June 2, 2020

Predicting Soil CO2 Emissions from Air Temperature

A cheaper, more efficient way to estimate soil respiration and carbon flux

graph with multicolored dots

The mean annual air temperature and precipitation coverage of soil respiration samples used in this study, by ecosystem type. The gray dotes represent worldwide data points.

The Science

Soil respiration—the flow of CO2 from the soil surface to the atmosphere—is one of the largest carbon fluxes in the terrestrial biosphere. In recent DOE-funded study, researchers created a model that predicted annual soil respiration in different parts of the world based on average air temperature for each region.

The Impact

Monitoring greenhouse gas exchange between the soil and the atmosphere is important in tracking worldwide CO2 emissions. Despite this, many regions are either inaccessible or do not have the resources to undertake rigorous research to monitor soil respiration. In this study, researchers found that soil respiration measured at annual mean temperature can be used to predict annual soil respiration. The findings could be used to reduce soil respiration measurement frequency and greatly decrease cost-- enabling easier measurements in low income and inaccessible regions worldwide.


Led by Jinshi Jian of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, this internationally diverse research collaboration used data from more than 800 site-year observations worldwide. The team developed a predictive model to test the relationship between annual soil respiration and instant soil respiration rate at mean annual temperature among diverse ecosystems and climates throughout the world. Air temperature data is more common than soil temperature data, making it a more achievable measurement to gauge carbon emissions in lower income countries. Their results were recently published in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.

PNNL Contact

Jinshi Jian, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, jinshi.jian@pnnl.gov


This research was supported by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), as part of BER’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program [number: DE-AC05-76RL01830].


Published: June 2, 2020

Jian, J., Bahn, M., Wang, C., Bailey, V. L., Bond-Lamberty, B. Prediction of annual soil respiration from its flux at mean annual temperature. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. Volume 287. DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2020.107961