Radiocarbon based assessment of soil organic matter contribution to soil respiration in a pine stand of the Campine region, Belgium
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Plant and soil. - 's-Gravenhage
, p. 273-282
University of Antwerp
The contribution of decomposing soil organic carbon (SOC) to total annual soil respiration (SR) was evaluated by radiocarbon measurements at a Scots pine stand growing on a plaggen soil in the Belgian Campine region. Two approaches were used to estimate the contribution of different C pools to SR. In the first approach, the variations in 14C content of soil CO2 efflux were monitored during one year (2003) and compared to the atmospheric and SOC 14C signatures to determine the contribution of fast (root respiration and fast decomposing SOC) and slow cycling C pools to total SR. In the second approach an estimate of the total heterotrophic soil respiration (Rh), comprising the slow cycling C and the heterotrophic part of the fast-cycling C pools, was derived applying a box model based on the amount of the bulk SOC pool and its 14C-derived mean residence time (MRT). The quantification of the Rh and the decomposition rate of the slow-cycling SOC allows to indirectly determining the contribution of the heterotrophic C that decompose within a year. Measurements of total SR performed in the field allowed assessing the contribution of the different C pools to total soil C efflux. On an annual basis, the fast-cycling C was the main contributor to SR, about 85%, while the contribution of the slow-cycling C (with MRT >1 yr) to total SR was 15%. Total annual Rh was 36% of total SR, which is in the lower range reported for temperate coniferous forests. The comparison of Rh with other estimates for the same site (4750% of total SR) suggest a possible underestimation of the C flux from the mineral soil. In fact, the very old C contained in the plaggen horizon strongly affects the signature of the mostly young C leaving the soil. In conclusion, our results indicate that the contribution of SOC decomposition to total soil CO2 flux in this forest is less than 40%, and at least half of it comes from organic compounds less than 1 year old.