CO2 efflux at the soil surface is the result of respiration in different depths that are subjected to variable temperatures at the same time. Therefore, the temperature measurement depth affects the apparent temperature sensitivity of field-measured soil respiration. We summarize existing literature evidence on the importance of this effect, and describe a simple model to understand and estimate the magnitude of this potential error source for heterotrophic respiration. The model is tested against field measurements. We discuss the influence of climate (annual and daily temperature amplitude), soil properties (vertical distribution of CO2 sources, thermal and gas diffusivity), and measurement schedule (frequency, study duration, and time averaging). Q10 as a commonly used parameter describing the temperature sensitivity of soil respiration is taken as an example and computed for different combinations of the above conditions. We define conditions and data acquisition and analysis strategies that lead to lower errors in field-based Q10 determination. It was found that commonly used temperature measurement depths are likely to result in an underestimation of temperature sensitivity in field experiments. Our results also apply to activation energy as an alternative temperature sensitivity parameter.
Graf, A., Weihermüller, L., Huisman, J. A., Herbst, M., Bauer, J., & Vereecken, H. (2008). Measurement depth effects on the apparent temperature sensitivity of soil respiration in field studies. Biogeosciences, 5(4), 1175–1188. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-5-1175-2008