Maximum and minimum soil temperatures affect belowground processes. In the past 50 years in arid regions, measured reductions in the daily temperature range of air (DTR air) most likely generated similar reductions in the unmeasured daily temperature range of soil (DTR soil). However, the role of DTR soil in regulating microbial and plant processes has not been well described. We experimentally reduced DTR soil in the Chihuahuan Desert at Big Bend National Park over 3 years. We used shade cloth that effectively decreased DTR soil by decreasing daily maximum temperature and increasing nighttime minimum temperature. A reduction in DTR soil generated on average a twofold increase in soil microbial biomass carbon, a 42% increase in soil CO 2 efflux and a 16% reduction in soil NO 3 --N availability; soil available NH 4 +-N was reduced by 18% in the third year only. Reductions in DTR soil increased soil moisture up to 15% a few days after a substantial rainfall. Increased soil moisture contributed to higher soil CO 2 efflux, but not microbial biomass carbon, which was significantly correlated with DTR soil. Net photosynthetic rates at saturating light (A sat) in Larrea tridentata were not affected by reductions in DTR soil over the 3 year period. Arid ecosystems may become greater sources of C to the atmosphere with reduced DTR soil, resulting in a positive feedback to rising global temperatures, if increased C loss is not eventually balanced by increased C uptake. Ultimately, ecosystem models of N and C fluxes will need to account for these temperature-driven processes.
- Chihuahuan Desert
- Larrea tridentata (creosotebush)
- Plant physiology
- Soil available N
- Soil microbial biomass
- Soil respiration
- Soil temperature fluctuations