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Nitrate and dissolved organic carbon mobilization in response to soil freezing variabilityAuthor(s): Colin B. Fuss; Charles T. Driscoll; Peter M. Groffman; John L. Campbell; Lynn M. Christenson; Timothy J. Fahey; Melany C. Fisk; Myron J. Mitchell; Pamela H. Templer; Jorge Durán; Jennifer L. Morse
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Northern Research Station
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DescriptionReduced snowpack and associated increases in soil freezing severity resulting from winter climate change have the potential to disrupt carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling in soils. We used a natural winter climate gradient based on elevation and aspect in a northern hardwood forest to examine the effects of variability in soil freezing depth, duration, and frequency on the mobilization of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrate (NO3-) in soils over the course of 2 years. During a winter with a relatively thin snowpack, soils at lower elevation sites experienced greater freezing and especially variable freeze/thaw cycles, which in turn led to greater leaching of DOC from the organic horizon during the following growing season. In contrast to several previous field manipulation studies, we did not find changes in soil solution NO3- concentrations related to soil freezing variables. Our results are consistent with a soil matrix disturbance from freezing and thawing which increases leachable C. These results build upon previous laboratory experiments and field manipulations that found differing responses of DOC and NO3- following soil freezing, suggesting that mobilization of labile C may suppress NO3- losses through microbial immobilization of N. This research highlights the importance of studying natural variation in winter climate and soil freezing and how they impact soil C and N retention, with implications for surface water runoff quality.
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CitationFuss, Colin B.; Driscoll, Charles T.; Groffman, Peter M.; Campbell, John L.; Christenson, Lynn M.; Fahey, Timothy J.; Fisk, Melany C.; Mitchell, Myron J.; Templer, Pamela H.; Durán, Jorge; Morse, Jennifer L. 2016. Nitrate and dissolved organic carbon mobilization in response to soil freezing variability. Biogeochemistry. 131(1-2): 35-47. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-016-0262-0.
KeywordsClimate change, Winter, Snow, Soil water, Northern hardwood forest, Soil frost
- Climate change decreases nitrogen pools and mineralization rates in northern hardwood forests
- Winter climate change affects growing-season soil microbial biomass and activity in northern hardwood forests
- Differential sensitivity to climate change of C and N cycling processes across soil horizons in a northern hardwood forest
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