Hydrologic flow and connectivity act as important determinants of ecological pattern and process in heterogeneous landscapes. Here we examine how the routing of water through the drainage network of an upper Sonoran Desert basin influences landscape patterns of soil respiration (SR) at both seasonal and event-based timescales. At seasonal timescales, SR varied up to 13-fold with downstream position in the drainage network, and annual estimates of CO2 efflux ranged from 185 g C·m−2·yr−1 to 1190 g C·m−2·yr−1 for sites arrayed along the same flow path. Spatial patterns of SR were unrelated to the carbon and water content of surface soils, but rather tracked changes in plant size and productivity, which in turn reflect downstream increases in groundwater availability. The relative importance of precipitation and temperature as drivers of SR also changed with landscape position, with the latter becoming more important in downstream locations. At the scale of individual precipitation events, SR increased up to 30-fold upon rewetting but typically returned to background levels within 24 h, even when soil moisture remained elevated. Unlike patterns observed at seasonal scales, event-based losses of CO2 varied across the landscape as a function of the organic-matter content in surface soils. Results from labile carbon amendments confirm that CO2 losses following precipitation pulses are initially constrained by substrate availability, not soil drying. By mediating spatial patterns of vegetation structure and soil resource availability, drainage networks represent an important physical template upon which belowground processes are organized in desert basins.
|Date made available||Jan 1 2016|
|Publisher||figshare Academic Research System|