Nitrogen compound emissions from crops on a regional scale

Despite its importance for air quality and climate, the representation of reactive nitrogen emissions from agricultural processes has been treated in a rudimentary manner in earth system models.

Full project title and acronym: Emissions of nitrogen compounds by cUltures at the regional scale: REtroaction on canopy functioning via the impact on Atmospheric Chemistry under different land use scenarios - EURECA

The EURECA project is a result of the 2016 AAP of the LabEx. Leaders: Raia Massad (ECOSYS) and Nicolas Vuichard (LSCE)


  • outside BASC: Chalmers Technical Univ

Despite its importance for air quality and climate, the representation of reactive nitrogen emissions from agricultural processes has been treated in a rudimentary way in Earth system models. A correction of these shortcomings is important for modeling the impact of changes in the nitrogen cycle on future air quality. It is also necessary to assess the impact of changing agricultural practices and land use on climate.

To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no modeling tool that can account for the entire chain of effects and feedbacks, from soil and vegetation emissions to changes in atmospheric concentration and chemistry, and back to vegetation effects on a regional and global scale.

The objective of the EURECA Flagship project is to improve the consideration of the nitrogen cycle and agricultural practices in the interactions and feedbacks between ecosystem dynamics and atmospheric models.

Improved consideration of exchange, impact and feedback processes is important for modeling the impact of changing agricultural practices and climate effects on air quality, but also of air pollution on the functioning of agroecosystems and their capacity to adapt to future changes.

===> The project leaders explain the project and its RESULTS in VIDEO (LabEx scientific days, Nov. 2020)


In order to bridge the gap between the needs of complex models considering emission processes and large-scale atmospheric models, a new 1-D surface exchange model, called ESX (European Surface eXchange Model), has been developed by D. Simpson1. Collaborations have been initiated around this surface scheme to evaluate and use it for emissions from agricultural canopies. This collaboration has also led to the organization of a Winter School whose objective is to provide lessons and create a network of young researchers trying to link ecosystem functioning, air pollution and change both on modeling and experimental aspects.

During the last few years, the nitrogen cycle has been integrated into the global model of terrestrial ecosystems ORCHIDEE, developed at IPSL and notably at LSCE2. One of the objectives of this integration was to account for emissions of nitrogen compounds such as ammonia (NH3) and nitrous oxide (N2O). A comparison of nitrous oxide emissions simulated by ORCHIDEE with the EDGAR inventory data was performed, at continental and global scales (see figure below). Work on estimating N2O emissions from soils contributed to the ORCHIDEE model's participation in the NMIP3 model intercomparison project3.



Figure: Global average N2O emissions (in gN m-2 yr-1) for the period 2007-2012 by (a) EDGAR and (b) the ORCHIDEE model4




Leverage effect


Work on NH3 emissions is continuing within the framework of Maureen Beaudor's thesis entitled "Global modeling of the nitrogen cycle: quantification of continental biosphere-atmosphere interactions".

A follow-up project to the EURECA project is funded under the Primequal call for proposals and started in November 2020. This project is entitled RECAPS: Interactions and Retroactions between Climate Change and Air Pollution: Impact of Agricultural Practices to Increase Soil Carbon Storage at the French Scale.


1. Simpson, D., Tuovinen, J.-P., 2014. ECLAIRE Ecosystem Surface Exchange model (ESX). In: Transboundary particulate matter, photo-oxidants, acidifying and eutrophying components., EMEP Status Report 1/2014. Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

2. Vuichard, N., Messina, P., Luyssaert, S., Guenet, B., Zaehle, S., Ghattas, J., Bastrikov, V., and Peylin, P.: Accounting for carbon and nitrogen interactions in the global terrestrial ecosystem model ORCHIDEE (trunk version, rev 4999): multi-scale evaluation of gross primary production, Geosci. Model Dev., 12, 4751–4779,, 2019.

3. Tian, H., Gerber, S., Davidson, E.A., Olin, S., Thompson, R.L., Chang, J., Joos, F., Canadell, J.G., Yang, J., Lienert, S., Arneth, A., Messina, P., Zhang, B., Lu, C., Ciais, P., Pan, S., Peng, C., Saikawa, E., Xu, R., Vuichard, N., Ito, A., Zaehle, S., Winiwarter, W., Jackson, R.B. : Global soil nitrous oxide emissions since the preindustrial era estimated by an ensemble of terrestrial biosphere models: Magnitude, attribution, and uncertainty. Glob. Chang. Biol. 25, 640–659, 2018.

4. Figure from the M1 internship report of Louis-Axel Rambaut        


> Massad, R. S., Lathière, J., Strada, S., Perrin, M., Personne, E., Stéfanon, M., Stella, P., Szopa, S., and de Noblet-Ducoudré, N.: Reviews and syntheses: influences of landscape structure and land uses on local to regional climate and air quality, Biogeosciences, 16, 2369–2408,

Modification date: 14 September 2023 | Publication date: 05 October 2020 | By: DM