<p>Dual-Chamber Measurements of δ13C of Soil-Respired CO2 partitioned using a field-based three end-member model</p>

Dual-Chamber Measurements of δ13C of Soil-Respired CO2 partitioned using a field-based three end-member model

J.L. McAllister, A. Cescatti, P. Smith, D. Robinson

Soil Biology and Biochemistry http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2011.12.011


The contribution of old soil C (SOM) to total soil respiration (RS) in forest has been a crucial topic in global change research, but remains uncertain. Isotopic methods, such as natural variations in carbon isotope composition (δ13C) of soil respiration, are more frequently being applied, and show promise in separating heterotrophic and autotrophic contributions to RS. However, natural and artificial modification of δ13CRs can cause isotopic disequilibria in the soil-atmosphere system generating a mismatch between what is usually measured and what process-based models will predict. Here we report the partitioning of the soil surface CO2flux in a warm Mediterranean forest into components derived from root, litter/humus, and SOM sources using a new, three end-member mixing model, and compare this with the conventional partitioning into autotrophic and heterotrophic components. The three end-member mixing model takes into account both the discrimination during CO2 respiration/decomposition of the three components, as well as the fractions of their CO2 fluxes integrated over the total soil profile mass. In addition, we used a novel dual-chamber technique to ensure that δ13CRs was subjected to minimal artefacts during measurement.

We observed that by using measured soil surface CO2 concentrations as a baseline level for the dual-chamber operation, it was possible to achieve and monitor the necessary conservation of the soil CO2steady-state diffusion conditions during the measurements, without using permanent collars inserted deeply into the soil. When RS (8.64 g CO2 m2 d−1) was partitioned into two components, the mean autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration was 56 and 44%, respectively. When RS was partitioned using the three-way model, however, roots, litter/humus, and SOM contributed 30, 33, and 37% of the total flux. Our results confirm that to improve the estimates of the partitioning method, it is important to distinguish the fractional contribution of the long-term SOM-derived flux from younger and more labile sources.