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Keywords:

  • Goose grazing;
  • soil respiration;
  • SOC turnover;
  • Spitsbergen;
  • tundra vegetation;
  • warming

Abstract

The influence of goose grazing intensity and open-topped chambers (OTCs) on near-surface quantities and qualities of soil organic carbon (SOC) was evaluated in wet and mesic ecosystems in Svalbard. This study followed up a field experiment carried out in 2003–05 (part of the project Fragility of Arctic Goose Habitat: Impacts of Land Use, Conservation and Elevated Temperatures). New measurements of soil CO2 effluxes, temperatures and water contents were regularly made from July to November 2007. SOC stocks were quantified, and the reactivity and composition measured by basal soil respiration (BSR) and solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Results reveal variations in soil carbon cycling, with significant seasonal trends controlled by temperature, water content and snow. Experimental warming (OTCs) increased near-surface temperatures in the growing season, resulting in significantly higher CO2 effluxes. Different grazing intensities had no significant effects on observed soil respiration, but BSR rates at the mesic site (13–23 µg CO2 g soil-C−1 h−1) were highest with moderate grazing and lowest in the absence of grazing. A limited effect of grazing on microbial respiration is consistent with a lack of significant differences in SOC quantity and quality. NMR data show that the composition of A-horizon SOC is dominated by O-N-alkyl C and alkyl C groups, and less by carboxyl C and aromatic C groups: but again no marked variation in response to grazing was evident. It can be concluded that two years after a goose grazing experiment, SOC cycling was less than the natural variation within contrasting vegetation types.