Soil respiration dynamics in forage-based and cereal-based cropping systems in central Italy

ABSTRACT: Studies that have investigated soil carbon dynamics under Mediterranean conditions are scarce and fragmented and contrasting results have often been reported. This study aimed to fill some gaps in our knowledge by: (i) determining annual dynamics of total (RS) and heterotrophic (RH) soil respiration; (ii) estimating annual cumulative RS and RH; and (iii) investigating the relationships between RS and RH and soil temperature and water content. The study was carried out in central Italy, for a plain and a hilly site, with the focus on two main cropping systems: an alfalfa-based forage system and a wheat-based rotation system. RS and RH showed different dynamics, with spatial and temporal variability across these sites. Estimated annual cumulative RS fluxes were 8.97 and 7.43 t C ha–1 yr–1 for the plain and hilly alfalfa-based sites, respectively, and 4.67 and 5.22 t C ha–1 yr–1 for the plain and hilly wheat-based sites, respectively. The RH components of RS were 4.26 and 3.52 t C ha–1 yr–1 for the plain and hilly alfalfa-based sites, respectively, and 3.89 and 2.45 t C ha–1 yr–1 for the plain and hilly wheat-based sites, respectively. A model with a combination of soil temperature and soil water content explained 43 % to 49 % and 33 % to 67 % of the annual variation of RS and RH, respectively. These findings help to extend our knowledge of Mediterranean cropping systems, although further studies are needed to clarify the effects of management practices on the modelling of soil respiration efflux.