Soil respiration is known to be highly variable with time. Less is known, however, about the spatial variability of heterotrophic soil respiration at the plot scale. We simultaneously measured soil heterotrophic respiration, soil temperature, and soil water content at 48 locations with a nested sampling design and at 76 locations with a regular grid plus refinement within a 13- by 14-m bare soil plot for 15 measurement dates. Soil respiration was measured with a closed chamber covering a surface area of 0.032 m2. A geostatistical data analyses indicated a mean range of 2.7 m for heterotrophic soil respiration. We detected rather high coefficients of variation of CO2 respiration between 0.13 and 0.80, with an average of 0.33. The number of observations required to estimate average respiration fluxes at a 5% error level ranged between 5 and 123. The analysis of the temporal persistence revealed that a subset of 17 sampling locations is sufficient to estimate average respiration fluxes at a tolerable root mean square error of 0.15 g C m−2 d−1. Statistical analysis revealed that the spatiotemporal variability of heterotrophic soil respiration could be explained by the state variables soil temperature and water content. The spatial variability of respiration was mainly driven by variability in soil water content; the variability in the soil water content was almost an order of magnitude higher than the variability in soil temperature.

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