Spatiotemporal variability and origin of CO2 and CH4 tree stem fluxes in an upland forest

Josep Barba, Rafael Poyatos, Margaret Capooci, Rodrigo Vargas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The exchange of multiple greenhouse gases (i.e., CO2 and CH4) between tree stems and the atmosphere represents a knowledge gap in the global carbon cycle. Stem CO2 and CH4 fluxes vary across time and space and are unclear, which are their individual or shared drivers. Here we measured CO2 and CH4 fluxes at different stem heights combining manual (biweekly; n = 678) and automated (hourly; n > 38,000) measurements in a temperate upland forest. All trees showed CO2 and CH4 emissions despite 20% of measurements showing net CH4 uptake. Stem CO2 fluxes presented clear seasonal trends from manual and automated measurements. Only automated measurements captured the high temporal variability of stem CH4 fluxes revealing clear seasonal trends. Despite that temporal integration, the limited number of automated chambers made stand-level mean CH4 fluxes sensitive to “hot spots,” resulting in mean fluxes with high uncertainty. Manual measurements provided better integration of spatial variability, but their lack of temporal variability integration hindered the detection of temporal trends and stand-level mean fluxes. These results highlight the potential bias of previous studies of stem CH4 fluxes solely based on manual or automated measurements. Stem height, temperature, and soil moisture only explained 7% and 11% of the stem CH4 flux variability compared to 42% and 81% for CO2 (manual and automated measurements, respectively). This large unexplained variability, in combination with high CH4 concentrations in the trees' heartwood, suggests that stem CH4 fluxes might be more influenced by gas transport and diffusivity through the wood than by drivers of respiratory CO2 flux, which has crucial implications for developing process-based ecosystem models. We postulate that CH4 is likely originated within tree stems because of lack of a consistent vertical pattern in CH4 fluxes, evidence of CH4 production in wood incubations, and low CH4 concentration in the soil profile but high concentrations within the trees' heartwood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4879-4893
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • CH
  • CO
  • greenhouse gas fluxes
  • temperate ecosystem
  • tree stem fluxes
  • upland forest


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