Separating the effects of moisture and temperature on soil CO2 efflux in a coniferous forest in the Sierra Nevada mountains

Ye Qi, Ming Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Separating the effects of soil temperature and moisture on soil CO2 efflux is critical to modeling and understanding the belowground carbon dynamics of forest ecosystems. We developed two analytical procedures to separate the effects of soil temperature and moisture, based on continuous measurements of the CO2 efflux, temperature and moisture of the soil at a ponderosa pine plantation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, from May 1998 to August 1999. We found that the combined effects of temperature and moisture on the seasonal variation of soil CO2 efflux could be effectively separated and represented with the product of a temperature term and a moisture term. The relationship between soil CO2 efflux and temperature could be well described using a power function. This relationship was modified by soil moisture which affects only the coefficient, but not the exponent, of the power function. We also found that when soil moisture was held constant, the temperature effect explained 82% of the temporal variation in CO2 efflux of the soil. Similarly, when temperature was held constant, the moisture effects explained 84% of the variation. Temperature and moisture together explained 89% of the total temporal variations in soil CO2 efflux. A multiplicative formulation with power functions representing both temperature and moisture dependences was recommended for modeling soil CO2 efflux. This formulation can be used to model the seasonal trend of soil CO2 efflux of the forest based on temperature and moisture, two key variables influenced by climate change and management practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


  • Coniferous forest
  • Ecosystem carbon dynamics
  • Ecosystem modeling
  • Moisture effect
  • Soil CO efflux
  • Temperature effect


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