Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 11671-11704, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in BG.
The impact of extreme summer drought on the short-term carbon coupling of photosynthesis to soil CO2 efflux in a temperate grassland
S. Burri1, P. Sturm1,*, U. E. Prechsl1, A. Knohl2, and N. Buchmann1
1Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
2Büsgen-Institute, Chair of Bioclimatology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
*now at: Tofwerk AG, Thun, Switzerland

Abstract. Along with predicted climate change, increased risks for summer drought are projected for Central Europe. However, large knowledge gaps exist in terms of how drought events influence the short-term ecosystem carbon cycle. Here, we present results from 13CO2 pulse labeling experiments at an intensively managed lowland grassland in Switzerland. We investigated the effect of extreme summer drought on the short-term coupling of freshly assimilated photosynthates in shoots to roots as well as to soil CO2 efflux.

Summer drought was simulated using rainout shelters during two field seasons (2010 and 2011). Soil CO2 efflux and its isotopic composition were measured with custom-built chambers coupled to a quantum cascade laser spectrometer (QCLAS-ISO, Aerodyne Research Inc., MA, USA). During the 90 min pulse labeling experiments, we added 99.9 atom % 13CO2 to the grass sward. In addition to the isotopic analysis of soil CO2 efflux, this label was traced over 31 days into bulk shoots, roots and soil.

Drought reduced the incorporation of recently fixed carbon into shoots and increased carbon allocation below-ground relative to total tracer uptake. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find a change in allocation speed in response to drought, although drought clearly reduced soil CO2 efflux rates. 19 days after pulse labeling, only about 60% of total tracer uptake was lost via soil CO2 efflux under drought compared to about 75% under control conditions. Predisposition of grassland by spring drought lead to different responses to summer drought in 2011 compared to 2010, suggesting increased sensitivity of grassland to consecutive drought events as predicted under future climate change.

Citation: Burri, S., Sturm, P., Prechsl, U. E., Knohl, A., and Buchmann, N.: The impact of extreme summer drought on the short-term carbon coupling of photosynthesis to soil CO2 efflux in a temperate grassland, Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 11671-11704, doi:10.5194/bgd-10-11671-2013, 2013.
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