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Decline of soil respiration in northeastern Tibet through the transition into the Oligocene icehouse

Abstract : Soil respiration (Rs), the production of carbon dioxide in soils, increases dramatically from deserts to forested ecosystems. Rs values thus provide a potential tool to identify past ecosystems if recorded in sedimentary archives. Here, we propose a quantitative method to reconstruct past Rs values from paleosols. This method reverses the soil paleobarometer, a proxy that estimates past atmospheric CO2 concentration values (CO2atm) from paleosols while considering a narrow range of variation for Rs. We use past CO2atm values from marine proxies to reconstruct soil respiration from a 20 million year-long isotopic record from northeastern Tibet covering the transition from the Eocene greenhouse to the Oligocene icehouse. We show that Rs dropped at least 4-fold through the transition into the Oligocene icehouse, marking the spread of boreal desert-steppes of Central Asia. We show that increasing aridity and the decline of monsoonal rainfall, in parallel with global cooling, caused the fall of soil respiration. These highly dynamic Rs emphasize the need for a systematic screening of paleosol isotopic data before using the soil paleobarometer to reconstruct CO2atm
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Alexis Licht, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, N. Meijer, J. Caves-Rugenstein, A. Schauer, et al.. Decline of soil respiration in northeastern Tibet through the transition into the Oligocene icehouse. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Elsevier, 2020, 560, pp.110016. ⟨10.1016/j.palaeo.2020.110016⟩. ⟨insu-02940052⟩

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