Arid and semiarid ecosystems play a significant role in regulating global carbon cycling, yet our understanding of the controls over the dominant pathways of dryland CO2exchange remains poor. Substantial amounts of dryland soil are not covered by vascular plants and this patchiness in cover has important implications for spatial patterns and controls of carbon cycling. Spatial variation in soil respiration has been attributed to variation in soil moisture, temperature, nutrients and rhizodeposition, while seasonal patterns have been attributed to changes in moisture, temperature and photosynthetic inputs belowground. To characterize how controls over respiration vary spatially and temporally in a dryland ecosystem and to concurrently explore multiple potential controls, we estimated whole plant net photosynthesis (Anet) and soil respiration at four distances from the plant base, as well as corresponding fine root biomass and soil carbon and nitrogen pools, four times during a growing season. To determine if the controls vary between different plant functional types for Colorado Plateau species, measurements were made on the C4 shrub, Atriplex confertifolia, and C3 grass, Achnatherum hymenoides. Soil respiration declined throughout the growing season and diminished with distance from the plant base, though variations in both were much smaller than expected. The strongest relationship was between soil respiration and soil moisture. Soil respiration was correlated with whole plant Anet, although the relationship varied between species and distance from plant base. In the especially dry year of this study we did not observe any consistent correlations between soil respiration and soil carbon or nitrogen pools. Our findings suggest that abiotic factors, especially soil moisture, strongly regulate the response of soil respiration to biotic factors and soil carbon and nitrogen pools in dryland communities and, at least in dry years, may override expected spatial and seasonal patterns.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Spatially explicit patterns in a dryland's soil respiration and relationships with climate, whole plant photosynthesis and soil fertility|
|Contributing office(s)||Southwest Biological Science Center|