Combined effects of short term rainfall patterns and soil texture on soil nitrogen cycling - a modeling analysis.
Precipitation variability and magnitude are expected to change in many parts of the world over the 21st century. We examined the potential effects of intra-annual rainfall patterns on soil nitrogen (N) transport and transformation in the unsaturated soil zone using a deterministic dynamic modeling approach. The model based on TOUGHREACT [corrected], which has been tested and applied in several experimental and observational systems, mechanistically accounts for microbial activity, soil moisture dynamics that respond to precipitation variability, and gaseous and aqueous tracer transport in the soil. Here, we further tested and calibrated the model against data from a precipitation variability experiment in a tropical system in Costa Rica. The model was then used to simulate responses of soil moisture, microbial dynamics, N leaching, and N trace-gas emissions to changes in rainfall patterns; the effect of soil texture was also examined. The temporal variability of nitrate leaching and NO, NH(3), and N(2)O effluxes were significantly influenced by rainfall dynamics. Soil texture combined with rainfall dynamics altered soil moisture dynamics, and consequently regulated soil N responses to precipitation changes. The clay loam soil more effectively buffered water stress during relatively long intervals between precipitation events, particularly after a large rainfall event. Subsequent soil N aqueous and gaseous losses showed either increases or decreases in response to increasing precipitation variability due to complex soil moisture dynamics. For a high rainfall scenario, high precipitation variability resulted in as high as 2.4-, 2.4-, 1.2-, and 13-fold increases in NH(3), NO, N(2)O and NO(3)(-) fluxes, respectively, in clay loam soil. In sandy loam soil, however, NO and N(2)O fluxes decreased by 15% and 28%, respectively, in response to high precipitation variability. Our results demonstrate that soil N cycling responses to increasing precipitation variability depends on precipitation amount and soil texture, and that accurate prediction of future N cycling and gas effluxes requires models with relatively sophisticated representation of the relevant processes.
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