The critical zone (CZ) is the earth’s porous near-surface layer, characterized by the integrated processes that occur between the bedrock and the atmospheric boundary layer. Within this area water, atmosphere, ecosystems, and soils interact on a geomorphic and geologic template. We hypothesize that CZ systems organize and evolve in response to open system fluxes of energy and mass, including meteoric inputs of radiation, water, and carbon, which can be quantified at point to watershed scales. The goal of this study is to link above-ground and below-ground carbon processes by quantifying carbon pools and fluxes from near surface soils. Soil CO2 efflux and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) are monitored over a two year period across bedrock type and vegetation type at two seasonally snow covered subalpine catchments in Arizona and New Mexico. We measure the amount of DOC present in surface soils, and install ion exchange resins at the A/B soil horizon interface to capture DOC leachate mobilized during snowmelt and summer rainfall. Throughout the summer rain and spring snowmelt seasons we monitor soil respiration of CO2. Preliminary results show that rates of gaseous carbon flux are significantly higher (p<0.05) from soils with schist bedrock (2.5 ± 0.2 gC/m2/d )than from granite bedrock (1.3 ± 0.1 gC/m2/d), and higher from healthy mixed conifer forests (1.9 ± 0.3 gC/m2/d) than from mixed conifer forests impacted by spruce budworm (1.4 ± 0.1 gC/m2/d). DOC leached from soil samples does not vary significantly with bedrock type; however, spruce budworm impacted forests have significantly higher levels of leachable DOC in surface soils (22.8 ± 4.5 gC/m2) than are found in the soils of healthy forests (10.0 ± 1.5 gC/m2) or subalpine meadows (9.1 ± 0.5 gC/m2). The results of this study will allow us to evaluate the variability of carbon fluxes with vegetation and soil type within a shallow soil carbon pool and help constrain the contributions of soil organic carbon to net carbon balance in CZO catchments with seasonal precipitation regimes.
Stielstra, C.M., Brooks, P.D., Chorover, J. (2011): Monitoring Carbon Fluxes from Shallow Surface Soils in the Critical Zone . AGU Fall Meeting Presentations (Poster) Abstract B33G-0556..