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Yohannes et al. 2011. Soil CO2 efflux in an Afromontane forest of Ethiopia as driven by seasonality and tree species

Yohannes, Y., Shibistova, O., Abate, A., Fetene, M., Guggenberger, G., 2011. Soil CO2 efflux in an Afromontane forest of Ethiopia as driven by seasonality and tree species. Forest Ecology and Management 261, 1090-1098.

Variability of soil CO2 efflux strongly depends on soil temperature, soil moisture and plant phenology. Separating the effects of these factors is critical to understand the belowground carbon dynamics of forest ecosystem. In Ethiopia with its unreliable seasonal rainfall, variability of soil CO2 efflux may be particularly associated with seasonal variation. In this study, soil respiration was measured in nine plots under the canopies of three indigenous trees (Croton macrostachys, Podocarpus falcatus and Prunus africana) growing in an Afromontane forest of south-eastern Ethiopia. Our objectives were to investigate seasonal and diurnal variation in soil CO2 flux rate as a function of soil temperature and soil moisture, and to investigate the impact of tree species composition on soil respiration. Results showed that soil respiration displayed strong seasonal patterns, being lower during dry periods and higher during wet periods. The dependence of soil respiration on soil moisture under the three tree species explained about 50% of the seasonal variability. The relation followed a Gaussian function, and indicated a decrease in soil respiration at soil volumetric water contents exceeding a threshold of about 30%. Under more moist conditions soil respiration is tentatively limited by low oxygen supply. On a diurnal basis temperature dependency was observed, but not during dry periods when plant and soil microbial activities were restrained by moisture deficiency. Tree species influenced soil respiration, and there was a significant interaction effect of tree species and soil moisture on soil CO2 efflux variability. During wet (and cloudy) period, when shade tolerant late successional P. falcatus is having a physiological advantage, soil respiration under this tree species exceeded that under the other two species. In contrast, soil CO2 efflux rates under light demanding pioneer C. macrostachys appeared to be least sensitive to dry (but sunny) conditions. This is probably related to the relatively higher carbon assimilation rates and associated root respiration. We conclude that besides the anticipated changes in precipitation pattern in Ethiopia any anthropogenic disturbance fostering the pioneer species may alter the future ecosystem carbon balance by its impact on soil respiration.

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