Seasonal climate manipulations have only minor effects on litter decomposition rates and N dynamics but strong effects on litter P dynamics of sub-arctic bog species.

R. Aerts, T.V. Callaghan, E. Dorrepaal, R.S.P van Logtestijn, J.H.C. Cornelissen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Litter decomposition and nutrient mineralization in high-latitude peatlands are constrained by low temperatures. So far, little is known about the effects of seasonal components of climate change (higher spring and summer temperatures, more snow which leads to higher winter soil temperatures) on these processes. In a 4-year field experiment, we manipulated these seasonal components in a sub-arctic bog and studied the effects on the decomposition and N and P dynamics of leaf litter of Calamagrostis lapponica, Betula nana, and Rubus chamaemorus, incubated both in a common ambient environment and in the treatment plots. Mass loss in the controls increased in the order Calamagrostis < Betula < Rubus. After 4 years, overall mass loss in the climate-treatment plots was 10 % higher compared to the ambient incubation environment. Litter chemistry showed within each incubation environment only a few and species-specific responses. Compared to the interspecific differences, they resulted in only moderate climate treatment effects on mass loss and these differed among seasons and species. Neither N nor P mineralization in the litter were affected by the incubation environment. Remarkably, for all species, no net N mineralization had occurred in any of the treatments during 4 years. Species differed in P-release patterns, and summer warming strongly stimulated P release for all species. Thus, moderate changes in summer temperatures and/or winter snow addition have limited effects on litter decomposition rates and N dynamics, but summer warming does stimulate litter P release. As a result, N-limitation of plant growth in this sub-arctic bog may be sustained or even further promoted. © 2012 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-819
JournalOecologia
Volume170
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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