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Interactions Among Abiotic Drivers, Disturbance and Gross Ecosystem Carbon Exchange on Soil Respiration from Subtropical Pine Savannas

  • Susanne Wiesner
  • Christina L. Staudhammer
  • Henry W. Loescher
  • Andres Baron-Lopez
  • Lindsay R. Boring
  • Robert J. Mitchell
  • Gregory Starr


Globally, soil CO2 efflux rates (Fs) have been linked to changes in soil water content (SWC), rainfall and temperature and/or productivity. However, within an ecosystem, Fs can vary based on site structure and function, which can be affected by a combination of abiotic and biotic factors. This becomes particularly important when an ecosystem is faced with disturbances, such as drought or fire. Site-specific compensatory responses to disturbances may therefore alter C mineralization, as well as root respiration. Hence, single location Fs estimates may not be a representative for ecosystems across their distributional ranges. We conducted a 6-year study along an edaphic moisture gradient of longleaf pine ecosystems that were maintained with prescribed fire, using eddy covariance and soil respiration measurements to address how Fs varies with changes in ecosystem structure and function, as well as disturbances. Lower air temperatures (Tair) decreased Fs at all sites, but that response was also affected by productivity and SWC. Productivity significantly altered Fs rates at all sites, especially when we accounted for changes in temperature and SWC. Plant regrowth post-fire temporarily increased Fs (10–40%), whereas drought reduced Fs at all sites. Our results show that site productivity, Fs and the degree to which ecosystems adapt to climate variations and disturbance can be site specific. Hence, model forecasting of carbon dynamics would strongly benefit from multi-location measurements of Fs across the distributional range of an ecosystem.


ecosystem carbon dynamics drought gross ecosystem exchange (GEE) Pinus palustris prescribed fire soil respiration 



The authors thank the Forest Ecology laboratory personnel, R. Atkinson, S. George, M. McCorvey, S. Taylor, and R. Winans, as well as the Plant laboratory personnel, L. K. Kirkman and L. Giencke at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center for data collection and provision during the study. SW, GS and CS acknowledge funding for this project from the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center and the College of Arts and Sciences the University of Alabama. HL acknowledges the National Science Foundation (NSF) for ongoing support. NEON is a project sponsored by the NSF and managed under cooperative support agreement (EF-1029808) to Battelle. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our sponsoring agencies. This paper would not have taken shape if it were not for meaningful engagement with community members, Drs. H. L. Gholz (RIP), M. Ryan, K. Nadelhoffer, R. Waring and C. Gough.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 234 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Wiesner
    • 1
  • Christina L. Staudhammer
    • 1
  • Henry W. Loescher
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andres Baron-Lopez
    • 4
    • 5
  • Lindsay R. Boring
    • 4
    • 5
  • Robert J. Mitchell
    • 4
  • Gregory Starr
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.Battelle - National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)BoulderUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Alpine and Arctic ResearchUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Jones Ecological Research CenterNewtonUSA
  5. 5.Odum School of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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