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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Goldberg, S; Muhr, J; Borken, W; Gebauer, G: Fluxes of climate-relevant trace gases between a Norway spruce forest soil and atmosphere during repeated freeze-thaw cycles in mesocosms, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 171, 729-739 (2008), doi:10.1002/jpln.200700317
For this century, an increasing frequency of extreme meteorological boundary conditions is expected, presumably resulting in a changing frequency of freezing and thawing of soils in higher-elevation areas. Our current knowledge about the effects of these events on trace-gas emissions from soils is scarce. In this study, the effects of freeze–thaw events on the fluxes of the trace gases CO2, N2O, and NO between soil and atmosphere were investigated in a laboratory experiment. Undisturbed soil columns were collected from a mature Norway spruce forest in the “Fichtelgebirge”, SE Germany. The influence of freezing temperatures (–3°C, –8°C, –13°C) on gas fluxes was studied during the thawing periods (+5°C) in three freeze–thaw cycles (FTCs) and compared to unfrozen controls (+5°C). Two different types of soil columns were examined in parallel—one consisting of O layer only (O columns) and one composed of O layer and mineral soil horizons (O+M columns)—to quantify the contribution of the organic layer and the top mineral soil to the production or consumption of these trace gases. During the thawing period, we observed increasing emissions of CO2, N2O, and NO from the spruce forest soil, but the cumulative emissions of these gases did mostly not exceed the level of the controls. The results show that the O layers were mainly involved in the gas production. Severe soil frost increased CO2 fluxes during soil thawing, whereas repetition of the freeze–thaw events decreased CO2 fluxes from the thawing soil. Fluxes of N2O and NO were neither influenced by freezing temperature nor by freeze–thaw repetition. Stable-isotope analysis indicated that denitrification was mostly responsible for the N2O production in the FTC columns. Furthermore, isotope data demonstrated a consumption of N2O through microbial denitrification to N2. It was further shown, that production of N2O also occurred in the mineral horizons. The NO emissions were mainly driven by increasing soil temperature during thawing. In this freeze–thaw experiment up to 20 times higher NO than N2O fluxes were recorded. Our results suggest that topsoil thawing has little potential to increase the emissions of CO2, N2O, and NO in spruce forest soils.
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