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For a start, recent techniques devoted to the reconstruction of sources of an atmospheric tracer at continental scale are introduced. A first method is based on the principle of maximum entropy on the mean and is briefly reviewed here. A second approach, which has not been applied in this field yet, is based on an exact Bayesian approach, through a maximum a posteriori estimator. The methods share common grounds, and both perform equally well in practice. When specific prior hypotheses on the sources are taken into account such as positivity, or boundedness, both methods lead to purposefully devised cost-functions. These cost-functions are not necessarily quadratic because the underlying assumptions are not Gaussian. As a consequence, several mathematical tools developed in data assimilation on the basis of quadratic cost-functions in order to establish a posteriori analysis, need to be extended to this non-Gaussian framework. Concomitantly, the second-order sensitivity analysis needs to be adapted, as well as the computations of the averaging kernels of the source and the errors obtained in the reconstruction. All of these developments are applied to a real case of tracer dispersion: the European Tracer Experiment [ETEX]. Comparisons are made between a least squares cost function (similar to the so-called 4D-Var) approach and a cost-function which is not based on Gaussian hypotheses. Besides, the information content of the observations which is used in the reconstruction is computed and studied on the application case. A connection with the degrees of freedom for signal is also established. As a by-product of these methodological developments, conclusions are drawn on the information content of the ETEX dataset as seen from the inverse modelling point of view.