Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 709–723 | Cite as

Greenhouse gas flux in a temperate grassland as affected by landform and disturbance

  • Matthew Braun
  • Yuguang Bai
  • Brian McConkey
  • Richard Farrell
  • J. T. Romo
  • Dan Pennock
Research article


Much of the remaining native rangelands in Canada are topographically complex. The flux of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in rangelands of hummocky terrain has not been adequately studied, leaving a gap in the national GHG sources and sinks budget. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of topography and mowing on carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) flux and to correlate these fluxes to abiotic and biotic factors. GHG flux was studied on six landform elements, including north-facing concave and, south-facing concave and convex, upland and depressions, in the Northern Mixedgrass Prairie of Canada over 2 years with mowing being imposed in early spring. GHG fluxes showed strong temporal variations, ranging from 3.0 to 40.4 kg CO2–C ha−1 d−1, 0.1 to 2.6 g N2O–N ha−1 d−1, and −0.25 to −0.01 g CH4–C ha−1 d−1. GHG fluxes responded to changes in soil water and soil temperature across the landscape. The largest production of CO2 was recorded in depression mainly due to its more favourable soil water conditions. Mowing enhanced CO2 flux more than CH4 and N2O fluxes. Dominant plant species varied among the six landform elements, but using plant community type as the direct indicator for GHG emissions in grasslands may not always be reliable when precipitation is low. The net emissions of GHGs from Saskatchewan rangeland was relatively low, but the potential to increase emissions through changes in land management could be high. Our results suggest that in the Mixedgrass Prairie, best management practices for maintaining grassland health such as moderate grazing may also reduce GHG emissions.


Northern Mixedgrass Prairie GHGs CO2 N2CH4 Mowing Landscape 



The Canadian Agri-Food Research Council Biological Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks Program provided research funding, and the University of Saskatchewan and the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative provided scholarships. We thank Frank Krijnen, Bin Xu and Youming Qiao for technical assistance, Ron Dunning for the use of his land, and numerous laboratory technicians for processing samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Braun
    • 1
    • 4
  • Yuguang Bai
    • 1
  • Brian McConkey
    • 2
  • Richard Farrell
    • 3
  • J. T. Romo
    • 1
  • Dan Pennock
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Semi-arid Prairie Research CentreAAFCSwift CurrentCanada
  3. 3.Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  4. 4.Provincial Range OperationsMinistry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource OperationsPrince GeorgeCanada

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