Plant productivity and nitrogen gas fluxes in tallgrass prairie

TitlePlant productivity and nitrogen gas fluxes in tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsGroffman, PM, Turner, CL
JournalLandscape Ecology
Pagination255 -266
Accession NumberKNZ00489
Keywordsdenitrification, NDVI, nitrous oxide, remote sensing

We explored relationships between plant productivity and annual fluxes of nitrogen (N2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in a tallgrass prairie landscape in central Kansas. Our objective was to develop predictive relationships between these variables that could be used in conjunction with remote sensing information on plant productivity to produce large-area estimates of N gas fluxes. Our hypothesis was that there are inherent relationships between plant productivity and N gas fluxes in tallgrass prairie because both are controlled by water and N availability. The research was carried out as part of a multi-investigator project, the First ISLSCP Field Experiment (FIFE, ISLSCP = International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Program), directed toward the use of remote sensing to characterize land-atmosphere interactions. Fluxes of N2 (denitrification) and N2O were measured using soil core techniques. Estimates of annual flux were produced by temporal extrapolation of measured rates. Annual aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) was estimated from measurements of the maximum standing crop of plant biomass. There were strong relationships between ANPP and N gas fluxes, and between a satellite remote sensing-based index of plant productivity (normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI) and gas fluxes. We used these relationships to convert images of NDVI into images of N gas fluxes for one 83 ha watershed and for the entire 15 by 15 km FIFE site. These images were used to compute mean landscape gas fluxes (0.62 g N m-2 y-1 for N2, 0.66 g N m-2 y-1 for N2O) and total N gas production for the two areas. Our flux and production values are useful for comparison with values produced by simulation models and site-specific studies, and for assessing the significance of N gas production to ecosystem and landscape scale processes related to nutrient cycling, water quality and atmospheric chemistry.