, Volume 142, Issue 3, pp 319–338 | Cite as

The effect of a freeze–thaw cycle on dissolved nitrogen dynamics and its relation to dissolved organic matter and soil microbial biomass in the soil of a northern hardwood forest

  • Tsunehiro Watanabe
  • Ryunosuke Tateno
  • Shogo Imada
  • Karibu Fukuzawa
  • Kazuo Isobe
  • Rieko Urakawa
  • Tomoki Oda
  • Nanae Hosokawa
  • Takahiro Sasai
  • Yoshiyuki Inagaki
  • Takuo Hishi
  • Hiroto Toda
  • Hideaki ShibataEmail author


Recent global warming models project a significant change in winter climate over the next few decades. The decrease in snowpack in the winter will decrease the heat insulation function of the snowpack, resulting in increased soil freeze–thaw cycles. Here, we examined the impact of winter freeze–thaw cycles on year-round dissolved nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) dynamics and their relationship with dissolved organic matter and microbial biomass in soil by conducting an in situ experimental reduction in snowpack. We investigated dissolved inorganic N (NH4+ and NO3), dissolved organic N (DON), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), inorganic N leaching, soil microbial biomass, and microbial activities (mineralization and nitrification) in the surface soil of a northern hardwood forest located in Japan. Experimental snowpack reduction significantly increased the number of soil freeze–thaw cycles and soil frost depth. The NH4+ content of the surface soil was significantly increased by the amplified soil freeze–thaw cycles due to decreased snowpack, while the soil NO3 content was unchanged or decreased slightly. The gravimetric soil moisture, DON and DOC contents in soil and soil microbial biomass significantly increased by the snowpack removal in winter. Our results suggest that the amplified freeze–thaw cycles in soil increase the availability of DON and DOC for soil microbes due to an increase in soil freezing. The increases in both DON and DOC in winter contributed to the enhanced growth of soil microbes, resulting in the increased availability of NH4+ in winter from net mineralization following an increase in soil freeze–thaw cycles. Our study clearly indicated that snow reduction significantly increased the availability of dissolved nitrogen and carbon during winter, caused by increased soil water content due to freeze–thaw cycles in winter.


Soil microbe Freeze–thaw cycle Biogeochemical cycles N mineralization Nitrification Winter climate change 



We would like to thank the collaborators of the ReSIN project (Regional and comparative soil incubation study on nitrogen dynamics in forest ecosystems: PI. Hideaki Shibata), Nobuhito Ohte, Nobuko Saigusa, Keitaro Fukushima, Tsutomu Enoki, Keisuke Koba, Toshizumi Miyamoto, Shin Ugawa and Kobayashi Makoto for their helpful discussions in the development of the manuscript. We would also like to thank Takayuki Yamauchi, Yasuyuki Shibata, Tomoyuki Nakagawa, Ken-ichi Ohta, Yoichiro Kitagawa, Yasunori Kishimoto, and Makoto Furuta, who are technical staff of the Hokkaido forest research station, Field Science Education and Research Center and Kyoto University for their great efforts in the manual snow removal. We would also like to thank Michiko Shimizu and the technical staff of the Northern Forestry and Development Office, Field Research Station, Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University, for their support with laboratory analysis. This study was partly supported by research funds (25252026) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (S-15) of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan; Integrated Research Program for Advancing Climate Models (TOUGOU program) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan.

Supplementary material

10533_2019_537_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (858 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 858 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Field Science Education and Research CenterKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  3. 3.Institute for Environmental SciencesKamikita-gunJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Agricultural and Life SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  5. 5.Asia Center for Air Pollution ResearchJapan Environmental Sanitation CenterNiigataJapan
  6. 6.Graduate School of Environmental ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  7. 7.Graduate School of ScienceTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  8. 8.Shikoku Research CenterForestry and Forest Products Research InstituteKochiJapan
  9. 9.Graduate School of AgricultureKyushu UniversityKasuyaJapan
  10. 10.Graduate School of AgricultureTokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan

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