Contribution of aboveground litter, belowground litter, and rhizosphere respiration to total soil CO2 efflux in an old growth coniferous forest
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Sulzman, Elizabeth W.
Brant, Justin B.
Bowden, Richard D.
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SubjectCarbon dioxide; Conifers; Old growth forests; Rhizosphere respiration; Soil carbon; Soil respiration
In an old growth coniferous forest located in the central Cascade Mountains, Oregon, we added or removed above ground litter and terminated live root activity by trenching to determine sources of soil respiration. Annual soil efflux from control plots ranged from 727 g C m−2 year−1 in 2002 to 841 g C m−2 year−1 in 2003. We used above ground litter inputs (149.6 g C m−2 year−1) and differences in soil CO2 effluxes among treatment plots to calculate contributions to total soil efflux by roots and associated rhizosphere organisms and by heterotrophic decomposition of organic matter derived from above ground and below ground litter. On average, root and rhizospheric respiration (Rr) contributed 23%, aboveground litter decomposition contributed 19%, and below ground litter decomposition contributed 58% to total soil CO2 efflux, respectively. These values fall within the range of values reported elsewhere, although our estimate of below ground litter contribution is higher than many published estimates, which we argue is a reflection of the high degree of mycorrhizal association and low nutrient status of this ecosystem. Additionally, we found that measured fluxes from plots with doubled needle litter led to an additional 186 g C m−2 year−1 beyond that expected based on the amount of additional carbon added; this represents a priming effect of 187%, or a 34% increase in the total carbon flux from the plots. This finding has strong implications for soil C storage, showing that it is inaccurate to assume that increases in net primary productivity will translate simply and directly into additional below ground storage.