Articles | Volume 19, issue 14
BG Letters
 | Highlight paper
20 Jul 2022
BG Letters | Highlight paper |  | 20 Jul 2022

Soil carbon loss in warmed subarctic grasslands is rapid and restricted to topsoil

Niel Verbrigghe, Niki I. W. Leblans, Bjarni D. Sigurdsson, Sara Vicca, Chao Fang, Lucia Fuchslueger, Jennifer L. Soong, James T. Weedon, Christopher Poeplau, Cristina Ariza-Carricondo, Michael Bahn, Bertrand Guenet, Per Gundersen, Gunnhildur E. Gunnarsdóttir, Thomas Kätterer, Zhanfeng Liu, Marja Maljanen, Sara Marañón-Jiménez, Kathiravan Meeran, Edda S. Oddsdóttir, Ivika Ostonen, Josep Peñuelas, Andreas Richter, Jordi Sardans, Páll Sigurðsson, Margaret S. Torn, Peter M. Van Bodegom, Erik Verbruggen, Tom W. N. Walker, Håkan Wallander, and Ivan A. Janssens

Related authors

Using Free Air CO2 Enrichment data to constrain land surface model projections of the terrestrial carbon cycle
Nina Raoult, Louis-Axel Edouard-Rambaut, Nicolas Vuichard, Vladislav Bastrikov, Anne Sofie Lansø, Bertrand Guenet, and Philippe Peylin
Biogeosciences, 21, 1017–1036,,, 2024
Short summary
Spatial biases reduce the ability of Earth system models to simulate soil heterotrophic respiration fluxes
Bertrand Guenet, Jérémie Orliac, Lauric Cécillon, Olivier Torres, Laura Sereni, Philip A. Martin, Pierre Barré, and Laurent Bopp
Biogeosciences, 21, 657–669,,, 2024
Short summary
Investigating the complementarity of thermal and physical soil organic carbon fractions
Amicie A. Delahaie, Lauric Cécillon, Marija Stojanova, Samuel Abiven, Pierre Arbelet, Dominique Arrouays, François Baudin, Antonio Bispo, Line Boulonne, Claire Chenu, Jussi Heinonsalo, Claudy Jolivet, Kristiina Karhu, Manuel P. Martin, Lorenza Pacini, Christopher Poeplau, Céline Ratié, Pierre Roudier, Nicolas P. A. Saby, Florence Savignac, and Pierre Barré
EGUsphere,,, 2024
Short summary
“Blooming” of litter-mixing effects: The role of flower and leaf litter interactions on decomposition in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
Mery Ingrid Guimarães de Alencar, Rafael D. Guariento, Bertrand Guenet, Luciana S. Carneiro, Eduardo L. Voigt, and Adriano Caliman
EGUsphere,,, 2024
Short summary
Overview: ‘Global change effects on terrestrial biogeochemistry at the plant-soil interface’
Lucia Fuchslueger, Emily F. Solly, Alberto Canarini, and Albert C. Brangarí
EGUsphere,,, 2023
Short summary

Related subject area

Earth System Science/Response to Global Change: Climate Change
The effect of forest cover changes on the regional climate conditions in Europe during the period 1986–2015
Marcus Breil, Vanessa K. M. Schneider, and Joaquim G. Pinto
Biogeosciences, 21, 811–824,,, 2024
Short summary
Carbon cycle feedbacks in an idealized simulation and a scenario simulation of negative emissions in CMIP6 Earth system models
Ali Asaadi, Jörg Schwinger, Hanna Lee, Jerry Tjiputra, Vivek Arora, Roland Séférian, Spencer Liddicoat, Tomohiro Hajima, Yeray Santana-Falcón, and Chris D. Jones
Biogeosciences, 21, 411–435,,, 2024
Short summary
Spatiotemporal heterogeneity in the increase in ocean acidity extremes in the northeastern Pacific
Flora Desmet, Matthias Münnich, and Nicolas Gruber
Biogeosciences, 20, 5151–5175,,, 2023
Short summary
Anthropogenic climate change drives non-stationary phytoplankton internal variability
Geneviève W. Elsworth, Nicole S. Lovenduski, Kristen M. Krumhardt, Thomas M. Marchitto, and Sarah Schlunegger
Biogeosciences, 20, 4477–4490,,, 2023
Short summary
The response of wildfire regimes to Last Glacial Maximum carbon dioxide and climate
Olivia Haas, Iain Colin Prentice, and Sandy P. Harrison
Biogeosciences, 20, 3981–3995,,, 2023
Short summary

Cited articles

Abramoff, R. Z., Torn, M. S., Georgiou, K., Tang, J., and Riley, W. J.: Soil Organic Matter Temperature Sensitivity Cannot Be Directly Inferred from Spatial Gradients, Global Biogeochem. Cy., 33, 761–776, 2019. a
Allison, S. D., Wallenstein, M. D., and Bradford, M. A.: Soil-Carbon Response to Warming Dependent on Microbial Physiology, Nat. Geosci., 3, 336–340,, 2010. a
Alvarez, G., Shahzad, T., Andanson, L., Bahn, M., Wallenstein, M. D., and Fontaine, S.: Catalytic Power of Enzymes Decreases with Temperature: New Insights for Understanding Soil C Cycling and Microbial Ecology under Warming, Glob. Change Biol., 24, 4238–4250,, 2018. a
Arnalds, O.: The Soils of Iceland, World Soils Book Series, Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht,, 2015. a, b
Bárcena, T. G., Gundersen, P., and Vesterdal, L.: Afforestation Effects on SOC in Former Cropland: Oak and Spruce Chronosequences Resampled after 13 Years, Glob. Change Biol., 20, 2938–2952, 2014. a
The authors adopted a new and attractive approach, based on the use of thermal springs appearing at different times, to study the short-term and long-term (> 50 years) effect of warming on the soil C stock under subarctic grasslands. This new approach allows to take a new look at the question of a positive feedback between temperature and soils that can amplify global warming. Indeed, most studies on this subject are based on warming experiments conducted over the short term (some years) or on questionable correlative approaches where the temperature co-varies with many other factors (e.g., study of soil C stocks along latitudinal temperature gradients). Their study challenges the current dominant view on the effect of warming on the dynamics of SOM. Indeed, results suggest that soil C losses in the subarctic grasslands studied cease after 5 years of warming. These observations corroborate those obtained in the rare ecosystem warming experiments maintained beyond 10 years. In addition, results suggest that the C stocks present in the deep soil horizons, where plant roots are not or hardly present, are not affected by warming. These unexpected discoveries, together with other recent observations, show the glaring lack of knowledge on the fundamental mechanisms of the effect of temperature on catalytic processes, which seriously compromises our ability to predict the soil-climate feedback.
Short summary
In subarctic grassland on a geothermal warming gradient, we found large reductions in topsoil carbon stocks, with carbon stocks linearly declining with warming intensity. Most importantly, however, we observed that soil carbon stocks stabilised within 5 years of warming and remained unaffected by warming thereafter, even after > 50 years of warming. Moreover, in contrast to the large topsoil carbon losses, subsoil carbon stocks remained unaffected after > 50 years of soil warming.
Final-revised paper