Carbon balance assessment of a natural steppe of southern Siberia by multiple constraint approach
Abstract. Steppe ecosystems represent an interesting case in which the assessment of carbon balance may be performed through a cross validation of the eddy covariance measurements against ecological inventory estimates of carbon exchanges (Ehman et al., 2002; Curtis et al., 2002).
Indeed, the widespread presence of ideal conditions for the applicability of the eddy covariance technique, as vast and homogeneous grass vegetation cover over flat terrains (Baldocchi, 2003), make steppes a suitable ground to ensure a constrain to flux estimates with independent methodological approaches.
We report about the analysis of the carbon cycle of a true steppe ecosystem in southern Siberia during the growing season of 2004 in the framework of the TCOS-Siberia project activities performed by continuous monitoring of CO2 fluxes at ecosystem scale by the eddy covariance method, fortnightly samplings of phytomass, and ingrowth cores extractions for NPP assessment, and weekly measurements of heterotrophic component of soil CO2 effluxes obtained by an experiment of root exclusion.
The carbon balance of the monitored natural steppe was, according to micrometeorological measurements, a sink of carbon of 151.7±36.9 g C m−2, cumulated during the growing season from May to September. This result was in agreement with the independent estimate through ecological inventory which yielded a sink of 150.1 g C m−2 although this method was characterized by a large uncertainty (±130%) considering the 95% confidence interval of the estimate. Uncertainties in belowground process estimates account for a large part of the error. Thus, in particular efforts to better quantify the dynamics of root biomass (growth and turnover) have to be undertaken in order to reduce the uncertainties in the assessment of NPP. This assessment should be preferably based on the application of multiple methods, each one characterized by its own merits and flaws.