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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Measuring Carbon Dioxide Flux on Sagebrush Range: Preliminary Results

Authors
item Angell, Raymond
item Svejcar, Anthony

Submitted to: Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: January 15, 1998
Publication Date: June 15, 1998
Citation: ANGELL,R.F., SVEJCAR,A.J., MEASURING CARBON DIOXIDE FLUX ON SAGEBRUSH RANGE: PRELIMINARY RESULTS, EASTERN OREGON AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH CENTER, 1998, PP. 45 - 48.

Interpretive Summary: The subject of carbon flux on how much CO2 a plant community stores or releases has received considerable attention in recent years. Carbon flux measurements are important in gaining an understanding of how vegetation impacts the global carbon cycle and thus atmospheric CO2. Measurements of carbon flux should also provide an index of site productivity. We used a ¿Bowen-ratio¿ unit to measure carbon fluxes over a sagebrush steppe community during a three-year period. There is a flush of CO2 uptake during May and June when soil moisture is adequate and the soils warm. There can be large (100%) year-to-year variation in CO2 uptake even during years with similar rainfall. Our initial results suggest that the sagebrush steppe is a net ¿sink¿ for atmospheric CO2, i.e., more CO2 is stored than is released.

Technical Abstract: Rangeland plants use carbon dioxide (CO2) in the process of photosynthesis to create high-energy organic compounds that are then used for their own growth, or are stored in plant tissues. These stored compounds such as sugar, starch, and cellulose are used as food by herbivores. Measurement of the net uptake of carbon dioxide by plants can provide a new way to measure ecosystem productivity on daily time scales. It also allows us to determine whether rangeland has the potential to capture and store some of the CO2 that is being released by man¿s use of fossil fuels. We used a technique called the Bowen-ratio energy balance method to measure daily CO2 uptake by plants on an ungrazed Wyoming big sagebrush community. Annual patterns of carbon dioxide uptake were very similar, with maximum rates occurring during May and June when soil moisture was high and soils had warmed. We found significant variations from year to year, with maximum rates in 1997 almost twice those observed in 1995 and 1996.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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