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Drought stress reduces the carbon accumulation of the Leymus chinensis steppe in Inner Mongolia, China

Author(s): HAO Yan-Bin | WANG Yan-Fen | CUI Xiao-Yong

Journal: Chinese Journal of Plant Ecology
ISSN 1005-264X

Volume: 34;
Issue: 08;
Start page: 898;
Date: 2010;

Keywords: carbon accumulation | drought | ecosystem respiration | gross primary productivity | Leymus chinensis steppe | net ecosystem exchange

Aims Droughts are common in arid and semiarid regions and affect the capacity of carbon sequestration of grassland ecosystems by influencing the process of ecosystem carbon cycling. We analyzed the continuous measurements of ecosystem CO2 fluxes during three growing seasons (May–September) over a Leymus chinensis steppe in Inner Mongolia in order to examine the effect of drought stress on carbon accumulation of this grassland ecosystem.Methods We used the eddy covariance technique to measure CO2 fluxes during the 2004–2006 growing seasons. Only 126 and 215 mm precipitation fell during the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons, respectively, far less than normal (in 2004, 364 mm); therefore, the steppe was in an extreme drought condition.Important findings Maxima for gross primary productivity (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (Re) were 4.89 and 1.99 g C·m–2·d–1, respectively, in the 2004 growing season (normal year). However, in drought years, GPP and Re were 1.53–3.01 and 1.38–1.77 g C·m–2·d–1, respectively. GPP and Re in the drought years decreased by 68% and11%, respectively, compared with the normal year. Accumulated GPP and Re were 294 and 180 g C·m–2, respectively, during the growing season in 2004 and 102–123 and 132–158 g C·m–2, respectively, in drought years. Accumulated GPP and Re decreased 58%–65% and 12%–27%, respectively, in drought years compared with those of the normal year. The slope of the curve in the sensitivity for Re to Ts (Vant’Hoff type) reached its maximum at θ = 0.16–0.17 m3·m–3; below or above this value of θ, the sensitivity of Re to Ts decreases. GPP and Re decline under drought stress conditions, with GPP having a larger decline. Long-term and continuous drought reduced C-accumulation and resulted in the steppe ecosystem switching from a carbon sink in typical years to a carbon source in drought years.
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