Biogeochemistry

, Volume 128, Issue 1–2, pp 141–154 | Cite as

Contrasting effects of winter snowpack and soil frost on growing season microbial biomass and enzyme activity in two mixed-hardwood forests

  • Patrick O. Sorensen
  • Pamela H. Templer
  • Adrien C. Finzi
Article

Abstract

Winter is recognized as an important time for microbial activity that influences biogeochemical cycles. The onset of the winter snowpack in temperate hardwood ecosystems has been and will continue to be delayed over the next century. The decline in snowpack results in more soil freeze–thaw events and lower winter soil temperatures. Understanding microbial responses to varying snowpack conditions is important to understanding the effect of climate change on forest ecosystems. To this end, we removed snow to simulate a thinner, more ephemeral snowpack at two sites in the northeastern US, Harvard Forest (MA) and Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (NH). We then measured microbial and exoenzyme activity in soils following snowmelt and three additional time points across the growing season. We found that microbial and exoenzyme activity were both positively correlated with the depth and duration of the snowpack at each site. The depth and duration of soil frost were negatively correlated with microbial biomass, exoenzyme activity and respiration, but only at Harvard Forest and not at Hubbard Brook. At both sites the changes in microbial and exoenzyme activity were transient and did not persist into the growing season past tree leaf-out. While it is possible that reductions in the snowpack and changes to microbial activity in the early spring may lead to asynchrony in the phenology of microbial relative to plant activity, it is at present uncertain whether and over what time scale this asynchrony may affect other forest ecosystem processes.

Keywords

Snow removal Soil frost Hubbard Brook Harvard Forest extracellular enzyme Winter climate change 

Supplementary material

10533_2016_199_MOESM1_ESM.docx (135 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 134 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick O. Sorensen
    • 1
  • Pamela H. Templer
    • 1
  • Adrien C. Finzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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