Variability in temperature regulation of CO2 fluxes and N mineralization from five Hawaiian soils: implications for a changing climate


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We examined the possibility that microbial adaptation to temperature could affect rates of CO2, N2O and CH4 release from soils. Laboratory incubations were used to determine the functional relationship between temperature and CO2, N2O and CH4 fluxes for five soils collected across an elevational range in Hawaii. Initial rates of CO2 production and net N mineralization increased exponentially from 15 °C to 55 °C; initial rates of CH4 and N2O release were more complex. No optimum temperature (in which rates decline at higher and lower temperatures) was apparent for any of the gases, but respiration declined with time at higher temperatures, suggesting rapid depletion of readily available substrate. Mean Q10S for respiration varied from 1.4 to 2.0, a typical range for tropical soils. The functional relationship between CO2 production and temperature was consistent among all five soils, despite the substantial differences in mean annual temperature, soils, and land‐use among the sites. Temperature responses of N2O and CH4 fluxes did not follow simple Q10 relationships suggesting that temperature functions developed for CO2 release from heterotrophic respiration cannot be simply extrapolated. Expanding this study to tropical heterotrophic respiration, the flux is more sensitive to changes in Q10 than to changes in temperature on a per unit basis: the partial derivative with respect to temperature is 2.4 Gt C ·° C−1 with respect to Q10, it is 3.5 Gt C · Q10 unit−1. Therefore, what appears to be minor variability might still produce substantial uncertainty in regional estimates of gas exchange.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-123
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1995


  • carbon cycle
  • microbial adaptation
  • nitrogen cycle trace gases
  • soil respiration
  • tropical soils


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