Seasonally snow-covered alpine soils may be subjected to freeze/thaw cycles, particularly during years having little snow and during the late winter and early spring periods. Freeze/thaw cycles can stimulate soil mineralization and could therefore be one factor regulating nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) availability and cycling. In this study laboratory incubation experiments using four soils having contrasting properties have been used to characterize the change in N and P forms (microbial and soluble inorganic/organic) that occur after simulated freeze/thaw cycles. Soil samples were collected from locations representing extreme examples of either direct human management (grazed meadow (site M) and extensive grazing beneath larch (site L)) or those disturbed by more natural events (recent avalanche and colonisation by alder (site A)) and from beneath the expected forest climax vegetation beneath fir (site F). Topsoil from these sites, maintained at two different water contents (20 and 30%, w/w), were exposed to either a single (SF) or four sequential (4SF) freeze/thaw cycles. Each cycle consisted of 12 h at -9 °C and 12 h at +4 °C mimicking a diurnal pattern. A SF cycle reduced microbial N for soils from sites F and A and was accompanied by a significant increase in dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) at both moisture contents. In contrast, the microbial N of soils from M and L was not affected by the freeze/thaw cycles, suggesting a particular adaptation of soil microbes to these extremes in temperature. Freeze/thaw cycles resulted in a significant increase in the net ammonification in all soils. Extractable total dissolved N (TDN) and total dissolved P (TDP) increased in all soils after a SF cycle, however, the relative importance of the different N and P forms differed. At the lower soil moisture content, NO3 - concentrations remained constant or slightly decreased in all soils, except that from site M. In all other soils DON appeared to replace NO3 - as the potentially mobile N source after the freeze/thaw cycles. The relative contribution of dissolved organic P to TDP after freeze/thaw remained significant, and greater than 50% in all soils. Freeze/thaw cycles, in seasonally snow covered soils, are likely to have a selective effect on the microbial biomass. Freezing and thawing resulted in a pulse of net ammonification and DON release, which represent an important influence upon N cycling in these alpine systems.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Applied Soil Ecology|
|Publication status||Published - 2007|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Soil Science