Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-263
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-263

  20 Oct 2021

20 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Changing sub-Arctic tundra vegetation upon permafrost degradation: impact on foliar mineral element cycling

Elisabeth Mauclet1, Yannick Agnan1, Catherine Hirst1, Arthur Monhonval1, Benoît Pereira1, Aubry Vandeuren1, Maëlle Villani1, Justin Ledman2, Meghan Taylor2, Briana L. Jasinski2, Edward A. G. Schuur2, and Sophie Opfergelt1 Elisabeth Mauclet et al.
  • 1Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 2Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

Abstract. Arctic warming and permafrost degradation are modifying northern ecosystems through changes in microtopography, soil water dynamics, nutrient availability, and vegetation succession. Upon permafrost degradation, the release of deep stores of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from newly thawed permafrost stimulates Arctic vegetation production. More specifically, wetter lowlands show an increase in sedges (as part of graminoids), whereas drier uplands favor shrub expansion. In turn, shifts in the composition of vegetation may influence local mineral element cycling through litter production. In this study, we evaluate the influence of permafrost degradation on mineral element foliar stocks and potential annual fluxes upon litterfall. We measured the foliar elemental composition (Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mn, P, S, Si, and Zn) on ~500 samples of typical tundra vegetation species from two contrasting Alaskan sites, i.e., under experimental (CiPEHR) and ambient (Gradient) warming. The foliar concentration of these mineral elements was species specific, with sedge leaves having relatively high Si concentration, and shrub leaves having relatively high Ca and Mn concentrations. Therefore, changes in the species biomass composition of the Arctic tundra in response to permafrost thaw are expected to be the main factors that dictate changes in elemental composition of foliar stocks and maximum potential foliar fluxes upon litterfall. We observed an increase in the mineral element foliar stocks and potential annual litterfall fluxes, with Si increasing with sedge expansion in wetter sites (CiPEHR), and Ca and Mn increasing with shrub expansion in drier sites (Gradient). Consequently, we expect that sedge and shrub expansion upon permafrost thaw will lead to changes in litter elemental composition, and affect nutrient cycling across the sub-Arctic tundra, with potential implications for further vegetation succession.

Elisabeth Mauclet et al.

Status: open (until 29 Dec 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-263', Jonathan von Oppen, 30 Nov 2021 reply

Elisabeth Mauclet et al.

Data sets

Eight Mile Lake Research Watershed, Thaw Gradient: Foliar mineral element concentrations, stocks and annual litterfall fluxes estimated for July 2017 Mauclet, E., Opfergelt, S., Agnan, Y., Hirst, C., Monhonval, A., Ledman, J., Taylor, M., Schuur, E.A.G. https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/7fad9398ec3a596b8efc092fc8fbf55d

Carbon in Permafrost Experimental Heating Research (CIPEHR) project: Foliar mineral element concentrations, stocks, and annual 775 litterfall fluxes in July 2009 and 2017 Mauclet, E., Opfergelt, S., Agnan, Y., Hirst, C., Monhonval, A., Ledman, J., Taylor, M., Schuur, E.A.G https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/597c40c5d699eec918da3e9c2eaa7bea

Elisabeth Mauclet et al.

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Short summary
Arctic warming and permafrost degradation largely affect tundra vegetation. Wetter lowlands show increase in sedges, whereas drier uplands favor shrub expansion. Here, we demonstrate that the difference in the foliar elemental composition of typical tundra vegetation species controls the local foliar elemental stock and the potential mineral element cycling through litter production upon shift in tundra vegetation.
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