Main content area

Biogenic emissions of CO₂ and N₂O at multiple depths increase exponentially during a simulated soil thaw for a northern prairie Mollisol

Phillips, Rebecca L., Wick, Abbey F., Liebig, Mark A., West, Mark S., Daniels, W. Lee
Soil biology & biochemistry 2012 v.45 pp. 14
carbon, temperature, soil properties, soil heating, porosity, emissions, correlation, carbon dioxide, climate models, freezing, frozen soils, gas emissions, gas production (biological), gases, latitude, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, plants, prairies, soil air, soil depth, soil pore system, soil temperature, thawing, North Dakota
The fate of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) belowground is important to current and future climate models as soils warm in northern latitudes. Currently, little is known about the sensitivity of microbial respiration to temperature changes at depths below 15 cm. We used whole-core (7.6 cm dia. × 90 cm) laboratory incubations to determine if temperature response quotients (Q₁₀) for CO₂ and N₂O varied with depth for undisturbed prairie while plants were senescent and clipped at the surface. We collected intact soil cores from an undisturbed prairie in central North Dakota and uniformly subjected them to freezing (5 to −15 °C) and thawing (−15 to 5 °C). We measured rates of CO₂ and N₂O emissions at 5 °C temperature increments at 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75 cm depths. During freezing, active and sterilized core emissions occurred only between 0 and −10 °C. During thawing, a simple first-order exponential model, E = αeᵝᵀ, fit observed CO₂ and N₂O emissions (R² = 0.91 and 0.99, respectively). Parameter estimates for β were not significantly different across depths for CO₂ and for N₂O (Q₁₀ = 4.8 and 13.7, respectively). Parameter estimates for α (emissions when temperature is 0 °C) exponentially declined with depth for both gases for similar depth-response curves. Stepwise regressions of soil properties on α parameter estimates indicated emissions of CO₂ and N₂O at 0 °C during thawing were positively correlated (R² > 0.6) with soil porosity. Results indicate pedogenic properties associated with depth may not necessarily influence temperature response curves during thawing but will affect emissions at 0 °C for both CO₂ and N₂O.