The response of soil respiration to warming has been poorly studied in regions at higher latitude with low precipitation. We manipulated air temperature, soil temperature and soil moisture using passive, open-top chambers (OTCs) in three different ecosystem settings in close proximity (boreal forest, riparian area, and semi-arid steppe) to investigate how environmental factors would affect soil respiration in these different ecosystems, anticipating that soil respiration would increase in response to the chamber treatment. The results indicated that OTCs significantly increased air and soil temperature in areas with open canopy and short-statured vegetation (i.e., steppe areas) but not in forest. OTCs also affected soil moisture, but the direction of change depended on the ecosystem, and the magnitude of change was highly variable. Generally, OTCs did not affect soil respiration in steppe and riparian areas. Although soil respiration was slightly greater in OTCs placed in the forest, the difference was not statistically significant. Analyses of relationships between soil respiration and environmental variables suggested that different factors controlled soil respiration in the different ecosystems. Competing effects analysis using a model selection approach and regression analyses (e.g., Q(10)) demonstrated that soil respiration in the forest was more sensitive to warming, while soil respiration in the steppe was more sensitive to soil moisture. The differing responses and controlling factors among these neighboring forest, riparian and steppe ecosystems in Northern Mongolia highlight the importance of taking into account potential biome shifts in C cycling modeling to generate more accurate predictions of landscape-scale responses to anticipated climate change.
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