, Volume 140, Issue 3, pp 359–371 | Cite as

Increased soil respiration in response to experimentally reduced snow cover and increased soil freezing in a temperate deciduous forest

  • Andrew B. ReinmannEmail author
  • Pamela H. Templer


Winter snowpack in seasonally snow-covered regions plays an important role in moderating ecosystem processes by insulating soil from freezing air temperatures. However, climate models project a decline in snowpack at mid and high latitudes over the next century. We conducted a snow removal experiment in a temperate deciduous forest at Harvard Forest in Massachusetts, USA to quantify the effects of a reduced winter snowpack and increased soil freezing on total soil respiration and its bulk (i.e. heterotrophic) and root-rhizosphere components. Snow removal increased soil freezing severity by more than three-fold, which resulted in a 27.6% increase in annual total soil respiration (p = 0.058). Across our plots and years of this study, we found that the severity, rather than simply the presence of soil freezing, was the primary driver of the soil respiration response to reduced winter snowpack. Bulk soil respiration made the largest contribution to total soil respiration with root-rhizosphere respiration contributing up to 26.1 ± 6.5% of total soil respiration across plot types and years. Snow removal significantly increased fine root mortality (p = 0.03), which was positively correlated with soil frost depth and duration (p = 0.068, \({\text{R}}_{{{\text{LMM}}(m)}}^{ 2}\) = 0.46), rates of total soil respiration (p = 0.075; \({\text{R}}_{{{\text{LMM}}(m)}}^{ 2}\) = 0.27) and the contribution of root-rhizosphere respiration to total soil respiration (p = 0.004; \({\text{R}}_{{{\text{LMM}}(m)}}^{ 2}\) = 0.58). We conclude that increased rates of soil respiration in response to soil freezing are driven by plant-mediated processes, whereby soil frost-induced root mortality stimulates respiration through decomposition of root necromass with additional enhancements possibly related to priming of soil organic matter decomposition and elevated rates of root respiration associated with growth.


Carbon Climate change Roots Snow Soil frost Soil respiration 



We are grateful for the assistance of Audrey Barker-Plotkin, Christine Bollig, Keala Cummings, Dash Donnelly, Omar Gutiérrez del Arroyo Santiago, Adam Jacobs, Stephanie Juice, Eli Melaas, Trustees of Reservation, and the staff at Harvard Forest. We appreciate the thoughtful feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript provided by Ivan Fernandez, Adrien Finzi, Lucy Hutyra, and Nathan Phillips. This project was supported by a US Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (EPA STAR) Graduate Fellowship to A. Reinmann [fellowship number FP91736201-1] and by the Northeastern States Research Cooperative through funding made available by the USDA Forest Service. The conclusions and opinions in this paper are those of the authors and not of the NSRC, the Forest Service, EPA, or the USDA.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1795 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Sciences InitiativeAdvanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center of The City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyHunter CollegeNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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