A method for quantifying rates of O2 consumption and CO2 production in soil

S. Cortassa, M. A. Aon, P. F. Villon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Considering the soil as a heterogeneous bioreactor, a method is developed that permits a quantitative evaluation of O2 and CO2 levels in the soil atmosphere. Mathematical modeling allowed us to quantitate the rate at which soil consumes O2 or produces CO2 under close-to-field conditions. Values of qCO2 and qO2 ranging between 0.2 and 8 kmol CO2-C ha-1 day-1, and 0.4 to 35 kmol O2 ha-1 day-1, respectively, were measured in a soil recently subjected to agriculture in the El Salado river basin (Buenos Aires, Argentina). The mathematical model discriminates between purely physical (diffusion, advection) and biological (e.g., microbial activity) processes. The gas measurements were sensitive to the crop stage in a soil recently subjected to agriculture. We conclude that qO2 reflects more accurately than qCO2 the contribution of microbial activity to the rate of gas exchanges in soil. Results are discussed in terms of soil biogeochemical processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-77
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Diffusion coefficient
  • Microbial respiration
  • Reaction-diffusion
  • Respiratory quotient
  • Soil respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science

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