- Turnover and fluxes of carbon and nitrogen in a spruce forest under natural and extreme meteorological conditions (2010)
- Climate models predict an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme meteorological climate events like extended summer droughts, heavy rainfall or intensive frost periods with largely unknown effects on microbial activity and pysico-chemical soil properties and their impact on availability of soil organic matter. The influence of drying/rewetting (A/W) and freezing/thawing (G/A) events on solution chemistry and leaching losses of soils is barely known. This thesis aimed to study the effects of A/W and G/A events on soil solution chemistry and solute fluxes, in particular, of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and inorganic nitrogen (NH4+, NO3-) in a podzol soil under a Norway spruce forest. A field experiment was designed to study the effects of (i) summer drought by exclusion of natural throughfall and subsequent rewetting and of (ii) soil frost by removal of natural snow cover. In complementary laboratory experiments with undisturbed soil columns, (i) drying/rewetting cycles were simulated with different rewetting intensities and (ii) freezing/thawing cycles were induced using different freezing temperatures. In the second part of this work, total C and N stocks as well as radiocarbon signatures of soil organic carbon (SOC) from different soil horizons and density fractions were investigated. A/W increased the DOC concentrations in the organic layer and upper mineral soil. More DOC was released from the organic layer to the mineral soil. However, the effects on total DOC leaching were smaller due to reduced water fluxes. Specific UV absorbance and emission fluorescence detected a switch in the release of easily decomposable DOC to hardly decomposable DOC during the wetting phase. Prolonged summer drought and incomplete rewetting due to hydrophobicity of SOM in the organic layer and upper mineral horizon reduced net N mineralisation as well as concentrations and fluxes of the NH4+ and NO3-. The net nitrification rate in the organic layer was more negatively influenced than net ammonification, indicating that nitrifiers are more sensitive to drought stress than ammonifiers. The effect of soil frost strongly depended on soil freezing temperature. Only soil frost at temperature below -8°C led to short periods of additional DOC production in the organic layer. Spectroscopic properties and ∆14C signatures of DOC implied a disruption of soil aggregates and desorption of older DOC from the mineral associated organic matter fraction of the Oa horizons by G/A events. Severe soil frost below -8°C inhibited the activity of nitrifiers and ammonifiers with decreased NH4+ and NO3- concentrations and fluxes in the mesocosm experiment. A delayed (by 4 months) increase in NO3- concentration in the upper soil horizon by moderate soil frost (-5°C) was attributed to reduced Immobilisation by heterotrophic microorganisms. Summarised, drying and the effect of hydrophobicity led to long-term, severe soil frost to short-term reduction in N mineralisation and N leaching. The effect of increased NO3- concentrations as delayed response to G/A needs further research in case of potentially changes in the N balance. Drying as well as freezing induced changes in the soil structure and properties and led to increased DOC concentrations. Moderate soil temperature had much less effects on C and N in this temperate forest soil. The results of this thesis demonstrated the potential of extreme meteorological events on the quality and availability of dissolved C and N. Both, A/W and G/A cycles decreased C and N mineralisation, increased the sink strength of the soil by the accumulation of SOC and N, considering constant C and N litter input. However, optimal temperature and moisture conditions in other seasons could compensate the sink strength of soils. This work underpins the need for holistic and long-term investigations to understand and model the impact of extreme meteorological conditions on the dynamics of dissolved C and N.