Eight years of forest-floor CO2 exchange in a boreal black spruce forest: Spatial integration and long-term temporal trends

D. Gaumont-Guay, T. A. Black, A. G. Barr, T. J. Griffis, R. S. Jassal, P. Krishnan, N. Grant, Z. Nesic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Automated measurements of the net forest-floor CO2 exchange (NFFE) were made in a mature (130-year-old) boreal black spruce forest over an 8-year period (2002-2009) with the objectives of (1) quantifying the spatial and temporal (seasonal and interannual) patterns in NFFE, soil respiration (SR) and gross forest-floor photosynthesis (GFFP), and (2) better understanding the key climatic controls on each component at both time scales. Scaling-up of the component fluxes to the stand level showed that the feather moss community accounted for more than 85% of NFFE and SR, and more than 70% of GFFP. The remainder was partitioned almost equally between the sphagnum and lichen communities for all components fluxes, while the exposed mineral soil in hollows accounted for less than 1% of NFFE and SR. Soil temperature (Ts) was the dominant climate variable determining seasonal trends in NFFE and SR. The shape of the exponential response was, however, strongly modulated by soil water content (SWC) in the surface organic horizon, with reduced apparent temperature sensitivity at low SWC. A lowering of the water table depth also had an effect on NFFE and SR, although very weak, with increased CO2 loss from the hollows likely due to improved soil aeration. Air temperature (Ta) was the dominant climate variable determining seasonal trends in GFFP, while plant water status seemed to have played a minor role. Although not statistically significant (p=0.9907), annual totals of scaled-up NFFE varied from 505±121 to 601±144gCm-2y-1 over the 8-year period. The lowest NFFE was observed in 2004, the coldest and wettest year on record, while the highest was observed in 2005, a warmer year with slightly above-average precipitation. SR, by far the dominant component of the forest-floor CO2 exchange, closely followed the inter-annual trends in NFFE, while GFFP was lowest in 2004 and highest in 2003, also a cold year but with very low precipitation. Over the 8-year period, winter NFFE contributed 7% to annual NFFE while GFFP during the growing season reduced losses due to SR by 18%.While strong correlations were observed between the component fluxes and temperature (Ts or Ta) and SWC at the seasonal time scale, the mean annual values of these climate variables were poor predictors of the inter-annual trends when considered individually. Combining multiplicatively Ts and SWC for NFFE and SR, and Ta and SWC for GFFP, significantly increased the predictive ability of the models. The difference in predictability of the two time scales poses some interesting challenges for interpreting and modeling the long-term temporal trends in NFEE and its components. The results obtained in this relatively long-term study suggest that the inter-annual variability in the component fluxes was not driven by the mean annual climate conditions, but rather the shorter time scale changes in climate conditions, i.e. changes that occurred within days, weeks and/or seasons. Moreover, it appeared that the timing of the climatic changes within each year was also critical, spring and summer conditions having a far greater impact than fall and winter conditions in this stand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-35
Number of pages11
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
StatePublished - Jan 15 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Fonds de Recherche sur la nature et les Technologies du Québec (FCAR) in the form of a three-year graduate scholarship to DGG and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through an operating grant to TAB. Additional support was provided by the Fluxnet Canada Research Network and the Canadian Carbon Program (through NSERC, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS) and BIOCAP Canada) and the Meteorological Service of Canada through a Contribution Agreement to the University of British Columbia. The authors sincerely acknowledge the contribution of two anonymous reviewers which greatly improved the manuscript, the technical assistance of Andrew Sauter for the development of the automated chamber systems and the support of various contractors as well as employees of the Meteorological Service of Canada for installing and maintaining the equipment in the field.


  • Carbon balance
  • Forest-floor photosynthesis
  • Soil CO efflux
  • Soil water content
  • Temperature
  • Water table depth


Dive into the research topics of 'Eight years of forest-floor CO2 exchange in a boreal black spruce forest: Spatial integration and long-term temporal trends'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this