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Effects of soil rewetting and thawing on soil gas fluxes: a review of current literature and suggestions for future research

Author(s): D.-G. Kim | R. Vargas | B. Bond-Lamberty | M. R. Turetsky

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 8;
Issue: 5;
Start page: 9847;
Date: 2011;
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The rewetting of dry soils and the thawing of frozen soils are short-term, transitional phenomena in terms of hydrology and the thermodynamics of soil systems. The impact of these short-term phenomena on larger scale ecosystem fluxes has only recently been fully appreciated, and a growing number of studies show that these events affect various biogeochemical processes including fluxes of soil gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ammonia (NH3) and nitric oxide (NO). Global climate models predict that future climatic change is likely to alter the frequency and intensity of drying-rewetting events and thawing of frozen soils, highlighting the importance of understanding how rewetting and thawing will influence soil gas fluxes. Here we summarize findings in a new database based on 338 studies conducted from 1956 to 2010, and highlight open research questions. The database revealed conflicting results following rewetting and thawing in various terrestrial ecosystems, ranging from large increases in gas fluxes to non-significant changes. An analysis of published field studies (n = 142) showed that after rewetting or thawing, CO2, CH4, N2O, NO and NH3 fluxes increase from pre-event fluxes following a power function, with no significant differenced among gases. We discuss possible mechanisms and controls that regulate flux responses, and note that a high temporal resolution of flux measurements is critical to capture rapid changes in gas fluxes after these soil perturbations. Finally, we propose that future studies should investigate the interactions between biological (i.e. microbial community and gas production) and physical (i.e. flux, diffusion, dissolution) changes in soil gas fluxes, and explore synergistic experimental and modelling approaches.
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