In this study, we assessed the effect of conventional tillage (CT), reduced (RT) and no tillage (NT) practices on the soil CO2 flux of a Mediterranean Vertisol in semi-arid Morocco. The measurements focused on the short term (0 to 96 h) soil CO2 fluxes measured directly after tillage during the fall and spring period. Soil temperature, moisture and soil strength were measured congruently to study their effect on the soil CO2 flux magnitude. Immediately after fall tillage, the CT showed the highest CO2 flux (4.9 g m-2 h-1); RT exhibited an intermediate value (2.1 g m-2 h-1) whereas the lowest flux (0.7 g m-2 h-1) was reported under NT. After spring tillage, similar but smaller impacts of the tillage practices on soil CO2 flux were reported with fluxes ranging from 1.8 g CO2 m-2 h-1 (CT) to less than 0.1 g CO2 m-2 h-1 (NT). Soil strength was significantly correlated with soil CO2 emission; whereas surface soil temperature and moisture were low correlated to the soil CO2 flux. The intensity of rainfall events before fall and spring tillage practices could explain the seasonal CO2 flux trends. The findings promote conservation tillage and more specifically no tillage practices to reduce CO2 losses within these Mediterranean agro-ecosystems.
Key words: Tillage, CO2 flux, seasonal variability, Vertisol, semi-arid Morocco.
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