In mountainous landscapes, soil moisture is highly dynamic due to the effects of topography and the temporal variability imposed by seasonal precipitation, including rainfall and snow. Soil moisture is known to affect ecosystem carbon exchange both aboveground and belowground, as well as the stable isotopic composition of exchanged CO2. In this study we used an extensive suite of measurements to examine the effects of seasonal changes in soil moisture on the isotopic composition of soil CO2 production at the landscape level. We show that the seasonal decline in soil moisture (i.e., summer dry-down) appeared to impose a trend in the δ13C of soil CO2 production (δP) with more negative δP early in the growing season when soils were wet, and more positive δP as the growing season progressed and soils dried out. This seemingly generalizable pattern for a snow-dominated watershed is likely to represent the variability of recently assimilated C, tracked through the plant-soil system and imprinted in the respired CO2. Thus, our observations suggest that, at least for mountainous environments, seasonal changes in δP are largely mediated by soil moisture and their spatial variability is partially organized by topography.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)