Spring feeding by pink-footed geese reduces carbon stocks and sink strength in tundra ecosystems

van der Wal, Rene; Sjogersten, Sofie; Woodi, Sarah J.; Cooper, Elizabeth J.; Jonsdottir, Ingibjorg S.; Kuijpers, Dries; Fox, Tony A.D.; Huiskes, A.D.. 2007 Spring feeding by pink-footed geese reduces carbon stocks and sink strength in tundra ecosystems. Global Change Biology, 13 (2). 539-545. 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01310.x

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Tundra ecosystems are widely recognized as precious areas and globally important carbon (C) sinks, yet our understanding of potential threats to these habitats and their large soil C store is limited. Land-use changes and conservation measures in temperate regions have led to a dramatic expansion of arctic-breeding geese, making them important herbivores of high-latitude systems. In field experiments conducted in high-Arctic Spitsbergen, Svalbard, we demonstrate that a brief period of early season belowground foraging by pink-footed geese is sufficient to strongly reduce C sink strength and soil C stocks of arctic tundra. Mechanisms are suggested whereby vegetation disruption due to repeated use of grubbed areas opens the soil organic layer to erosion and will thus lead to progressive C loss. Our study shows, for the first time, that increases in goose abundance through land-use change and conservation measures in temperate climes can dramatically affect the C balance of arctic tundra.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01310.x
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity
CEH Sections: _ Ecosystem Dynamics
ISSN: 1354-1013
Additional Keywords: belowground herbivory, C sink, C source, ecosystem respiration, goose grubbing, high arctic, land-use change, net ecosystem exchange, Spitsbergen
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 29 Jan 2008 15:56

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