U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Date of this Version



Environ. Res. Lett. 17 (2022) 054029



U.S. government work


Understanding agroecosystem carbon (C) cycle response to climate change and management is vital for maintaining their long-term C storage. We demonstrate this importance through an in-depth examination of a ten-year eddy covariance dataset from a corn-corn-soybean crop rotation grown in the Midwest United States. Ten-year average annual net ecosystem exchange (NEE) showed a net C sink of -0.39 Mg C ha-1 yr-1. However, NEE in 2014 and 2015 from the corn ecosystem was 3.58 and 2.56 Mg C ha-1 yr-1, respectively. Most C loss occurred during the growing season, when photosynthesis should dominate and C fluxes should reflect a net ecosystem gain. Partitioning NEE into gross primary productivity (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) showed this C 'burp' was driven by higher ER, with a 51% (2014) and 57% (2015) increase from the ten-year average (15.84 Mg C ha-1 yr-1). GPP was also higher than average (16.24 Mg C ha-1 yr-1) by 25% (2014) and 37% (2015), but this was not enough to offset the C emitted from ER. This increased ER was likely driven by enhanced soil microbial respiration associated with ideal growing season climate, substrate availability, nutrient additions, and a potential legacy effect from drought.

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