Greenhouse gas (CO2, CH4, and N2O) emissions after abandonment of agriculture, and insights on the response of the (de)nitrifier
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The GHG (CO2, CH4, N2O) emission potential along a chronosequence of former agricultural soils abandoned for 9 to 32 years were compared to an actively managed (on-going) agricultural soil (reference). The soils were incubated in mesocosms with and without manure amendment, and microbial functional groups involved in nitrous oxide emission were quantitatively assessed. Carbon dioxide emission significantly increased after agriculture abandonment (< 24 years) consistent with higher decomposition rate, but total emission decreased in the long term (> 29 years). With the cessation of agriculture, the abandoned sites generally became a net methane sink. Notably, total nitrous oxide emission showed a significant monotonic decrease over years of abandonment in response to manure amendment, possibly reflecting an altered capacity for (de)nitrification as indicated in the response of the (de)nitrifier abundance. Overall, our findings suggest that the GHG legacy of agriculture diminishes over time (> 29 years), with lowered GHG emissions and global warming potential (GWP) after abandonment of agriculture.