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Low soil moisture during hot periods drives apparent negative temperature sensitivity of soil respiration in a dryland ecosystem: A multi-model comparison

Biogeochemistry
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Abstract

Arid and semiarid ecosystems (drylands) may dominate the trajectory of biosphere-to-atmosphere carbon (C) flux over the coming century. Accordingly, understanding dryland CO2 efflux controls is important for understanding C cycling at the global-scale: key unknowns regarding how temperature and moisture interact to regulate dryland C cycling remain. Further, the patchiness of dryland vegetation can create ‘islands of fertility’, with spatially heterogeneous rates of soil respiration (Rs). At our study site in southeastern Utah, USA we added or removed litter (0 to 650% of control) in paired plots that were either associated with a shrub or with interspaces between vascular plants. We measured Rs, soil temperature, and water content (θ) on eight sampling dates between October 2013 and November 2014. Rs was highest following monsoon rains in late summer when soil temperature was ~30°C. During mid-summer, Rs was low, associated with high soil temperatures (>40°C), resulting in an apparent negative temperature sensitivity of Rs at high temperatures, and positive temperature sensitivity at low-moderate temperatures. We used Bayesian statistical methods to compare multiple competing models capturing a wide range of hypothesized relationships between temperature, moisture, and Rs. The best fit model indicates apparent negative temperature sensitivity of soil respiration at high temperatures reflects the control of soil moisture – not high temperatures – in limiting Rs. The modeled Q10 ranged from 2.7 at 5°C to 1.4 at 45°C. Litter addition had no effect on temperature sensitivity or reference respiration (Rref = Rs at 20°C and optimum moisture) beneath shrubs, and little effect on Rref in interspaces, yet Rref was 1.5 times higher beneath shrubs than in interspaces. Together, these results suggest reduced Rs often observed at high temperatures in drylands is dominated by the control of moisture, and that variable litter inputs – at least over the short-term – exert minimal control over Rs.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Low soil moisture during hot periods drives apparent negative temperature sensitivity of soil respiration in a dryland ecosystem: A multi-model comparison
Series title Biogeochemistry
Volume 128
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 155
Last page 169
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N