Close relationships among climatic factors and soil respiration (Rs) are commonly reported. However, variation in Rs across the landscape is compounded by site-specific differences that impede the development of spatially explicit models. Among factors that influence Rs, the effect of ecosystem age is poorly documented. We hypothesized that Rs increases with grassland age and tested this hypothesis in a chronosequence of tallgrass prairie reconstructions in central Iowa, U.S.A. We also assessed changes in root biomass, root ingrowth, aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), and the strength of soil temperature and moisture in predicting Rs. We found a significant increase in total growing season Rs with prairie age (R2 = 0.79), ranging from 714 g C m−2 in the youngest reconstruction (age 4) to 939 g C m−2 in the oldest prairie (age 12). Soil temperature was a strong predictor of intra-seasonal Rs among prairies (R2 = 0.78–0.87) but mean growing season soil temperature and moisture did not relate to total Rs. The increase in Rs with age was positively correlated with root biomass (r = 0.80) and ANPP (r = 0.87) but not with root ingrowth. Our findings suggest that growing season Rs increases with tallgrass prairie age, root biomass, and ANPP during young grassland development.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jim_raich/20/