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Keywords:

  • 14C;
  • drought;
  • precipitation;
  • roof;
  • soil respiration;
  • soil warming

Abstract

Climate change may considerably impact the carbon (C) dynamics and C stocks of forest soils. To assess the combined effects of warming and reduced precipitation on soil CO2 efflux, we conducted a two-way factorial manipulation experiment (4 °C soil warming + throughfall exclusion) in a temperate spruce forest from 2008 until 2010. Soil was warmed by heating cables throughout the growing seasons. Soil drought was simulated by throughfall exclusions with three 100 m2 roofs during 25 days in July/August 2008 and 2009. Soil warming permanently increased the CO2 efflux from soil, whereas throughfall exclusion led to a sharp decrease in soil CO2 efflux (45% and 50% reduction during roof installation in 2008 and 2009, respectively). In 2008, CO2 efflux did not recover after natural rewetting and remained lowered until autumn. In 2009, CO2 efflux recovered shortly after rewetting, but relapsed again for several weeks. Drought offset the increase in soil CO2 efflux by warming in 2008 (growing season CO2 efflux in t C ha−1: control: 7.1 ± 1.0; warmed: 9.5 ± 1.7; warmed + roof: 7.4 ± 0.3; roof: 5.9 ± 0.4) and in 2009 (control: 7.6 ± 0.8; warmed + roof: 8.3 ± 1.0). Throughfall exclusion mainly affected the organic layer and the top 5 cm of the mineral soil. Radiocarbon data suggest that heterotrophic and autotrophic respiration were affected to the same extent by soil warming and drying. Microbial biomass in the mineral soil (0–5 cm) was not affected by the treatments. Our results suggest that warming causes significant C losses from the soil as long as precipitation patterns remain steady at our site. If summer droughts become more severe in the future, warming induced C losses will likely be offset by reduced soil CO2 efflux during and after summer drought.