Soil microbial respiration from observations and Earth System Models

Pu Shao, Xubin Zeng, David J.P. Moore, Xiaodong Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Soil microbial respiration (Rh) is a large but uncertain component of the terrestrial carbon cycle. Carbon-climate feedbacks associated with changes to Rh are likely, but Rh parameterization in Earth System Models (ESMs) has not been rigorously evaluated largely due to a lack of appropriate measurements. Here we assess, for the first time, Rh estimates from eight ESMs and their environmental drivers across several biomes against a comprehensive soil respiration database (SRDB-V2). Climatic, vegetation, and edaphic factors exert strong controls on annual Rh in ESMs, but these simple controls are not as apparent in the observations. This raises questions regarding the robustness of ESM projections of Rh in response to future climate change. Since there are many more soil respiration (Rs) observations than Rh data, two 'reality checks' for ESMs are also created using the Rs data. Guidance is also provided on the Rh improvement in ESMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034034
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Earth System Model
  • climate change
  • heterotrophic respiration
  • parameterization
  • soil microbial respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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