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Title: Longer thaw seasons increase nitrogen availability for leaching during fall in tundra soils

Climate change has resulted in warmer soil temperatures, earlier spring thaw and later fall freeze-up, resulting in warmer soil temperatures and thawing of permafrost in tundra regions. While these changes in temperature metrics tend to lengthen the growing season for plants, light levels, especially in the fall, will continue to limit plant growth and nutrient uptake. We conducted a laboratory experiment using intact soil cores with and without vegetation from a tundra peatland to measure the effects of late freeze and early spring thaw on carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange, methane (CH4) emissions, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (N) leaching from soils. We compared soil C exchange and N production with a 30 day longer seasonal thaw during a simulated annual cycle from spring thaw through freeze-up and thaw. Across all cores, fall N leaching accounted for similar to 33% of total annual N loss despite significant increases in microbial biomass during this period. Nitrate(NO3-) leaching was highest during the fall (5.33 ± 1.45 mgNm-2 d-1) following plant senescence and lowest during the summer (0.43 ± 0.22 mg Nm-2 d-1). In the late freeze and early thaw treatment, we found 25% higher total annual ecosystem respiration but no significant changemore » in CH4 emissions or DOC loss due to high variability among samples. The late freeze period magnified N leaching and likely was derived from root turnover and microbial mineralization of soil organic matter coupled with little demand from plants or microbes. Furthermore, large N leaching during the fall will affect N cycling in low-lying areas and streams and may alter terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem nitrogen budgets in the arctic.« less
Authors:
ORCiD logo [1] ; ORCiD logo [2] ;  [3] ;  [4]
  1. Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States). Earth Systems Research Center, Inst. for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space; Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK (United States)
  2. Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States). Earth Systems Research Center, Inst. for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment
  3. Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States). Earth Systems Research Center, Inst. for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, Dept. of Earth Sciences
  4. Univ. of Vermont, Burlington, VT (United States). Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
1257286
Grant/Contract Number:
AC05-06OR23100; administered by ORISE-ORAU under co
Type:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 11; Journal Issue: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 1748-9326
Publisher:
IOP Publishing
Research Org:
Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
58 GEOSCIENCES; nitrogen; carbon; permafrost thaw; tundra soils; changing seasonality; arctic tundra; microbial biomass; permafrost carbon; alpine ecosystem; growing-season; Alaskan tundra; forest soils; temperature; vegetation; dynamics