Plant and Soil

, Volume 428, Issue 1–2, pp 321–333 | Cite as

The influence of drought strength on soil respiration in a woody savanna ecosystem, southwest China

  • Yuntong LiuEmail author
  • Jing Li
  • Yanqiang Jin
  • Yiping ZhangEmail author
  • Liqing Sha
  • John Grace
  • Qinghai Song
  • Wenjun Zhou
  • Aiguo Chen
  • Peiguang Li
  • Shubin Zhang
Regular Article


Background and aims

Drought is expected to be more frequent and more intense with global warming. Our aim was to investigate how soil respiration would respond to different levels of precipitation exclusion (‘drought strength’).


We conducted a two-year drought experiment in a woody savanna ecosystem in south west of China, which consisted of four treatments: a control treatment (CK); 30% precipitation exclusion (PE3), 50% precipitation exclusion (PE5) and 70% precipitation exclusion (PE7).


The cumulative soil respiration rates were significantly decreased in both rainy and dry seasons as drought became more intense. The sensitivity of soil respiration to soil moisture decreased as drought severity increased. There were bursts of CO2 emission when dry soils were rewetted by rainfall after the dry season. Unlike most other exponential relationships between soil respiration and soil temperature, a parabolic function was observed in all treatments (P < 0.05), which was due to higher soil temperature (>28 °C) coinciding with insufficient soil water content (<11% Vol). Respiration rate is best represented by a model which combines soil moisture and temperature.


Soil respiration rates were significantly decreased as drought enhanced. The response of soil respiration to drought in the dry season should not be ignored especially when evaluating the effect of drought on soil respiration in a whole year in savanna ecosystems. The quadratic relationship between soil respiration and soil temperature may be important for modeling the response of soil respiration to climate change (drought) in savanna ecosystems.


Drought Savanna Soil respiration Precipitation exclusion Climate change 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41405143), the Yunnan Province Natural Science Foundation (2015FB186, 2017FB077), the Joint Foundation of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Natural Science Foundation of Yunnan Province (U1602234, U1202234), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0502105), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31290220), the CAS 135 project (2017XTBG-F01, 2017XTBG-T01), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31600390). This work was also supported by the Yuanjiang Savanna Ecosystem Research Station of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of CAS and the Public Technology Service Center of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of CAS.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3678_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2374 kb)


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesMenglaChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.School of GeoSciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  4. 4.Yuanjiang Savanna Ecosystem Research Station, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesYuanjiangChina
  5. 5.Yellow River Delta Ecological Research Station of Coastal Wetland, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesYantaiChina

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