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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Theoretical model of the abiotic component of soil (CO2)-C-13 tracer efflux in C-13 pulse-labeling experiments on plant-soil systems

Ohlsson, Anders


For measurement of the time lag between photosynthesis and CO2 efflux from soil, the carbon isotope pulse-labeling technique is considered as the most suitable. However, an interference from the abiotic tracer CO2 component is identified as a key difficulty for obtaining accurate results with this technique. Guidelines on how to reduce this interference are therefore urgently needed. The flux of abiotic (CO2)-C-13 tracer into soil during the labeling stage, and its return to atmosphere during the monitoring stage was modeled numerically, and the labeling stage also analytically. The controls of the abiotic interference were investigated using these models. The amount of the abiotic tracer component and the time distribution of its rate of return to the atmosphere, were predicted by these models. The main model parameters were D-m (=the ratio between the soil (CO2)-C-13 diffusivity and the retardation factor), and the (CO2)-C-13 concentration at the soil atmosphere interface during the labeling stage (S-13), while background (CO2)-C-13 soil production parameters were unnecessary. The presented models guide the selection of experimental parameters for minimization of the abiotic interference. With parameterization for a particular case, the present numerical model provides a preliminary order-of-magnitude estimate of the abiotic component, which would indicate if this interference is of significance. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


(CO2)-C-13 tracer efflux; Abiotic interference; Pulse-labeling experiment; Pulse-chase; soil respiration; Superposition of solutions

Published in

Soil Biology and Biochemistry
2011, volume: 43, number: 3, pages: 675-681

Authors' information

Ohlsson, Anders
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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