Inter-annual Variability of Soil Respiration in Wet Shrublands: Do Plants Modulate Its Sensitivity to Climate?
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Understanding the response of soil respiration to climate variability is critical to formulate realistic predictions of future carbon (C) fluxes under different climate change scenarios. There is growing evidence that the influence of long-term climate variability in C fluxes from terrestrial ecosystems is modulated by adjustments in the aboveground–belowground links. Here, we studied the inter-annual variability in soil respiration from a wet shrubland going through successional change in North Wales (UK) during 13 years. We hypothesised that the decline in plant productivity observed over a decade would result in a decrease in the apparent sensitivity of soil respiration to soil temperature, and that rainfall variability would explain a significant fraction of the inter-annual variability in plant productivity, and consequently, in soil respiration, due to excess-water constraining nutrient availability for plants. As hypothesised, there were parallel decreases between plant productivity and annual and summer CO2 emissions over the 13-year period. Soil temperatures did not follow a similar trend, which resulted in a decline in the apparent sensitivity of soil respiration to soil temperature (apparent Q10 values decreased from 9.4 to 2.8). Contrary to our second hypothesis, summer maximum air temperature rather than rainfall was the climate variable with the greatest influence on aboveground biomass and annual cumulative respiration. Since summer air temperature and rainfall were positively associated, the greatest annual respiration values were recorded during years of high rainfall. The results suggest that adjustments in plant productivity might have a critical role in determining the long-term-sensitivity of soil respiration to changing climate conditions.
Keywordsplant productivity Q10 soil C climate change drought heathland Calluna vulgaris
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