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    ABSTRACT: The full greenhouse gas balance of nine contrasted grassland sites covering a major climatic gradient over Europe was measured during two complete years. The sites include a wide range of management regimes (rotational grazing, continuous grazing and mowing), the three main types of managed grasslands across Europe (sown, intensive permanent and semi-natural grassland) and contrasted nitrogen fertilizer supplies. At all sites, the net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 was assessed using the eddy covariance technique. N2O emissions were monitored using various techniques (GC-cuvette systems, automated chambers and tunable diode laser) and CH4 emissions resulting from enteric fermentation of the grazing cattle were measured in situ at four sites using the SF6 tracer method. Averaged over the two measurement years, net ecosystem exchange (NEE) results show that the nine grassland plots displayed a net sink for atmospheric CO2 of −240 ± 70 g C m−2 year−1 (mean ± confidence interval at p > 0.95). Because of organic C exports (from cut and removed herbage) being usually greater than C imports (from manure spreading), the average C storage (net biome productivity, NBP) in the grassland plots was estimated at −104 ± 73 g C m−2 year−1, that is 43% of the atmospheric CO2 sink. On average of the 2 years, the grassland plots displayed annual N2O and CH4 (from enteric fermentation by grazing cattle) emissions, in CO2-C equivalents, of 14 ± 4.7 and 32 ± 6.8 g CO2-C equiv. m−2 year−1, respectively. Hence, when expressed in CO2-C equivalents, emissions of N2O and CH4 resulted in a 19% offset of the NEE sink activity. An attributed GHG balance has been calculated by subtracting from the NBP: (i) N2O and CH4 emissions occurring within the grassland plot and (ii) off-site emissions of CO2 and CH4 as a result of the digestion and enteric fermentation by cattle of the cut herbage. On average of the nine sites, the attributed GHG balance was not significantly different from zero (−85 ± 77 g CO2-C equiv. m−2 year−1).The net exchanges by the grassland ecosystems of CO2 and of GHG were highly correlated with the difference in carbon used by grazing versus cutting, indicating that cut grasslands have a greater on-site sink activity than grazed grasslands. However, the net biome productivity was significantly correlated to the total C used by grazing and cutting, indicating that, on average, net carbon storage declines with herbage utilisation for herbivores.
    Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 06/2007;
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    ABSTRACT: Summary 1. The mechanisms controlling soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) accumulation are crucial for explaining why soils are major terrestrial C sinks. Such mechanisms have been mainly addressed by imposing short-term, step-changes in CO 2 , temperature and N fertilization rates on either monocultures or low-diversity plant assemblages. No studies have addressed the long-term effects of plant functional diversity (i.e. plant functional composition) on rates of soil C accumulation in N-limited grasslands where fixation is the main source of N for plants. 2. Here we measure net soil C and N accumulation to 1 m soil-depth during a 12-year-long grassland biodiversity experiment established on agriculturally degraded soils at Cedar Creek, Minnesota, USA. 3. We show that high-diversity mixtures of perennial grassland plant species stored 500% and 600% more soil C and N than, on average, did monoculture plots of the same species. More- over, the presence of C4 grasses and legumes increased soil C accumulation by 193% and 522%, respectively. Higher soil C and N accrual resulted both from increased C and N inputs via (i) higher root biomass, and (ii) from greater root biomass accumulation to 60 cm soil depth resulting from the presence of highly complementary functional groups (i.e. C4 grasses and legumes). 4. Our results suggest that the joint presence of C4 grass and legume species is a key cause of greater soil C and N accumulation in both higher and lower diversity plant assemblages. This is because legumes have unique access to N, and C4 grasses take up and use N efficiently, increasing below-ground biomass and thus soil C and N inputs. 5. Synthesis. We demonstrate that plant functional complementarity is a key reason why higher plant diversity leads to greater soil C and N accumulation on agriculturally degraded soils. We suggest the combination of key C4 grass-legume species may greatly increase ecosystem services such as soil C accumulation and biomass (biofuel) production in both high- and low-diversity N-limited grassland systems.
    Journal of Ecology 01/2008; 96(2):314 - 322. · 5.43 Impact Factor
  • Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment - AGR ECOSYST ENVIRON. 01/1996; 60(2):215-217.

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