Articles | Volume 7, issue 2
17 Feb 2010
 | 17 Feb 2010

Short term changes of microbial processes in Icelandic soils to increasing temperatures

R. Guicharnaud, O. Arnalds, and G. I. Paton

Abstract. Temperature change is acknowledged to have a significant effect on soil biological processes and the corresponding sequestration of carbon and cycling of nutrients. Soils at high latitudes are likely to be particularly impacted by increases in temperature. Icelandic soils experience unusually frequent freeze and thaw cycles compare to other Arctic regions, which are increasing due to a warming climate. As a consequence these soils are frequently affected by short term temperature fluctuations.

In this study, the short term response of a range of soil microbial parameters (respiration, nutrient availability, microbial biomass carbon, arylphosphatase and dehydrogenase activity) to temperature changes was measured in sub-arctic soils collected from across Iceland. Sample sites reflected two soil temperature regimes (cryic and frigid) and two land uses (pasture and arable). The soils were sampled from the field frozen, equilibrated at −20 °C and then incubated for two weeks at −10 °C, −2 °C, +2 °C and +10 °. Respiration and enzymatic activity were temperature dependent. The soil temperature regime affected the soil microbial biomass carbon sensitivity to temperatures. When soils where sampled from the cryic temperature regime a decreasing soil microbial biomass was detected when temperatures rose above the freezing point. Frigid soils, sampled from milder climatic conditions, where unaffected by difference in temperatures. Nitrogen mineralisation did not change with temperature. At −10 °C, dissolved organic carbon accounted for 88% of the fraction of labile carbon which was significantly greater than that recorded at +10 °C when dissolved organic carbon accounted for as low as 42% of the labile carbon fraction.

Final-revised paper