Elevated CO2 and temperature increase soil C losses from a soybean–maize ecosystem

Christopher K. Black, Sarah C. Davis, Tara W. Hudiburg, Carl J. Bernacchi, Evan H. DeLucia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Warming temperatures and increasing CO2 are likely to have large effects on the amount of carbon stored in soil, but predictions of these effects are poorly constrained. We elevated temperature (canopy: +2.8 °C; soil growing season: +1.8 °C; soil fallow: +2.3 °C) for 3 years within the 9th–11th years of an elevated CO2 (+200 ppm) experiment on a maize–soybean agroecosystem, measured respiration by roots and soil microbes, and then used a process-based ecosystem model (DayCent) to simulate the decadal effects of warming and CO2 enrichment on soil C. Both heating and elevated CO2 increased respiration from soil microbes by ~20%, but heating reduced respiration from roots and rhizosphere by ~25%. The effects were additive, with no heat × CO2 interactions. Particulate organic matter and total soil C declined over time in all treatments and were lower in elevated CO2 plots than in ambient plots, but did not differ between heat treatments. We speculate that these declines indicate a priming effect, with increased C inputs under elevated CO2 fueling a loss of old soil carbon. Model simulations of heated plots agreed with our observations and predicted loss of ~15% of soil organic C after 100 years of heating, but simulations of elevated CO2 failed to predict the observed C losses and instead predicted a ~4% gain in soil organic C under any heating conditions. Despite model uncertainty, our empirical results suggest that combined, elevated CO2 and temperature will lead to long-term declines in the amount of carbon stored in agricultural soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-445
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • DayCent
  • climate change
  • priming
  • soil respiration
  • soybean free-air concentration enrichment
  • warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Elevated CO2 and temperature increase soil C losses from a soybean–maize ecosystem'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this