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Carbon Balance Manag. 2008 Dec 1;3:7. doi: 10.1186/1750-0680-3-7.

Seasonal variation of carbon fluxes in a sparse savanna in semi arid Sudan.

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Physical Geography and Ecosystems Analysis, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden.



Large spatial, seasonal and annual variability of major drivers of the carbon cycle (precipitation, temperature, fire regime and nutrient availability) are common in the Sahel region. This causes large variability in net ecosystem exchange and in vegetation productivity, the subsistence basis for a major part of the rural population in Sahel. This study compares the 2005 dry and wet season fluxes of CO2 for a grass land/sparse savanna site in semi arid Sudan and relates these fluxes to water availability and incoming photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD). Data from this site could complement the current sparse observation network in Africa, a continent where climatic change could significantly impact the future and which constitute a weak link in our understanding of the global carbon cycle.


The dry season (represented by Julian day 35-46, February 2005) was characterized by low soil moisture availability, low evapotranspiration and a high vapor pressure deficit. The mean daily NEE (net ecosystem exchange, Eq. 1) was -14.7 mmol d-1 for the 12 day period (negative numbers denote sinks, i.e. flux from the atmosphere to the biosphere). The water use efficiency (WUE) was 1.6 mmol CO2 mol H2O-1 and the light use efficiency (LUE) was 0.95 mmol CO2 mol PPFD-1. Photosynthesis is a weak, but linear function of PPFD. The wet season (represented by Julian day 266-273, September 2005) was, compared to the dry season, characterized by slightly higher soil moisture availability, higher evapotranspiration and a slightly lower vapor pressure deficit. The mean daily NEE was -152 mmol d-1 for the 8 day period. The WUE was lower, 0.97 mmol CO2 mol H2O-1 and the LUE was higher, 7.2 mumol CO2 mmol PPFD-1 during the wet season compared to the dry season. During the wet season photosynthesis increases with PPFD to about 1600 mumol m-2s-1 and then levels off.


Based on data collected during two short periods, the studied ecosystem was a sink of carbon both during the dry and wet season 2005. The small sink during the dry season is surprising and similar dry season sinks have not to our knowledge been reported from other similar savanna ecosystems and could have potential management implications for agroforestry. A strong response of NEE versus small changes in plant available soil water content was found. Collection and analysis of flux data for several consecutive years including variations in precipitation, available soil moisture and labile soil carbon are needed for understanding the year to year variation of the carbon budget of this grass land/sparse savanna site in semi arid Sudan.

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