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Regional Estimate of Nitric Oxide Emissions Following Woody Encroachment: Linking Imaging Spectroscopy and Field Studies

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Woody encroachment, a spatially explicit process of land-cover change, is known to affect the biophysical and biogeochemical properties of ecosystems. However, little information is available on the impacts of woody encroachment on N oxide emissions from savanna regions. We combined hyperspectral remote sensing and field measurements to quantify spatial patterns and estimate regional fluxes of soil N oxide emissions as they covary with vegetation cover and soil type across a semiarid rangeland in north Texas. Soil nitric oxide (NO) emissions were highly correlated with Prosopis canopy cover, allowing the extrapolation of NO fluxes from hyperspectral observations of woody cover. NO emissions were highly variable, ranging from 0 to 550 kg NO-N km–2 y–1 across the region, with the lowest emissions from shallow clay soils and highest from deeper upland clay loams. An estimate of annual NO emissions based on remotely derived Prosopis cover, temperature, and precipitation was 160 kg NO-N km–2 y–1, almost twice that of the value derived from traditional averaging of field measurements. We conclude that relationships between NO emissions and remotely sensed structure and composition are advantageous for quantifying NO emissions at the regional scale. This study also provides new insight into the role of woody encroachment on biogeochemical processes that are highly variable and otherwise difficult to measure at the regional scale.

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