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Research on the subterranean CO2 dynamics has focused individually on either surface soils or bedrock cavities, neglecting the interaction of both systems as a whole. In this regard, the vadose zone contains CO2-enriched air (ca. 5% by volume) in the first meters, and its exchange with the atmosphere can represent from 10 to 90% of total ecosystem CO2 emissions. Despite its importance, to date still lacking are reliable and robust databases of vadose zone CO2 contents that would improve knowledge of seasonal-annual aboveground-belowground CO2 balances. Here we study 2.5 years of vadose zone CO2 dynamics in a semiarid ecosystem. The experimental design includes an integrative approach to continuously measure CO2 in vertical and horizontal soil profiles, following gradients from surface to deep horizons and from areas of net biological CO2 production (under plants) to areas of lowest CO2 production (bare soil), as well as a bedrock borehole representing karst cavities and ecosystem-scale exchanges. We found that CO2 followed similar seasonal patterns for the different layers, with the maximum seasonal values of CO2 delayed with depth (deeper more delayed). However, the behavior of CO2 transport differed markedly among layers. Advective transport driven by wind induced CO2 emission both in surface soil and bedrock, but with negligible effect on subsurface soil, which appears to act as a buffer impeding rapid CO2 exchanges. Our study provides the first evidence of enrichment of CO2 under plant, hypothesizing that CO2-rich air could come from root zone or by transport from deepest layers through cracks and fissures.
Sánchez-Cañete, E. P., Oyonarte, C., Serrano-Ortiz, P., Curiel Yuste, J., Pérez-Priego, O., Domingo, F., and Kowalski, A. S. (2016): Winds induce CO2 exchange with the atmosphere and vadose zone transport in a karstic ecosystem . Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 121(8): 2049–2063. doi: 10.1002/2016JG003500