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Nitrogen in the soil cleans the air
Date:8/19/2011

ed from a defined volume of arable soil. They added nitrite to a soil sample and varied its water content. The quantity of released HONO closely matched the researchers' estimates based on acid/base and solubility equilibria. Based on these findings they can also explain why previous studies had measured high levels of HONO in the air above fertilized agricultural soil.

The source of the high concentrations of HONO observed in the lower atmosphere had long been a mystery. "Soil is a complex system involving interactions between countless chemicals and biological organisms," says Hang Su, the lead author of the paper. "Before us, no one seems to have investigated the soil-atmosphere exchange of nitrous acid".

The fact that soil emits HONO is not just locally, but also globally significant for air quality and the nitrogen cycle. "Next, we plan to work across disciplines with soil and climate researchers to quantify the effect in different types of soil and under different environmental conditions", adds research group leader Ulrich Pschl. The findings will then be incorporated into a global model.

The Max Planck researchers suspect that soil-based HONO emissions could strongly increase especially in developing countries due to more extensive fertilization, soil acidification, and climate-related rise in temperature. This is expected to produce more hydroxyl radicals, which increase the oxidizing power of the air.


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Contact: Dr. Hang Su
h.su@mpic.de
49-613-130-5426
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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