Climate Change and...

Annotated Bibliography

Carbon Dynamics


Alexis, M., Rasse, D., Rumpel, C., Bardoux, G., Pechot, N., Schmalzer, P., Drake, B., Mariotti, A. (2007). Fire impact on C and N losses and charcoal production in a scrub oak ecosystem. Biogeochemistry 82 (2): 201-216

ABSTRACT: Fire profoundly modifies the terrestrial C cycle of about 40% of the Earth’s land surface. The immediate effect of fire is that of a net loss of C as CO2 gas and soot particles to the atmosphere. Nevertheless, a proportion of the ecosystem biomass is converted into charcoal, which contains highly recalcitrant molecular structures that contribute to long-term C storage. The present study aimed to assess simultaneously losses to the atmosphere and charcoal production rates of C and N compounds as a result of prescription fire in a Florida scrub-oak ecosystem. Pre-fire and post-fire charred and unburned organic matter stocks were determined for vegetation leaves and stems, litter and soil in 20 sub-plots installed in a 30-ha area that was subjected to prescribed fire. Concentrations of C and N were determined, and fluxes among pools and to the atmosphere were derived from these measurements. Soil C and N stocks were unchanged by the fire. Post-fire standing dead biomass contained 30% and 12% of pre-fire vegetation C and N stocks, respectively. In litter, post-fire stocks contained 64% and 83% of pre-fire C and N stocks, respectively. Most of the difference in relative losses between vegetation and litter could be attributed to substantial litter fall of charred and unburned leaves during the fire event. Indeed, an estimated 21% of pre-fire vegetation leaf C was found in the post-fire litter, while the remaining 79% was lost to the atmosphere. About 3/4 of the fire-induced leaf litter fall was in the form of unburned tissue and the remainder was charcoal, which amounted to 5% of pre-fire leaf C stocks. Charcoal production ranged between 4% and 6% of the fire-affected biomass, i.e. the sum of charcoal production and atmospheric losses. This value is below the range of literature values for the transformation of plant tissue into stable soil organic matter through humification processes, which suggests that fire generates a smaller quantity of stable organic C than humification processes over decades and potentially centuries.

Allen, M. F., Klironomos, J. N., Treseder, K. K., Oechel, W. C. (2005). Responses of soil biota to elevated CO2 in a chaparral ecosystem. Ecological Applications 15 (5): 1701-1711

ABSTRACT: Atmospheric CO2 is rapidly increasing without an integrative understanding of the responses of soil organisms. We sampled soils in a chaparral ecosystem at 18 intervals over a 3-yr period in replicated field chambers ranging from 250 to 750 ppm CO2 at 100 ppm increments. We assessed three distinct soil energy channels: mycorrhizal fungi, saprotrophic fungi-mite/collembola, and bacteria-protozoa/nematode. C allocation below-ground increased with elevated CO2 , Standing crops of fungi and bacteria rarely changed with CO2 . Mass of bacteria-feeding nematodes increased during wet periods, but the effects on soil bacteria were not,detectable. However, grazing of fungi by mites increased with increasing CO2 up to 550 PPM CO2 . Above this threshold, allocation of C to the fungal channel declined. Direct measures of mycorrhizal fungi (percentage infection, arbuscular mycorrhizal [AM] fungal hyphal length) showed no changes with CO2 enrichment, but indirect measures (macroaggregates with newly fixed Q increased suggesting increasing allocation of C through this channel. We postulate that the lack of change in standing crop in microbes to elevated CO2 is due to increasing turnover and to increasing N deficiency. Assessing C sequestration and other impacts of elevated CO2 on ecosystems requires a comprehensive, interactive, and dynamic evaluation of soil organismal responses.

Bonino, E. E. (2006). Changes in carbon pools associated with a land-use gradient in the Dry Chaco, Argentina. Forest Ecology and Management 223 (1-3): 183-189

ABSTRACT: Little is known about the contribution of arid and semiarid regions to the carbon balance at a global scale. The lack of information is especially noticeable for the Gran Chaco, which covers an area of about 1,200,000 km2 in South America. This study quantified carbon pools and their changes along a land-use gradient in the Dry Chaco, the driest portion of the Gran Chaco, measured in the aboveground biomass and in soils (20 cm depth). The work was conducted in the Chancani reserve, where the best preserved forests of the region are found, and in surrounding areas, including a primary forest, a secondary forest and shrubby grasslands. Previous works indicate that the entire area was originally covered by forests similar to those found at the Chancani reserve, and that the land-use changes occurred at least 30 years prior to this study. Total aboveground carbon stock, which comprises the total amount of living organic matter in trees and shrubs, was 30.31 Mg C ha-1 in the primary forest, which was reduced to 8.38 Mg C ha-1 in the secondary forest and to 1.37 Mg C ha-1 in shrubby grasslands. Carbon stock in the tree component decreased drastically between the primary and the secondary forests from 25.40 to 5.11 Mg C ha-1 . The component described as saplings of trees and shrubs also decreased significantly among the three communities from 4.91 Mg C ha-1 in the primary forest to 3.27 Mg C ha-1 in the secondary forest and to only 1.37 Mg C ha-1 in the shrubby grasslands. No significant differences were detected in the carbon content per unit area of soil, although it decreased from 34.59 Mg C ha-1 in the primary forest to 28.04 Mg C ha-1 in the secondary forest and to 22.93 Mg C ha-1 in the shrubby grassland, with a significant increase in soil bulk density in the disturbed communities. Therefore, differences in carbon stocks between communities were primarily the result of differences in vegetation biomass, whereas changes in the land-use gradient analyzed had a lower impact on soils. Nevertheless, soil constitutes the largest pool, and more severe ecological disturbances could lead to important changes in net carbon storage.

Carrera, A., Ares, J., Labraga, J., Thurner, S., Bertiller, M. (2007). Scenarios of future climate and land-management effects on carbon stocks in northern Patagonian shrublands. Environmental Management 40 (6): 944-957

ABSTRACT: We analyzed the possible effects of grazing management and future climate change on carbon (C) stocks in soils of northern Patagonian shrublands. To this aim, we coupled the outputs of three (HadCM3, CSIRO Mk2, and CCSR/NIES) global climate models to the CENTURY (v5.3) model of terrestrial C balance. The CENTURY model was initialized with long-term field data on local biome physiognomy, seasonal phenologic trends, and prevailing land-management systems and was validated with recent sequences of 1-km Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (MODIS-Terra) images and soil C data. In the tested scenarios, the predicted climate changes would result in increased total C in soil organic matter (SOMTC). Maximum SOMTC under changed climate forcing would not differ significantly from that expected under baseline conditions (8 kg m−2 ). A decrease in grazing intensity would result in SOMTC increases of 11% to 12% even if climate changes did not occur. Climate change would account for SOMTC increases of 5% to 6%.

R. L. Cochran, H. P. Collins, A. Kennedy, D. F. Bezdicek (2007). Soil carbon pools and fluxes after land conversion in a semiarid shrub-steppe ecosystem. Biology and Fertility of Soils 43 (4): 479-489

ABSTRACT: Worldwide soil carbon (C) losses associated with agricultural expansion and intensification have contributed significantly to increased atmospheric CO2 . Soil disturbances resulting from land use changes were shown to modify the turnover of C and the formation of soil organic matter. A native semiarid shrub-steppe ecosystem recently converted into an irrigated agricultural development in the Columbia Basin of Washington State was evaluated for several abiotic indicators that might signal changes in an ecosystem during the initial stages of conversion and disturbance. Soil samples were collected in March of 2003 and 2004 from nine sites that included native shrub-steppe and agricultural fields converted in 2001 and 2002. Disturbance from conversion to irrigated crop production influenced total organic C and nitrogen (N) storage, C and N mineralization, and C turnover. Cultivated fields had greater concentrations of total organic C and N and higher cumulative C and N mineralization than native sites after 3 years of cultivation. Soil organic C was divided into three pools: an active pool (C a ) consisting of labile C (simple sugars, organic acids, the microbial biomass, and metabolic compounds of incorporated plant residues) with a mean residence time of days, an intermediate or slow pool (C s ) consisting of structural plant residues and physically stabilized C, and a resistant fraction (C r ) consisting of lignin and chemically stabilized C. Extended laboratory incubations of soil with measurements of CO2 were used to differentiate the size and turnover of theC a andC s functional C pools. The active pools were determined to be 4.5 and 6.5% and slow pools averaged 44 and 47% of the total C in native and cultivated fields, respectively. Cultivation, crop residue incorporation, and dairy manure compost amendments contributed to the increase in total soil C.

Hungate, B.A., Johnson, D.W., Dijkstra, P., Hymus, G., Stiling, P., Megonigal, J.P., Pagel, A.L., Moan, J.L., Day, F., Li, J., Hinkle, C.R., Drake, B.G. (2006). Nitrogen cycling during seven years of atmospheric CO2 enrichment in a scrub oak woodland. Ecology 87 (1): 26-40

ABSTRACT: Experimentally increasing atmospheric CO2 often stimulates plant growth and ecosystem carbon (C) uptake. Biogeochemical theory predicts that these initial responses will immobilize nitrogen (N) in plant biomass and soil organic matter, causing N availability to plants to decline, and reducing the long-term CO2 -stimulation of C storage in N limited ecosystems. While many experiments have examined changes in N cycling in response to elevated CO2 , empirical tests of this theoretical prediction are scarce. During seven years of postfire recovery in a scrub oak ecosystem, elevated CO2 initially increased plant N accumulation and plant uptake of tracer15 N, peaking after four years of CO2 enrichment. Between years four and seven, these responses to CO2 declined. Elevated CO2 also increased N and tracer15 N accumulation in the O horizon, and reduced15 N recovery in underlying mineral soil. These responses are consistent with progressive N limitation: the initial CO2 stimulation of plant growth immobilized N in plant biomass and in the O horizon, progressively reducing N availability to plants. Litterfall production (one measure of aboveground primary productivity) increased initially in response to elevated CO2 , but the CO2 stimulation declined during years five through seven, concurrent with the accumulation of N in the O horizon and the apparent restriction of plant N availability. Yet, at the level of aboveground plant biomass (estimated by allometry), progressive N limitation was less apparent, initially because of increased N acquisition from soil and later because of reduced N concentration in biomass as N availability declined. Over this seven-year period, elevated CO2 caused a redistribution of N within the ecosystem, from mineral soils, to plants, to surface organic matter. In N limited ecosystems, such changes in N cycling are likely to reduce the response of plant production to elevated CO2 .

Li, J., Powell, T.L., Seiler, T.J., Johnson, D.P., Anderson, H.P., Bracho, R., Hungate, B.A., Hinkle, C.R., Drake, B.G. (2007). Impacts of Hurricane Frances on Florida scrub-oak ecosystem processes: Defoliation, net CO2 exchange and interactions with elevated CO2 . Global Change Biology 13 (6): 1101-1113

ABSTRACT: Hurricane disturbances have profound impacts on ecosystem structure and function, yet their effects on ecosystem CO2 exchange have not been reported. In September 2004, our research site on a fire-regenerated scrub-oak ecosystem in central Florida was struck by Hurricane Frances with sustained winds of 113 km h−1 and wind gusts as high as 152 km h−1 . We quantified the hurricane damage on this ecosystem resulting from defoliation: we measured net ecosystem CO2 exchange, the damage and recovery of leaf area, and determined whether growth in elevated carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere (Ca ) altered this disturbance. The hurricane decreased leaf area index (LAI) by 21%, which was equal to 60% of seasonal variation in canopy growth during the previous 3 years, but stem damage was negligible. The reduction in LAI led to a 22% decline in gross primary production (GPP) and a 25% decline in ecosystem respiration (Re ). The compensatory declines in GPP and Re resulted in no significant change in net ecosystem production (NEP). Refoliation began within a month after the hurricane, although this period was out of phase with the regular foliation period, and recovered 20% of the defoliation loss within 2.5 months. Full recovery of LAI, ecosystem CO2 assimilation, and ecosystem respiration did not occur until the next growing season. Plants exposed to elevated Ca did not sustain greater damage, nor did they recover faster than plants grown under ambient Ca . Thus, our results indicate that hurricanes capable of causing significant defoliation with negligible damage to stems have negligible effects on NEP under current or future CO2 -enriched environment.

Mills, A.J., Cowling, R. M. (2006). Rate of carbon sequestration at two thicket restoration sites in the eastern Cape, South Africa. Restoration Ecology 14 (1): 38-49

ABSTRACT: Ecosystem carbon storage in intact thicket in the Eastern Cape, South Africa exceeds 20 kg/m2 , which is an unusually large amount for a semiarid ecosystem. Heavy browsing by goats transforms the thicket into an open savanna and can result in carbon losses greater than 8.5 kg/m2 . Restoration of thicket using cuttings of the dominant succulent shrubPortulacaria afra could return biodiversity to the transformed landscape, earn carbon credits on international markets, reduce soil erosion, increase wildlife carrying capacity, improve water infiltration and retention, and provide employment to rural communities. Carbon storage in two thicket restoration sites was investigated to determine potential rates of carbon sequestration. At the farm Krompoort, near Kirkwood, 11 kg C/m2 was sequestered over 27 years (average rate of 0.42 ± 0.08 kg C m−2 yr−1 ). In the Andries Vosloo Kudu Nature Reserve, near Grahamstown, approximately 2.5 kg C/m2 was sequestered over 20 years (0.12 ± 0.03 kg C m−2 yr−1 ). Slower sequestration in the Kudu Reserve was ascribed to browsing by black rhinoceros and other herbivores, a shallower soil and greater stone volumes. Planting density andP. afra genotype appeared to affect sequestration at Krompoort. Closely-packedP. afra planting may create a positive feedback through increased infiltration of rainwater. The rate of sequestration at Krompoort is comparable to many temperate and tropical forests. Potential earnings through carbon credits are likely to rival forest-planting schemes, but costs are likely to be less due to the ease of planting cuttings, as opposed to propagating forest saplings.

Morgan, J.A., Milchunas, D.G., LeCain, D.R., West, M., Mosier, A.R. (2007). Carbon dioxide enrichment alters plant community structure and accelerates shrub growth in the shortgrass steppe. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America 104 (37): 14724-14729

ABSTRACT: A hypothesis has been advanced that the incursion of woody plants into world grasslands over the past two centuries has been driven in part by increasing carbon dioxide concentration, [CO2 ], in Earth's atmosphere. Unlike the warm season forage grasses they are displacing, woody plants have a photosynthetic metabolism and carbon allocation patterns that are responsive to CO2 , and many have tap roots that are more effective than grasses for reaching deep soil water stores that can be enhanced under elevated CO2 . However, this commonly cited hypothesis has little direct support from manipulative experimentation and competes with more traditional theories of shrub encroachment involving climate change, management, and fire. Here, we show that, although doubling [CO2 ] over the Colorado shortgrass steppe had little impact on plant species diversity, it resulted in an increasingly dissimilar plant community over the 5-year experiment compared with plots maintained at present-day [CO2 ]. Growth at the doubled [CO2 ] resulted in an ≈40-fold increase in aboveground biomass and a 20-fold increase in plant cover ofArtemisia frigida Willd, a common subshrub of some North American and Asian grasslands. This CO2 -induced enhancement of plant growth, among the highest yet reported, provides evidence from a native grassland suggesting that rising atmospheric [CO2 ] may be contributing to the shrubland expansions of the past 200 years. Encroachment of shrubs into grasslands is an important problem facing rangeland managers and ranchers; this process replaces grasses, the preferred forage of domestic livestock, with species that are unsuitable for domestic livestock grazing.

Peñuelas, J., Prieto, P., Beier, C., Cesaraccio, C., De Angelis, P., De Dato, G., Emmett, B. A., Estiarte, M., Garadnai, J., Gorissen, A., Láng, E. K., Kröel-Dulay, G., Llorens, L., Pellizzaro, G., Riis-Nielsen, T., Schmidt, I. K., Sirca, C., Sowerby, A., Spano, D., Tietema, A. (2007). Response of plant species richness and primary productivity in shrublands along a north–south gradient in Europe to seven years of experimental warming and drought: reductions in primary productivity in the heat and drought year of 2003. Global Change Biology 13 (12): 2563-2581

ABSTRACT: We used a nonintrusive field experiment carried out at six sites – Wales (UK), Denmark (DK), the Netherlands (NL), Hungary (HU), Sardinia (Italy – IT), and Catalonia (Spain – SP) – along a climatic and latitudinal gradient to examine the response of plant species richness and primary productivity to warming and drought in shrubland ecosystems. The warming treatment raised the plot daily temperature by ca. 1 °C, while the drought treatment led to a reduction in soil moisture at the peak of the growing season that ranged from 26% at the SP site to 82% in the NL site. During the 7 years the experiment lasted (1999–2005), we used the pin-point method to measure the species composition of plant communities and plant biomass, litterfall, and shoot growth of the dominant plant species at each site. A significantly lower increase in the number of species pin-pointed per transect was found in the drought plots at the SP site, where the plant community was still in a process of recovering from a forest fire in 1994. No changes in species richness were found at the other sites, which were at a more mature and stable state of succession and, thus less liable to recruitment of new species. The relationship between annual biomass accumulation and temperature of the growing season was positive at the coldest site and negative at the warmest site. The warming treatment tended to increase the aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) at the northern sites. The relationship between annual biomass accumulation and soil moisture during the growing season was not significant at the wettest sites, but was positive at the driest sites. The drought treatment tended to reduce the ANPP in the NL, HU, IT, and SP sites. The responses to warming were very strongly related to the Gaussen aridity index (stronger responses the lower the aridity), whereas the responses to drought were not. Changes in the annual aboveground biomass accumulation, litterfall, and, thus, the ANPP, mirrored the interannual variation in climate conditions: the most outstanding change was a decrease in biomass accumulation and an increase in litterfall at most sites during the abnormally hot year of 2003. Species richness also tended to decrease in 2003 at all sites except the cold and wet UK site. Species-specific responses to warming were found in shoot growth: at the SP site,Globularia alypum was not affected, while the other dominant species,Erica multiflora , grew 30% more; at the UK site,Calluna vulgaris tended to grow more in the warming plots, whileEmpetrum nigrum tended to grow less. Drought treatment decreased plant growth in several studied species, although there were some species such asPinus halepensis at the SP site orC. vulgaris at the UK site that were not affected. The magnitude of responses to warming and drought thus depended greatly on the differences between sites, years, and species and these multiple plant responses may be expected to have consequences at ecosystem and community level. Decreases in biodiversity and the increase inE. multiflora growth at the SP site as a response to warming challenge the assumption that sensitivity to warming may be less well developed at more southerly latitudes; likewise, the fact that one of the studied shrublands presented negative ANPP as a response to the 2003 heat wave also challenges the hypothesis that future climate warming will lead to an enhancement of plant growth and carbon sequestration in temperate ecosystems. Extreme events may thus change the general trend of increased productivity in response to warming in the colder sites.

Pepper, D. A., Del Grosso, S. J., Mcmurtrie, R. E., Parton, W. J. (2005). Simulated carbon sink response of shortgrass steppe, tallgrass prairie and forest ecosystems to rising [CO2 ], temperature and nitrogen input. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 19 (GB1004): doi:10.1029/2004GB002226

ABSTRACT: The response of plant ecosystems to environmental change will determine whether the terrestrial biosphere will remain a substantial carbon sink or become a source during the next century. We use two ecosystem models, the Generic Decomposition And Yield model (G'DAY) and the daily time step version of the Century model (DAYCENT), to simulate net ecosystem productivity (NEP) for three contrasting ecosystems (shortgrass steppe in Colorado, tallgrass prairie in Kansas, and Norway spruce in Sweden) with varying degrees of water, temperature, and nutrient limitation, to determine responses to gradual increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration ([CO2 ]), temperature, and nitrogen input over 100 years. Using G'DAY, under rising [CO2 ], there is evidence of C sink “saturation,” defined here as positive NEP reaching an upper limit and then declining toward zero, at all three sites (due largely to increased N immobilization in soil organic matter) but a positive C sink is sustained throughout the 100 years. DAYCENT also predicts a sustained C sink at all three sites under rising [CO2 ], with evidence of C sink saturation for the Colorado grassland and the C sink levels off after 80 years for the Kansas grassland. Warming reduces soil C and the C sink in both grassland ecosystems but increases the C sink in the forest. Warming increases decomposition and soil N mineralization, which stimulates net primary productivity (NPP) at all sites except when inducing water limitation. At the forest site some of the enhanced N release is allocated to a woody biomass pool with a low N:C ratio so that warming enhances NEP without increased N input at the forest site, but not at the grassland sites. Responses to combinations of treatments are generally additive for DAYCENT but more interactive for G'DAY, especially under combined rising [CO2 ] and warming at the strongly water- and N-limited shortgrass steppe. Increasing N input alleviates C sink saturation and enhances NEP, NPP, and soil C at all sites. At the water-limited grassland sites the effect of rising [CO2 ] on growth is greatest during the drier seasons. Key sensitivities in the simulations of NEP are identified and include NPP sensitivity to gradual increase in [CO2], N immobilization as a long-term feedback, and the presence or not of plant biomass pools with low N:C ratio.

Scott, R.L., Huxman, T.E., Cable, W.L., Emmerich, W.E. (2006). Partitioning of evapotranspiration and its relation to carbon dioxide exchange in a Chihuahuan Desert shrubland. Hydrological Processes 20 (15): 3227-3243

ABSTRACT: Key to evaluating the consequences of woody plant encroachment on water and carbon cycling in semiarid ecosystems is a mechanistic understanding of how biological and non-biological processes influence water loss to the atmosphere. To better understand how precipitation is partitioned into the components of evapotranspiration (bare-soil evaporation and plant transpiration) and their relationship to plant uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) as well as ecosystem respiratory efflux, we measured whole plant transpiration, evapotranspiration, and CO2 fluxes over the course of a growing season at a semiarid Chihuahuan Desert shrubland site in south-eastern Arizona. Whole plant transpiration was measured using the heat balance sap-flow method, while evapotranspiration and net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 were quantified using the Bowen ratio technique.

Before the summer rainy season began, all water and CO2 fluxes were small. At the onset of the rainy season, evapotranspiration was dominated by evaporation and CO2 fluxes were dominated by respiration as it took approximately 10 days for the shrubs to respond to the higher soil moisture content. During the growing season, periods immediately following rain events (<2 days) were dominated by evaporation and respiration while transpiration and CO2 uptake peaked during the interstorm periods. The surface of the coarse, well-drained soils dried quickly, rapidly reducing evaporation. Overall, the ratio of total transpiration to evapotranspiration was 58%, but it was around 70% during the months when the plants were active. Peak respiration responses following rain events generally lagged after the evaporation peak by a couple of days and were better correlated with transpiration. Transpiration and CO2 uptake also decayed rather quickly during interstorm periods, indicating that optimal plant soil moisture conditions were rarely encountered. NEE of CO2 was increasingly more negative as the growing season progressed, indicating a greater net uptake of CO2 and greater water use efficiency due mainly to decreases in respiration.

Van Miegroet, H., Boettinger, J. L., Baker, M. A., Nielsen, J., Evans, D., Stum, A. (2005). Soil carbon distribution and quality in a montane rangeland-forest mosaic in northern Utah. Forest Ecology and Management 220 (1-3): 284-299

ABSTRACT: Relatively little is known about soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics in montane ecosystems of the semi-arid western U.S. or the stability of current SOC pools under future climate change scenarios. We measured the distribution and quality of SOC in a mosaic of rangeland-forest vegetation types that occurs under similar climatic conditions on non-calcareous soils at Utah State University's T.W. Daniel Experimental Forest in northern Utah: the forest types were aspen [Populus tremuloides ] and conifer (mixture of fir [Abies lasiocarpa ] and spruce [Picea engelmannii ]); the rangeland types were sagebrush steppe [Artemisia tridentata], grass-forb meadow, and a meadow-conifer ecotone. Total SOC was calculated from OC concentrations, estimates of bulk density by texture and rock-free soil volume in five pedons. The SOC quality was expressed in terms of leaching potential and decomposability. Amount and aromaticity of water-soluble organic carbon (DOC) was determined by water extraction and specific ultra violet absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA) of leached DOC. Decomposability of SOC and DOC was derived from laboratory incubation of soil samples and water extracts, respectively.

Although there was little difference in total SOC between soils sampled under different vegetation types, vertical distribution, and quality of SOC appeared to be influenced by vegetation. Forest soils had a distinct O horizon and higher SOC concentration in near-surface mineral horizons that declined sharply with depth. Rangeland soils lacked O horizons and SOC concentration declined more gradually. Quality of SOC under rangelands was more uniform with depth and SOC was less soluble and less decomposable (i.e., more stable) than under forests. However, DOC in grass-forb meadow soils was less aromatic and more bioavailable, likely promoting C retention through cycling. The SOC in forest soils was notably more leachable and decomposable, especially near the soil surface, with stability increasing with soil depth. Across the entire dataset, there was a weak inverse relationship between the decomposability and the aromaticity of DOC. Our data indicate that despite similar SOC pools, vegetation type may affect SOC retention capacity under future climate projections by influencing potential SOC losses via leaching and decomposition.

Vourlitis, G. L., Zorba, G., Pasquini, S. C., Mustard, R. (2007). Carbon and nitrogen storage in soil and litter of southern Californian semi-arid shrublands. Journal of Arid Environments 70 (1): 164-173

ABSTRACT: Semi-arid shrublands of southern California, including chaparral and coastal sage, are found in widely varying elevation and microclimatic regimes and are subjected to disturbance such as fire and atmospheric N deposition that have the capacity to alter soil and litter C and N storage. Here we present a case study where soil and litter C and N were measured over 19 months in post-fire chaparral and mature coastal sage stands to assess whether differences in soil and litter C and N between these diverse shrublands could be attributed to differences in elevation, stand age, rainfall, and/or estimated N deposition exposure. Our results indicate that atmospheric N deposition exposure, either alone or in conjunction with other environmental variables (elevation, rainfall, and/or stand age), was the most frequent predictor of the spatial pattern in the soil and litter N and C variables observed. These results are consistent with those reported for high-elevation coniferous forests arrayed along an N deposition gradient in southern California, suggesting that N deposition may affect the soil N and C storage of semiarid shrublands and woodlands in a qualitatively similar manner.

Polley, H.W., W. Emmerich, J.A. Bradford, P.L. Sims, D.A. Johnson, N.Z. Saliendra, T. Svejcar, R. Angell, A. B. Frank, R.L. Phillips, K.A. Snyder, J.A. Morgan (2009). Physiological and environmental regulation of interannual variability in CO2 exchange on rangelands in the western United States. Global Change Biology Early View - Article online in Advance of Print (doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01966)

ABSTRACT: For most ecosystems, net ecosystem exchange of CO2 (NEE) varies within and among years in response to environmental change. We analyzed measurements of CO2 exchange from eight native rangeland ecosystems in the western United States (58 site-years of data) in order to determine the contributions of photosynthetic and respiratory (physiological) components of CO2 exchange to environmentally caused variation in NEE. Rangelands included Great Plains grasslands, desert shrubland, desert grasslands, and sagebrush steppe. We predicted that (1) week-to-week change in NEE and among-year variation in the response of NEE to temperature, net radiation, and other environmental drivers would be better explained by change in maximum rates of ecosystem photosynthesis (Amax ) than by change in apparent light-use efficiency (α) or ecosystem respiration at 10°C (R10 ) and (2) among-year variation in the responses of NEE, Amax, andα to environmental drivers would be explained by changes in leaf area index (LAI). As predicted, NEE was better correlated with Amax than α or R10 for six of the eight rangelands. Week-to-week variation in NEE and physiological parameters correlated mainly with time-lagged indices of precipitation and water-related environmental variables, like potential evapotranspiration, for desert sites and with net radiation and temperature for Great Plains grasslands. For most rangelands, the response of NEE to a given change in temperature, net radiation, or evaporative demand differed among years because the response of photosynthetic parameters (Amax , α) to environmental drivers differed among years. Differences in photosynthetic responses were not explained by variation in LAI alone. A better understanding of controls on canopy photosynthesis will be required to predict variation in NEE of rangeland ecosystems.

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