Long-term temporal patterns in ecosystem carbon flux components and overall balance in a heathland ecosystem

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Terrestrial ecosystems have strong feedback to atmospheric CO2 concentration and climate change. However, the long-term whole life cycle dynamics of ecosystem carbon (C) fluxes and overall balance in some ecosystem types, such as heathland ecosystems, have not been thoroughly explored. We studied the changes in ecosystem CO2 flux components and overall C balance over a full ecosystem lifecycle in stands of Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull by using a chronosequence of 0, 12, 19 and 28 years after vegetation cutting. Overall, the ecosystem C balance was highly nonlinear over time and exhibited a sinusoidal-like curvature of C sink/source change over the three-decade timescale. After cutting, plant-related C flux components of gross photosynthesis (PG) aboveground autotrophic respiration (Raa) and belowground autotrophic respiration (Rba) were higher at the young age (12 years) than at middle (19 years) and old (28 years) ages. The young ecosystem was a C sink (12 years: −0.374 kg C m−2 year−1) while it became a C source with aging (19 years: 0.218 kg C m−2 year−1) and when dying (28 years: 0.089 kg C m−2 year−1). The post-cutting C compensation point was observed after four years, while the cumulative C loss in the period after cutting had been compensated by an equal amount of C uptake after seven years. Annual ecosystem C payback from the ecosystem to the atmosphere started after 16 years. This information may be used directly for optimizing vegetation management practices for maximal ecosystem C uptake capacity. Our study highlights that whole life cycle observational data of changes in C fluxes and balance in ecosystems are important and the ecosystem model needs to take the successional stage and vegetation age into account when projecting component C fluxes, ecosystem C balance, and overall feedback to climate change.

TidsskriftScience of the Total Environment
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge funding provided for this project by the Villum Foundation , the INCREASE project (EC FP7, Grant Agreement 227628 ) and AnaEE Denmark ( https://anaee.dk/ ). Additional funding was provided by China Scholarship Council ( 201904910587 ).

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© 2023 The Authors

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