The anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases and their consequent effects on global climate have garnered international attention for years. A remaining challenge facing scientists is to unambiguously quantify both sources and sinks of targeted gases. Microbiological metabolism accounts for the largest source of nitrous oxide (NO), mostly due to global conversion of land for agriculture and massive usage of nitrogen-based fertilizers. A most powerful method for characterizing the sources of NO lies in its multi-isotope signature. This review summarizes mechanisms that lead to biological NO production and how discriminate placement of 15N into molecules of NO occurs. Through direct measurements and atmospheric modeling, we can now place a constraint on the isotopic composition of biological sources of NO and trace its fate in the atmosphere. This powerful interdisciplinary combination of biology and atmospheric chemistry is rapidly advancing the closure of the global NO budget.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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