Soil respiration in northern forests exposed to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and ozone

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The aspen free-air CO2 and O3 enrichment (FACTS II-FACE) study in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, USA, is designed to understand the mechanisms by which young northern deciduous forest ecosystems respond to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and elevated tropospheric ozone (O3) in a replicated, factorial, field experiment. Soil respiration is the second largest flux of carbon (C) in these ecosystems, and the objective of this study was to understand how soil respiration responded to the experimental treatments as these fast-growing stands of pure aspen and birch + aspen approached maximum leaf area. Rates of soil respiration were typically lowest in the elevated O3 treatment. Elevated CO2 significantly stimulated soil respiration (8-26%) compared to the control treatment in both community types over all three growing seasons. In years 6-7 of the experiment, the greatest rates of soil respiration occurred in the interaction treatment (CO2 + O3), and rates of soil respiration were 15-25% greater in this treatment than in the elevated CO 2 treatment, depending on year and community type. Two of the treatments, elevated CO2 and elevated CO2 + O3, were fumigated with 13C-depleted CO2, and in these two treatments we used standard isotope mixing models to understand the proportions of new and old C in soil respiration. During the peak of the growing season, C fixed since the initiation of the experiment in 1998 (new C) accounted for 60-80% of total soil respiration. The isotope measurements independently confirmed that more new C was respired from the interaction treatment compared to the elevated CO2 treatment. A period of low soil moisture late in the 2003 growing season resulted in soil respiration with an isotopic signature 4-6‰ enriched in 13C compared to sample dates when the percentage soil moisture was higher. In 2004, an extended period of low soil moisture during August and early September, punctuated by a significant rainfall event, resulted in soil respiration that was temporarily 4-6‰ more depleted in 13C. Up to 50% of the Earth's forests will see elevated concentrations of both CO2 and O3 in the coming decades and these interacting atmospheric trace gases stimulated soil respiration in this study. © Springer-Verlag 2006.

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