Soil respiration in European grasslands in relation to climate and assimilate supply

Michael Bahn*, Mirco Rodeghiero, Margaret Anderson-Dunn, Sabina Dore, Cristina Gimeno, Matthias Drösler, Michael Williams, Christof Ammann, Frank Berninger, Chris Flechard, Stephanie Jones, Manuela Balzarolo, Suresh Kumar, Christian Newesely, Tibor Priwitzer, Antonio Raschi, Rolf Siegwolf, Sanna Susiluoto, John Tenhunen, Georg WohlfahrtAlexander Cernusca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

273 Citations (Scopus)


Soil respiration constitutes the second largest flux of carbon (C) between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. This study provides a synthesis of soil respiration (Rs) in 20 European grasslands across a climatic transect, including ten meadows, eight pastures and two unmanaged grasslands. Maximum rates of Rs (Rs max), Rs at a reference soil temperature (10°C; Rs 10) and annual Rs (estimated for 13 sites) ranged from 1.9 to 15.9 μmol CO2 m -2 s-1, 0.3 to 5.5 μmol CO2 m-2 s-1 and 58 to 1988 g C m-2 y-1, respectively. Values obtained for Central European mountain meadows are amongst the highest so far reported for any type of ecosystem. Across all sites Rs max was closely related to Rs 10. Assimilate supply affected R s at timescales from daily (but not necessarily diurnal) to annual. Reductions of assimilate supply by removal of aboveground biomass through grazing and cutting resulted in a rapid and a significant decrease of R s. Temperature-independent seasonal fluctuations of R s of an intensively managed pasture were closely related to changes in leaf area index (LAI). Across sites Rs 10 increased with mean annual soil temperature (MAT), LAI and gross primary productivity (GPP), indicating that assimilate supply overrides potential acclimation to prevailing temperatures. Also annual Rs was closely related to LAI and GPP. Because the latter two parameters were coupled to MAT, temperature was a suitable surrogate for deriving estimates of annual Rs across the grasslands studied. These findings contribute to our understanding of regional patterns of soil C fluxes and highlight the importance of assimilate supply for soil CO2 emissions at various timescales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1352-1367
Number of pages16
Issue number8
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Gross primary productivity
  • Land use
  • Leaf area index
  • Moisture
  • Soil carbon
  • Soil CO efflux
  • Temperature


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