Plant Ecology

, Volume 213, Issue 4, pp 695–706 | Cite as

Moss-specific changes in nitrogen fixation following two decades of warming, shading, and fertilizer addition

  • Pernille L. Sorensen
  • Signe Lett
  • Anders Michelsen


Climate warming will induce changes in Arctic ecosystem carbon balance, but besides climate, nitrogen availability is a critical controlling factor of carbon cycling. It is therefore essential to obtain knowledge on the influence of a changing climate on nitrogen fixation, as this process is the main source of new nitrogen to arctic ecosystems. In order to gain information on future nitrogen fixation rates in a changing climate, we studied the effects of two decades of warming with passive greenhouses, shading with sackcloth, and fertilization with NPK fertilizer on nitrogen fixation rates. To expand the knowledge on species-specific responses, we measured nitrogen fixation associated with two moss species: Hylocomium splendens and Aulacomnium turgidum. Our expectations of decreased nitrogen fixation rates in the fertilizer and shading treatments were met. However, contrary to our expectation of increased nitrogen fixation in the warming treatment, we observed either no change (Hylocomium) or a decrease (Aulacomnium) in fixation in the warmed plots. We hypothesize that this could be due to moss-specific responses or to long-term induced effects of the warming. For example, we observed that the soil temperature increase induced by the warming treatment was low and insignificant as vegetation height and total vascular plant cover of the warmed plots increased, and moss cover decreased. Hence, truly long-term studies lasting more than two decades provide insights on changes in key biogeochemical processes, which differ from more transient responses to warming in the Arctic.


Aulacomnium turgidum Arctic Bryophyte Climate change Hylocomium splendens Nitrogen fixation Vegetation cover Warming 



PLS was supported by postdoctoral grants from the University of Copenhagen and the Carlsberg Foundation. The long-term field experiment was maintained with support from the Danish Research Council/Nature and Universe and Abisko Scientific Research Station. The authors are grateful for invaluable laboratory assistance by Gosha Sylvester.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pernille L. Sorensen
    • 1
  • Signe Lett
    • 1
  • Anders Michelsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Terrestrial Ecology SectionUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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