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Responses of surface SOC to long-term experimental warming vary between different heath types in the High Arctic tundra

New publication by Ji Young Jung, Anders Michelsen, Mincheol Kim, Sungjin Nam, Niels M. Schmidt et al.

2020.10.22 | Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen


Over the past few decades the Arctic has warmed up more than the lower latitudes. Soil organic carbon (SOC) in the Arctic is vulnerable to climate change, and carbon dioxide (CO2) produced via SOC decomposition can amplify atmospheric temperature increase. Although SOC composition is relevant to decomposability, studies on its compositional changes with warming are scarce, particularly in the Arctic. Therefore, we investigated the responses of SOC and the bacterial community to climate manipulation under Cassiope and Salix heath vegetation communities in permafrost‐affected soil in Zackenberg, Greenland. After 8–9 years of experimental warming, we evaluated changes in SOC quantity and quality of three density fractions of soil: free light fraction (FLF), occluded light fraction (OLF) and heavy fraction (HF). The SOC content at 0–5‐cm depth was significantly reduced with warming under Cassiope, and it was accompanied by decreased FLF content, attributed to accelerated decomposition of the FLF by warming. However, SOC molecular composition and bacterial community composition were not affected by warming. By contrast, there was no warming effect on SOC under Salix, which could be partially due to smaller temperature increases caused by higher moisture levels associated with larger silt and clay contents, or to different responses of the dominant plant species to temperature. In both soils, more than 55% of SOC was associated with minerals, and its molecular composition indicated microbial decomposition. Our results suggested that long‐term warming in the high Arctic could induce the loss of SOC, particularly in the FLF; however, the response could vary with vegetation type and/or soil properties, that is, soil texture.


Arctic Research Centre