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Volume 4, issue 2 | Copyright

Special issue: Regional perspectives and challenges of soil organic carbon...

SOIL, 4, 141-152, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-4-141-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Original research article 05 Jun 2018

Original research article | 05 Jun 2018

Separation of soil respiration: a site-specific comparison of partition methods

Louis-Pierre Comeau1,2, Derrick Y. F. Lai1, Jane Jinglan Cui1, and Jenny Farmer3 Louis-Pierre Comeau et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Resource Management, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong
  • 2Fredericton Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fredericton, NB E3B 4Z7, Canada
  • 3Institute of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Aberdeen, 23 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, UK

Abstract. Without accurate data on soil heterotrophic respiration (Rh), assessments of soil carbon (C) sequestration rate and C balance are challenging to produce. Accordingly, it is essential to determine the contribution of the different sources of the total soil CO2 efflux (Rs) in different ecosystems, but to date, there are still many uncertainties and unknowns regarding the soil respiration partitioning procedures currently available. This study compared the suitability and relative accuracy of five different Rs partitioning methods in a subtropical forest: (1) regression between root biomass and CO2 efflux, (2) lab incubations with minimally disturbed soil microcosm cores, (3) root exclusion bags with hand-sorted roots, (4) root exclusion bags with intact soil blocks and (5) soil δ13C–CO2 natural abundance. The relationship between Rh and soil moisture and temperature was also investigated. A qualitative evaluation table of the partition methods with five performance parameters was produced. The Rs was measured weekly from 3 February to 19 April 2017 and found to average 6.1±0.3Mg C ha−1 yr−1. During this period, the Rh measured with the in situ mesh bags with intact soil blocks and hand-sorted roots was estimated to contribute 49±7 and 79±3% of Rs, respectively. The Rh percentages estimated with the root biomass regression, microcosm incubation and δ13C–CO2 natural abundance were 54±41, 8–17 and 61±39%, respectively. Overall, no systematically superior or inferior Rs partition method was found. The paper discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each technique with the conclusion that combining two or more methods optimizes Rh assessment reliability.

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To date, there are still many uncertainties and unknowns regarding the soil respiration partitioning procedures. This study compared the suitability and accuracy of five different respiration partitioning methods. A qualitative evaluation table of the partition methods with five performance parameters was produced. Overall, no systematically superior or inferior partition method was found and the combination of two or more methods optimizes assessment reliability.
To date, there are still many uncertainties and unknowns regarding the soil respiration...
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