Antecedent Conditions Influence Soil Respiration Differences in Shrub and Grass Patches

Jessica M. Cable, Kiona Ogle, Greg A. Barron-Gafford, Lisa P. Bentley, William L. Cable, Russell L. Scott, David G. Williams, Travis E. Huxman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Quantifying the response of soil respiration to past environmental conditions is critical for predicting how future climate and vegetation change will impact ecosystem carbon balance. Increased shrub dominance in semiarid grasslands has potentially large effects on soil carbon cycling. The goal of this study was to characterize the effect of antecedent moisture and temperature conditions on soil respiration in a grassland now dominated by shrubs. Continuous measurements of soil respiration, soil temperature, and soil moisture were made over the entire summer of 2005 within distinct vegetation microsites in this shrubland community-under grasses, shrubs, and in open spaces. We analyzed these data within a Bayesian framework that allowed us to evaluate the time-scale over which antecedent conditions influence soil respiration. The addition of antecedent conditions explained an additional 16% of the variation in soil respiration. High soil moisture during the preceding month increased respiration rates in both the grass and shrub microsites. However, the time period over which antecedent soil moisture influenced the temperature sensitivity of soil respiration was shorter in the shrub compared to the grass microsites (1 vs. 2 weeks, respectively). The depth of moisture was important; for example, for respiration under shrubs, near-surface moisture was more influential on the day of the respiration measurement but subsurface moisture was more influential on the antecedent time scale. Although more mechanistic studies are required, this study is the first to reveal that shrub encroachment changes the time scales over which soil moisture and temperature affect soil respiration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1230-1247
Number of pages18
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Sonoran desert
  • ecohydrology
  • lag effects
  • pulse response
  • shrub encroachment
  • temperature sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology


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