Interpreting the dependence of soil respiration on soil temperature and water content in a boreal aspen stand

David Gaumont-Guay, T. Andrew Black, Tim J. Griffis, Alan G. Barr, Rachhpal S. Jassal, Zoran Nesic

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279 Scopus citations


Continuous half-hourly measurements of soil CO2 efflux made between January and December 2001 in a mature trembling aspen stand located at the southern edge of the boreal forest in Canada were used to investigate the seasonal and diurnal dependence of soil respiration (Rs) on soil temperature (Ts) and water content (θ). Daily mean Rs varied from a minimum of 0.1 μmol m-2 s-1 in February to a maximum of 9.2 μmol m-2 s-1 in mid-July. Daily mean Ts at the 2-cm depth was the primary variable accounting for the temporal variation of Rs and no differences between Arrhenius and Q10 response functions were found to describe the seasonal relationship. Rs at 10 °C (Rs10) and the temperature sensitivity of Rs (Q10Rs) calculated at the seasonal time scale were 3.8 μmol m-2 s-1 and 3.8, respectively. Temperature normalization of daily mean Rs (RsN) revealed that θ in the 0-15 cm soil layer was the secondary variable accounting for the temporal variation of Rs during the growing season. Daily RsN showed two distinctive phases with respect to soil water field capacity in the 0-15 cm layer (θfc, ∼0.30 m3 m-3): (1) RsN was strongly reduced when θ decreased below θfc, which reflected a reduction in microbial decomposition, and (2) RsN slightly decreased when θ increased above θfc, which reflected a restriction of CO2 or O2 transport in the soil profile. Diurnal variations of half-hourly Rs were usually out of phase with Ts at the 2-cm depth, which resulted in strong diurnal hysteresis between the two variables. Daily nighttime Rs10 and Q10Rs parameters calculated from half-hourly nighttime measurements of Rs and Ts at the 2-cm depth (when there was steady cooling of the soil) varied greatly during the growing season and ranged from 6.8 to 1.6 μmol m-2 s-1 and 5.5 to 1.3, respectively. On average, daily nighttime Rs10 (4.5 μmol m-2 s-1) and Q10Rs (2.8) were higher and lower, respectively, than the values obtained from the seasonal relationship. Seasonal variations of these daily parameters were highly correlated with variations of θ in the 0-15 cm soil layer, with a tendency of low Rs10 and Q10Rs values at low θ. Overall, the use of seasonal Rs10 and Q10Rs parameters led to an overestimation of daily ranges of half-hourly Rs (ΔRs) during drought conditions, which supported findings that the short-term temperature sensitivity of Rs was lower during periods of low θ. The use of daily nighttime Rs10 and Q10Rs parameters greatly helped at simulating ΔRs during these periods but did not improve the estimation of half-hourly Rs throughout the year as it could not account for the diurnal hysteresis effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-235
Number of pages16
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Nov 30 2006

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 (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 technical assistance of Andrew Sauter for the development of the automated chamber system and the support from Dave Wieder and Parks Canada for maintaining the equipment in the field. The authors also wish to thank Michael Novak, Robert Guy, Cindy Prescott and two anonymous reviewers for constructive reviews of the manuscript.


  • Carbon exchange
  • Populus tremuloides
  • Soil CO efflux
  • Temperature sensitivity


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