Articles | Volume 11, issue 19
Research article
13 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 13 Oct 2014

Constraint of soil moisture on CO2 efflux from tundra lichen, moss, and tussock in Council, Alaska, using a hierarchical Bayesian model

Y. Kim, K. Nishina, N. Chae, S. J. Park, Y. J. Yoon, and B. Y. Lee

Abstract. The tundra ecosystem is quite vulnerable to drastic climate change in the Arctic, and the quantification of carbon dynamics is of significant importance regarding thawing permafrost, changes to the snow-covered period and snow and shrub community extent, and the decline of sea ice in the Arctic. Here, CO2 efflux measurements using a manual chamber system within a 40 m × 40 m (5 m interval; 81 total points) plot were conducted within dominant tundra vegetation on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska, during the growing seasons of 2011 and 2012, for the assessment of driving parameters of CO2 efflux. We applied a hierarchical Bayesian (HB) model – a function of soil temperature, soil moisture, vegetation type, and thaw depth – to quantify the effects of environmental factors on CO2 efflux and to estimate growing season CO2 emissions. Our results showed that average CO2 efflux in 2011 was 1.4 times higher than in 2012, resulting from the distinct difference in soil moisture between the 2 years. Tussock-dominated CO2 efflux is 1.4 to 2.3 times higher than those measured in lichen and moss communities, revealing tussock as a significant CO2 source in the Arctic, with a wide area distribution on the circumpolar scale. CO2 efflux followed soil temperature nearly exponentially from both the observed data and the posterior medians of the HB model. This reveals that soil temperature regulates the seasonal variation of CO2 efflux and that soil moisture contributes to the interannual variation of CO2 efflux for the two growing seasons in question. Obvious changes in soil moisture during the growing seasons of 2011 and 2012 resulted in an explicit difference between CO2 effluxes – 742 and 539 g CO2 m−2 period−1 for 2011 and 2012, respectively, suggesting the 2012 CO2 emission rate was reduced to 27% (95% credible interval: 17–36%) of the 2011 emission, due to higher soil moisture from severe rain. The estimated growing season CO2 emission rate ranged from 0.86 Mg CO2 in 2012 to 1.20 Mg CO2 in 2011 within a 40 m × 40 m plot, corresponding to 86 and 80% of annual CO2 emission rates within the western Alaska tundra ecosystem, estimated from the temperature dependence of CO2 efflux. Therefore, this HB model can be readily applied to observed CO2 efflux, as it demands only four environmental factors and can also be effective for quantitatively assessing the driving parameters of CO2 efflux.

Final-revised paper