, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 709-723
Date: 24 Mar 2013

Greenhouse gas flux in a temperate grassland as affected by landform and disturbance

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Abstract

Much of the remaining native rangelands in Canada are topographically complex. The flux of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in rangelands of hummocky terrain has not been adequately studied, leaving a gap in the national GHG sources and sinks budget. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of topography and mowing on carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) flux and to correlate these fluxes to abiotic and biotic factors. GHG flux was studied on six landform elements, including north-facing concave and, south-facing concave and convex, upland and depressions, in the Northern Mixedgrass Prairie of Canada over 2 years with mowing being imposed in early spring. GHG fluxes showed strong temporal variations, ranging from 3.0 to 40.4 kg CO2–C ha−1 d−1, 0.1 to 2.6 g N2O–N ha−1 d−1, and −0.25 to −0.01 g CH4–C ha−1 d−1. GHG fluxes responded to changes in soil water and soil temperature across the landscape. The largest production of CO2 was recorded in depression mainly due to its more favourable soil water conditions. Mowing enhanced CO2 flux more than CH4 and N2O fluxes. Dominant plant species varied among the six landform elements, but using plant community type as the direct indicator for GHG emissions in grasslands may not always be reliable when precipitation is low. The net emissions of GHGs from Saskatchewan rangeland was relatively low, but the potential to increase emissions through changes in land management could be high. Our results suggest that in the Mixedgrass Prairie, best management practices for maintaining grassland health such as moderate grazing may also reduce GHG emissions.