A novel approach to studying the effects of temperature on soil biogeochemistry using a thermal gradient bar

Fenner, N.; Dowrick, D. J.; Lock, M. A.; Rafarel, C.R.; Freeman, C.. 2006 A novel approach to studying the effects of temperature on soil biogeochemistry using a thermal gradient bar. Soil Use and Management, 22 (3). 267-273.

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The temperature dependence of chemical reaction rates and microbial metabolism mean that temperature is a key factor regulating soil trace gas emissions and hydrochemistry. Here we evaluated a novel approach for studying the thermal response of soils, by examining the effects of temperature on gas emissions and hydrochemistry in (a) peat and (b) soil from a Sitka spruce plantation. A thermal gradient was applied along an aluminium bar, allowing soil to be incubated contemporaneously from 2 to 18 °C. The approach demonstrated clear differences in the biogeochemical responses of the two soil types to warming. The peat showed no significant emission of CH4 at temperatures below 6 °C, while above 6 °C, a marked increase in the rate of release was apparent up to 15 °C (Q10 = 2.5) with emissions being similar between 15 and 18 °C. Conversely, CH4 emissions from the forest soil did not respond to warming. Nitrate availability in the peat decreased by 90% between 2 and 18 °C (P < 0.01), whereas concentrations in the forest soil did not respond. Sulphate availability in the peat decreased significantly with warming (60%, P < 0.01), while the forest soil showed the opposite response (a 30% increase, P < 0.01). Conventionally, thermal responses are studied by incubating individual soil samples at different temperatures, involving lengthy preparation and facilities to incubate samples at different temperatures simultaneously. Data collected on a given thermal response is usually limited and thus interpolated or extrapolated. The thermal gradient method overcomes these problems, is simple and flexible, and can be adapted for a wide range of sample types (not confined to soil). Such apparatus may prove useful in the optimization of management practices to mitigate the effects of climate change, as thermal responses will differ depending on land use and soil type.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: _ Biogeochemistry & Ecosystem Function
ISSN: 0266-0032
Additional Keywords: biogeochemistry, climate change, ferric stagnopodsol, hydrochemistry, peat, Sitka spruce, thermal gradient, thermal response, trace gas, warming
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 15 Jun 2007 11:21 +0 (UTC)

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