Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Christopher Gough


Variation in the soil-to-atmosphere C flux, or soil respiration (Rs), is influenced by a suite of biotic and abiotic factors, including soil temperature, soil moisture, and root biomass. However, whether canopy structure is tied to soil respiration through its simultaneous influence over these drivers is not known. We assessed relationships between measures of above- and belowground vegetation density and complexity, and evaluated whether Rs is linked to remotely sensed canopy structure through pathways mediated by established biotic and abiotic mechanisms. Our results revealed that, at stand-scale, canopy rugosity–a measure of complexity–and vegetation area index were coupled to soil respiration through their effects on light interception, soil microclimate, and root biomass density, but this connection was much stronger for complexity. Measures of canopy and root complexity were not spatially coupled at the stand-scale, as canopy but not root complexity increased over successional timescales. Our findings demonstrate that remotely sensed canopy complexity can be used to infer spatial variation in soil CO2 efflux, and that this relationship is grounded in established biotic and abiotic pathways. The broader inference of linking soil respiration to remotely sensed canopy complexity requires additional multi-site investigation, which is possible given burgeoning open data from ecological networks and satellite remote sensing.


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