Patterns of soil respiration and its temperature sensitivity in grassland ecosystems across China

Jiguang Feng, Jingsheng Wang, Yanjun Song, Biao Zhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Soil respiration (Rs), a key process in the terrestrial carbon cycle, is very sensitive to climate change. In this study, we synthesized 54 measurements of annual Rs and 171 estimates of Q10 value (the temperature sensitivity of soil respiration) in grasslands across China. We quantitatively analyzed their spatial patterns and controlling factors in five grassland types, including temperate typical steppe, temperate meadow steppe, temperate desert steppe, alpine grassland, and warm, tropical grassland. Results showed that the mean (±SE) annual Rs was 582.0±57.9 g C mg-2 yrg-1 across Chinese grasslands. Annual Rs significantly differed among grassland types, and was positively correlated with mean annual temperature, mean annual precipitation, soil temperature, soil moisture, soil organic carbon content, and aboveground biomass, but negatively correlated with soil pH (p < 0.05). Among these factors, mean annual precipitation was the primary factor controlling the variation of annual Rs among grassland types. Based on the overall data across Chinese grasslands, the Q<10 values ranged from 1.03 to 8.13, with a mean (±SE) of 2.60±0.08. Moreover, the Q< 10 values varied largely within and among grassland types and soil temperature measurement depths. Among grassland types, the highest Q<10 derived by soil temperature at a depth of 5 cm occurred in alpine grasslands. In addition, the seasonal variation of soil respiration in Chinese grasslands generally cannot be explained well by soil temperature using the van't Hoff equation. Overall, our findings suggest that the combined factors of soil temperature and moisture would better predict soil respiration in arid and semi-arid regions, highlight the importance of precipitation in controlling soil respiration in grasslands, and imply that alpine grasslands in China might release more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere under climate warming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5329-5341
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2018


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