Elevated temperature and nutrients lead to increased N2O emissions from salt marsh soils from cold and warm climates

Sophie A. Comer-Warner*, Sami Ullah, Arunabha Dey, Camille L. Stagg, Tracy Elsey-Quirk, Christopher M. Swarzenski, Fotis Sgouridis, Stefan Krause, Gail L. Chmura

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Salt marshes can attenuate nutrient pollution and store large amounts of ‘blue carbon’ in their soils, however, the value of sequestered carbon may be partially offset by nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. Global climate and land use changes result in higher temperatures and inputs of reactive nitrogen (Nr) into coastal zones. Here, we investigated the combined effects of elevated temperature (ambient + 5℃) and Nr (double ambient concentrations) on nitrogen processing in marsh soils from two climatic regions (Quebec, Canada and Louisiana, U.S.) with two vegetation types, Sporobolus alterniflorus (= Spartina alterniflora) and Sporobolus pumilus (= Spartina patens), using 24-h laboratory incubation experiments. Potential N2O fluxes increased from minor sinks to major sources following elevated treatments across all four marsh sites. One day of potential N2O emissions under elevated treatments (representing either long-term sea surface warming or short-term ocean heatwaves effects on coastal marsh soil temperatures alongside pulses of N loading) offset 15–60% of the potential annual ambient N2O sink, depending on marsh site and vegetation type. Rates of potential denitrification were generally higher in high latitude than in low latitude marsh soils under ambient treatments, with low ratios of N2O:N2 indicating complete denitrification in high latitude marsh soils. Under elevated temperature and Nr treatments, potential denitrification was lower in high latitude soil but higher in low latitude soil as compared to ambient conditions, with incomplete denitrification observed except in Louisiana S. pumilus. Overall, our findings suggest that a combined increase in temperature and Nr has the potential to reduce salt marsh greenhouse gas (GHG) sinks under future global change scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Early online date14 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Biogeochemistry
  • Climate
  • Denitrification
  • Future global change
  • Greenhouse gas
  • Louisiana
  • Nitrogen
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Quebec
  • Reactive nitrogen loading
  • Salt marsh
  • Spartina alterniflora
  • Spartina patens
  • Sporobolus alterniflorus
  • Sporobolus pumilus
  • Temperature


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