Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-277
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-277

  07 Dec 2021

07 Dec 2021

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

Fire in lichen-rich subarctic tundra changes carbon and nitrogen cycling between ecosystem compartments but has minor effects on stocks

Ramona Julia Heim1, Andrey Yurtaev2, Anna Bucharova1,3, Wieland Heim1,4, Valeriya Kutskir2, Klaus-Holger Knorr5, Christian Lampei1, Alexandr Pechkin6, Dora Schilling1, Farid Sulkarnaev2, and Norbert Hölzel1 Ramona Julia Heim et al.
  • 1Institute of Landscape Ecology, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group, University of Muenster, Heisenbergstraße 2, 48149 Münster, Germany
  • 2Research Institute of Ecology and Natural Resources Management, Tyumen State University, 6 Volodarskogo Street, Tyumen, Russia
  • 3Department of Biology, Conservation Biology Group, University of Marburg, Karl-von-Frisch-Straße 8, 35043 Marburg, Germany
  • 4Department of Biology, Animal Ecology, University of Turku, Vesilinnantie 520500, Turku, Finland
  • 5Institute of Landscape Ecology, Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry Group, University of Muenster, Heisenbergstraße 2, 48149 Münster, Germany
  • 6Research Center of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, Salekhard 629008, Russia

Abstract. Fires are predicted to increase in Arctic regions due to ongoing climate change. Tundra fires can alter carbon and nutrient cycling and release a substantial amount of greenhouse gases with global consequences. Yet, the long-term effects of tundra fires on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stocks and cycling are still unclear. Here we used a space-for-time approach to investigate the long-term fire effects on C and N stocks and cycling in soil and aboveground living biomass. We collected data from three large fire scars (> 44, 28 and 12 years old) and corresponding control areas and used linear mixed-effects models in a Bayesian framework to analyse how the stocks and cycling were influenced by fire. We found that tundra fires did not affect total C and N stocks because a major part of the stocks was located belowground in soils, which were largely unaltered by fire. However, fire had a strong effect on stocks in the aboveground vegetation, mainly due to the reduction of the lichen layer. Fire reduced N concentrations in graminoids and herbs on the younger fire scars, which affected respective C / N ratios and indicated an increased post-fire competition between vascular plants. Aboveground plant biomass was depleted in 13C in all three fire scars. This could be related to a lower 13C abundance in CO2 in the ambient air because of increased post-fire decomposition, providing a source of 13C-depleted CO2. In soil, the relative abundance of 13C changed with time after fire because of the combined effects of microbial decomposition and plant-related fractionation processes. Our results indicate that in lichen-rich subarctic tundra ecosystems, the contribution of fires to the release of additional carbon to the atmosphere might be relatively small as soil stocks appear to be resilient.

Ramona Julia Heim et al.

Status: open (until 30 Jan 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-277', Anonymous Referee #1, 17 Jan 2022 reply

Ramona Julia Heim et al.

Data sets

Dataset for "Fire in lichen-rich subarctic tundra changes carbon and nitrogen cycling between ecosystem compartments but has minor effects on stocks" Ramona J. Heim, Andrey Yurtaev, Anna Bucharova, Wieland Heim, Valeriya Kutskir, Klaus-Holger Knorr, Christian Lampei, Alexandr Pechkin, Dora Schilling, Farid Sulkarnaev, and Norbert Hoelzel https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5582683

Model code and software

R-Code for "Fire in lichen-rich subarctic tundra changes carbon and nitrogen cycling between ecosystem compartments but has minor effects on stocks" Ramona J. Heim, Andrey Yurtaev, Anna Bucharova, Wieland Heim, Valeriya Kutskir, Klaus-Holger Knorr, Christian Lampei, Alexandr Pechkin, Dora Schilling, Farid Sulkarnaev, and Norbert Hoelzel https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5583511

Ramona Julia Heim et al.

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Short summary
Fires will probably increase in Arctic regions due to climate change. Yet, the long-term effects of tundra fires on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stocks and cycling are still unclear. We investigated the long-term fire effects on C and N stocks and cycling in soil and aboveground living biomass. We found that tundra fires did not affect total C and N stocks because a major part of the stocks was located belowground in soils, which were largely unaltered by fire.
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