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Keywords:

  • deciduousness;
  • leaf area index;
  • Pinus sylvestris L.;
  • Q10;
  • Quercus robur L.;
  • soil respiration;
  • soil temperature;
  • soil water content

Abstract

The temperature sensitivity of soil respiration (SR) is often estimated from the seasonal changes in the flux relative to those in soil temperature, and subsequently used in models to interpolate or predict soil fluxes. However, temperature sensitivities derived from seasonal changes in SR (from here on denoted seasonal Q10) may not solely reflect the temperature sensitivity of SR, because seasonal changes in SR can also be affected by other seasonally fluctuating conditions and processes. In this manuscript, we present a case study of how the seasonal Q10 of SR can be decoupled from the temperature sensitivity of SR. In a mixed temperate forest, we measured SR under vegetations with different leaf strategies: pure evergreen, pure deciduous, and mixed. Seasonal Q10 was much higher under deciduous than under evergreen canopies. However, at a shorter time scale, both vegetation types exhibited very similar Q10 values, indicating that the large differences in seasonal Q10 do not represent differences in the temperature sensitivity of the soil metabolism. The seasonal Q10 depends strongly on the amplitude of the seasonal changes in SR (SRs), which, under the particular climatic and edaphic conditions of our forest study site, were significantly larger in deciduous forest. In turn, SRs was positively correlated with the seasonal changes in leaf area index (LAIs), a measure of the deciduousness of the vegetation. Thus, in this temperate maritime forest, seasonal Q10 of SR was strongly influenced by the deciduousness of the vegetation. We conclude that the large differences in seasonal Q10 were not entirely due to different temperature sensitivities, but also to different seasonal patterns of plant activity in the evergreen and deciduous plants of this site. Some coniferous forests may be more seasonal than the one we studied, and the deciduous–evergreen differences observed here may not be broadly applicable, but this case study demonstrates that variation of plant phenological process can significantly contribute to the seasonality of SR, and, hence, calculated Q10 values. Where this occurs, the seasonal Q10 value for SR does not accurately represent temperature sensitivity. Because the strong seasonal correlation between SR and temperature does not necessarily imply a causal relationship, Q10 values derived form annual patterns of SR should be used with caution when predicting future responses of SR to climatic change.