Coastal reservoirs as a source of nitrous oxide: Spatio-temporal patterns and assessment strategy

Ping Yang, Miaohui Lu, Kam W. Tang, Hong Yang, Derrick Y.F. Lai, Chuan Tong*, Kwok Pan Chun, Linhai Zhang, Chen Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    Coastal reservoirs are widely regarded as a viable solution to the water scarcity problem faced by coastal cities with growing populations. As a result of the accumulation of anthropogenic wastes and the alteration of hydroecological processes, these reservoirs may also become the emission hotspots of nitrous oxide (N2O). Hitherto, accurate global assessment of N2O emission suffers from the scarcity and low spatio-temporal resolution of field data, especially from small coastal reservoirs with high spatial heterogeneity and multiple water sources. In this study, we measured the surface water N2O concentrations and emissions at a high spatial resolution across three seasons in a subtropical coastal reservoir in southeastern China, which was hydrochemically highly heterogeneous because of the combined influence of river runoff, aquacultural discharge, industrial discharge and municipal sewage. Both N2O concentration and emission exhibited strong spatio-temporal variations, which were correlated with nitrogen loading from the river and wastewater discharge. The mean N2O concentration and emission were found to be significantly higher in the summer than in spring and autumn. The results of redundancy analysis showed that NH4+-N explained the greatest variance in N2O emission, which implied that nitrification was the main microbial pathway for N2O production in spite of the potentially increasing importance of denitrification of NO3-N in the summer. The mean N2O emission across the whole reservoir was 107 μg m−2 h−1, which was more than an order of magnitude higher than that from global lakes and reservoirs. Based on our results of Monte Carlo simulations, a minimum of 15 sampling points per km2 would be needed to produce representative and reliable N2O estimates in such a spatially heterogeneous aquatic system. Overall, coastal reservoirs could play an increasingly important role in future climate change via their N2O emission to the atmosphere as water demand and anthropogenic pressure continue to rise.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number147878
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2021

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Environmental Engineering
    • Environmental Chemistry
    • Waste Management and Disposal
    • Pollution

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Coastal reservoir
    • Greenhouse gases
    • Nitrous oxide
    • Spatial heterogeneity
    • Wastewater discharge
    • Water management


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