The autotrophic contribution to soil respiration in a northern temperate deciduous forest and its response to stand disturbance
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- Levy-Varon, J.H., Schuster, W.S.F. & Griffin, K.L. Oecologia (2012) 169: 211. doi:10.1007/s00442-011-2182-y
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The goal of this study was to evaluate the contribution of oak trees (Quercus spp.) and their associated mycorrhizal fungi to total community soil respiration in a deciduous forest (Black Rock Forest) and to explore the partitioning of autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration. Trees on twelve 75 × 75-m plots were girdled according to four treatments: girdling all the oaks on the plot (OG), girdling half of the oak trees on a plot (O50), girdling all non-oaks on a plot (NO), and a control (C). In addition, one circular plot (diameter 50 m) was created where all trees were girdled (ALL). Soil respiration was measured before and after tree girdling. A conservative estimate of the total autotrophic contribution is approximately 50%, as indicated by results on the ALL and OG plots. Rapid declines in carbon dioxide (CO2) flux from both the ALL and OG plots, 37 and 33%, respectively, were observed within 2 weeks following the treatment, demonstrating a fast turnover of recently fixed carbon. Responses from the NO and O50 treatments were statistically similar to the control. A non-proportional decline in respiration rates along the gradient of change in live aboveground biomass complicated partitioning of the overall rate of soil respiration and indicates that belowground carbon flux is not linearly related to aboveground disturbance. Our findings suggest that in this system there is a threshold disturbance level between 35 and 74% of live aboveground biomass loss, beyond which belowground dynamics change dramatically.