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Tree Physiol. 2004 Dec;24(12):1387-95.

Contribution of root respiration to soil surface CO2 flux in a boreal black spruce chronosequence.

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  • 1Department of Forest Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


We quantified the contributions of root respiration (RC) and heterotrophic respiration to soil surface CO2 flux (RS) by comparing trenched and untrenched plots in well-drained and poorly drained stands of a black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) fire chronosequence in northern Manitoba, Canada. Our objectives were to: (1) test different equations for modeling RS as a function of soil temperature; and (2) model annual RS and RC for the chronosequence from continuous soil temperature measurements. The choice of equation to model RS strongly affected annual RS and RC, with an Arrhenius-based model giving the best fit to the data, especially at low temperatures. Modeled values of annual RS were positively correlated with soil temperature at 2-cm depth and were affected by year of burn and trenching, but not by soil drainage. During the growing season, measured RC was low in May, peaked in late July and declined to low values by the end of the growing season. Annual RC was < 5% of RS in the recently burned stands, approximately 40% in the 21-year-old stands and 5-15% in the oldest (152-year-old) stands. Evidence suggests that RC may have been underestimated in the oldest stands, with residual root decay from trenching accounting for 5-10% of trenched plot RS at most sites.

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