Carbon dynamics at frost-patterned tundra driven by long-term vegetation change rather than by short-term non-growing season warming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Frost-patterned grounds, such as mostly barren frost boils surrounded by denser vegetation, are typical habitat mosaics in tundra. Plant and microbial processes in these habitats may be susceptible to short-term warming outside the growing season, while the areal cover of barren frost boils has decreased during the past decades due to climate warming-induced shrub expansion. The relative importance of such short-term and long-term climate impacts on carbon (C) dynamics remain unknown. We measured ecosystem CO2 uptake and release (in the field), microbial respiration (in the laboratory), as well as microbial biomass N and soil extractable N in frost boils and the directly adjacent heath in late spring and late summer. These habitats had been experimentally warmed with insulating fleeces from late September until late May for three consecutive years, which allowed us to investigate the direct short-term effects of warming and longer-term, indirect climate effects via vegetation establishment into frost boils. Non-growing season warming increased C uptake at the frost boils in late spring and decreased it in late summer, while the timing and direction of responses was opposite for the heath. Experimental warming had no effects on microbial or ecosystem C release or soil N at either of the habitats. However, C cycling was manifold higher at the heath compared to the frost boils, likely because of a higher SOM stock in the soil. Short-term climate change can thus directly alter ecosystem C uptake at frost-patterned grounds but will most likely not affect microbial C release. We conclude that the C dynamics at frost-patterned grounds under a changing climate depend most strongly on the potential of vegetation to encroach into frost boils in the long-term.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBIOGEOCHEMISTRY
Volume136
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)103-117
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2017
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed