Factors Affecting CO2 Release from Forest and Rangeland Soils in Northern Utah

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Soil Science Society of America Journal






American Society of Agronomy

Publication Date



CO2 release, forest, rangeland, soils, northern Utah

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Last Page



Laboratory and field CO2 efflux measurements were used to investigate the influence of soil organic C (SOC) decomposability and soil microclimate on summer SOC dynamics in seasonally dry montane forest and rangeland soils at the T.W. Daniel Experimental Forest in northern Utah. Soil respiration, soil temperature, and soil moisture content (SMC) were measured between July and October 2004 and 2005 in 12 control and 12 irrigated plots laid out in a randomized block design in adjacent forest (aspen or conifer) and rangeland (sagebrush [Artemisia tridentata Nutt.] or grass–forb) sites. Irrigated plots received a single water addition of 2.5 cm in July 2004 and two additions in July 2005. The SOC decomposability in mineral soil samples (0–10, 10–20, and 20–30 cm) was derived from 10-mo lab incubations. The amount of SOC accumulated in the A horizon (16 Mg ha–1) and the top 1 m (74 Mg ha–1) of the mineral soil did not differ significantly among vegetation type, but upper forest soils tended to contain more decomposable SOC than rangeland soils. The CO2 efflux measured in the field varied significantly with vegetation cover (aspen > conifer = sagebrush > grass–forb), ranging from 12 kg CO2–C ha–1 d–1 in aspen to 5 kg CO2–C ha–1 d–1 in the grass–forb sites. It increased (~35%) immediately following water additions, with treatment effects dissipating within 1 wk. Soil temperature and SMC, which were negatively correlated (r = –0.53), together explained ~60% of the variability in summer soil respiration. Our study suggests that vegetation cover influences summer CO2 efflux rates through its effect on SOC quality and the soil microclimate.


Originally published by the American Society of Agronomy. Publisher's PDF and HTML fulltext available through remote link.