Effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on soil microbial respiration and root/rhizosphere respiration in forest soils

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Abstract

The two main components of soil respiration, i.e., root/rhizosphere and microbial respiration, respond differently to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations both in mechanism and sensitivity because they have different substrates derived from plant and soil organic matter, respectively. To model the carbon cycle and predict the carbon source/sink of forest ecosystems, we must first understand the relative contributions of root/rhizosphere and microbial respiration to total soil respiration under elevated CO2 concentrations. Root/rhizosphere and soil microbial respiration have been shown to increase, decrease and remain unchanged under elevated CO2 concentrations. A significantly positive relationship between root biomass and root/rhizosphere respiration has been found. Fine roots respond more strongly to elevated CO2 concentrations than coarse roots. Evidence suggests that soil microbial respiration is highly variable and uncertain under elevated CO2 concentrations. Microbial biomass and activity are related or unrelated to rates of microbial respiration. Because substrate availability drives microbial metabolism in soils, it is likely that much of the variability in microbial respiration results from differences in the response of root growth to elevated CO2 concentrations and subsequent changes in substrate production. Biotic and abiotic factors affecting soil respiration were found to affect both root/rhizosphere and microbial respiration.

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