Date of Award

Winter 1993

Project Type


Program or Major

Earth Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Robert Harriss


Soil temperature and moisture profiles (soil climate) have a strong influence on the rate of trace gas exchange between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere through the controls exerted on microbial processes and the physical exchange of gases.

Principal controls of biological denitrification in mineral soils are the availability of carbon and nitrogen substrates and the soil anaerobic status. A process-oriented model of decomposition and denitrification in soils (DNDC) was modified to have a more detailed portrayal of these controls. In particular, a diffusive soil gas phase was added, along with a method for determining anaerobic and aerobic fractional volume within a soil profile. The model generally overestimated N2O fluxes when compared to field data from a sandy soil in Costa Rica, but captured the timing and shape of the brief flux episodes. Several modeling shortcomings are discussed, including the nature of the carbon substrates and the nature and dynamics of soil anaerobic fractional volume.

Methane flux from wetland soils is generally correlated with soil temperature and depth to water table. A model of peat soil climate was developed and applied to a small, poor fen in southern New Hampshire. Temperature profiles and ice depth are in good agreement with field data, but depth to water table is more problematic. Field-based flux correlations to soil temperature, depth to water table, and weighted recent precipitation were developed. When used with the wetland soil climate model, much of the seasonal and shorter period flux variability was captured. The model was then driven by local weather data for 1926-1986; flux variability was dependent on both summer season temperatures and summer precipitation patterns. It is estimated that a five-year field study would capture most of the inter-annual variability.

Sensitivity of northern peatland methane flux to climate variability was studied by combining data on flux rates, inundation areas, and summer temperature anomalies (1900-1986) for the eight major northern peatland regions. Spatial and temporal variability in summer temperature anomalies caused regional methane flux anomalies to be small, and not likely to provide a strong feedback to initial climate change.