Paul-Limoges E, Wolf S, Eugster W, Hörtnagl L, Buchmann N (2017) Below-canopy contributions to ecosystem CO2 fluxes in a temperate mixed forest in Switzerland. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 247 (Supplement C): 582-596. [10.1016/j.agrformet.2017.08.011]



Forests are structurally complex ecosystems with several canopy layers, each with distinct functional properties contributing differently to the net ecosystem CO2 exchange. A large number of studies have addressed ecosystem-scale net CO2 fluxes in forests, but only few studies have investigated the role of the forest understory. The goal of this study was to quantify the below-canopy contribution to ecosystem CO2 fluxes of a mixed deciduous forest in Switzerland. Below- and above-canopy eddy-covariance (EC) measurements were made continuously over two years, complemented by within canopy wind and CO2 concentration profile measurements. On an annual basis, the below-canopy fluxes indicated a net carbon source dominated by soil respiration, while the above-canopy fluxes were dominated by tree photosynthesis leading to a net carbon sink. Below-canopy fluxes showed a net carbon sink only in spring, with the early emergence of understory plants before overstory canopy leaf-out. Below-canopy respiration partitioned from the EC measurements agreed well with previous chamber-based soil respiration measurements. However, below- and above-canopy fluxes became decoupled under full canopy closure, thus leading to unaccounted below-canopy fluxes when measured only above the canopy. Wind and CO2 concentration profile measurements supported this finding. Decoupling was independent of low turbulence conditions and decoupled periods could be identified using the relationship between the below- and above-canopy standard deviation in vertical wind velocity. A decoupling correction was applied to the above-canopy measurements during decoupled periods and corrected annual net ecosystem production (NEP) agreed well with independent estimates from biomass inventory combined with models. Overall, the below-canopy fluxes contributed 79% to annual ecosystem respiration, but only 9% to annual ecosystem photosynthesis. The decoupling correction reduced annual NEP for the site from about 760 to 330gCm-2yr-1. Our results showed that below-canopy EC measurements are essential in this mixed deciduous forest, and likely in many other forests, to fully understand the carbon dynamics within structurally complex ecosystems.

LWF Classification

Network: LWF;Laegeren, Sites: Lägeren, Category: ISI,