Quantifying the timescales over which exogenous and endogenous conditions affect soil respiration



  • Understanding how exogenous and endogenous factors and above-ground–below-ground linkages modulate carbon dynamics is difficult because of the influences of antecedent conditions. For example, there are variable lags between above-ground assimilation and below-ground efflux, and the duration of antecedent periods are often arbitrarily assigned. Nonetheless, developing models linking above- and below-ground processes is crucial for estimating current and future carbon dynamics.
  • We collected data on leaf-level photosynthesis (Asat) and soil respiration (Rsoil) in different microhabitats (under shrubs vs under bunchgrasses) in the Sonoran Desert. We evaluated timescales over which endogenous and exogenous factors control Rsoil by analyzing data in the context of a semimechanistic temperature–response model of Rsoil that incorporated effects of antecedent exogenous (soil water) and endogenous (Asat) conditions.
  • For both microhabitats, antecedent soil water and Asat significantly affected Rsoil, but Rsoil under shrubs was more sensitive to Asat than that under bunchgrasses. Photosynthetic rates 1 and 3 d before the Rsoil measurement were most important in determining current-day Rsoil under bunchgrasses and shrubs, respectively, indicating a significant lag effect.
  • Endogenous and exogenous controls are critical drivers of Rsoil, but the relative importance and the timescale over which each factor affects Rsoil depends on above-ground vegetation and ecosystem structure characteristics.