Environmental and vegetative controls on soil co2 efflux in three semiarid ecosystems

Matthew C. Roby, Russell L. Scott, David J.P. Moore, Greg A. Barron-Gafford, Erik P. Hamerlynck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Soil CO2 efflux (Fsoil) is a major component of the ecosystem carbon balance. Globally expansive semiarid ecosystems have been shown to influence the trend and interannual variability of the terrestrial carbon sink. Modeling Fsoil in water-limited ecosystems remains relatively difficult due to high spatial and temporal variability associated with dynamics in moisture availability and biological activity. Measurements of the processes underlying variability in Fsoil can help evaluate Fsoil models for water-limited ecosystems. Here we combine automated soil chamber and flux tower data with models to investigate how soil temperature (Ts), soil moisture (θ), and gross ecosystem photosynthesis (GEP) control Fsoil in semiarid ecosystems with similar climates and different vegetation types. Across grassland, shrubland, and savanna sites, θ regulated the relationship between Fsoil and Ts, and GEP influenced Fsoil magnitude. Thus, the combination of Ts, θ, and GEP controlled rates and patterns of Fsoil. In a root exclusion experiment at the grassland, we found that growing season autotrophic respiration accounted for 45% of Fsoil. Our modeling results indicate that a combination of Ts, θ, and GEP terms is required to model spatial and temporal dynamics in Fsoil, particularly in deeper-rooted shrublands and savannas where coupling between GEP and shallow θ is weaker than in grasslands. Together, these results highlight that including θ and GEP in Fsoil models can help reduce uncertainty in semiarid ecosystem carbon dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSoil Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Drylands
  • Ecosystem respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Pulses
  • Soil respiration
  • Spatial variation
  • Temporal dynamics
  • Water availability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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