Estimating influences of environmental drivers on soil heterotrophic respiration in the Athabasca River Basin, Canada

Soumendra N. Bhanja, Junye Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Soil heterotrophic respiration (RH) is a crucial component of the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) budget, as RH accounts for ∼10 times more CO2 than burning fossil fuels. However, modelling of RH is primarily based upon empirical/semi-empirical approaches. Here, we developed a mechanistic model based on microbial kinetics and thermodynamics processes (MKT) to model soil chemical environment and soil RH in the Athabasca River Basin, Canada. MKT was coupled with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) for a regional-scale hydro-biogeochemical simulation. Dissolved oxygen, redox potential and meteorological variables were simulated for the first time at a regional scale. Annual mean simulated RH varied from 20 to 320 kg CO2–C/ha/yr across Athabasca River basin (ARB) in 2000–2013. Our results show that dissolved oxygen, air temperature, and soil temperature have more influence on RH than redox potential, precipitation, and water-filled pore space (WFPS). A significant (p < 0.01) causal relationship exists between the dissolved oxygen, air temperature, soil temperature, redox potential and precipitation with RH. Our results show that the role of environmental drivers are essential and should be considered in future estimations of RH. Main findings: A newly developed hydro-biogeochemical model is used for simulating soil heterotrophic respiration and this is also used to show the influences of environmental drivers including redox potential and dissolved oxygen.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113630
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Feb. 2020


  • Dissolved oxygen modelling
  • Redox potential simulation
  • SWAT
  • Soil heterotrophic respiration
  • Soil respiration


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