved a short visit (about 3 hours) to 19 REPS demonstration farms, and an identification of habitats and wildlife on each farm, with an emphasis on common farmland habitats such as hedgerows, ponds, watercourses, field margins, woodland, plant species and other areas of wildlife value. The survey results were provided to the farmer and Teagasc REPS advisor as a report with colour pictures of representative habitats, and an explanation of why these habitats were important for wildlife.
    • Fertilizer Use Survey 1995

      Murphy, W.E.; Culleton, Noel; Roche, M.; Power, D. (Teagasc, 1997)
      The farm management data for 1994 and 1995 were used as the basis for a fertilizer use survey. The samples were drawn up by the Central Statistics Office on the basis of farm size and farming system. The survey was carried out on 1226 farms.
    • Field boundary habitats and their contribution to the area of semi-natural habitats on lowland farms in east Galway, western Ireland

      Sullivan, C. A.; Finn, John; Gormally, Michael; Sheehy Skeffington, Micheline; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Royal Irish Academy, 07/11/2013)
      Sustainable agriculture and the provision of environmental public goods are key deliverables for European farming and food production. Farmland biodiversity, cultural landscapes, soil functionality and climate stability are among the environmental public goods provided through agriculture. Future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) direct payments are intended to be more targeted at the provision of these agricultural deliverables. Field boundaries are an example of such deliverables. They are widespread features that have both environmental and aesthetic functions in farmed landscapes. However, research on their variety, density and contribution to semi-natural habitat cover on farms in Ireland is lacking. This study investigates the diversity and density of all field boundary habitat types on 32 lowland farms in east County Galway, western Ireland. A total of 286km of field boundaries were surveyed across six study sites. Five types of field boundary habitats were recorded. The density of field boundaries on the farms studied was high and could have positive implications for delivery of environmental public goods and sustainable farming metrics. In more intensively farmed areas, field boundaries were the only remaining semi-natural habitat on some farms highlighting the need to retain, and improve the ecological quality, of these features. The condition of one field boundary type (hedgerows) was also investigated in further detail. While the density of field boundaries was high on many of the surveyed farms, we found that the hedgerows on these farms were not necessarily in good condition for wildlife.
    • A field-based comparison of ammonia emissions from six Irish soil types following urea fertiliser application

      Burchill, William; Lanigan, Gary; Forrestal, Patrick J.; Reville, F.; Misselbrook, T.; Richards, Karl G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; RSF 13/S/430 (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 30/12/2016)
      Ammonia (NH3) emissions from a range of soil types have been found to differ under laboratory conditions. However, there is lack of studies comparing NH3 emissions from different soil types under field conditions. The objective was to compare NH3 emissions from six different soil types under similar environmental conditions in the field following urea fertiliser application. The study was conducted on a lysimeter unit and NH3 emissions were measured, using wind tunnels, from six different soil types with varying soil characteristics following urea fertiliser application (80 kg N/ha). On average, 17.6% (% total N applied) was volatilised, and there was no significant difference in NH3 emissions across all soil types. Soil variables, including pH, cation exchange capacity and volumetric moisture, were not able to account for the variation in emissions. Further field studies are required to improve the urea-NH3 emission factor used for Ireland’s NH3 inventory.
    • A Field-Scale Decision Support System for Assessment and Management of Soil Functions

      Debeljak, Marko; Trajanov, Aneta; Kuzmanovski, Vladimir; Schröder, Jaap; Sandén, Taru; Spiegel, Heide; Wall, David; Van de Broek5, Marijn; Rutgers, Michiel; Bampa, France; et al. (Frontiers Media SA, 2019-08-05)
      Agricultural decision support systems (DSSs) are mostly focused on increasing the supply of individual soil functions such as, e.g., primary productivity or nutrient cycling, while neglecting other important soil functions, such as, e.g., water purification and regulation, climate regulation and carbon sequestration, soil biodiversity, and habitat provision. Making right management decisions for long-term sustainability is therefore challenging, and farmers and farm advisors would greatly benefit from an evidence-based DSS targeted for assessing and improving the supply of several soil functions simultaneously. To address this need, we designed the Soil Navigator DSS by applying a qualitative approach to multi-criteria decision modeling using Decision Expert (DEX) integrative methodology. Multi-criteria decision models for the five main soil functions were developed, calibrated, and validated using knowledge of involved domain experts and knowledge extracted from existing datasets by data mining. Subsequently, the five DEX models were integrated into a DSS to assess the soil functions simultaneously and to provide management advices for improving the performance of prioritized soil functions. To enable communication between the users and the DSS, we developed a user-friendly computer-based graphical user interface, which enables users to provide the required data regarding their field to the DSS and to get textual and graphical results about the performance of each of the five soil functions in a qualitative way. The final output from the DSS is a list of soil mitigation measures that the end-users could easily apply in the field in order to achieve the desired soil function performance. The Soil Navigator DSS has a great potential to complement the Farm Sustainability Tools for Nutrients included in the Common Agricultural Policy 2021–2027 proposal adopted by the European Commission. The Soil Navigator has also a potential to be spatially upgraded to assist decisions on which soil functions to prioritize in a specific region or member state. Furthermore, the Soil Navigator DSS could be used as an educational tool for farmers, farm advisors, and students, and its potential should be further exploited for the benefit of farmers and the society as a whole.
    • A Functional Land Management conceptual framework under soil drainage and land use scenarios

      Coyle, Cait; Creamer, Rachel E.; Schulte, Rogier P.; O'Sullivan, Lilian; Jordan, Phil; Institute of Technology, Sligo (Elsevier, 2015-11-15)
      Agricultural soils offer multiple soil functions, which contribute to a range of ecosystem services, and the demand for the primary production function is expected to increase with a growing world population. Other key functions on agricultural land have been identified as water purification, carbon sequestration, habitat biodiversity and nutrient cycling, which all need to be considered for sustainable intensification. All soils perform all functions simultaneously, but the variation in the capacity of soils to supply these functions is reviewed in terms of defined land use types (arable, bio-energy, broadleaf forest, coniferous forest, managed grassland, other grassland and Natura 2000) and extended to include the influence of soil drainage characteristics (well, moderately/imperfect, poor and peat). This latter consideration is particularly important in the European Atlantic pedo-climatic zone; the spatial scale of this review. This review develops a conceptual framework on the multi-functional capacity of soils, termed Functional Land Management, to facilitate the effective design and assessment of agri-environmental policies. A final functional soil matrix is presented as an approach to show the consequential changes to the capacity of the five soil functions associated with land use change on soils with contrasting drainage characteristics. Where policy prioritises the enhancement of particular functions, the matrix indicates the potential trade-offs for individual functions or the overall impact on the multi-functional capacity of soil. The conceptual framework is also applied by land use area in a case study, using the Republic of Ireland as an example, to show how the principle of multi-functional land use planning can be readily implemented.
    • A Functional Land Management conceptual framework under soil drainage and land use scenarios

      Coyle, Cait; Creamer, Rachel E.; Schulte, Rogier P.O.; O'Sullivan, Lilian; Jordan, Phil; Institute of Technology, Sligo (Elsevier BV, 2015-11-15)
      Agricultural soils offer multiple soil functions, which contribute to a range of ecosystem services, and the demand for the primary production function is expected to increase with a growing world population. Other key functions on agricultural land have been identified as water purification, carbon sequestration, habitat biodiversity and nutrient cycling, which all need to be considered for sustainable intensification. All soils perform all functions simultaneously, but the variation in the capacity of soils to supply these functions is reviewed in terms of defined land use types (arable, bio-energy, broadleaf forest, coniferous forest, managed grassland, other grassland and Natura 2000) and extended to include the influence of soil drainage characteristics (well, moderately/imperfect, poor and peat). This latter consideration is particularly important in the European Atlantic pedo-climatic zone; the spatial scale of this review. This review develops a conceptual framework on the multi-functional capacity of soils, termed Functional Land Management, to facilitate the effective design and assessment of agri-environmental policies. A final functional soil matrix is presented as an approach to show the consequential changes to the capacity of the five soil functions associated with land use change on soils with contrasting drainage characteristics. Where policy prioritises the enhancement of particular functions, the matrix indicates the potential trade-offs for individual functions or the overall impact on the multi-functional capacity of soil. The conceptual framework is also applied by land use area in a case study, using the Republic of Ireland as an example, to show how the principle of multi-functional land use planning can be readily implemented.
    • Functional Land Management for managing soil functions: A case-study of the trade-off between primary productivity and carbon storage in response to the intervention of drainage systems in Ireland

      O'Sullivan, Lilian; Creamer, Rachel E.; Fealy, Reamonn; Lanigan, Gary; Simo, Iolanda; Fenton, Owen; Carfrae, J.; Schulte, Rogier; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier, 2015-09-30)
      Globally, there is growing demand for increased agricultural outputs. At the same time, the agricultural industry is expected to meet increasingly stringent environmental targets. Thus, there is an urgent pressure on the soil resource to deliver multiple functions simultaneously. The Functional Land Management framework (Schulte et al., 2014) is a conceptual tool designed to support policy making to manage soil functions to meet these multiple demands. This paper provides a first example of a practical application of the Functional Land Management concept relevant to policy stakeholders. In this study we examine the trade-offs, between the soil functions ‘primary productivity’ and ‘carbon cycling and storage’, in response to the intervention of land drainage systems applied to ‘imperfectly’ and ‘poorly’ draining managed grasslands in Ireland. These trade-offs are explored as a function of the nominal price of ‘Certified Emission Reductions’ or ‘carbon credits’. Also, these trade-offs are characterised spatially using ArcGIS to account for spatial variability in the supply of soil functions.To manage soil functions, it is essential to understand how individual soil functions are prioritised by those that are responsible for the supply of soil functions – generally farmers and foresters, and those who frame demand for soil functions – policy makers. Here, in relation to these two soil functions, a gap exists in relation to this prioritisation between these two stakeholder groups. Currently, the prioritisation and incentivisation of these competing soil functions is primarily a function of CO2 price. At current CO2 prices, the agronomic benefits outweigh the monetised environmental costs. The value of CO2 loss would only exceed productivity gains at either higher CO2 prices or at a reduced discount period rate. Finally, this study shows large geographic variation in the environmental cost: agronomic benefit ratio. Therein, the Functional Land Management framework can support the development of policies that are more tailored to contrasting biophysical environments and are therefore more effective than ‘blanket approaches’ allowing more specific and effective prioritisation of contrasting soil functions.
    • Functional Land Management: Bridging the Think-Do-Gap using a multi-stakeholder science policy interface

      O'Sullivan, Lilian; Wall, David; Creamer, Rachel E.; Bampa, Francesca; Schulte, Rogier P.; European Union; National Development Plan 2007–2013.; 635201; 677407; 13S468 (Springer, 2017-11)
      Functional Land Management (FLM) is proposed as an integrator for sustainability policies and assesses the functional capacity of the soil and land to deliver primary productivity, water purification and regulation, carbon cycling and storage, habitat for biodiversity and recycling of nutrients. This paper presents the catchment challenge as a method to bridge the gap between science, stakeholders and policy for the effective management of soils to deliver these functions. Two challenges were completed by a wide range of stakeholders focused around a physical catchment model—(1) to design an optimised catchment based on soil function targets, (2) identify gaps to implementation of the proposed design. In challenge 1, a high level of consensus between different stakeholders emerged on soil and management measures to be implemented to achieve soil function targets. Key gaps including knowledge, a mix of market and voluntary incentives and mandatory measures were identified in challenge 2.
    • Gain in Nitrogen Yield from Grass-Legume Mixtures is Robust Over a Wide Range of Legume Proportions and Environmental Conditions

      Suter, Matthias; Finn, John; Connolly, John; Loges, Ralph; Lüscher, Andreas (Elsevier, 2015-12-31)
      Global food security is currently challenged and requires sustainable intensification of agriculture through initiatives that include more efficient use of nitrogen (N) and increased protein self-sufficiency through home-grown crops. Such challenges were addressed in a continental-scale field experiment conducted over three years, in which the amount of total nitrogen yield (Ntot) and the gain in N yield in mixtures as compared to grass monocultures (Ngainmix) was quantified from four-species grass-legume stands with greatly varying legume proportions. Stands consisted of monocultures and mixtures of two N2 fixing legumes and two non-fixing grasses. The amount of Ntot of mixtures was significantly greater (P ≤ 0.05) than that of grass monocultures at the majority of evaluated sites in all three years. Ntot and thus Ngainmix increased with increasing legume proportion up to one third of legumes. With higher percentages of legumes, Ntot and Ngainmix did not further increase. Thus, across sites and years, mixtures with one third proportion of legumes had 57% higher Ntot than grass monocultures and attained ∼95% of the maximum Ntot acquired by any stand. The relative N gain in mixture (Ngainmix/Ntotmix) was most severely impaired by minimum site temperature (R = 0.64, P = 0.010). Nevertheless, Ngainmix/Ntotmix was not correlated to site productivity (P = 0.500), suggesting that, within climatic restrictions, balanced grass-legume mixtures can benefit from comparable relative gains in N yield across largely differing productivity levels. We conclude that higher N output (Ntot or forage protein per unit area) can be achieved with grass-legume mixtures than with pure grass alone for a given amount of N fertilizer applied; conversely, the same N output can be achieved by mixed swards with less input of N. Therefore, the use of grass-legume mixtures can substantially contribute to resource-efficient agricultural grassland systems over a wide range of productivity levels, implying important savings in N fertilizers and greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Good water status: The integration of sustainable grassland production and water resources in Ireland

      Richards, Karl G.; Fenton, Owen; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Haria, Atul H.; Humphreys, James; Doody, Donnacha G.; Moles, Richard; Morgan, Ger; Jordan, Philip; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; et al. (School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2009)
      The challenge for sustainable grassland production is to integrate economically profitable farming systems with environmental protection. The Water Framework Directive aims to attain at least “good status” for all waters by 2015, to be achieved through the introduction of measures across all sectors of society. Historically, the impact of grassland agriculture on water quality was investigated in isolation. More recently it has been highlighted that water quality and other environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions must be considered in an integrated manner. Catchment hydrology is critical to understanding the drivers behind nutrient transport to surface water and groundwaters. Flashy catchments are more susceptible to phosphorus, sediment and ammonium loss, whereas contrastingly baseflow dominated catchments are more susceptible to nitrate transport. Understanding catchment hydrology enables the targeting of measures for the mitigation of diffuse agricultural contaminants. This increased understanding can also be used to support extended deadlines for the achievement of good status. This paper reviews the potential effects of grassland agriculture on water quantity and the transport of pesticides and nutrients to water in the context of achieving good status for all waters by 2015 under the Water Framework Directive.
    • Grassland vegetation from three conservation measures

      O hUallachain, Daire; Finn, John; Keogh, Blathnaid; Finch, Rochelle; Sheridan, Helen; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc, 2017)
      Semi-natural grassland habitats have declined significantly throughout Europe. To halt the decline, grassland conservation measures have been included in most European agri-environment schemes. This is the first study to compare the botanical composition of grassland habitats managed under the Irish Agri Environment Options Scheme (AEOS). Sixty fields on dry stock pastoral farms in receipt of agri-environment payments for grassland conservation were surveyed, with twenty fields being enrolled in each of the following AEOS options: Traditional Hay Meadow (THM), Species Rich Grassland (SRG) and Natura 2000 species rich grassland (Natura). The vegetation quality of sites enrolled in the Natura measure was higher than those enrolled in the THM and SRG measures. Natura sites had the greatest species richness with a mean > 40 species per site, which included approximately 17 species indicative of high botanical quality. Traditional Hay Meadow sites had the lowest species richness (mean 29 species per site) and were dominated by species associated with improved grassland. Some THM sites had good levels of botanical richness and were similar in composition to Natura sites, with some Natura sites having a lower vegetation quality, more similar to that of THM sites. Species Rich Grassland had a botanical richness that was intermediate between THM and Natura sites. A thorough assessment of the effectiveness of these measures was confounded by a lack of quantitative objectives for the target community composition to be attained. We discuss limitations and potential opportunities regarding the design, targeting, implementation and cost-effectiveness of these agri-environment measures.
    • Gross nitrogen transformations in grassland soil react differently to urea stabilisers under laboratory and field conditions

      Harty, Mary A.; McGeough, K. L.; Carolan, Rachael; Muller, Christoph; Laughlin, Ronald J.; Lanigan, Gary; Richards, Karl G.; Watson, C. J.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland; et al. (Elsevier, 10/02/2017)
      A laboratory and a field study were conducted on a permanent grassland soil in Northern Ireland to investigate the effects of urea in combination with N process inhibitors such as the urease inhibitor N-(butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT) and/or the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide (DCD) on soil N dynamics. Urea enriched with n-butyl 15N to 60 atom % was applied to soil at a rate of 100 μg N g−1 dry soil in the laboratory and 100 kg N ha−1 in the field. A numerical 15N tracing model was used to quantify several simultaneously occurring gross N transformation rates in both studies. The changes in soil nitrate (NO3−) and ammonium (NH4+) concentrations and 15N enrichment over a 25-day period as well as the concentration and 15N enrichment of plant N at harvest were used to model soil gross N transformations. The results showed that the effect of N process inhibitors varied firstly between laboratory and field studies and secondly whether the inhibitors were applied individually or in combination. Overall DCD had a greater effect on the major soil N transformations than NBPT; reducing oxidation of NH4+, total nitrification, net NO3− produced, total mineralisation and the net adsorption of NH4+ at both laboratory and field scale. The effect of DCD was similar for these transformations whether applied alone or co-applied with NBPT. In contrast NBPT had no significant effect on oxidation of NH4+, total nitrification, total mineralisation or total immobilisation compared to urea in the field, while the effect on these transformations in the laboratory was significant. The contrasting effects of inhibitors on gross N transformations between laboratory and field may relate to the differences in experimental conditions, e.g. soil preparation, environmental conditions and the contribution of plant biomass. To obtain a more realistic assessment of gross soil N transformations in situ, it is essential that laboratory experiments are supplemented with field studies.
    • Groundwater nitrate reduction versus dissolved gas production: A tale of two catchments

      McAleer, E.B.; Coxon, Catherine E.; Richards, Karl G.; Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Grant, Jim; Mellander, Per-Erik; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 20/02/2017)
      At the catchment scale, a complex mosaic of environmental, hydrogeological and physicochemical characteristics combine to regulate the distribution of groundwater and stream nitrate (NO3−). The efficiency of NO3− removal (via denitrification) versus the ratio of accumulated reaction products, dinitrogen (excess N2) & nitrous oxide (N2O), remains poorly understood. Groundwater was investigated in two well drained agricultural catchments (10 km2) in Ireland with contrasting subsurface lithologies (sandstone vs. slate) and landuse. Denitrification capacity was assessed by measuring concentration and distribution patterns of nitrogen (N) species, aquifer hydrogeochemistry, stable isotope signatures and aquifer hydraulic properties. A hierarchy of scale whereby physical factors including agronomy, water table elevation and permeability determined the hydrogeochemical signature of the aquifers was observed. This hydrogeochemical signature acted as the dominant control on denitrification reaction progress. High permeability, aerobic conditions and a lack of bacterial energy sources in the slate catchment resulted in low denitrification reaction progress (0–32%), high NO3− and comparatively low N2O emission factors (EF5g1). In the sandstone catchment denitrification progress ranged from 4 to 94% and was highly dependent on permeability, water table elevation, dissolved oxygen concentration solid phase bacterial energy sources. Denitrification of NO3 − to N2 occurred in anaerobic conditions, while at intermediate dissolved oxygen; N2O was the dominant reaction product. EF5g1 (mean: 0.0018) in the denitrifying sandstone catchment was 32% less than the IPCC default. The denitrification observations across catchments were supported by stable isotope signatures. Stream NO3− occurrence was 32% lower in the sandstone catchment even though N loading was substantially higher than the slate catchment.
    • Groundwater: A pathway for terrestrial C and N losses and indirect greenhouse gas emissions

      Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Johnston, Paul; Khalil, Mohammed I.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Humphreys, James; Fenton, Owen; Richards, Karl G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin; RSF 06383 (Elsevier, 16/07/2012)
      Estimating losses of dissolved carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) via groundwater in an agricultural system provides insights into reducing uncertainties in the terrestrial C and N balances. In addition, quantification of dissolved nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in groundwaters beneath agricultural systems is important for global greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets. Dissolved C (DC: dissolved organic carbon (DOC) + CO2-C + CH4-C) and dissolved nitrogen (DN: NO3−-N + NH4+ + NO2−-N + N2O-N + N2) in groundwater were measured in two low permeability (<0.02 m d−1) and two high permeability (>0.05 m d−1) aquifers in Ireland. Groundwater in multilevel piezometers was sampled monthly over two years. Mean groundwater discharge to surface water was higher in 2009 (587–836 mm) than in 2010 (326–385 mm). Dissolved C and N delivery to surface water via groundwater caused substantial losses of terrestrial C and N. The extent of delivery was site specific and depended on N input, recharge and aquifer permeability. Mean dissolved N losses ranged from 8–12% of N input in low permeability to 27–38% in high permeability aquifers. The dominant fraction of DN was NO3−-N (84–90% of DN) in high permeability aquifers and N2 (46–77% of DN) in low permeability aquifers. Indirect N2O emissions via groundwater denitrification accounted for 0.03–0.12% of N input, which was equivalent to 3–11% of total N2O emissions. Dissolved C loss to surface waters via groundwater was not significant compared to total carbon (TC) content of the topsoil (0.06–0.18% of TC). Site characteristics contributed greatly to the distribution of N between NO3−-N and dissolved N gases, N2O and N2. Indirect GHG emissions from groundwater were an important part of farm nutrient budgets, which clearly has implications for national GHG inventories.
    • High-Resolution Denitrification Kinetics in Pasture Soils Link N2O Emissions to pH, and Denitrification to C Mineralization

      Samad, Sainur; Bakken, Lars R.; Nadeem, Shahid; Clough, Timothy J.; de Klein, Cecile A.M.; Richards, Karl G.; Lanigan, Gary; Morales, Sergio E.; New Zealand Fund for Global Partnerships in Livestock Emissions Research; 16084 (PLOS, 18/03/2016)
      Denitrification in pasture soils is mediated by microbial and physicochemical processes leading to nitrogen loss through the emission of N2O and N2. It is known that N2O reduction to N2 is impaired by low soil pH yet controversy remains as inconsistent use of soil pH measurement methods by researchers, and differences in analytical methods between studies, undermine direct comparison of results. In addition, the link between denitrification and N2O emissions in response to carbon (C) mineralization and pH in different pasture soils is still not well described. We hypothesized that potential denitrification rate and aerobic respiration rate would be positively associated with soils. This relationship was predicted to be more robust when a high resolution analysis is performed as opposed to a single time point comparison. We tested this by characterizing 13 different temperate pasture soils from northern and southern hemispheres sites (Ireland and New Zealand) using a fully automated-high-resolution GC detection system that allowed us to detect a wide range of gas emissions simultaneously. We also compared the impact of using different extractants for determining pH on our conclusions. In all pH measurements, soil pH was strongly and negatively associated with both N2O production index (IN2O) and N2O/(N2O+N2) product ratio. Furthermore, emission kinetics across all soils revealed that the denitrification rates under anoxic conditions (NO+N2O+N2 μmol N/h/vial) were significantly associated with C mineralization (CO2 μmol/h/vial) measured both under oxic (r2 = 0.62, p = 0.0015) and anoxic (r2 = 0.89, p<0.0001) conditions.
    • Hydrogeochemical controls on the occurrence of nitrate in groundwater

      Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Johnston, Paul; Richards, Karl G. (International Association of Hydrogeologists (Irish Group), 15/04/2014)