Aims As the second largest C flux between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems, soil respiration plays a vital role in regulating atmosphere CO2 concentration. Therefore, understanding the response of soil respiration to the increasing nitrogen deposition is urgently needed for prediction of future climate change. However, it is still unclear how nitrogen deposition influences soil respiration of shrubland in subtropical China. Our objectives were to explore the effects of different levels of nitrogen fertilization on soil respiration, root biomass increment, and litter biomass, and to analyze the relationships between soil respiration and soil temperature and moisture.
Methods From January 2013 to September 2014, we conducted a short-term simulated nitrogen deposition experiment in the Rhododendron simsii shrubland of Dawei Mountain, located in Hunan Province, southern China. Four levels of nitrogen addition treatments (each level with three replicates) were established: control (CK, no nitrogen addition), low nitrogen addition (LN, 2 g·m-2·a-1), medium nitrogen addition (MN, 5 g·m-2·a-1) and high nitrogen addition (HN, 10 g·m-2·a-1). Soil respiration was measured by LI-8100 soil CO2 efflux system. At the same time, we measured root biomass increment and litter biomass in each plot.
Important findings Soil respiration exhibited a strong seasonal pattern, with the highest rates found in summer and the lowest rates in winter. Annual accumulative soil respiration rate in the CK, LN, MN and HN was (2.37 ± 0.39), (2.79 ± 0.42), (2.26 ± 0.38) and (2.30 ± 0.36) kg CO2·m-2, respectively. Annual mean soil respiration rate in the CK, LN, MN and HN was (1.71 ± 0.28), (2.01 ± 0.30), (1.63 ± 0.27) and (1.66 ± 0.26) μmol CO2·m-2·s-1, respectively, and it was 17.25% higher in the LN treatment compared with CK (p = 0.06). The root biomass increment was increased by LN, MN, and HN treatments by 18.36%, 36.49% and 61.63%, respectively, compared to CK. The litter biomass was increased by LN, MN, and HN treatments by 35.87%, 22.17% and 15.35%, respectively, compared with CK. Soil respiration exhibited a significant exponential relationship with soil temperature (p < 0.01, R2 is 0.77 to 0.82) and a significant linear relationship with soil moisture at the depth of 5 cm (p < 0.05, R2 is 0.10 to 0.15). The temperature sensitivity (Q10) value of CK, LN, MN and HN plots was 3.96, 3.60, 3.71 and 3.51, respectively. These results suggested that nitrogen addition promoted plant growth and decreased the temperature sensitivity of soil respiration. The increase of root biomass under N addition may be an important reason for the change of soil respiration in the study area.