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Temporal Variability of CO2 and N2O Flux Spatial Patterns at a Mowed and a Grazed Grassland

Abstract

Spatial patterns of ecosystem processes constitute significant sources of uncertainty in greenhouse gas flux estimations partly because the patterns are temporally dynamic. The aim of this study was to describe temporal variability in the spatial patterns of grassland CO2 and N2O flux under varying environmental conditions and to assess effects of the grassland management (grazing and mowing) on flux patterns. We made spatially explicit measurements of variables including soil respiration, aboveground biomass, N2O flux, soil water content, and soil temperature during a 4-year study in the vegetation periods at grazed and mowed grasslands. Sampling was conducted in 80 × 60 m grids of 10 m resolution with 78 sampling points in both study plots. Soil respiration was monitored nine times, and N2O flux was monitored twice during the study period. Altitude, soil organic carbon, and total soil nitrogen were used as background factors at each sampling position, while aboveground biomass, soil water content, and soil temperature were considered as covariates in the spatial analysis. Data were analyzed using variography and kriging. Altitude was autocorrelated over distances of 40–50 m in both plots and influenced spatial patterns of soil organic carbon, total soil nitrogen, and the covariates. Altitude was inversely related to soil water content and aboveground biomass and positively related to soil temperature. Autocorrelation lengths for soil respiration were similar on both plots (about 30 m), whereas autocorrelation lengths of N2O flux differed between plots (39 m in the grazed plot vs. 18 m in the mowed plot). Grazing appeared to increase heterogeneity and linkage of the spatial patterns, whereas mowing had a homogenizing effect. Spatial patterns of soil water content, soil respiration, and aboveground biomass were temporally variable especially in the first 2 years of the experiment, whereas spatial patterns were more persistent (mostly significant correlation at p < 0.05 between location ranks) in the second 2 years, following a wet year. Increased persistence of spatial patterns after a wet year indicated the recovery potential of grasslands following drought and suggested that adequate water supply could have a homogenizing effect on CO2 and N2O fluxes.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Michael Herbst for the valuable comments on the spatial data processing. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the following foundations and research programs: OTKA-PD 100575, OTKA-K 105608 and Research Centre of Excellence—1476-4/2016/FEKUT. Szilvia Fóti and János Balogh acknowledge the support of the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

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Fóti, S., Balogh, J., Papp, M. et al. Temporal Variability of CO2 and N2O Flux Spatial Patterns at a Mowed and a Grazed Grassland. Ecosystems 21, 112–124 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-017-0138-8

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Keywords

  • CO2 efflux
  • kriging
  • N2O flux
  • semivariance
  • spatial pattern
  • temporal persistence