Biological and physical controls of CO 2 flux through snow in a forested ecosystem

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Soil CO 2 efflux is the dominant component of carbon loss in many temperate forests. Wintertime respiration accounts for a significant contribution of the annual carbon loss to the atmosphere from terrestrial ecosystems, but the magnitude of this flux and physical transport mechanisms through snow are unclear. This research examines wintertime CO 2 flux in a lodgepole pine forest in the Upper Stringer Creek catchment at the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest, Montana, USA. I hypothesized that: CO 2 production and efflux during the winter contributes a significant amount (10-20%)of CO 2 efflux to the atmosphere in the Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest; 2) Snow properties, i.e. depth and density, and thereby porosity and tortuosity vary during the winter via snow metamorphosis, thus changing the impediment to flux through the snow medium and CO 2 production increases when the snowpack becomes isothermal during melt due to increased soil moisture and soil temperature. A micrometeorological stations was installed to measure soil water content, soil temperature, incoming and outgoing radiation, albedo, snow depth, snow/soil interface CO 2 concentration, atmospheric CO 2 concentration, three-dimensional wind speed, and above snow/sub-canopy CO 2 flux on a half-hourly basis. In addition, throughout the winters of 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 snow pit analyses was performed in triplicate approximately once monthly and snow depth, density, and temperature were measured in 10-centimeter increments. Three methodological approaches were used to analyze CO 2 flux through the snow pack: Chamber on snow, two-point Fick's law based diffusivity modeling, and snow-surface/subcanopy eddy covariance. The results of the comparison show a significant difference in measured and estimated flux between methodologies during early and late winter, while demonstrating the Fick's based model is can accurately estimate up 75% of measured flux during mid-winter. Observations are consistent with advection, in addition to diffusion, as a mechanism of CO 2 transport through snow such that observation strategies that do not account for advection may underestimate wintertime efflux. Furthermore, all three methodologies indicate that wintertime respiration is a major contributor to the annual carbon budget when mean flux rates are compared to growing season flux rates.




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