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Keywords:

  • dryland;
  • elevated CO2;
  • global warming;
  • modeling;
  • precipitation;
  • soil respiration

Abstract

With the large extent and great amount of soil carbon (C) storage, drylands play an important role in terrestrial C balance and feedbacks to climate change. Yet, how dryland soils respond to gradual and concomitant changes in multiple global change drivers [e.g., temperature (Ts), precipitation (Ppt), and atmospheric [CO2] (CO2)] has rarely been studied. We used a process-based ecosystem model patch arid land simulator to simulate dryland soil respiration (Rs) and C pool size (Cs) changes to abrupt vs. gradual and single vs. combined alterations in Ts, Ppt and CO2 at multiple treatment levels. Results showed that abrupt perturbations generally resulted in larger Rs and had longer differentiated impacts than did gradual perturbations. Rs was stimulated by increases in Ts, Ppt, and CO2 in a nonlinear fashion (e.g., parabolically or asymptotically) but suppressed by Ppt reduction. Warming mainly stimulated heterotrophic Rs (i.e., Rh) whereas Ppt and CO2 influenced autotrophic Rs (i.e., Ra). The combined effects of warming, Ppt, and CO2 were nonadditive of primary single-factor effects as a result of substantial interactions among these factors. Warming amplified the effects of both Ppt addition and CO2 elevation whereas Ppt addition and CO2 elevation counteracted with each other. Precipitation reduction either magnified or suppressed warming and CO2 effects, depending on the magnitude of factor's alteration and the components of Rs (Ra or Rh) being examined. Overall, Ppt had dominant influence on dryland Rs and Cs over Ts and CO2. Increasing Ppt individually or in combination with Ts and CO2 benefited soil C sequestration. We therefore suggested that global change experimental studies for dryland ecosystems should focus more on the effects of precipitation regime changes and the combined effects of Ppt with other global change factors (e.g., Ts, CO2, and N deposition).