Carbon dioxide fluxes over a grazed prairie and seeded pasture in the Northern Great Plains

Environ Pollut. 2002;116(3):397-403. doi: 10.1016/s0269-7491(01)00216-0.


Temperate grasslands are vast terrestrial ecosystems that may be an important component of the global carbon (C) cycle; however, annual C flux data for these grasslands are limited. The Bowen ratio/energy balance (BREB) technique was used to measure CO2 fluxes over a grazed mixed-grass prairie and a seeded western wheatgrass [Pascopyrum smithii (Rybd) Löve] site at Mandan, ND from 24 April to 26 October in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Above-ground biomass and leaf area index (LAI) were measured about every 21 days throughout the season. Root biomass and soil organic C and N content were determined to 110 cm depth in selected increments about mid-July each year. Peak above-ground biomass and LAI coincided with peak fluxes and occurred between mid-July to early August. Biomass averaged 1227 and 1726 kg ha(-1) and LAI 0.44 and 0.59, for prairie and western wheatgrass, respectively. Average CO2 flux for the growing season was 279 g CO2 m(-2) for prairie and 218 g CO2 m(-2) for western wheatgrass (positive flux is CO2 uptake and negative flux is CO2 loss to the atmosphere). Using prior measured dormant season CO2 fluxes from the prairie sites gave annual flux estimates that ranged from -131 to 128 g CO2 m(-2) for western wheatgrass and from -70 to 189 g CO2 m(-2) for the prairie. This wide range in calculated annual fluxes suggests that additional research is required concerning dormant season flux measurements to obtain accurate estimates of annual CO2 fluxes. These results suggest Northern Great Plains mixed-grass prairie grasslands can either be a sink or a source for atmospheric CO2 or near equilibrium, depending on the magnitude of the dormant season flux.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Biomass
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis*
  • Carbon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Poaceae*
  • Seasons


  • Carbon Dioxide