Digital painting of an apline meadow with many flowers and a haze of nitrous oxide low above the ground.

New Research Warns of Increased Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Alpine Meadows Due to Climate Warming and Land Reclamation

Warming temperatures and land reclamation are causing a significant increase in harmful greenhouse gas emissions from alpine meadows, intensifying the effects of climate change.

As climate change continues to heat our planet, researchers are investigating the impact of warming on various ecosystems. A new study by Li and colleagues, published in Frontiers in Plant Science, highlights the combined effects of warming and land reclamation on nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in alpine meadows. Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas, and understanding the factors contributing to its emission is crucial for mitigating climate change.

The study was conducted on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, where the researchers set up a long-term experiment to examine the separate and interactive effects of warming and reclamation on soil N2O emissions in both natural alpine meadows and cultivated grasslands. Four treatments were applied: control, warming, reclamation, and warming under reclamation.

The results revealed that both warming and reclamation independently increased N2O emissions during both growing and non-growing seasons. However, the combination of warming and reclamation (WR) had an even more significant impact, boosting N2O emissions by 18.9% and 81.1% during the respective seasons. The study also found that soil moisture was negatively correlated to enzymatic activity and N2O flux.

The increase in N2O emissions was driven by changes in soil properties, including an increase in soil nitrification, a process that contributes to N2O production. This was due to the promotion of specific enzymatic activities by both warming and reclamation. The researchers found that reclamation made the activity of certain enzymes more sensitive to warming, thus exacerbating the effects of climate change. In their article, Li and colleagues write:

Reclamation intensified the positive effects of warming on N2O flux, due to their interaction on the decrease of soil moisture to increase ammonia monooxygenase and hydroxylamine oxidoreductase activities. However, warming, reclamation and their interactions on N2O flux during non-growing season still needs further investigation. Our results suggest that future research should pay more attention to N2O emissions from cultivated grasslands and the cultivated grassland in alpine meadow should be scientifically projected to better adapt to a warming climate.

Li et al. 2023.


Li, Z., Li, Y., Hu, G., Wu, H., Liang, Y., Yan, J., He, S., Ganjurjav, H. and Gao, Q. (2023) “Reclamation intensifies the positive effects of warming on N2O emission in an alpine meadow,” Frontiers in Plant Science, 14, p. 1162160. Available at:

Dale Maylea

Dale Maylea was a system for adding value to press releases. Then he was a manual algorithm for blogging any papers that Alun Salt thinks are interesting. Now he's an AI-assisted pen name. The idea being telling people about an interesting paper NOW beats telling people about an interesting paper at some time in the future, when there's time to sit down and take things slowly. We use the pen name to keep track of what is being written and how. You can read more about our relationship with AI.

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