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Epron et al., 2004. Spatial and temporal variations of soil respiration in a Eucalyptus plantation in Congo

Epron, D., Nouvellon, Y., Roupsard, O., Mouvondy, W., Mabiala, A., Saint-André, L., Joffre, R., Jourdan, C., Bonnefond, J.-M., Berbigier, P., Hamel, O., 2004. Spatial and temporal variations of soil respiration in a Eucalyptus plantation in Congo. Forest Ecology and Management 202, 149-160

Our objectives were to quantify soil respiration in a 3-year-old Eucalyptus plantation in coastal Congo and to investigate both temporal and spatial variations of this major component of ecosystem respiration. Soil respiration exhibited pronounced seasonal variations that clearly reflected those of soil water content, with minimum values below 1.6 [mu]mol m-2 s-1 at the end of the dry season in September and a maximum value of 5.6 [mu]mol m-2 s-1 after re-wetting in December. An empirical model describing the relationship between soil respiration and soil water content predicts the seasonal variations in soil respiration reasonably well (R2 = 0.88), even if the effects of soil temperature and soil water content may be confounded since both factors co-vary across seasons. Spatial heterogeneity of soil respiration was clearly affected by management practices with higher respiration rate in slash inter-rows which received higher amounts of detritus at the logging stage, and lower respiration rate in haulage inter-rows used for heavy vehicle traffic. Higher values of soil respiration were also recorded in the vicinity of trunks than in the middle of the inter-rows. While soil water content is the main determinant of seasonal variation of soil respiration, it poorly accounts for its spatial variability over the experimental stand, except for days with low soil water content. Soil respiration was related neither to root biomass nor to soil carbon content, but was positively correlated with both leaf and total aboveground litter (i.e. leaf, bark and woody debris). Plots exhibiting the highest soil respiration also contained the highest amounts of aboveground litter. Microbial respiration associated with litter decomposition is likely a major component of soil respiration, and the spatial heterogeneity in litter fall probably accounts for most of its spatial variability in this Eucalyptus plantation.

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