Winter CO2 fluxes in a boreal forest


  • G. C. Winston,

  • E. T. Sundquist,

  • B. B. Stephens,

  • S. E. Trumbore


We measured soil respiration during two winters in three different ecotypes of the BOREAS northern study area. The production of CO2 was continuous throughout the winter and, when totaled for the winter of 1994–1995, was equivalent to the release of ∼40–55 g C/m2 from the soil surface. As soils cooled in the early winter, the CO2 production rate decreased in a manner that appeared to be exponentially related to shallow soil temperatures. This exponential relationship was not observed when soils began to warm, possibly indicating that there may be additional or different processes responsible for increased CO2 production during winter warming events. We also measured CO2 concentrations in soil gas and the Δ14C of the soil CO2. These measurements show that the CO2 produced in winter is not simply the return to the atmosphere of the carbon fixed during the previous growing season. We suggest that the wintertime production of CO2 originates, at least in part, from the decomposition of old organic carbon stored at depth in the soil.