On maintaining pressure equilibrium between a soil CO2 flux chamber and the ambient air



[1] Pressure equilibrium between inside a soil CO2 flux chamber and the surrounding air outside the chamber must be maintained during a measurement if measured soil CO2 flux (FCO2) is to accurately represent the rate occurring naturally outside the chamber. In previous studies a simple vent tube connecting to the chamber has often been used to maintain pressure equilibrium. This approach, however, can be effective only under calm conditions. Under windy conditions, negative pressure excursions will occur inside the chamber that are artifacts resulting from wind passing over the vent tube's external open end, a phenomenon known as the Venturi effect. This causes anomalous mass flow of CO2-rich air from the soil into the chamber, leading to a significant overestimation of FCO2. In this present study, we found that negative chamber pressure excursions due to the Venturi effect cannot be observed unless the differential pressure measurement is made with the chamber resting on an impermeable base. Making pressure measurements with a chamber resting on porous soil can lead to the erroneous conclusion that an anomalous mass flow is not a problem precisely when it is causing serious artifacts. We also present a new vent design for a soil CO2 flux chamber capable of maintaining pressure equilibrium between inside the chamber and the ambient air outside the chamber under both calm and windy conditions. Differential pressure measurements from field experiments show that the pressures inside our newly designed vented chamber equal those outside the chamber when wind speed at a height of 0.5 m is up to 7 m s−1, thus virtually eliminating artifacts due to the Venturi effect. Our field data show that the problem of overestimation in measured FCO2 by a chamber with older vent designs under windy conditions can be avoided with our newly designed vented chamber.