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  • Titill er á ensku Experimental warming of subarctic biocrust: Temporal responses of soil respiration and plant community
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  • Útdráttur er á ensku

    Biological soil crust, biocrust, is a significant contributor to biogeochemical cycles through nitrogen and carbon cycling. Further, it stabilizes soil, facilitates water infiltration, and mitigates soil erosion. The global biocrust cover is believed to decrease by about 25-40% in the next 60 years due to climate change and intensification in land use. Research on biocrust in arctic and subarctic regions is limited, much of the knowledge comes from lower latitudes in arid and semiarid ecosystems. Cold-adapted biocrust might respond differently to increasing temperatures when compared with warm-adapted biocrust. Therefore, it is fundamental to research biocrust in arctic and subarctic regions when looking at how fast the climate is changing in the Northern hemisphere.
    Temporal variations of soil respiration in subarctic biocrust have not been studied systematically before. This research project focuses on the effects of warming on soil respiration in biocrust, on a diurnal and a seasonal scale. It also focuses on species composition changes of vascular plants in the warming experiment where warming was induced with open-top chambers (OTCs). Soil respiration, temperature, soil water content, as well as plant species composition changes were measured during three field trips that each lasted four days during the growing season of 2021.
    The results show that soil respiration was lower in September when compared with measurements done in June and July. The highest values of soil respiration were observed during mid-day and the lowest during evenings and nights. The temperatures of OTC plots were, on average, 1.16 °C higher than control plots, and OTC plots had significantly lower soil water content than control plots. During this research, the soil respiration increased with higher temperature but was not different between control and OTC plots during any time of day or month measured. Soil water content did not affect soil respiration significantly, while temperature did. These findings might be explained by less soil water content within warmer plots, but warmth and moisture have been shown to increase soil respiration. In other words, less soil water content might countereffect the increase of soil respiration due to warming.
    Some vascular plant species were more likely to be found within or outside the warming plots. Dwarf willow, Salix herbacea, decreased in cover within OTC plots. Previous research has shown that warming significantly reduces pollen shed and time of pollen shedding for S. herbacea, which might decrease its abundance within OTC plots. Alpine bistort, Bistorta vivipara, increased in cover within OTC plots compared to control plots. Warming experiments on B. vivipara have shown positive effects on reproductive parameters, which might increase its abundance within warmed OTC plots. Sheep also prefer grazing on B. vivipara. Therefore, it might have less cover in control plots, given that OTCs exclude grazing and that many sheep roam the studied site during the growing season. Vascular plant cover was greater within control plots when compared with warmed plots. Previous results at the same site after one year of warming, from summer 2019, showed more vascular plant cover within the OTC plots when compared with control plots. The results of this research might indicate that vascular plants are gradually affected by the warming and are transitioning towards a new equilibrium.
    The results of this research are ground for further studies on subarctic ecosystems dominated by biocrust. Many biotic and abiotic factors affect carbon cycles. For future modelling of predicted effects of climate change, having better knowledge on how subarctic ecosystems respond to warming is essential for a better understanding of the functions and feedbacks in a global context.

  • Thesis approved in partial fulfilment of a double Nordic Master MSc degree in environmental changes at higher latitudes (EnCHiL), from University of Helsinki and Agricultural University of Iceland.
Tengd vefslóð: 
  • 16.8.2022

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