Skip to content
What's on

Nitrous oxide, the forgotten greenhouse gas









Kavli Royal Society Centre, Chicheley Hall, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9JJ


Organised by Professor David Richardson, ProfessorAndrew Thomson OBE FRS, Professor Andrew Watson FRS and Jules Pretty OBE

Many soil bacterial use nitrate to support respiration, especially after application of nitrogen fertilizer, leading to production of the potent and long lived greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). This meeting will review our current understanding of the enzymatic and bacterial processes by which N2O can be produced or destroyed and discuss approaches for combating N2O release.

Download the programme here (PDF).

Biographies and audio recordings are available below.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

Session 1

7 talks Show detail Hide detail


Professor David Richardson, University of East Anglia, UK

Show speakers

The role of N2O derived from biofuels in earth’s climate

Professor Keith Smith, University of Edinburgh, UK


Born in 1933 in Amsterdam, Paul J. Crutzen was trained as a civil engineer and worked with the Bridge Construction Bureau of the City of Amsterdam. In 1959 he joined Stockholm University (MISU) to study meteorology and atmospheric chemistry. His research has been especially concerned with the natural and anthropogenically disturbed photochemistry of ozone in the stratosphere and troposphere. Thereby he identified the importance of nitrogen oxides emitted by fossil fuel and biomass burning, especially in the tropics, as important sources of air pollution with potential impacts on ozone and Earth climate. He served as Director of Research at the National Center of Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, 1977-1980, and thereafter – until his retirement - (1980-2000) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz. Until April 2008 he did part-time research at the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 1995 he received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on atmospheric ozone.

Show speakers

Session 1 Discussion I

Ozone depletion due to nitrous oxide

Professor Robert W Portmann, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA


Robert Portmann is a research physicist working at the Chemical Sciences Division at the NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. He received his PhD from the University of Colorado, studying middle atmospheric climate change. He is a specialist in middle atmospheric modeling with a focus on processes affecting ozone, including the interactions of halogens and greenhouse gases. He has carried out important studies on the ozone hole, ozone trends at mid-latitudes, and the effects of volcanic aerosol on ozone. In addition, he has studied the radiative forcing and global warming potentials of many chemicals proposed as halogen replacements. He was a coauthor on three WMO Scientific Assessments of Ozone Depletion.

Show speakers

Session 1 Discussion II

Nitrous oxide emissions from wastewater treatment systems

Professor Zhiguo Yuan, University of Queensland, Australia


Dr Zhiguo Yuan is professor in environmental engineering, and Deputy Director of the Advanced Water Management Centre at The University of Queensland, Australia. His main research topics are biological nutrient removal from wastewater, greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater systems including both collection and treatment systems, and corrosion and odour management in sewer networks.

Over the past 14 years, he has published over 150 journal papers and presented at numerous national and international conferences. His publications have attracted over 2000 citations to date. His current h-index is 26.

Prof Yuan is a senior editor of the IWA journal of Water Science and Technology. In July 2010, he was appointed one of the 34 inaugural IWA Fellows.

Show speakers

Session 1 Discussion III


7 talks Show detail Hide detail

Control of N2O production and consumption: regulation of gene expression by gas-sensitive transcription factors

Professor Stephen Spiro, University of Texas at Dallas, USA


Stephen Spiro obtained a B.Sc. in Molecular Biology from the University of Edinburgh (1984), and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Sheffield (1988). His Ph.D. research was supervised by Professor John Guest, and involved the oxygen-sensitive transcriptional regulator FNR. After graduation, he remained in Sheffield, first as a post-doctoral researcher, and then as an independent Research Fellow. In 1991, he took up a lectureship in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia. In 2004, Stephen moved to an Associate Professor position in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, then in 2006 to the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Texas at Dallas. In recent years, his research has focused on the mechanisms by which nitric oxide influences gene expression, both in Escherichia coli, and in the denitrifying organism Paracoccus denitrificans.

Show speakers

Structural basis for nitrous oxide generation by bacterial nitric oxide reductases

Professor Yoshi Shiro, RIKEN SPring-8 Center, Japan


Yoshi Shiro was born in 1956 in Nagoya, Japan. He obtained the PhD degree, at Department of Chemistry, Kyoto University, Japan, in 1985. After the posdoc of JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) for 2 year, he started his scientific carrier as the research scientist of RIKEN (Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) in Japan. In 1990-91, Shiro stayed in Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, USA, as a visiting scholar. In 2000, he was appointed as the chief scientist, PI, of Biometal Science Laboratory of RIKEN SPring-8 Center. His research interests are dynamics of metals in biology, i.e., sensing, transportation, storage and utilization of metals in biology.

Show speakers

Session 2 Discussion I

Enzymology breaking down nitrous oxide- the nitrous oxide reductase

Professor Isabel Moura, University of Lisbon, Portugal


Isabel received her Degree in Chemical Engineering from Technical University of Lisbon (Pt) in 1974.She received her Masters in Physical Inorganic Chemistry in 1977from New University of Lisbon. She was awarded her PHD from New University of Lisbon in 1981 on the thesis entitled “Characterization of two types of iron sulphur centers in two proteins isolated from Desulfovibrio gigas”.Since then she was an Assistant Professor until 1981 in the New University of Lisbon, an Associate Professor in 1986 and a full Professor in 1997. She has done the habilitation in 1994 in the same University.

During her career she was a Visiting Professor in University of Geogia, Athens,USA. During the period 2000/2011 she was the Head of the Chemistry Department of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology from the New University of Lisbon and the Director of the Associated Laboratory Requimte for Sustainable Chemistry. Her main work is Structure-Function of Metalloproteins, application of biochemical and spectroscopic tools (NMR, EPR and Mössbauer), proteins involved in relevant bacterial metabolic pathways – N and S Biocycles.

Show speakers

Session 2 Discussion II

Nitric oxide reductase cytochrome P450nor involved in fungal denitrification to evolve N2O

Professor Hirofumi Shoun, University of Tokyo, Japan


Hirofumi Shoun completed his doctoral studies in University of Tokyo with Kei Arima. Then in the same laboratory (microbiology and fermentation) he worked with Teruhiko Beppu on microbial oxygenases.

At University of Tsukuba, Japan, Hirofumi Shoun found denitrification by fungi (eukaryote) although it was then thought that only bacteria can participate in denitrification. Further, other novel nitrogen metabolisms by fungi, codenitrification and ammonia fermentation, were also found. He also showed that a cytochrome P450, termed P450nor, is involved in the fungal denitrification functioning as nitric oxide (NO) reductase. After returned to University of Tokyo, Shoun clarified the mechanism of nitrous oxide emissions from wastewater treatment plants, and showed a method to reduce the emissions. Thus he expanded enormously the nitrogen world of microorganisms.

Show speakers

Session 2 Discussion III

Session 3

7 talks Show detail Hide detail

Microbial N2O production in soils: the challenge of scale

Dr Elizabeth Baggs, University of Aberdeen, UK


Liz Baggs holds the Established Chair of soil science at the University of Aberdeen. Her research is focused on greenhouse gas production in soils, developing and applying stable isotope approaches to link process measurements with characterisation of the underpinning microbiology and biochemistry. After her PhD in soil science at the University of Edinburgh, Liz was a Lecturer in soil biology and chemistry at Wye College, University of London, prior to taking up a Wain Research Fellowship at Imperial College London. She moved to Aberdeen on a NERC Advanced Fellowship which ended last year. Her research group is funded by several BBSRC and NERC grants and studentships. She is currently a core member of BBSRC Committee B, a member of the NERC Peer Review College, a steering committee member for the UK Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility, and an Editor for FEMS Microbiology Letters, Soil Biology and Biochemistry and Plant and Soil.

Show speakers

Nitrous oxide in the ocean

Dr Hermann Bange, IFM-GEOMAR, Germany


Hermann W. Bange a chemist by training and earned his PhD from Mainz University in 1994. From 1995 to 2000 he participated in the German JGOFS Arabian Sea Process Study. Since 2001 he is working as a chemical oceanographer at IFM-GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany. Hermann W. Bange is heading the ‘Long-lived Trace Gases’ working group of the Marine Biogeochemistry Research Division. Currently he is coordinating the SOPRAN (Surface Ocean Processes in the Anthropocene) project ( which is the German contribution to the international SOLAS (Surface Ocean – Lower Atmosphere Study, Moreover, Hermann Bange is responsible for the activities of the Boknis Eck Time Series Station (SW Baltic Sea, and MEMENTO (The Marine Methane and Nitrous Oxide Database). He is an associated member of the Kiel Cluster of Excellence ‘The Future Ocean’ and recently he was appointed as SOLAS national co-representative for Germany. His research interests include the oceanic emissions and pathways of trace gases such as nitrous oxide, methane and dimethyl sulphide. Furthermore, he is interested in the distributions of short-lived intermediates of the marine nitrogen cycle such as hydroxylamine and hydrazine. The activities of the ‘Long-lived Trace Gases’ working group includes participation in international ship campaigns worldwide and the development of new analytical methods.

Show speakers

Session 2 Discussion I

UK emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide

Professor Ute Skiba, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK


Dr Ute Skiba, biogeochemist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh has been studying the soil atmosphere exchange of trace gas fluxes, principally nitrous oxide, nitric oxide and methane for over 20 years.

Trace gas flux measurements, ranging from small soil cores studies to the landscape scale in a large range of temperate and tropical ecosystems, and more recently also from freshwaters and bioenergy crops, have lead to more than 78 peer reviewed papers on underlying processes and parameters controlling fluxes and upscaling to the ecosystem and the UK. The work is carried out in collaboration with international and national partners and funded by the EU (i.e.the IP ‘Nitroeurope’), by DEFRA (i.e. ‘Improving the agricultural nitrous oxide emission inventory’), NERC (‘The present and future greenhouse gas budget of bioenergy crops in the UK’) and others. Skiba has calculated nitrous oxide, methane and nitric oxide emission rates for national and European inventories (LULUCF, CORINAIR). He is section editor for Plant and Soil and member of the British Soil Science Society.

Show speakers

Session 3 Discussion II

Nitrous oxide dominates net ecosystem exchange of CO2 equivalents in High Arctic soils under a warming climate.

Dr Steven Siciliano, University of Saskatchewan, Canada


Dr Steven D. Siciliano is an Associate Professor of Soil Toxicology at the University of Saskatchewan. Professor Siciliano is a world leading toxicologist investigating how polluted soil affects humans and ecosystem health. He has worked extensively across Canada's Arctic and Australia's Antarctic developing novel approaches to assessing soil toxicology in polar soil ecosystems.  As part of these investigations, Professor Siciliano has worked extensively on the soil microbial ecosystems and how these ecosystems respond to abiotic and biotic stressors, such as climate change and pollution.  In addition, Professor Siciliano has worked extensively in the biogeochemistry of mercury fate and transformation with a focus on how soil attributes influence aquatic fate processes. More recently, Professor Siciliano has focussed on brownfields with an emphasis on developing new toxicological models that will decrease the time and cost associated with site remediation and assessment. In 2006, Professor Siciliano was awarded a NSERC Discovery Accelerator award which recognizes outstanding researchers with a potential for world class breakthroughs. Professor Siciliano has published over 100 peer-reviewed book chapters and articles dealing with polluted soils and these contributions have been cited by other researchers over 2500 times.

Show speakers

Session 3 Discussion III

Session 4

7 talks Show detail Hide detail

Agricultural Sustainability: towards low N agriculture

Professor Jules Pretty OBE, University of Essex, UK

Show speakers

Regulation of denitrification at the cellular level – a clue to understand of N2O emissions from soils

Professor Lars Bakken, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway


Lars Reier Bakken is professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, where he teaches biogeochemistry and microbial ecology. His research covers several aspects of microbial ecology of soils, but has recently concentrated on the ecology and regulatory biology of denitrifying prokaryotes and the implications for production of NO and N2O.

Show speakers

Session 4 Discussion I

Using molecular and isotopic tracer studies to elucidate the microbial process controls of nitrous oxide emissions from soils

Professor Keith Goulding, Rothamsted Research, UK


Keith joined Rothamsted in 1974 after completing a Masters in Soil Chemistry at Reading University and gained his PhD in soil chemistry at Imperial College in 1980. He studies how the plant foods (nutrients) in soils become available to growing plants and the best ways of augmenting these with fertilisers and manures without polluting air and water; he has engaged in various aspects of the ‘Organic versus Conventional’ farming debate.

He is a visiting Professor at the University of Nottingham, a Fellow of the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists and a Chartered Scientist. He was awarded the Royal Agricultural Society of England’s (RASE) Research Medal in 2003 for his research into diffuse pollution from agriculture and elected an Honorary Fellow of the RASE in 2010. He received a Nobel Peace Prize certificate for his contribution to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which the Panel and Al Gore were jointly awarded the Prize in 2007. He is currently President of the British Society of Soil Science.

Show speakers

Session 4 Discussion II

Summary and Conclusions

Professor David Fowler CBE FRS, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Edinburgh Research Station), UK

Show speakers

Session 4 Discussion III

Nitrous oxide, the forgotten greenhouse gas Theo Murphy international scientific meeting organised by Professor David Richardson, ProfessorAndrew Thomson OBE FRS, Professor Andrew Watson FRS and Jules Pretty OBE. Kavli Royal Society Centre, Chicheley Hall Newport Pagnell Buckinghamshire MK16 9JJ
Was this page useful?
Thank you for your feedback
Thank you for your feedback. Please help us improve this page by taking our short survey.