|Schmitt, A; Glaser, B: Organic matter dynamics in a temperate forest as influenced by soil frost, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 174, 754-764 (2011), doi:DOI: 10.1002/jpln.201100009|
In the future, climate models predict an increase in global surface temperature and during winter a changing of precipitation from less snowfall to more raining. Without protective snow cover, freezing can be more intensive and can enter noticeably deeper into the soil with effects on C cycling and soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics. We removed the natural snow cover in a Norway spruce forest in the Fichtelgebirge Mts. during winter from late December 2005 until middle of February 2006 on three replicate plots. Hence, we induced soil frost to 15cm depth (at a depth of 5 cm below surface up to –5°C) from January to April 2006, while the snow-covered control plots never reached temperatures < 0°C. Quantity and quality of SOM was followed by total organic C and biomarker analysis. While soil frost did not influence total organic-C and lignin concentrations, the decomposition of vanillyl monomers (Ac/Ad)V and the microbial-sugar concentrations decreased at the end of the frost period, these results confirm reduced SOM mineralization under frost. Soil microbial biomass was not affected by the frost event or recovered more quickly than the accumulation of microbial residues such as microbial sugars directly after the experiment. However, in the subsequent autumn, soil microbial biomass was significantly higher at the snow-removal (SR) treatments compared to the control despite lower CO2 respiration. In addition, the water-stress indicator (PLFA [cy17:0 + cy19:0] / [16:1x7c + 18:1x7c]) increased. These results suggest that soil microbial respiration and therefore the activity was not closely related to soil microbial biomass but more strongly controlled by substrate availability and quality. The PLFA pattern indicates that fungi are more susceptible to soil frost than bacteria.