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Forests 2015, 6(9), 2918-2940;

Warm and Fertile Sub-Humid Conditions Enhance Litterfall to Sustain High Soil Respiration Fluxes in a Mediterranean Cork Oak Forest

Institut National de Recherche en Génie Rural, Eaux et Forêts. BP 10, Rue Hedi El Karray El Menzah IV, Ariana 2080, Tunisia
Faculté des Sciences de Tunis, Département de Biologie, Campus Universitaire El Manar, Tunis 2092, Tunisia
CEFE, UMR 5175, CNRS-Université de Montpellier-Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier-EPHE-IRD 1919, route de Mende 34293 Montpellier 5, France
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Maarten Nieuwenhuis and Brian Tobin
Received: 5 June 2015 / Revised: 19 August 2015 / Accepted: 21 August 2015 / Published: 26 August 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenhouse Gas Fluxes from Below and Aboveground Forest Deadwood)
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Soil respiration is a major component of the global carbon budget and Mediterranean ecosystems have usually been studied in locations with shallow soils, mild temperatures, and a prolonged dry season. This study investigates seasonal soil respiration rates and underlying mechanisms under wetter, warmer, and more fertile conditions in a Mediterranean cork oak forest of Northern Tunisia (Africa), acknowledged as one of the most productive forests in the Mediterranean basin. We applied a soil respiration model based on soil temperature and relative water content and investigated how ecosystem functioning under these favorable conditions affected soil carbon storage through carbon inputs to the soil litter. Annual soil respiration rates varied between 1774 gC m−2 year−1 and 2227 gC m−2 year−1, which is on the highest range of observations under Mediterranean climate conditions. We attributed this high soil carbon flux as a response to favorable temperatures and soil water content, but this could be sustained only by a small carbon allocation to roots (root/shoot ratio = 0.31–0.41) leading to a large allocation to leaves with a multiannual leaf production, enhanced annual twig elongation (11.5–28.5 cm) with a reduced leaf life span (<1 year) maintaining a low LAI (1.68–1.88) and generating a high litterfall (386–636 gC m−2 year−1). Thus, the favorable climatic and edaphic conditions experienced by these Mediterranean cork oak forests drove high soil respiration fluxes which balanced the high carbon assimilation leading to a relatively small overall contribution (10.96–14.79 kgC m−2) to soil carbon storage. View Full-Text
Keywords: modelling; soil respiration; cork oak forest; Mediterranean climate modelling; soil respiration; cork oak forest; Mediterranean climate

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Zribi, L.; Mouillot, F.; Gharbi, F.; Ourcival, J.-M.; Hanchi, B. Warm and Fertile Sub-Humid Conditions Enhance Litterfall to Sustain High Soil Respiration Fluxes in a Mediterranean Cork Oak Forest. Forests 2015, 6, 2918-2940.

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