Atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas thought to be mainly derived from microbial metabolism as part of the denitrification pathway. Here we report that in unexplored peat soils of Central and South America, N2O production can be driven by abiotic reactions (≤98%) highly competitive to their enzymatic counterparts. Extracted soil iron positively correlated with in situ abiotic N2O production determined by isotopic tracers. Moreover, we found that microbial N2O reduction accompanied abiotic production, essentially closing a coupled abiotic-biotic N2O cycle. Anaerobic N2O consumption occurred ubiquitously (pH 6.4–3.7), with proportions of diverse clade II N2O reducers increasing with consumption rates. Our findings show that denitrification in tropical peat soils is not a purely biological process but rather a ‘mosaic’ of abiotic and biotic reduction reactions. We predict that hydrological and temperature fluctuations differentially affect abiotic and biotic drivers and further contribute to the high N2O flux variation in the region.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics