Journal article

The effect of abrupt climatic warming on biogeochemical cycling and N2O emissions in a terrestrial ecosystem: B

The large, rapid increase in atmospheric N2O concentrations that occurred concurrent with the abrupt warming at the end of the Last Glacial period might have been the result of a reorganization in global biogeochemical cycles. To explore the sensitivity of nitrogen cycling in terrestrial ecosystems to abrupt warming, we combined a scenario of climate and vegetation composition change based on multiproxy data for the Oldest Dryas-Bolling abrupt warming event at Gerzensee, Switzerland, with a biogeochemical model that simulates terrestrial N uptake and release, including N2O emissions. As for many central European sites, the pollen record at the Gerzensee is remarkable for the abundant presence of the symbiotic nitrogen fixer Hippophae rhamnoides (L) during the abrupt warming that also marks the beginning of primary succession on immature glacial soils. Here we show that without additional nitrogen fixation, climate change results in a significant increase of N2O emissions of approximately factor 3.4 (from 6.4 +/- 1.9 to 21.6 +/- 5.9 mg N2O-N m(-2) yr(-1)). Each additional 1000 mg m(-2) yr(-1) of nitrogen added to the ecosystem through N-fixation results in additional N2O emissions of 1.6 mg N2O N m(-2) yr(-1) for the time with maximum H. rhamnoides coverage. Our results suggest that local reactions of emissions to abrupt climate change could have been considerably faster than the overall atmospheric concentration changes observed in polar ice. Nitrogen enrichment of soils due to the presence of symbiotic N-fixers during early primary succession not only facilitates the establishment of vegetation on soils in their initial stage of development, but can also have considerable influence on biogeochemical cycles and the release of reactive nitrogen trace gases to the atmosphere. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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