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Publication Information

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Title: Below-ground carbon flux and partitioning: global patterns and response to temperature

Author: Litton, C.M.; Giardina, C.P.

Date: 2008

Source: Functional Ecology 22:941-954

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: 1. The fraction of gross primary production (GPP) that is total below-ground carbon flux (TBCF) and the fraction of TBCF that is below-ground net primary production (BNPP) represent globally significant C fluxes that are fundamental in regulating ecosystem C balance. However, global estimates of the partitioning of GPP to TBCF and of TBCF to BNPP, as well as the absolute size of these fluxes, remain highly uncertain.

2. Efforts to model below-ground processes are hindered by methodological difficulties for estimating below-ground C cycling, the complexity of below-ground interactions, and an incomplete understanding of the response of GPP, TBCF and BNPP to climate change. Due to a paucity of available data, many terrestrial ecosystem models and ecosystem-level studies of whole stand C use efficiency rely on assumptions that: (i) C allocation patterns across large geographic, climatic and taxonomic scales are fixed; and (ii) c. 50% of TBCF is BNPP.

3. Here, we examine available information on GPP, TBCF, BNPP, TBCF : GPP and BNPP : TBCF from a diverse global data base of forest ecosystems to understand patterns in below-ground C flux and partitioning, and their response to mean annual temperature (MAT).

4. MAT and mean annual precipitation (MAP) covaried strongly across the global forest data base (37 mm increase in MAP for every 1 °C increase in MAT). In all analyses, however, MAT was the most important variable explaining observed patterns in below-ground C processes.

5. GPP, TBCF and BNPP all increased linearly across the global scale range of MAT. TBCF : GPP increased significantly with MAT for temperate and tropical ecosystems (> 5 °C), but variability was high across the data set. BNPP : TBCF varied from 0·26 to 0·53 across the entire MAT gradient ( − 5 to 30 °C), with a much narrower range of 0·42 to 0·53 for temperate and tropical ecosystems (5 to 30 °C).

6. Variability in the data sets was moderate and clear exceptions to the general patterns exist that likely relate to other factors important for determining below-ground C flux and partitioning, in particular water availability and nutrient supply. Still, our results highlight global patterns in below-ground C flux and partitioning in forests in response to MAT that in part confirm previously held assumptions.

Keywords: below-ground carbon cycling, below-ground net primary production (BNPP), carbon allocation, gross primary production (GPP), mean annual temperature (MAT), total below-ground carbon flux (TBCF)

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Citation:


Litton, C.M.; Giardina, C.P. 2008. Below-ground carbon flux and partitioning: global patterns and response to temperature. Functional Ecology 22:941-954

 


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