Surface age, ecosystem development, and C isotope signatures of respired CO2 in an alpine environment, north Iceland

Philip A Wookey, Roland A Bol, Christopher J Caseldine, Douglas D Harkness

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    12 Citations (Scopus)


    We studied the late Holocene forcland and adjacent unglaciated terrain of a small cirque glacier system in north Iceland to explore the relationship between soil/ surface age, vegetation and soil evolution, and C isotope signatures of respired, CO,. Field-based sampling of respired CO. from vegetation/soil monoliths across the chronosequence was used as the basis for an analysis of the C-12:C-13:C-14 atom ratios Of CO, using Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS). Residual soil organic matter (SOM) fractions (humic and humin) were also C-14-dated from each of the surfaces, vegetation described, and soil C and N contents analyzed. Our major conclusions are ( 1) that ecosystem respiration in this mid-alpine environment is strongly dominated by "young" C and is not related to the C-14 age of residual SOM fractions. (2) VC values of respired CO2 by contrast, do vary both with age of Surface arid with absolute respiration rate. but there is no clear indication of any effects mediated by plant species and functional type and/or the degree of reworking of SOM by decomposer organisms and (3) the C-14 dating of residual SOM fractions, together with the soil profile characteristics (including (tephra deposits) and vegetation cover, both suggest some radical disturbance in soil development land SOM formation at Site 1 (the oldest surface studied here), and no cleat, signs of classical succession when comparing Sites 1 to 3. Finally, in the light of these observations. the familiar concept of chronosequences, and the predictable processes of ecosystem development that they often imply, are challenged in a mid-alpine tundra setting where recent climate change and anthropogenic influences (e.g., grazing pressure) are superimposed upon time as an ecological factor.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)76-87
    Number of pages12
    JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002


    • NORWAY
    • PLANTS


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