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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - Forest, Range & Wildland Soils

Soil Freezing Effects on Sources of Nitrogen and Carbon Leached During Snowmelt


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 78 No. 1, p. 297-308
    Received: June 06, 2013
    Published: January 30, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): jlcampbell@fs.fed.us
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  1. John L. Campbell *a,
  2. Andrew B. Reinmannb and
  3. Pamela H. Templerb
  1. a U.S. Forest Service P.O. Box 640 Durham, NH 03824
    b Boston Univ. Dep. of Biology 5 Cummington Mall Boston, MA 02215


Soil freezing in winter has been shown to enhance growing season losses of C and N in northern forests. However, less is known about effects of soil freezing on C and N retention during snowmelt and the sources of C and N leached, which is important because losses to stream water are greatest during this period. Organic horizon soils (Oi + Oe + Oa) from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, United States were placed in columns in a laboratory experiment and subjected to one of three different temperature treatments (+5.0, −0.5, and −15.0°C) before they were covered with snow and placed in a +5.0°C cold room to induce snowmelt. Results for all temperature treatments showed that fluxes of all forms of C and N declined over snowmelt, indicating flushing of a limited soil pool. The quality of dissolved organic matter (DOM) became increasingly aromatic, while δ15N-NO3 declined, indicating that as labile organic matter and N become less available during snowmelt, a greater proportion of N is cycled through the microbial pool. Mild soil freezing had little effect on C and N processing; however, severe soil freezing resulted in delayed leaching and a flush of labile DOM. The severely frozen soils also leached significantly less dissolved inorganic N (DIN; NH4+ and NO3), likely due to the inhibitory effect of extremely cold soil temperatures on microbial production. These results highlight the importance of winter climate in regulating fluxes and sources of C and N leached during snowmelt, having implications for stream water quality.

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