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Keywords:

  • boreal forest;
  • climate change;
  • ecosystem warming;
  • elevated CO2;
  • elevated temperature;
  • soil CO2 efflux;
  • soil respiration;
  • temperature response

Abstract

The response of forest soil CO2 efflux to the elevation of two climatic factors, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 ([UPWARDS ARROW]CO2 of 700 μmol mol−1) and air temperature ([UPWARDS ARROW]T with average annual increase of 5°C), and their combination ([UPWARDS ARROW]CO2+[UPWARDS ARROW]T) was investigated in a 4-year, full-factorial field experiment consisting of closed chambers built around 20-year-old Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris L.) in the boreal zone of Finland. Mean soil CO2 efflux in May–October increased with elevated CO2 by 23–37%, with elevated temperature by 27–43%, and with the combined treatment by 35–59%. Temperature elevation was a significant factor in the combined 4-year efflux data, whereas the effect of elevated CO2 was not as evident. Elevated temperature had the most pronounced impact early and late in the season, while the influence of elevated CO2 alone was especially notable late in the season. Needle area was found to be a significant predictor of soil CO2 efflux, particularly in August, a month of high root growth, thus supporting the assumption of a close link between whole-tree physiology and soil CO2 emissions. The decrease in the temperature sensitivity of soil CO2 efflux observed in the elevated temperature treatments in the second year nevertheless suggests the existence of soil response mechanisms that may be independent of the assimilating component of the forest ecosystem. In conclusion, elevated atmospheric CO2 and air temperature consistently increased forest soil CO2 efflux over the 4-year period, their combined effect being additive, with no apparent interaction.