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Title: Characterizing the impact of diffusive and advective soil gas transport on the measurement and interpretation of the isotopic signal of soil respiration

Author: Kayler, Zachary E.; Sulzman, Elizabeth W.; Rugh, William D.; Mix, Alan C.; Bond, Barbara J.;

Date: 2010

Source: Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 42: 435-444

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: By measuring the isotopic signature of soil respiration, we seek to learn the isotopic composition of the carbon respired in the soil (δ13CR-S) so that we may draw inferences about ecosystem processes. Requisite to this goal is the need to understand how (δ13CR-S) is affected by both contributions of multiple carbon sources to respiration and fractionation owing to soil gas transport. In this study, we measured potential isotopic sources to determine their contributions to (δ13CR-S) and we performed a series of experiments to investigate the impact of soil gas transport on (δ13CR-S) estimates. The objectives of these experiments were to (1) compare estimates of (δ13CR-S) derived from aboveground and belowground techniques, (2) evaluate the roles of diffusion and advection in a forest soil on the estimates of (δ13CR-S) and (3) determine the contribution of new and old carbon sources to (δ13CR-S) for a Douglas-fir stand in the Pacific Northwest during our measurement period. We found a maximum difference of -2.36 percent between estimates of (δ13CR-S) based on aboveground vs. belowground measurements; the aboveground estimate was enriched relative to the belowground estimate. Soil gas transport during the experiment was primarily by diffusion and the average belowground estimate of (δ13CR-S) was enriched by 3.8 to 4.0 percent with respect to the source estimates from steady-state transport models. The effect of natural fluctuations in advective soil gas transport was little to non-existent; however, an advection-diffusion model was more accurate than a model based solely on diffusion in predicting the isotopic samples near the soil surface. Thus, estimates made from belowground gas samples will improve with an increase in samples near the soil surface. We measured a -1 percent difference in (δ13CR-S) as a result of an experiment where advection was induced, a value which may represent an upper limit in fractionation owing to advective gas transport in forest ecosystems. We found that aboveground measurements of (δ13CR-S) may be particularly susceptible to atmospheric incursion, which may produce estimates that are enriched in 13C. The partitioning results attributed 69 to 98 perent of soil respiration to a source with a highly depleted isotopic signature similar to that of water-soluble carbon from foliage measured at our site.

Keywords: soil respiration, carbon isotope, advection, diffusion, steady-state, partitioning, Douglas-fir forest

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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Kayler, Z.E.; Sulzman, E.W.; Rugh, W.D.; Mix, A.C.; Bond, B.J. 2010. Characterizing the impact of diffusive and advective soil gas transport on the measurement and interpretation of the isotopic signal of soil respiration. Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 42: 435-444.

 


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