Concentration profiles of N2O, a greenhouse gas, and the conservative trace gases SF6 and the chlorofluorocarbons CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113, and were measured periodically through thick vadose zones at nine sites in the U.S. High Plains. The CFC and SF6 measurements were used to calibrate a one-dimensional gas diffusion model, using the parameter identification program UCODE. The calibrated model was used with N2O measurements to estimate average annual N2O flux from both the root zone and the deep vadose zone to the atmosphere. Estimates of root-zone N2O fluxes from three rangeland sites ranged from near 0 to about 0.2 kg N2O-N ha−1 yr−1, values near the low end of the ranges determined for native grass from other studies. Estimates of root-zone N2O fluxes from two fields planted to corn (Zea mays L.) of about 2 to 6 kg N2O-N ha−1 yr−1 are similar to those determined for corn in other studies. Estimates of N2O flux from Conservation Reserve grassland converted from irrigated corn indicate that production of N2O is substantially reduced following conversion from cropland. Small N2O fluxes from the water table or from deep in the vadose zone occurred at three sites, ranging from 0.004 to 0.02 kg N2O-N ha−1 yr−1. Our estimates of N2O flux represent space- and time-averaged values that should be useful to more fully evaluate the significance of instantaneous point flux measurements.

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