Articles | Volume 12, issue 20
Biogeosciences, 12, 5981–5993, 2015
Biogeosciences, 12, 5981–5993, 2015

Research article 21 Oct 2015

Research article | 21 Oct 2015

Interdependencies between temperature and moisture sensitivities of CO2 emissions in European land ecosystems

C. Gritsch, M. Zimmermann, and S. Zechmeister-Boltenstern C. Gritsch et al.
  • Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, Institute of Soil Research, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Abstract. Soil respiration is one of the largest terrestrial fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. Hence, small changes in soil respiration rates could have large effects on atmospheric CO2. In order to assess CO2 emissions from diverse European soils with different land-use types and climate (soil moisture and temperature), we conducted a laboratory incubation experiment.

Emission measurements of CO2 under controlled conditions were conducted using soil monoliths of nine sites from a European flux network (ÉCLAIRE). The sites are located all over Europe – from the United Kingdom in the west to Ukraine in the east, and from Italy in the south to Finland in the north – and can be separated according to four land-use types (forests, grasslands, arable lands and one peatland). Intact soil cores were incubated in the laboratory in a two-way factorial design, with temperature (5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 °C) and water-filled pore space (WFPS; 5, 20, 40, 60 and 80 %) as the independent variables, while CO2 flux was the response variable. The latter was measured with an automated laboratory incubation measurement system.

Land use generally had a substantial influence on carbon dioxide fluxes, with the order of CO2 emission rates of the different land-use types being grassland > peatland > forest/arable land (P < 0.001). CO2 efflux responded strongly to varying temperature and moisture content with optimum moisture contents for CO2 emissions between 40 and 70 % WFPS and a positive relationship between CO2 emissions and temperature. The relationship between temperature and CO2 emissions could be well described by a Gaussian model. Q10 values ranged between 0.86 and 10.85 and were negatively related to temperature for most of the moisture contents and sites investigated. At higher temperatures the effect of water and temperature on Q10 was very low. In addition, under cold temperatures Q10 varied with moisture contents, indicating a stronger prospective effect of rain events in cold areas on temperature sensitivity. At both coniferous forest sites we found a strong increase in the temperature sensitivity at a moisture range between 20 and 40 % WFPS.

We developed a new approach to calculate moisture sensitivity (MS) of CO2 efflux. MS was calculated as the slope of a polynomial function of second degree. Moisture sensitivities were highest under dry and wet conditions. In addition we found a positive relationship between MS of CO2 efflux and temperature for both arable lands.

Short summary
Our experiments showed that, in cold areas (e.g. northern latitudes or mountain areas), warming as well as rain events will have a larger impact on CO2 emissions. Increased moisture in dry areas or drying of wet areas will largely promote CO2 emissions. Irrigation of arable lands might have a higher impact on CO2 emissions in warmer regions in the south of Europe than in the north.
Final-revised paper