Plant and Soil

, Volume 383, Issue 1–2, pp 387–399 | Cite as

Contrasting nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics across an elevational gradient for subarctic tundra heath and meadow vegetation

  • Maja K. Sundqvist
  • David A. Wardle
  • Andrea Vincent
  • Reiner Giesler
Regular Article



This study explores soil nutrient cycling processes and microbial properties for two contrasting vegetation types along an elevational gradient in subarctic tundra to improve our understanding of how temperature influences nutrient availability in an ecosystem predicted to be sensitive to global warming.


We measured total amino acid (Amino-N), mineral nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations, in situ net N and P mineralization, net Amino-N consumption, and microbial biomass C, N and P in both heath and meadow soils across an elevational gradient near Abisko, Sweden.


For the meadow, NH4 + concentrations and net N mineralization were highest at high elevations and microbial properties showed variable responses; these variables were largely unresponsive to elevation for the heath. Amino-N concentrations sometimes showed a tendency to increase with elevation and net Amino-N consumption was often unresponsive to elevation. Overall, PO4-P concentrations decreased with elevation and net P immobilization mostly occurred at lower elevations; these effects were strongest for the heath.


Our results reveal that elevation-associated changes in temperature can have contrasting effects on the cycling of N and P in subarctic soils, and that the strength and direction of these effects depend strongly on dominant vegetation type.


Nutrient availability Mineralization Immobilization Microbial biomass Amino acids Temperature 



The authors thank The Abisko Scientific Research Station (ANS), Gesche Blume-Werry, Mathias Seibert, Tyler Logan, Thomas Westin and Helena Gustafsson for help in the field and laboratory. This project was funded by the Centre for Environmental Research in Umeå (CMF).

Supplementary material

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Appendix 1 (DOCX 26 kb)
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Appendix 2 (DOCX 42 kb)
11104_2014_2179_MOESM3_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Appendix 3 (DOCX 27 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maja K. Sundqvist
    • 1
    • 2
  • David A. Wardle
    • 1
  • Andrea Vincent
    • 2
  • Reiner Giesler
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Environmental ScienceUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  3. 3.Climate Impacts Research Centre, Department of Ecology and Environmental ScienceUmeå UniversityAbiskoSweden

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