Articles | Volume 16, issue 6
Research article
21 Mar 2016
Research article |  | 21 Mar 2016

Carbonyl sulfide exchange in soils for better estimates of ecosystem carbon uptake

Mary E. Whelan, Timothy W. Hilton, Joseph A. Berry, Max Berkelhammer, Ankur R. Desai, and J. Elliott Campbell

Abstract. Carbonyl sulfide (COS) measurements are one of the emerging tools to better quantify gross primary production (GPP), the largest flux in the global carbon cycle. COS is a gas with a similar structure to CO2; COS uptake is thought to be a proxy for GPP. However, soils are a potential source or sink of COS. This study presents a framework for understanding soil–COS interactions. Excluding wetlands, most of the few observations of isolated soils that have been made show small uptake of atmospheric COS. Recently, a series of studies at an agricultural site in the central United States found soil COS production under hot conditions an order of magnitude greater than fluxes at other sites. To investigate the extent of this phenomenon, soils were collected from five new sites and incubated in a variety of soil moisture and temperature states. We found that soils from a desert, an oak savannah, a deciduous forest, and a rainforest exhibited small COS fluxes, behavior resembling previous studies. However, soil from an agricultural site in Illinois,  > 800 km away from the initial central US study site, demonstrated comparably large soil fluxes under similar conditions. These new data suggest that, for the most part, soil COS interaction is negligible compared to plant uptake of COS. We present a model that anticipates the large agricultural soil fluxes so that they may be taken into account. While COS air-monitoring data are consistent with the dominance of plant uptake, improved interpretation of these data should incorporate the soil flux parameterizations suggested here.

Short summary
We constructed a model of carbonyl sulfide soil exchange sufficient for predicting outcomes in terrestrial ecosystems. Empirical observations combined with soil gas exchange theory reveal simultaneous abiotic production and biotic uptake mechanisms. Measurement of atmospheric carbonyl sulfide is an emerging tool to quantify photosynthesis at important temporal and spatial scales.
Final-revised paper