Soil carbon accumulation in the dry tundra: Important role played by precipitation

Jonatan Klaminder, Kyungsoo Yoo, Reiner Giesler

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27 Scopus citations


A positive relationship between the mean annual precipitation (MAP) and soil organic carbon (SOC) is found in most surveys covering the subarctic and boreal region. In this paper we assess mechanisms behind variable SOC pools in dry tundra soils developed along a 50 km long subarctic precipitation (snow) gradient in northern Sweden. Lead 210 is used to infer SOC accumulation rates in the O horizon. Despite an unchanged or even slightly decreasing accumulation rate of SOC in the O horizon (range 0.02-0.06 kg C m-2 yr -1) along with increasing MAP and a relative constant litter input (∼0.04 kg C m-2 yr-1), the. SOC pool in the upper 1 m increase significantly with increasing MAP. This trend is mainly due to a progressively buildup of SOC in the mineral soil and argued to be the result of an accelerated vertical translocation of SOC at sites overlain by a thick snowpack. Furthermore, the loss of SOC from the O horizon through wind erosion appears to be more pronounced at snow-poor sites. We estimate that vegetated heath soil may loose >0.02 kg C m-2 yr-1 (∼half of the annual litter fall) due to wind erosion in snow-poor areas. We stress that lateral and vertical translocation processes inherent by precipitation regimes may be of fundamental importance for the long-term SOC accumulation in tundra soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberG04005
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009


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