Soil respiration is stimulated by elevated CO2 and reduced by summer drought: three years of measurements in a multifactor ecosystem manipulation experiment in a temperate heathland (CLIMAITE)

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This study investigated the impact of predicted future climatic and atmospheric conditions on soil respiration (RS) in a Danish Calluna-Deschampsia-heathland. A fully factorial in situ experiment with treatments of elevated atmospheric CO2 (+130 ppm), raised soil temperature (+0.4 °C) and extended summer drought (5–8% precipitation exclusion) was established in 2005. The average RS, observed in the control over 3 years of measurements (1.7 μmol CO2 m−2 sec−1), increased 38% under elevated CO2, irrespective of combination with the drought or temperature treatments. In contrast, extended summer drought decreased RS by 14%, while elevated soil temperature did not affect RS overall. A significant interaction between elevated temperature and drought resulted in further reduction of RS when these treatments were combined. A detailed analysis of short-term RS dynamics associated with drought periods showed that RS was reduced by ~50% and was strongly correlated with soil moisture during these events. Recovery of RS to pre-drought levels occurred within 2 weeks of rewetting; however, unexpected drought effects were observed several months after summer drought treatment in 2 of the 3 years, possibly due to reduced plant growth or changes in soil water holding capacity. An empirical model that predicts RS from soil temperature, soil moisture and plant biomass was developed and accounted for 55% of the observed variability in RS. The model predicted annual sums of RS in 2006 and 2007, in the control, were 672 and 719 g C m−2 y−1, respectively. For the full treatment combination, i.e. the future climate scenario, the model predicted that soil respiratory C losses would increase by ~21% (140–150 g C m−2 y−1). Therefore, in the future climate, stimulation of C storage in plant biomass and litter must be in excess of 21% for this ecosystem to not suffer a reduction in net ecosystem exchange.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1216-1230
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2012

ID: 41850511