, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 239-252

Soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics along a latitudinal transect in Western Siberia, Russia

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Abstract

An 1800-km South to North transect (N 53°43′ to 69°43′) through Western Siberia was established to study the interaction of nitrogen and carbon cycles. The transect comprised all major vegetation zones from steppe, through taiga to tundra and corresponded to a natural temperature gradient of 9.5°C mean annual temperature (MAT). In order to elucidate changes in the control of C and N cycling along this transect, we analyzed physical and chemical properties of soils and microbial structure and activity in the organic and in the mineral horizons, respectively. The impact of vegetation and climate exerted major controls on soil C and N pools (e.g., soil organic matter, total C and dissolved inorganic nitrogen) and process rates (gross N mineralization and heterotrophic respiration) in the organic horizons. In the mineral horizons, however, the impact of climate and vegetation was less pronounced. Gross N mineralization rates decreased in the organic horizons from south to north, while remaining nearly constant in the mineral horizons. Especially, in the northern taiga and southern tundra gross nitrogen mineralization rates were higher in the mineral compared to organic horizons, pointing to strong N limitation in these biomes. Heterotrophic respiration rates did not exhibit a clear trend along the transect, but were generally higher in the organic horizon compared to mineral horizons. Therefore, C and N mineralization were spatially decoupled at the northern taiga and tundra. The climate change implications of these findings (specifically for the Arctic) are discussed.