Responses of plant litter decomposition and nitrogen mineralisation to simulated environmental change in a high arctic polar semi-desert and a subarctic dwarf shrub heath

CH Robinson, PA Wookey, AN Parsons, JA Potter, TV Callaghan, JA Lee, MC Press, JM Welker

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    Impacts of climate change were simulated in two contrasting European arctic ecosystems, a high arctic polar semi-desert and a subarctic dwarf shrub heath, by increasing temperature (using polythene tents), precipitation and soil nutrient (NPK) availability. The effects of these treatments and their interactions on plant litter decomposition and soil nutrient fluxes were assessed. Polythene tents increased air, litter and soil temperatures but reduced litter and soil moisture contents. At both sites, litter decomposition was significantly retarded in the tent treatments due probably to reduced litter moisture contents. The tent treatment had no effect on extractable soil N pools or net total N mineralisation at either site, although the treatment significantly reduced net seasonal nitrification values at the subarctic site. The additional precipitation treatment significantly increased litter decomposition at the dwarf shrub heath site and the net amount of N mineralised at the polar semi-desert site. Litter decomposition was increased, as was net N mineralisation, by the application of nutrients. The results suggest that soil temperature increases of up to 1 degrees C, which may occur by the end of the next century as an effect of a predicted 4 degrees C rise in air temperature, have only small effects on total N mineralisation in the short term in arctic soils.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)503-512
    Number of pages10
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1995


    • TUNDRA
    • SOILS
    • LIGNIN

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