Merete Bang Selsted:
Global change is a reality. Atmospheric CO2 levels are rising as well as mean global temperature and precipitation patterns are changing. These three environmental factors have separately and in combination effect on ecosystem processes. Terrestrial ecosystems hold large amounts of carbon, why understanding plant and soil responses to such changes are necessary, as ecosystems potentially can ameliorate or accelerate global change. To predict the feedback of ecosystems to the atmospheric CO2 concentrations experiments imitating global change effects are therefore an important tool.
This work on ecosystem-atmosphere exchange of carbon in a heathland under future climatic conditions, shows that extended summer drought in combination with elevated temperature will ensure permanent dryer soil conditions, which decreases carbon turnover, while elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations will increase carbon turnover. In the full future climate scenario, carbon turnover is over all expected to increase and the heathland to become a source of atmospheric CO2.
The methodology of static chamber CO2 flux measurements and applying the technology in a FACE (free air CO2 enrichment) facility is a challenge. Fluxes of CO2 from soil to atmosphere depend on a physical equilibrium between those two medias, why it is important to keep the CO2 gradient between soil and atmosphere unchanged during measurement. Uptake to plants via photosynthesis depends on a physiological process, which depends strongly on the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Photosynthesis and respiration run in parallel during measurements of net ecosystem exchange, and these measurements should therefore be performed with care to both the atmospheric CO2 concentration and the CO2 soil-atmosphere gradient.