Experimental warming does not enhance soil respiration in a semiarid temperate forest-steppe ecosystem

Abstract

The influence of simulated climate change on soil respiration was studied in a field experiment on 4 m × 5 m plots in the semiarid temperate Pannonian sand forest-steppe. This ecosystem type has low productivity and soil organic matter content, and covers large areas, yet data on soil carbon fluxes are still limited. Soil respiration rate – measured monthly between April and November from 2003 to 2006 – remained very low (0.09 – 1.53 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1) in accordance with the moderate biological activity and low humus content of the nutrient poor, coarse sandy soil. Specific soil respiration rate (calculated for unit soil organic matter content), however, was relatively high (0.36 – 7.92 μmol CO2 g−1 Corg h−1) suggesting substrate limitation for soil biological activity. During the day, soil respiration rate was significantly lower at dawn than at midday, while seasonally clear temperature limitation in winter and water limitation in summer were detected. Between years, annual precipitation appeared to be important in determining soil carbon efflux intensity. Nocturnal warming increased soil temperature in 1 cm depth at dawn by 1.6°C on the average, and decreased topsoil (0–11 cm) moisture content by 0.45 vol%. Drought treatment decreased soil moisture content by an average of 0.81 vol%. Soil respiration rate tended to decrease by 7–15% and 13–15% in response to heat and drought treatment, respectively, although the changes were not statistically significant. Nocturnal warming usually prevented dew formation, and that probably also influenced soil respiration. Based on these results, we expect a reduction in the volume and rate of organic matter turnover in this ecosystem in response to the anticipated climate change in the region.

Abbreviations

ANOVA:

Analysis of Variance

LAI:

Leaf Area Index

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Lellei-Kovács, E., Kovács-Láng, E., Kalapos, T. et al. Experimental warming does not enhance soil respiration in a semiarid temperate forest-steppe ecosystem. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 9, 29–37 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.9.2008.1.4

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Keywords

  • Drought treatment
  • Heat treatment
  • Plot-scale climate change experiment
  • Soil CO2 efflux
  • Substrate limitation

Nomenclature

  • Borhidi and Sántha (1999) for plant communities