Warming and Chronic High Nutrient Manipulations Yield Differing Legacy Effects on the Soil Microbial Community and Nutrient Pools in the Low Arctic
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Climate warming is predicted to increase summer air temperatures in the Arctic, warming soils and enhancing microbial decomposition of soil organic matter. Given the size of the soil carbon stores in the Arctic, even a fraction of its release as CO2 to the atmosphere could result in a positive feedback to climate warming. Fertilizers have been used in the past to quickly increase soil solution nutrients pools to mimic predicted concentrations under climate warming. However, because it may have inadvertent affects on the soil microbial community, fertilizer-induced patterns in microbial decomposition may be unrealistic. This study aimed to better understand the proposed mechanism of enhanced microbial decomposition under nutrient addition and warming treatments to discern whether warming alone is enough to stimulate enhanced microbial decomposition, or if nutrients in excess (i.e. chronic high nutrient additions) are necessary to yield such a response. I investigated the impacts of 10 years of greenhouse summer warming, chronic low nutrient factorial addition (5 g N and 1g P m-2 year-1, respectively), and chronic high nutrient factorial addition (10 g N and 5g P m-2 year-1, respectively) treatments on a mesic birch hummock tundra ecosystem near Daring Lake, NWT, Canada. Soil microbial nutrient pools, soil solution nutrient pools, and microbial community structure were measured in the upper organic, lower organic, and uppermost mineral soil depth intervals of all treatment plots in Spring 2014. Interestingly, the low nutrient additions did not yield any significant trends, yet the warming treatment increased soil bacterial richness suggesting a legacy effect of warming from the previous summers. Enhanced microbial nutrient uptake occurred only in the high nutrient addition treatments, and did not significantly alter soil carbon at least within the ten year period of this experiment. Together, these results and the absence of significant impacts of the low nutrient and greenhouse warming treatments suggests that nutrient and carbon cycling in these low arctic soils may be resilient against climate warming, at least over the initial decades.