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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Although numerous studies have examined the individual effects of increased temperatures and N deposition on soil biogeochemical cycling, few have considered how these disturbances interact to impact soil C and N dynamics. Likewise, many have not assessed season-specific responses to warming and N inputs despite seasonal variability in soil processes. We studied interactions among season, warming, and N additions on soil respiration and N mineralization at the Soil Warming × Nitrogen Addition Study at the Harvard Forest. Of particular interest were wintertime fluxes of C and N typically excluded from investigations of soils and global change. Soils were warmed to 5°C above ambient, and N was applied at a rate of 5 g m−2 y−1. Soil respiration and N mineralization were sampled over two years between 2007 and 2009 and showed strong seasonal patterns that mirrored changes in soil temperature. Winter fluxes of C and N contributed between 2 and 17% to the total annual flux. Net N mineralization increased in response to the experimental manipulations across all seasons, and was 8% higher in fertilized plots and 83% higher in warmed plots over the duration of the study. Soil respiration showed a more season-specific response. Nitrogen additions enhanced soil respiration by 14%, but this increase was significant only in summer and fall. Likewise, warming increased soil respiration by 44% over the whole study period, but the effect of warming was most pronounced in spring and fall. The only interaction between warming × N additions took place in autumn, when N availability likely diminished the positive effect of warming on soil respiration. Our results suggest that winter measurements of C and N are necessary to accurately describe winter biogeochemical processes. In addition, season-specific responses to the experimental treatments suggest that some components of the belowground community may be more susceptible to warming and N additions than others. Seasonal changes in the abiotic environment may have also interacted with the experimental manipulations to evoke biogeochemical responses at certain times of year.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Ecological Society of America (ESA)

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© 2011 Contosta et al.


This is an article published by Ecological Society of America (ESA) in Ecosphere in 2011, available online: