Ecosystem carbon exchange in two terrestrial ecosystem mesocosms under changing atmospheric CO2 concentrations

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The ecosystem-level carbon uptake and respiration were measured under different CO2 concentrations in the tropical rainforest and the coastal desert of Biosphere 2, a large enclosed facility. When the mesocosms were sealed and subjected to step-wise changes in atmospheric CO2 between daily means of 450 and 900 mu mol mol(-1), net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 was derived using the diurnal changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The step-wise CO2 treatment was effectively replicated as indicated by the high repeatability of NEE measurements under similar CO2 concentrations over a 12-week period. In the rainforest mesocosm, daily NEE was increased significantly by the high CO2 treatments because of much higher enhancement of canopy CO2 assimilation relative to the increase in the nighttime ecosystem respiration under high CO2. Furthermore, the response of daytime NEE to increasing atmospheric CO2, in this mesocosm was not linear, with a saturation concentration of 750 mu mol mol(-1). In the desert mesocosm, a combination of a reduction in ecosystem respiration and a small increase in canopy CO2 assimilation in the high CO2 treatments also enhanced daily NEE. Although soil respiration was not affected by the short-term change in atmospheric CO2 in either mesocosm, plant dark respiration was increased significantly by the high CO2 treatments in the rainforest mesocosm while the opposite was found in the desert mesocosm. The high CO2 treatments increased the ecosystem light compensation points in both mesocosms. High CO2 significantly increased ecosystem radiation use efficiency in the rainforest mesocosm, but had a much smaller effect in the desert mesocosm. The desert mesocosm showed much lower absolute response in NEE to atmospheric CO2 than the rainforest mesocosm, probably because of the presence of C-4 plants. This study illustrates the importance of large-scale experimental research in the study of complex global change issues.


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