Effects of Land Use History on Soil Carbon Dioxide Flux in Ecuadorian Páramo Grasslands

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Julie McKnight, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, United States and Carol P Harden, Univ Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, United States
Soil carbon dioxide (CO2) respiration is a primary mechanism for soil carbon (C) loss and is intricately linked to processes that affect soil C storage. As a result, land-use changes that affect soil CO2 flux (Flux) rates can significantly influence regional C budgets. The páramo grasslands of the high altitude Ecuadorian Andes are important in regional C budgets due to large soil C stocks. Though some forms of land use history have been shown to reduce soil C and affect known drivers of Flux, such as soil moisture (MS) and soil temperature (TS), the effect of land use history on Flux and its role in páramo soil C budgets remains poorly understood. This study investigated Flux differences among sites representing four land-use histories (PA-páramo; PAB-páramo recently burned; NA-native forest; PI-planted pine forest) and assessed the role of MS and TS on Flux rates within and across sites. Flux, MS, and TS were measured over a 3-week period at the Mazar Wildlife Reserve in southern Ecuador. Flux varied significantly among site pairs, except PI and NA. Flux rates were highest in the PI (5.79 g CO2-C m-2 d-1) and NA sites (5.59 g CO2-C m-2 d-1), with Flux rates at PA and PAB of 4.84 g CO2-C m-2 d-1 and 3.76 g CO2-C m-2 d-1, respectively. MS ranged from 29% at PI to 55% at PA, with grass sites having higher MS than forested sites. On average, páramo soils were ~3°C warmer than forested soil, with PI warmer than NA. Across all sites, Flux was weakly, negatively correlated with MS. Flux and TS were positively correlated within each site except PAB; the strongest correlation (p<0.0001) was observed at PI. Our results show that in the Ecuadorian Andes, Flux is significantly affected by land use history with higher Flux rates observed in forested areas than in páramo grasslands. To our knowledge, these are the first Flux rates reported for the Ecuadorian páramo region.