Partitioning of ecosystem respiration of CO2 released during land-use transition from temperate agricultural grassland to Miscanthus × giganteus

J.P. McCalmont* (Corresponding Author), N.P. McNamara, I.S. Donnison, K. Farrar, J.C. Clifton-Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Conversion of large areas of agricultural grassland is inevitable if European and UK domestic production of biomass is to play a significant role in meeting demand. Understanding the impact of these land-use changes on soil carbon cycling and stocks depends on accurate predictions from well-parameterized models. Key considerations are cultivation disturbance and the effect of autotrophic root input stimulation on soil carbon decomposition under novel biomass crops. This study presents partitioned parameters from the conversion of semi-improved grassland to Miscanthus bioenergy production and compares the contribution of autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration to overall ecosystem respiration of CO2 in the first and second years of establishment. Repeated measures of respiration from within and without root exclusion collars were used to produce time-series model integrations separating live root inputs from decomposition of grass residues ploughed in with cultivation of the new crop. These parameters were then compared to total ecosystem respiration derived from eddy covariance sensors. Average soil surface respiration was 13.4% higher in the second growing season, increasing from 2.9 to 3.29 g CO2-C m−2 day−1. Total ecosystem respiration followed a similar trend, increasing from 4.07 to 5.4 g CO2-C m−2 day−1. Heterotrophic respiration from the root exclusion collars was 32.2% lower in the second growing season at 1.20 g CO2-C m−2 day−1 compared to the previous year at 1.77 g CO2-C m−2 day−1. Of the total respiration flux over the two-year time period, aboveground autotrophic respiration plus litter decomposition contributed 38.46% to total ecosystem respiration while belowground autotrophic respiration and stimulation by live root inputs contributed 46.44% to soil surface respiration. This figure is notably higher than mean figures for nonforest soils derived from the literature and demonstrates the importance of crop-specific parameterization of respiration models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-724
Number of pages15
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

This study was primarily supported by the Natural Environment Research Council as part of the Carbo-biocrop project (NE/H01067X/1). Many thanks are due for help in fieldwork (Owen Lord, Laurence Jones and the Aberystwyth University field ops team and farm staff). The write-up of this work has been supported through the MAGLUE project [funded through the SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub and Research Councils UK: NERC, EPSRC (EP/M013200/1)] who continue to support the study site and ongoing greenhouse gas research under perennial energy crops and land-use


  • autotrophic respiration
  • bioenergy
  • CO2 flux
  • eddy covariance
  • grassland
  • heterotrophic respiration
  • land-use change
  • Miscanthus
  • modelling


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