Soil respiration in a northeastern US temperate forest: a 22-year synthesis
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Bowden, Richard D.
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Subjectecosystem respiration; eddy covariance; flux partitioning; Harvard Forest; phenology; soil respiration
To better understand how forest management, phenology, vegetation type, and actual and simulated climatic change affect seasonal and inter-annual variations in soil respiration (Rs), we analyzed more than 100,000 individual measurements of soil respiration from 23 studies conducted over 22 years at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, USA. We also used 24 site-years of eddy-covariance measurements from two Harvard Forest sites to examine the relationship between soil and ecosystem respiration (Re). Rs was highly variable at all spatial (respiration collar to forest stand) and temporal (minutes to years) scales of measurement. The response of Rs to experimental manipulations mimicking aspects of global change or aimed at partitioning Rs into component fluxes ranged from −70% to +52%. The response appears to arise from variations in substrate availability induced by changes in the size of soil C pools and of belowground C fluxes or in environmental conditions. In some cases (e.g., logging, warming), the effect of experimental manipulations on Rs was transient, but in other cases the time series were not long enough to rule out long-term changes in respiration rates. Inter-annual variations in weather and phenology induced variation among annual Rs estimates of a magnitude similar to that of other drivers of global change (i.e., invasive insects, forest management practices, N deposition). At both eddy-covariance sites, aboveground respiration dominated Re early in the growing season, whereas belowground respiration dominated later. Unusual aboveground respiration patterns—high apparent rates of respiration during winter and very low rates in mid-to-late summer—at the Environmental Measurement Site suggest either bias in Rs and Re estimates caused by differences in the spatial scale of processes influencing fluxes, or that additional research on the hard-to-measure fluxes (e.g., wintertime Rs, unaccounted losses of CO2 from eddy covariance sites), daytime and nighttime canopy respiration and its impacts on estimates of Re, and independent measurements of flux partitioning (e.g., aboveground plant respiration, isotopic partitioning) may yield insight into the unusually high and low fluxes. Overall, however, this data-rich analysis identifies important seasonal and experimental variations in Rs and Re and in the partitioning of Re above- vs. belowground.