CO2 uptake is offset by CH4 and N2O emissions in a poplar short-rotation coppice

Terenzio Zenone, Donatella Zona, Ilya Gelfand, Bert Gielen, Marta Camino-Serrano, Reinhart Ceulemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The need for renewable energy sources will lead to a considerable expansion in the planting of dedicated fast-growing biomass crops across Europe. These are commonly cultivated as short-rotation coppice (SRC), and currently poplar (Populus spp.) is the most widely planted. In this study, we report the greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) measured using eddy covariance technique in an SRC plantation for bioenergy production. Measurements were made during the period 2010-2013, that is, during the first two rotations of the SRC. The overall GHG balance of the 4 years of the study was an emission of 1.90 (±1.37) Mg CO2eq ha-1; this indicated that soil trace gas emissions offset the CO2 uptake by the plantation. CH4 and N2O contributed almost equally to offset the CO2 uptake of -5.28 (±0.67) Mg CO2eq ha-1 with an overall emission of 3.56 (±0.35) Mg CO2eq ha-1 of N2O and of 3.53 (±0.85) Mg CO2eq ha-1 of CH4. N2O emissions mostly occurred during one single peak a few months after the site was converted to SRC; this peak comprised 44% of the total N2O loss during the two rotations. Accurately capturing emission events proved to be critical for deriving correct estimates of the GHG balance. The nitrogen (N) content of the soil and the water table depth were the two drivers that best explained the variability in N2O and CH4, respectively. This study underlines the importance of the 'non-CO2 GHGs' on the overall balance. Further long-term investigations of soil trace gas emissions should monitor the N content and the mineralization rate of the soil, as well as the microbial community, as drivers of the trace gas emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-538
Number of pages15
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioenergy crops
  • Greenhouse gas balance
  • Self-organizing map
  • Soil nitrogen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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