A STELLA model to estimate soil CO2 emissions from a short-rotation woody crop
The potential for climatic factors as well as soil–plant–climate interactions to change as a result of rising levels of atmospheric CO2 concentration is an issue of increasing international environmental concern. Agricultural and forest practices and managements may be important contributors to mitigating elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations. A computer model was developed using the Structural Thinking and Experiential Learning Laboratory with Animation (STELLA) software for soil CO2 emissions from a short-rotation woody crop as affected by soil water and temperature regimes, root and microbial respiration, and surficial processes such as rainfall, irrigation, and evapotranspiration. The resulting model was validated with good agreement between the model predictions and the experimental measurements prior to its applications. Two scenarios were then chosen to estimate both diurnal and annual soil CO2 emissions from a 1-ha mature cottonwood plantation as affected by soil temperature, soil (i.e., root and microbial) respiration, and irrigation. The simulation resulted in typical diurnal soil respiration and CO2 emission patterns, with increases from morning to early afternoon and decreases from early afternoon to midnight. This pattern was driven by diurnal soil temperature variations, indicating that soil temperature was the main influence on soil respiration and CO2 efflux into the atmosphere. Our simulations further revealed that the average seasonal soil respiration rate in summer was 1.6 times larger than in winter, whereas the average seasonal CO2 emission rate in summer was 1.77 times larger than in winter. Characteristic annual variation patterns for soil respiration and CO2 emission also were modeled, with both increasing from January 1 through June 30 followed by steady declines from September 1 through December 31. These results suggest that the STELLA model developed is a useful tool for estimating soil CO2 emission from a short-rotation woody crop plantation.