May 27, 2020
Journal Article

Using greenhouse gas fluxes to define soil functional types

Benjamin Bond-Lamberty
Sandra Petrakis
Josep Barba
Rodrigo Vargas


Soils provide key ecosystem services and directly control ecosystem functions; thus, there is a need to define the reference state of soil functionality. Most common functional classifications of ecosystems are vegetation-centered and neglect soil characteristics and processes. We propose Soil Functional Types (SFTs) as a conceptual approach to represent and describe the functionality of soils based on characteristics of their greenhouse gas (GHG) flux dynamics. We used automated measurements of CO2, CH4 and N2O in a forested area to define SFTs following a simple statistical framework. This study supports the hypothesis that SFTs provide additional insights on the spatial variability of soil functionality beyond information represented by commonly measured soil parameters (e.g., soil moisture, soil temperature, litter biomass). We discuss the implications of this framework at the plot-scale and the potential of this approach at larger scales. This approach is a first step to provide a framework to define SFTs, but a community effort is necessary to harmonize any global classification for soil functionality. A global application of the proposed SFT framework will only be possible if there is a community-wide effort to share data and create a global database of GHG emissions from soils.

Revised: May 27, 2020 | Published: February 1, 2018


Petrakis S., J. Barba, B. Bond-Lamberty, and R. Vargas. 2018. "Using greenhouse gas fluxes to define soil functional types." Plant and Soil 423, no. 1-2:285-294. PNNL-SA-126427. doi:10.1007/s11104-017-3506-4