Measuring temperature dependence of soil respiration: importance of incubation time, soil type, moisture content and model fits
Abstract:Developing robust models of the temperature response and sensitivity of soil respiration is critical for determining changes carbon cycling in response to climate change and at daily to annual time scales. Currently, approaches for measuring temperature dependence of soil respiration generally use long incubation times (days to weeks and months) at a limited number of incubation temperatures. Long incubation times likely allow thermal adaptation by the microbial population so that results are poorly representative of in situ soil responses. Additionally, too few incubation temperatures allows for the fit and justification of many different predictive equations, which can lead to inaccuracies when used for carbon budgeting purposes.
We have developed a method to rapidly determine the response of soil respiration rate to wide range of temperatures. An aluminium block with 44 sample slots is heated at one end and cooled at the other to give a temperature gradient from 0 to 55°C at about one degree increments. Soil respiration is measured within 5 hours to minimise the possibility of thermal adaptation. We have used this method to demonstrate the similarity of temperature sensitivity of respiration for different soils from the same location across seasons. We are currently testing whether long-term (weeks to months) incubation alter temperature response and sensitivity that occurs in situ responses. This method is also well suited for determining the most appropriate models of temperature dependence and sensitivity of soil respiration (including macromolecular rate theory MMRT). With additional testing, this method is expected to be a more reliable method of measuring soil respiration rate for soil quality and modelling of soil carbon processes.