Soil temperature and moisture influence soil respiration at a range of temporal and spatial scales. Although soil temperature and moisture may be seasonally correlated, intra and inter-annual variations in soil moisture do occur. There are few direct observations of the influence of local variation in species composition or other stand/site characteristics on seasonal and annual variations in soil moisture, and on cumulative annual soil carbon release. Soil climate and soil respiration from twelve sites in five different forest types were monitored over a 2-year period (1998–1999). Also measured were stand age, species composition, basal area, litter inputs, total above-ground wood production, leaf area index, forest floor mass, coarse and fine root mass, forest floor carbon and nitrogen concentration, root carbon and nitrogen concentration, soil carbon and nitrogen concentration, coarse fraction mass and volume, and soil texture. General soil respiration models were developed using soil temperature, daily soil moisture, and various site/soil characteristics. Of the site/soil characteristics, above-ground production, soil texture, roots + forest floor mass, roots + forest floor carbon:nitrogen, and soil carbon:nitrogen were significant predictors of soil respiration when used alone in respiration models; all of these site variables were weakly to moderately correlated with mean site soil moisture. Daily soil climate data were used to estimate the annual release of carbon (C) from soil respiration for the period 1998–1999. Mean annual soil temperature did not differ between the 2 years but mean annual soil moisture was approximately 9% lower in 1998 due to a summer drought. Soil C respired during 1998 ranged from 8.57 to 11.43 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 while the same sites released 10.13 and 13.57 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 in 1999; inter-annual differences of 15.41 and 15.73%, respectively. Among the 12 sites studied, we calculated that the depression of soil respiration linked to the drought caused annual differences of soil respiration from 11.00 to 15.78%. Annual estimates of respired soil C decreased with increasing site mean soil moisture. Similarly, the difference of respired carbon between the drought and the non-drought years generally decreased with increasing site mean soil moisture.