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Organic matter properties of Fennoscandian ecosystems: Potential oxidation of northern environments under future change?

Clay, Gareth D., Worrall, Fred, Plummer, Rebecca, Moody, Catherine S.
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.610-611 pp. 1496-1504
Gelisols, Histosols, Inceptisols, Spodosols, biosphere, carbon dioxide, climate, ecosystems, land use change, latitude, organic matter, oxidation, permafrost, trees, vegetation, Arctic region, Norway, Sweden
The oxidative ratio (OR) of an ecosystem, which reflects the ratio of O2:CO2 associated with ecosystem gas exchanges, is an important parameter in understanding the sink of CO2 represented by the terrestrial biosphere. There is a growing body of ecosystem-based approaches to understand OR; however, there are still a number of unknowns. This study addressed two gaps in our understanding of the oxidation of the terrestrial biosphere: (1) What is the oxidation state of Arctic ecosystems, and in particular permafrost soils? (2) Will coupled climate and land use change cause the terrestrial organic matter oxidation state to change? The study considered eight locations along a transect from southern Sweden to northern Norway and sampled different organic matter types (soil, litter, trees, and herbaceous vegetation) as well as different soil orders (Inceptisols, Spodosols, Histosols, and Gelisols). The study showed that although there was no difference between soil orders, there was a significant effect due to location with OR increasing from 1.03 at the southernmost location to 1.09 in the northernmost location; this increase is independent of soil order or type of organic matter. The pattern of post hoc differences in the OR with latitude suggests that the increase in OR is correlated with the northern limit of arable agriculture. The study suggests that the combined effects of climate and land use change could lead to a decrease in terrestrial organic matter OR and an increase in its oxidation state.