Plant and Soil

, Volume 242, Issue 1, pp 93–106 | Cite as

Mineralization and distribution of nutrients in plants and microbes in four arctic ecosystems: responses to warming

  • I.K. SchmidtEmail author
  • S. Jonasson
  • G. R. Shaver
  • A. Michelsen
  • A. Nordin


Mineralization and nutrient distribution in plants and microbes were studied in four arctic ecosystems at Abisko, Northern Sweden and Toolik Lake, Alaska, which have been subjected to long-term warming with plastic greenhouses. Net mineralization and microbial immobilization were studied by the buried bag method and ecosystem pool sizes of C, N and P were determined by harvest methods. The highest amounts of organic N and P were bound in the soil organic matter. Microbial N and P constituted the largest labile pools often equal to (N) or exceeding (P) the amounts stored in the vegetation. Despite large pools of N and P in the soil, net mineralization of N and P was generally low during the growing season, except in the wet sedge tundra, and in most cases lower than the plant uptake requirement. In contrast, the microorganisms immobilized high amounts of nutrients in the buried bags during incubation. The same high immobilization was not observed in the surrounding soil, where the microbial nutrient content in most cases remained constant or decreased over the growing season. This suggests that the low mineralization measured in many arctic ecosystems over the growing season is due to increased immobilization by soil microbes when competition from plant roots is prevented. Furthermore, it suggests that plants compete well with microbes for nutrients in these four ecosystems. Warming increased net mineralization in several cases, which led to increased assimilation of nutrients by plants but not by the microbes.

Arctic soil buried bags immobilization plant-microbe interactions warming 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams M A, Polglase P J, Attiwill P M and Weston C J 1989 In situ studies of nitrogen mineralization and uptake in forest soils; some comments on methodology. Soil Biol. Biochem. 21, 423-429.Google Scholar
  2. Berendse F, Jonasson S 1992 Nutrient use and nutrient cycling in northern ecosystems. In Arctic Ecosystems in a Changing Climate, an Ecophysiological Perspective. Eds. F S Chapin III, R L Jefferies, J F Reynold, G R Shaver and J Svoboda. pp 337-356. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  3. Binkley D, Stottlemyer R, Suarez F and Cortina J 1994 Soil nitrogen availability in some arctic ecosystems in northwest Alaska: Responses to temperature and moisture. Ecoscience 1, 64-70.Google Scholar
  4. Brooks P D, Williams M W and Schmidt S K 1998 Inorganic nitrogen and microbial biomass dynamics before and during spring snowmelt. Biogeochemistry. 43, 1-15.Google Scholar
  5. Callaghan T V and Jonasson S 1995 Arctic terrestrial ecosystems and environmental changes. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. London. 352, 259-276.Google Scholar
  6. Chapin F S III, Barsdate R J and Barel D 1978 Phosphorus cycling in Alaskan coastal tundra: a hypothesis for the regulation of nutrient cycling. Oikos 31, 189-199.Google Scholar
  7. Chapin F S III, Moilanen L and Kielland K 1993 Preferential use of organic nitrogen for growth by a non-mycorrhizal arctic sedge. Nature 361, 150-153.Google Scholar
  8. Chapin F S III, Shaver G R, Giblin A E, Nadelhoffer K J and Laundre J A 1995 Responses of arctic tundra to experimental and observed changes in climate. Ecology 76, 694-711.Google Scholar
  9. Clein J S and Schimel J P 1995 Microbial activity of tundra and taiga soils at sub-zero temperatures. Soil Biol. Biochem. 27, 1231-1234.Google Scholar
  10. Eno C F 1960 Nitrate production in the field by incubating the soil in polyethylene bags. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 24, 277-279.Google Scholar
  11. Fisk M C and Schmidt S K 1996 Microbial responses to nitrogen additions in alpine tundra soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28, 751-755.Google Scholar
  12. Giblin A E, Nadelhoffer K J, Shaver G R, Laundre J A and McKerrow A J 1991 Biogeochemical diversity along a riverside toposequence in arctic Alaska. Ecol. Monogr 61, 415-435.Google Scholar
  13. Gough L, Shaver G R, Carroll J, Royer D and Laundre J A 2000 Vascular plant species richness in Alaskan arctic tundra: the importance of soil pH. J. Ecol. 88, 54-66.Google Scholar
  14. Graglia E, Jonasson S, Michelsen A and Schmidt I K 1997 Effects of shading, nutrient application and warming on leaf growth and shoot densities of dwarf shrubs in two arctic/alpine plant communities. Ecoscience 4, 191-198.Google Scholar
  15. Hart S C and Gynther A J 1989 In situ estimates of annual nitrogen mineralization and nitrification in a subarctic watershed. Oecologia 80, 284-288.Google Scholar
  16. Hartley A E, Neill C, Melillo J M, Crabtree R and Bowles F P 1999 Plant performance and soil nitrogen mineralization in response to simulated climate change in subarctic dwarf shrub heath. Oikos 86, 331-343.Google Scholar
  17. Havström M, Callaghan T V and Jonasson S 1993 Differential growth responses of Cassiope tetragona, an arctic dwarf shrub, to environmental perturbations among three contrasting highand subarctic sites. Oikos 66, 389-402.Google Scholar
  18. Hobbie S E and Chapin F S III 1996 Winter regulation of tundra litter carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Biogeochemistry 35, 327-338.Google Scholar
  19. Hobbie S E and Chapin F S III 1998 The responses of tundra plant biomass, above ground production, nitrogen, and CO2 flux to experimental warming. Ecology 79, 1526-1544.Google Scholar
  20. Jaeger C H III, Monson R K, Fisk M C and Schmidt S K 1999 Seasonal partitioning of nitrogen by plants and soil microorganisms in an alpine ecosystem. Ecology 80, 1883-1891.Google Scholar
  21. Jenkinson D S and Powlson D S 1976 The effect of biocidal treatments on metabolism in soil-V. A method for measuring soil biomass. Soil Biol. Biochem. 8, 209-213.Google Scholar
  22. Joergensen R G 1996 The fumigation-extraction method to estimate soil microbial biomass: Calibration of the K ec value. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28, 25-31.Google Scholar
  23. Johnson L C, Shaver G R, Cades D H, Rastetter E R, Nadelhoffer K J, Giblin A E, Laundre J A and Stanley A 2000 Plant carbonnutrient interactions control CO2 exchange in Alaskan wet sedge tundra ecosystems. Ecology 81, 453-469.Google Scholar
  24. Jonasson S 1983 Nutrient content and dynamics in north Swedish shrub tundra areas. Holarc. Ecol. 6, 295-304.Google Scholar
  25. Jonasson S 1989 Implication of leaf longevity, leaf nutrient reabsorption and translocation for the resource economy of five evergreen plant species. Oikos 56: 121-131.Google Scholar
  26. Jonasson S and Chapin F S III 1985 Significance of sequential leaf development for nutrient balance of the cotton-sedge, Eriophorum vaginatum L. Oecologia 67, 511-518.Google Scholar
  27. Jonasson S, Havström M, Jensen M and Callaghan T V 1993 In situ mineralization of nitrogen and phosphorus of arctic soils after perturbations simulating climate change. Oecologia 95, 179-186.Google Scholar
  28. Jonasson S, Michelsen A, Schmidt I K, Nielsen E V and Callaghan T V 1996 Microbial biomass C, N and P in two arctic soils and the responses to addition of NPK fertilizer and carbon: Implications for plant nutrient uptake. Oecologia 106, 507-515.Google Scholar
  29. Jonasson S, Michelsen A and Schmidt I K 1999a Coupling of nutrient cycling and carbon dynamics in the Arctic, integration of soil microbial and plant processes. Appl. Soil Ecol. 11, 135-146.Google Scholar
  30. Jonasson S, Michelsen A, Schmidt I K and Nielsen E V 1999b Responses in microbes and plants to changed temperature, nutrient and light regimes in the Arctic. Ecology 80, 1828-1843.Google Scholar
  31. Kielland, K., 1994. Amino acid absorption by arctic plants: implications for plant nutrient and nitrogen cycling. Ecology, 75, 2373-2383.Google Scholar
  32. Kielland K and Chapin F S III 1992 Nutrient absorption and accumulation in arctic plants. In Arctic ecosystems in a changing climate, an ecophysiological perspective. Eds. F S Chapin III, R L Jefferies, J F Reynold, G R Shaver and J Svoboda. pp 321-335. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  33. Lipson D A, Schmidt S K and Monson R K 1999 Links between microbial population dynamics and nitrogen availability in an alpine ecosystem. Ecology 80, 1623-1631.Google Scholar
  34. Malmer N, Nihlgård B 1980 Supply and transport of mineral nutrients in a subarctic mire. In Ecology of a Subarctic Mire. Ed. M Sonesson. Ecol. Bull. 30, 63-95. Stockholm.Google Scholar
  35. Michelsen A, Jonasson S, Sleep D, Havström M and Callaghan T V 1996a Shoot biomass, ? 13C, nitrogen and chlorophyll responses of two arctic shrubs to in situ shading, nutrient application and warming simulating climatic change. Oecologia 105, 1-12.Google Scholar
  36. Michelsen A, Schmidt I K, Jonasson S, Quarmby C and Sleep D 1996b Leaf 15N abundance of subarctic plants provides field evidence that ericoid, ectomycorrhizal and non-and arbuscular mycorrhizal species access different sources of soil nitrogen. Oecologia 105, 53-63.Google Scholar
  37. Michelsen A, Quarmby C, Sleep D and Jonasson S 1998 Vascular plant 15N natural abundance in heath and forest tundra ecosystems is closely correlated with presence and type of mycorrhizal fungi in roots. Oecologia 115, 406-418.Google Scholar
  38. Michelsen A, Graglia E, Schmidt I K, Jonasson S, Sleep D and Quarmby C 1999 Differential responses of grass and dwarf shrub to long-term changes in soil microbial biomass C, N and P following factorial NPK fertilizer, fungicide and labile carbon to a heath. New Phytol. 143, 523-538.Google Scholar
  39. Nadelhoffer K J, Aber J D and Melillo J M 1984 Seasonal patterns of ammonium and nitrate uptake in nine temperate forest ecosystems. Plant Soil 80, 321-335.Google Scholar
  40. Nadelhoffer K J, Aber J D and Melillo J M 1985 Fine roots, net primary production, and soil nitrogen availability: A new hypothesis. Ecology 66, 1377-1390Google Scholar
  41. Nadelhoffer K J, Giblin A E, Shaver G R and Laundre J A 1991 Effects of temperature and substrate quality on element mineralization in six arctic soils. Ecology, 72, 242-253.Google Scholar
  42. Nadelhoffer, K J, Giblin A E, Shaver G R and Linkins A E 1992 Microbial processes and plant nutrient availability in arctic soils. In Arctic Ecosystems in a Changing Climate, an Ecophysiological Perspective. Eds. F S Chapin III, R L Jefferies, J F Reynold, G R Shaver and J Svoboda. pp 281-300. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  43. Read D J 1991 Mycorrhizas in ecosystems-nature's response to the ‘law of minimum’. In Frontiers in mycology. Ed. D L Haksworth. Honourary Lectures from the Fourth International Mycological Congress. pp 101-130. CAB International, Regensburg.Google Scholar
  44. Ruess L, Michelsen A, Schmidt I K and Jonasson S 1999 Simulated climate change affecting microorganisms, nematode density and biodiversity in subarctic soils. Plant Soil 212, 63-73.Google Scholar
  45. Schimel J P and Chapin F S III 1996 Tundra plant uptake of amino acid and NH4 + nitrogen in situ: plant compete well for amino acid N. Ecology 77, 2142-2147.Google Scholar
  46. Schimel J P, Kielland K and Chapin F S III 1996 Nutrient availability and uptake by tundra plants. In Landscape Function and Disturbance in Arctic Tundra. Eds. J F Reynolds and J D Tenhunen. pp 203-221. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.Google Scholar
  47. Schmidt I K, Michelsen A and Jonasson S 1997. Effects of labile soil carbon on nutrient partitioning between an arctic graminoid and soil microbes. Oecologia 112, 557-565.Google Scholar
  48. Schmidt I K, Jonasson S and Michelsen A 1999 Mineralization and microbial immobilization of N and P in arctic soils in relation to season, temperature and nutrient amendment. Appl. Soil Ecol. 11, 147-160.Google Scholar
  49. Schmidt I K, Ruess L, Bååth E, Michelsen A, Ekelund E and Jonasson S 2000 Long-term manipulation of the microbial community and microfauna of two contrasting subarctic heaths by addition of fungicide, bactericide, carbon and fertilizer. Soil Biol. Biochem. 32, 707-720.Google Scholar
  50. Shaver G R and Chapin F S III 1980 Responses to fertilization by various plant growth forms in an Alaskan tundra: nutrient accumulation and growth. Ecology 61, 662-675.Google Scholar
  51. Shaver G R and Chapin F S III 1986 Effect of fertilizer on production and biomass of tussock tundra, Alaska, USA. Arctic Alpine Res. 18, 261-268.Google Scholar
  52. Shaver G R and Chapin F S III 1991 Production:biomass relationships and element cycling in contrasting arctic vegetation types. Ecol. Monogr. 61, 1-31.Google Scholar
  53. Shaver G R and Chapin F S III 1995 Long-term responses to factorial NPK fertilizer treatment by Alaskan wet and moist tundra sedge species. Ecography 18, 259-275.Google Scholar
  54. Shaver G R, Johnson L C, Cades D H, Murray G, Laundre J A, Rastetter E B, Nadelhoffer K J and Giblin A E 1998 Biomass and CO2 flux in wet sedge tundras: Responses to nutrients, temperature, and light. Ecol Monogr. 68, 75-97.Google Scholar
  55. Shaver G R, Billings W D, Stuart F S III, Giblin A E, Nadelhoffer K J, Oechel W C and Rastetter E B 1992 Global change and the carbon balance of arctic ecosystems. BioScience 42, 433-441.Google Scholar
  56. Tate K R, Ross D J and Feltham C W 1988 A direct extraction method to estimate soil microbial C: Effects of experimental variables and some different calibration procedures. Soil Biol. Biochem. 20, 329-335.Google Scholar
  57. Wookey P A, Parson A N, Welker J M, Potter J A, Callaghan T V, Lee J A and Press M C 1993 Comparative responses of phenology and reproductive development to stimulated environmental change in sub-arctic and high arctic plants. Oikos 67, 490-502.Google Scholar
  58. Wu J, Joergensen R G, Pommerening B, Chaussod R and Brookes P C 1990 Measurement of soil microbial biomass C by fumigation-extraction-an automated procedure. Soil Biol. Biochem. 22, 1167-1169.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • I.K. Schmidt
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • S. Jonasson
    • 1
  • G. R. Shaver
    • 2
  • A. Michelsen
    • 1
  • A. Nordin
    • 2
  1. 1.Botanical InstituteUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark
  2. 2.Danish Forest and Landscape Research InstituteHørsholmDenmark
  3. 3.The Ecosystems CenterMarine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA

Personalised recommendations