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Fine root dynamics and trace gas fluxes in two lowland tropical forest soils

Authors

  • Whendee L. Silver,

    1. Division of Ecosystem Sciences, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, 151 Hilgard Hall #3110, CA 94720,
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  • Andrew W. Thompson,

    1. Division of Ecosystem Sciences, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, 151 Hilgard Hall #3110, CA 94720,
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  • Megan E. McGroddy,

    1. Division of Ecosystem Sciences, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, 151 Hilgard Hall #3110, CA 94720,
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    • 1Present address: EEB Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.

  • Ruth K. Varner,

    1. Complex Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA,
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  • Jadson D. Dias,

    1. Fundacao Floresta Tropical, Santarem, Para, Brazil,
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    • 2Present address: Escola de Agricultural Luiz Queiroz, Piracicaba, SP 13416-000, Brazil.

  • Hudson Silva,

    1. Complex Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA,
    2. Fundacao Floresta Tropical, Santarem, Para, Brazil,
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  • Patrick M. Crill,

    1. Complex Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA,
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    • 3Present address: Department of Geology and Geochemistry, Stockholm University, Stockholm 106 91, Sweden.

  • Michael Keller

    1. USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
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Whendee L. Silver, tel. +1 510-643-3074, fax +1 510-643-5098, e-mail: wsilver@nature.berkeley.edu

Abstract

Fine root dynamics have the potential to contribute significantly to ecosystem-scale biogeochemical cycling, including the production and emission of greenhouse gases. This is particularly true in tropical forests which are often characterized as having large fine root biomass and rapid rates of root production and decomposition. We examined patterns in fine root dynamics on two soil types in a lowland moist Amazonian forest, and determined the effect of root decay on rates of C and N trace gas fluxes. Root production averaged 229 (±35) and 153 (±27) g m−2 yr−1 for years 1 and 2 of the study, respectively, and did not vary significantly with soil texture. Root decay was sensitive to soil texture with faster rates in the clay soil (k=−0.96 year−1) than in the sandy loam soil (k=−0.61 year−1), leading to greater standing stocks of dead roots in the sandy loam. Rates of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions were significantly greater in the clay soil (13±1 ng N cm−2 h−1) than in the sandy loam (1.4±0.2 ng N cm−2 h−1). Root mortality and decay following trenching doubled rates of N2O emissions in the clay and tripled them in sandy loam over a 1-year period. Trenching also increased nitric oxide fluxes, which were greater in the sandy loam than in the clay. We used trenching (clay only) and a mass balance approach to estimate the root contribution to soil respiration. In clay soil root respiration was 264–380 g C m−2 yr−1, accounting for 24% to 35% of the total soil CO2 efflux. Estimates were similar using both approaches. In sandy loam, root respiration rates were slightly higher and more variable (521±206 g C m2 yr−1) and contributed 35% of the total soil respiration. Our results show that soil heterotrophs strongly dominate soil respiration in this forest, regardless of soil texture. Our results also suggest that fine root mortality and decomposition associated with disturbance and land-use change can contribute significantly to increased rates of nitrogen trace gas emissions.

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