Opportunistic study of soil respiration in the wake of Hurricane Wilma, in a seasonally dry tropical forest

Initially setting out to study diurnal changes in soil CO2 concentrations in relation to soil temperature, Hurricane Wilma gave Vargas & Allen (2008) a very unique and unexpected opportunity to study how canopy recovery influences soil respiration and temperature after a large disturbance. The study site was a Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest (SDTF), on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

Hurricane_Wilma_700wContrary to previous studies, Vargas & Allen (2008) found that soil respiration was 18% higher a year after the hurricane when compared with pre-hurricane measurements, however Hurricane Wilma was a category IV, while previous studies dealt with category I or II hurricanes.

The majority of the soil respiration produced was in the 2-8 cm layer, accounting for 67-70% of the total soil respiration, which did not appear to differ significantly following the hurricane event.

This study was the first to document diurnal soil respiration patterns in a seasonally dry tropical forest. A hysteresis effect was observed, where soil respiration rates were highest at night, which points to respiration processes might be governed by more than just soil temperature.

The authors note that automated measurements of soil respiration have allowed them to better understand patterns of soil respiration processes, and that future studies are needed to determine links between carbon dynamics and photosynthesis, particularly in the wake of a hurricane.

Vargas & Allen (2008), “Diel patterns of soil respiration in a tropical forest after Hurricane Wilma”

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