Contribution of aboveground litter to soil respiration in Populus davidiana Dode plantations at different stand ages


Abstract Soil respiration from decomposing aboveground litter is a major component of the terrestrial carbon cycle. However, variations in the contribution of aboveground litter to the total soil respiration for stands of varying ages are poorly understood. To assess soil respiration induced by aboveground litter, treatments of litter and no litter were applied to 5-, 10-, and 20-year-old stands of Populus davidiana Dode in the sandstorm source area of Beijing-Tianjin, China. Optimal nonlinear equations were applied to model the combined effects of soil temperature and soil water content on soil respiration. Results showed that the monthly average contribution of aboveground litter to total soil respiration were 18.46% ± 4.63%, 16.64% ± 9.31%, and 22.37% ± 8.17% for 5-, 10-, and 20-year-old stands, respectively. The relatively high contribution in 5- and 20-year-old stands could be attributed to easily decomposition products and high accumulated litter, respectively. Also, it fluctuated monthly for all stand ages due to substrate availability caused by phenology and environmental factors. Litter removal significantly decreased soil respiration and soil water content for all stand ages (p < 0.05) but not soil temperature (p > 0.05). Variations of soil respiration could be explained by soil temperature at 5-cm depth using an exponential equation and by soil water content at 10-cm depth using a quadratic equation, whereas soil respiration was better modeled using the combined parameters of soil temperature and soil water content than with either soil temperature or soil water content alone. Temperature sensitivity (Q 10) increased with stand age in both the litter and the no litter treatments. Considering the effects of aboveground litter, this study provides insights for predicting future soil carbon fluxes and for accurately assessing soil carbon budgets.

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