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Rainfall pulse primarily drives litterfall respiration and its contribution to soil respiration in a young exotic pine plantation in subtropical China

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Although litterfall respiration (R L) is a key process of soil carbon dynamics in forests, factors that drive R L and its contribution to soil respiration (R S) have not been sufficiently studied. Using a litter removal method, we researched R L and the ratio of R L:R S in a 20-year-old exotic slash pine (Pinus elliottii Englem.) plantation in subtropical China. Soil temperature explained 67%, 78%, and 25% of variation in R S, mineral soil respiration (R S-L), and R L, respectively, but had little impact on R L:R S. To study influences besides temperature, measured R S and R S-L were normalized using the Arrhenius equation. Even though this subtropical plantation was characterized by a humid climate with abundant precipitation, a rainfall pulse induced increase in soil moisture primarily drove R L and its contribution to R S but depressed R S-L. The response of R L to rainfall and soil moisture was significantly more sensitive than that of R S-L. Furthermore, the effects of rainfall and soil moisture on R S, R L, and R L:R S were higher during the dry season (July–December) than during the wet season (January–June). In the context of climate change, R L and its contribution to R S are expected to decrease because of the predicted decrease in rainfall amount and frequency in subtropical regions.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/x2012-017

Affiliations: 1: Tianjin Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Environment, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387, China. 2: Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China. 3: Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.

Publication date: April 14, 2012

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