Soil respiration (SR) was monitored periodically throughout 2001 in a Scots pine (>Pinus sylvestris L.) stand located in the Belgian Campine region. As expected for a temperate maritime forest, temperature was the dominant control over SR during most of the year. However, during late spring and summer, when soil water content (SWC) was limiting, SR was insensitive to temperature (Q10 = 1.24). We observed that during prolonged rain-free periods, when SWC was less than 15% (v/v), SR decreased dramatically (up to 50%) and SWC took over control of SR. During such drought periods, however, rain events sometimes stimulated SR and restored temperature control over SR, even though SWC in the mineral soil was low. We hypothesize that restoration of temperature control occurred only when rain events adequately rewetted the uppermost soil layers, where most of the respiratory activity occurred. To quantify the rewetting capacity of rain events, an index (Iw) was designed that incorporated rainfall intensity, time elapsed since the last rain event, and atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (a proxy for evaporative water losses). To simulate SR fluxes, a model was developed that included the effects of soil temperature and, under drought and non-rewetting conditions (Iw and SWC <threshold), an SWC response function. The model explained 95% of the temporal variability in SR observed during summer, whereas the temperature function alone explained only 73% of this variability. Our results revealed that, in addition to temperature and SWC, rain plays a role in determining the total amount of carbon released from soils, even in a maritime climate.
EWI Biomedical sciences