28 Aug 2023
 | 28 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Forest-floor greenhouse gas fluxes in a subalpine spruce forest: Continuous multi-year measurements, drivers, and budgets

Luana Krebs, Susanne Burri, Iris Feigenwinter, Mana Gharun, Philip Meier, and Nina Buchmann

Abstract. Forest ecosystems play an important role in the global carbon (C) budget by sequestering a large fraction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and by acting as important methane (CH4) sinks. The forest-floor greenhouse gas (GHG; CO2, CH4 and nitrous oxide N2O) flux, i.e., from soil and understory vegetation, is one of the major components to consider when determining the C budget of forests. Although winter fluxes are essential to determine the annual C budget, only very few studies have examined long-term, year-round forest-floor GHG fluxes. Thus, we aimed to i) quantify the seasonal and annual variations of forest-floor GHG fluxes; ii) evaluate their drivers, including the effects of snow cover, timing, and amount of snow melt, and iii) calculate annual budgets of forest-floor GHG fluxes for a subalpine spruce forest in Switzerland. We measured GHG fluxes year-round during four years with four automatic large chambers at the ICOS Class 1 Ecosystem station Davos (CH-Dav). We applied random forest models to investigate environmental drivers and to gap-fill the flux time series. Annual and seasonal forest-floor CO2 emissions responded most strongly to soil temperature and snow depth (2.34±0.20 kg CO2 m-2 yr-1). No response of forest-floor CO2 emissions to leaf area index or photosynthetic photon flux density was observed, suggesting a strong direct control of environmental factors and a weak or even lacking indirect control of canopy biology. Furthermore, the forest-floor was a consistent CH4 sink (-19.1±1.8 g CO2-eq m-2 yr-1), with annual fluxes driven mainly by snow depth. Fluxes during winter were less important for the CO2 budget (6.0–7.3 %), while they contributed substantially to the annual CH4 budget (14.4–18.4 %). N2O fluxes were very low, negligible for the forest-floor GHG budget at our site. In 2022, the warmest year on record with also below-average precipitation at the Davos site, we observed a substantial increase in forest-floor CO2 emissions compared to other years. The mean forest-floor GHG budget indicated emissions of 2317±200 g CO2-eq m-2 yr-1 (mean±standard deviation over four years), with CO2 fluxes dominating and CH4 offsetting a small proportion (0.8 %) of the GHG budget. Due to the relevance of snow cover, we recommend year-round measurements of GHG fluxes with high temporal resolution. In a future with increasing temperatures and less snow cover due to climate change, we expect increased forest-floor CO2 emissions even at this subalpine site, with negative effects on its carbon sink behaviour.

Luana Krebs et al.

Status: open (until 22 Oct 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1852', Andreas Schindlbacher, 15 Sep 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1852', Anonymous Referee #2, 29 Sep 2023 reply

Luana Krebs et al.

Luana Krebs et al.


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Short summary
This study explored year-round forest-floor greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes in a Swiss spruce forest. CO2 emissions were influenced by soil temperature and snow depth, while CH4 uptake related to snow cover. Negligible N2O fluxes were observed. In 2022, a warm year, CO2 emissions notably increased. The study suggests rising forest-floor GHG emissions due to climate change, impacting carbon sink behavior. Thus, for future forest management, continuous year-round GHG flux measurements are crucial.