, Volume 122, Issue 2–3, pp 211–227 | Cite as

Stoichiometric analysis of nutrient availability (N, P, K) within soils of polygonal tundra

  • Fabian Beermann
  • Annette Teltewskoi
  • Claudia Fiencke
  • Eva-Maria Pfeiffer
  • Lars Kutzbach


Plant growth in arctic tundra is known to be commonly limited by nitrogen. However, biogeochemical interactions between soil, vegetation and microbial biomass in arctic ecosystems are still insufficiently understood. In this study, we investigated different compartments of the soil-vegetation system of polygonal lowland tundra: bulk soil, inorganic nutrients, microbial biomass and vegetation biomass were analyzed for their contents of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Samples were taken in August 2011 in the Indigirka lowlands (NE Siberia, Russia) in a detailed grid (4 m × 5 m) in one single ice-wedge polygon. We used a stoichiometric approach, based on the N/P ratios in the vegetation biomass and the investigated soil fractions, to analyze limitation relations in the soil-vegetation system. Plant growth in the investigated polygonal tundra appears to be co-limited by nitrogen and phosphorus or in some cases only limited by nitrogen whereas potassium is not limiting plant growth. However, as the N/P ratios of the microbial biomass in the uppermost soil horizons were more than twice as high as previously reported for arctic ecosystems, nitrogen mineralization and fixation may be limited at present by phosphorus. We found that only 5 % of the total nitrogen is already cycling in the biologically active fractions. On the other hand, up to 40 % of the total phosphorus was found in the biologically active fractions. Thus, there is less potential for increased phosphorus mineralization than for increased nitrogen mineralization in response to climate warming, and strict phosphorus limitation might be possible in the long-term.


Stoichiometry Siberia Nutrient availability Nutrient limitation Microbiology Polygonal tundra 



The study presented here is part of the German-Russian joint project “Polygons in tundra wetlands: state and dynamics under climate variability in tundra regions (POLYGON)” (Russian Foundation of Basic Research, RFBR grant no. 11-04-91332-NNIO-a and German Research Foundation, DFG grant no. KU 1418/3-1 to Lars Kutzbach and JO 332/14-1 to Hans Joosten). F. Beermann, E.-M. Pfeiffer and L. Kutzbach were supported through the Cluster of Excellence “CliSAP” (EXC177), University of Hamburg, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). F. Beermann was also supported through a doctoral fellowship of the University of Hamburg in accordance with the Hamburg Act for the Promotion of Young Researchers and Artists (HmbNFG). We thank our colleagues who helped during the expedition in 2011, especially Lyudmillia A. Pestryakova from the North Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Hans Joosten and Juliane Seyfert from the Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald as well as Lutz Schirrmeister from AWI Potsdam. The analytical work in the laboratories of the University of Hamburg was greatly supported by Susanne Kopelke. Determination of the vegetation communities as well as the indicator plant species for each community was generously conducted by Michael Manthey from the Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald. We thank Stefan Goen and Dierk Michaelis (Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald) for identifying the moss species. Martin Schrön (Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald) and Pim de Klerk (Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde, Karlsruhe) assisted in the preparation of Fig. 3 and Fig. 7.  

Supplementary material

10533_2014_37_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabian Beermann
    • 1
  • Annette Teltewskoi
    • 2
  • Claudia Fiencke
    • 1
  • Eva-Maria Pfeiffer
    • 1
  • Lars Kutzbach
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, Institute of Soil SciencesUniversität HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Peatland Studies and Palaeoecology, Institute of Botany and Landscape EcologyUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany

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