Journal Paper Digests

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Journal Paper Digests 2022 #5

  • Variations and controlling factors of soil denitrification rate
  • Uncovering the critical soil moisture thresholds of plant water stress for European ecosystems

Variations and controlling factors of soil denitrification rate

The denitrification process profoundly affects soil nitrogen (N) availability and generates its byproduct, nitrous oxide, as a potent greenhouse gas. There are large uncertainties in predicting global denitrification because its controlling factors remain elusive. In this study, we compiled 4301 observations of denitrification rates across a variety of terrestrial ecosystems from 214 papers published in the literature. The averaged denitrification rate was 3516.3 +/- 91.1 mu g N kg(-1) soil day(-1). The highest denitrification rate was 4242.3 +/- 152.3 mu g N kg(-1) soil day(-1) under humid subtropical climates, and the lowest was 965.8 +/- 150.4 mu g N kg(-1) under dry climates. The denitrification rate increased with temperature, precipitation, soil carbon and N contents, as well as microbial biomass carbon and N, but decreased with soil clay contents. The variables related to soil N contents (e.g., nitrate, ammonium, and total N) explained the variation of denitrification more than climatic and edaphic variables (e.g., mean annual temperature (MAT), soil moisture, soil pH, and clay content) according to structural equation models. Soil microbial biomass carbon, which was influenced by soil nitrate, ammonium, and total N, also strongly influenced denitrification at a global scale. Collectively, soil N contents, microbial biomass, pH, texture, moisture, and MAT accounted for 60% of the variation in global denitrification rates. The findings suggest that soil N contents and microbial biomass are strong predictors of denitrification at the global scale.

Uncovering the critical soil moisture thresholds of plant water stress for European ecosystems

Understanding the critical soil moisture (SM) threshold (theta(crit)) of plant water stress and land surface energy partitioning is a basis to evaluate drought impacts and improve models for predicting future ecosystem condition and climate. Quantifying the theta(crit) across biomes and climates is challenging because observations of surface energy fluxes and SM remain sparse. Here, we used the latest database of eddy covariance measurements to estimate theta(crit) across Europe by evaluating evaporative fraction (EF)-SM relationships and investigating the covariance between vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and gross primary production (GPP) during SM dry-down periods. We found that the theta(crit) and soil matric potential threshold in Europe are 16.5% and -0.7 MPa, respectively. Surface energy partitioning characteristics varied among different vegetation types; EF in savannas had the highest sensitivities to SM in water-limited stage, and the lowest in forests. The sign of the covariance between daily VPD and GPP consistently changed from positive to negative during dry-down across all sites when EF shifted from relatively high to low values. This sign of the covariance changed after longer period of SM decline in forests than in grasslands and savannas. Estimated theta(crit) from the VPD-GPP covariance method match well with the EF-SM method, showing this covariance method can be used to detect the theta(crit). We further found that soil texture dominates the spatial variability of theta(crit) while shortwave radiation and VPD are the major drivers in determining the spatial pattern of EF sensitivities. Our results highlight for the first time that the sign change of the covariance between daily VPD and GPP can be used as an indicator of how ecosystems transition from energy to SM limitation. We also characterized the corresponding theta(crit) and its drivers across diverse ecosystems in Europe, an essential variable to improve the representation of water stress in land surface models.

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