Plant and Soil

, Volume 303, Issue 1–2, pp 323–330 | Cite as

Experimental forest soil warming: response of autotrophic and heterotrophic soil respiration to a short-term 10°C temperature rise

  • Andreas Schindlbacher
  • Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern
  • Barbara Kitzler
  • Robert Jandl
Regular Article


We warmed the top soil of a mature coniferous forest stand by means of heating cables on control and trenched plots within 24 h by 10°C at 1 cm soil depth (9°C at 5 cm depth) and measured the effect on the autotrophic (RA) and heterotrophic (RH) component of total soil CO2 efflux (RS). The short time frame of warming enabled us to exclude confounding fluctuations in soil moisture and carbon (C) flow from the canopy. The results of the field study were backed up by a lab soil incubation experiment. During the first 12 h of warming, RA strongly responded to soil warming; The Q 10 values were 5.61 and 6.29 for 1 and 5 cm soil depth temperature. The Q 10 values for RA were almost twice as high as the Q 10 values of RH (3.04 and 3.53). Q 10 values above 5 are above reasonable plant physiological values for root respiration. We see interactions of roots, mycorrhizae and heterotrophic microbes, combined with fast substrate supply to the rhizosphere as an explanation for the high short-term temperature response of RA. When calculated over the whole duration (24 h) of the field soil-warming experiment, temperature sensitivities of RA and RH were similar (no significant difference at P < 0.05); Q 10 values were 3.16 and 3.96 for RA and 2.94 and 3.35 for RH calculated with soil temperatures at 1 and 5 cm soil depth, respectively. Laboratory incubation showed that different soil moisture contents of trenched and control plots affected rates of RH, but did not affect the temperature sensitivity of RH. We conclude that a single parameter is sufficient to describe the temperature sensitivity of RS in soil C models which operate on larger temporal and spatial scales. The strong short-term response of RA may be of relevance in soils suspected to experience increasingly strong diurnal temperature variations.


Autotrophic respiration Heterotrophic respiration Q10 Soil respiration Soil warming 



We acknowledge funding by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFU) and the Federal Forest Research Centre (BFW). We thank two anonymous reviewers and Sabine Göttlicher for their helpful comments. Special thanks to Christian Holtermann for technical support and Ute Szukics for help in the field.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Schindlbacher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern
    • 2
  • Barbara Kitzler
    • 2
  • Robert Jandl
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Forest Ecology, Department of Forest and Soil ScienceUniversity of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, BOKUViennaAustria
  2. 2.Institute of Forest EcologyFederal Office and Research Centre for Forests – BFWViennaAustria

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