Diversification of nitrogen sources in various tundra vegetation types in the high arctic

Grzegorz Skrzypek, Bronislaw Wojtuń, Dorota Richter, Dariusz Jakubas, Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas, Aleksandra Samecka-Cymerman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    33 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    © 2015 Skrzypek et al. Low nitrogen availability in the high Arctic represents a major constraint for plant growth, which limits the tundra capacity for carbon retention and determines tundra vegetation types. The limited terrestrial nitrogen (N) pool in the tundra is augmented significantly by nesting seabirds, such as the planktivorous Little Auk (Alle alle). Therefore, N delivered by these birds may significantly influence the N cycling in the tundra locally and the carbon budget more globally. Moreover, should these birds experience substantial negative environmental pressure associated with climate change, this will adversely influence the tundra N-budget. Hence, assessment of bird-originated N-input to the tundra is important for understanding biological cycles in polar regions. This study analyzed the stable nitrogen composition of the three main N-sources in the High Arctic and in numerous plants that access different N-pools in ten tundra vegetation types in an experimental catchment in Hornsund (Svalbard). The percentage of the total tundra N-pool provided by birds, ranged from 0-21% in Patterned-ground tundra to 100% in Ornithocoprophilous tundra. The total N-pool utilized by tundra plants in the studied catchment was built in 36% by birds, 38% by atmospheric deposition, and 26% by atmospheric N2-fixation. The stable nitrogen isotope mixing mass balance, in contrast to direct methods that measure actual deposition, indicates the ratio between the actual N-loads acquired by plants from different N-sources. Our results enhance our understanding of the importance of different N-sources in the Arctic tundra and the used methodological approach can be applied elsewhere. Copyright:
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume10
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2015

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