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Journal Articles Soil Biology and Biochemistry Year : 2023

Accurate evaluation of the Birch effect requires continuous CO2 measurements and relevant controls

Abstract

The influence of dry-wet cycles (DWC) on soil organic carbon (SOC) decomposition is still debated given the somehow controversial results observed in the literature. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of DWC on SOC mineralization relative to various moisture controls in 7 treatments from two long-term French field experiments presenting contrasted SOC concentrations. A laboratory incubation was conducted for 97 days to quantify CO2 emissions upon four soil moisture scenarios: continuously wet scenario at pF 1.5 (WET), continuously moderate wet scenario at pF 2.5 (MWET), continuously dry scenario at pF 4.2 (DRY) and dry-wet cycles (DWC) between pF 1.5 and 4.2. Each cycle contained two phases, 10 days of drying phase, followed by 7 days of moist phase after rewetting. The drying phase consisted of adding silica gel to the incubation jars to absorb water in the soil and then gradually drying the soil. We also calculated the SOC mineralization that would correspond to the average water content in DWC (mean_DWC). Our results showed that across all treatments the daily carbon mineralization rate increased with soil moisture (WET > MWET > DRY). In DWC scenario, mineralization rates fluctuated with the changes in soil moisture. As soils dried, daily mineralization rates decreased and the subsequent soil rewetting, to pF 1.5, caused a rapid mineralization flush or "Birch effect". However, these flushes did not compensate for the low mineralization rates in the drying phase as the cumulative mineralization was not higher in the DWC scenario compared to the mean_DWC which was the scenario with equivalent water content as the DWC. We also observed that not accounting the CO2 emissions in the drying phase, could lead to an overestimation of the effect of DWC. We recommend to measure continuously the soil respiration during dry-wet experiments and to compare the CO2 emitted in DWC with a control that has a water content equivalent to the average water content in DWC. In addition, we questioned the importance of the effect of DWC on overall soil respiration.
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Dates and versions

hal-04300044 , version 1 (03-01-2024)

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Tchodjowiè P.I. Kpemoua, Pierre Barré, Sabine Houot, Claire Chenu. Accurate evaluation of the Birch effect requires continuous CO2 measurements and relevant controls. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 2023, 180, pp.109007. ⟨10.1016/j.soilbio.2023.109007⟩. ⟨hal-04300044⟩
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