February 03, 2021

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Restructuring and Updating a Key Global Soil Respiration Database

A new version of a widely used database will provide powerful insights into the global carbon cycle.

A new version of a soil respiration database features expanded data, more powerful quality-checking scripts, and a simplified architecture.

[Courtesy Benjamin Bond-Lamberty.]

The Science

Carbon dioxide (CO2) flows from the Earth’s soils to the atmosphere in a process known as soil respiration. Quantifying and understanding this respiration, the second-largest carbon flux in the Earth system, are critical in an era of climate change. Researchers maintain a compendium of published data about soil respiration, referred to as the Soil Respiration Database (SRDB). A new version of the SRDB features expanded data, more powerful quality-checking scripts, and a simplified, easy-to-use architecture.

The Impact

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists maintain a freely available database of soil respiration observations—data on how much CO2 is being produced through time around the world by soils. This database enables powerful, large-scale studies exploring the magnitude of soil respiration, how it varies in space and time, and how it may be affected by climate change, perhaps by liberating long-stored soil carbon to the atmosphere. Data from SRDB has served as a benchmark for Earth system model performance and in sophisticated analyses aimed at better estimating and understanding parts of the global carbon cycle.


Researchers compiled field-measured soil respiration data, including soil-to-atmosphere CO2 flux observations, into SDRB, a global soil respiration database widely used by the biogeochemistry community. Emerging questions in carbon cycle sciences require updated and augmented global information with better dataset compatibility. This need led to the release of a new version of SRDB, called SRDB-V5. This updated version includes revisions of all previous fields for consistency and simplicity, along with several new fields with additional information. SRDB-V5 contains over 800 independent studies published through 2017. It features more data from the Russian and Chinese scientific literature, has greater global spatio-temporal coverage, and has improved global climate-space representation. SRDB-V5 aims to act as a data framework for the scientific community to share seasonal to annual field soil respiration measurements. It provides opportunities for the biogeochemistry community to better understand the spatial and temporal variability of this important source of carbon flux.

Principal Investigator

Jinshi Jian
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Program Manager

Daniel Stover
U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Environmental System Science


This research was supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science as part of the Environmental System Science program (formerly the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program). Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by Battelle Memorial Institute under contract DE-AC05-76RL01830.


Jian, J., et al. "A Restructured and Updated Global Soil Respiration Database (SRDB-V5)." Earth System Science Data 13 255–267  (2021). https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-13-255-2021.