We used eddy covariance and biomass measurements to quantify the carbon (C) dynamics of a naturally regenerated longleaf pine/slash pine flatwoods ecosystem in north Florida for 4 years, July 2000 to June 2002 and 2004 to 2005, to quantify how forest type, silvicultural intensity and environment influence stand-level C balance. Precipitation over the study periods ranged from extreme drought (July 2000–June 2002) to above-average precipitation (2004 and 2005). After photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD), vapor pressure deficit (VPD) >1.5 kPa and air temperature <10 °C were important constraints on daytime half-hourly net CO2 exchange (NEEday) and reduced the magnitude of midday CO2 exchange by >5 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1. Analysis of water use efficiency indicated that stomatal closure at VPD>1.5 kPa moderated transpiration similarly in both drought and wet years. Night-time exchange (NEEnight) was an exponential function of air temperature, with rates further modulated by soil moisture. Estimated annual net ecosystem production (NEP) was remarkably consistent among the four measurement years (range: 158–192 g C m−2 yr−1). In comparison, annual ecosystem C assimilation estimates from biomass measurements between 2000 and 2002 ranged from 77 to 136 g C m−2 yr−1. Understory fluxes accounted for approximately 25–35% of above-canopy NEE over 24-h periods, and 85% and 27% of whole-ecosystem fluxes during night and midday (11:00–15:00 hours) periods, respectively. Concurrent measurements of a nearby intensively managed slash pine plantation showed that annual NEP was three to four times greater than that of the Austin Cary Memorial Forest, highlighting the importance of silviculture and management in regulating stand-level C budgets.
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