Canadian Forest Service Publications

Nine years of in situ soil warming and topography impact the temperature sensitivity and basal respiration rate of the forest floor in a Canadian boreal forest. 2019. Marty, C.; Piquette, J.; Morin, H.; Bussières, D.; Thiffault, N.; Houle, D.; Bradley, R.L.; Simpson, M.J.; Ouimet, R.; Paré, M.C. PLoS ONE 14(12): e0226909.

Year: 2019

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40066

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226909

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The forest floor of boreal forest stores large amounts of organic C that may react to a warming climate and increased N deposition. It is therefore crucial to assess the impact of these factors on the temperature sensitivity of this C pool to help predict future soil CO2 emissions from boreal forest soils to the atmosphere. In this study, soil warming (+2–4˚C) and canopy N addition (CNA; +0.30–0.35 kg·N·ha-1·yr-1) were replicated along a topographic gradient (upper, back and lower slope) in a boreal forest in Quebec, Canada. After nine years of treatment, the forest floor was collected in each plot, and its organic C composition was characterized through solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Forest floor samples were incubated at four temperatures (16, 24, 32 and 40˚C) and respiration rates (RR) measured to assess the temperature sensitivity of forest floor RR (Q10 = e10k) and basal RR (B). Both soil warming and CNA had no significant effect on forest floor chemistry (e.g., C, N, Ca and Mg content, amount of soil organic matter, pH, chemical functional groups). The NMR analyses did not show evidence of significant changes in the forest floor organic C quality. Nonetheless, a significant effect of soil warming on both the Q10 of RR and B was observed. On average, B was 72% lower and Q10 45% higher in the warmed, versus the control plots. This result implies that forest floor respiration will more strongly react to changes in soil temperature in a future warmer climate. CNA had no significant effect on the measured soil and respiration parameters, and no interaction effects with warming. In contrast, slope position had a significant effect on forest floor organic C quality. Upper slope plots had higher soil alkyl C:O-alkyl C ratios and lower B values than those in the lower slope, across all different treatments. This result likely resulted from a relative decrease in the labile C fraction in the upper slope, characterized by lower moisture levels. Our results point towards higher temperature sensitivity of RR under warmer conditions, accompanied by an overall down-regulation of RR at low temperatures (lower B). Since soil C quantity and quality were unaffected by the nine years of warming, the observed patterns could result from microbial adaptations to warming.