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Data from: Potential contributions of root decomposition to the nitrogen cycle in arctic forest and tundra

Citation

Träger, Sabrina; Milbau, Ann; Wilson, Scott D. (2018), Data from: Potential contributions of root decomposition to the nitrogen cycle in arctic forest and tundra, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.qg003

Abstract

1. Plant contributions to the nitrogen (N) cycle from decomposition are likely to be altered by vegetation shifts associated with climate change. Roots account for the majority of soil organic matter input from vegetation, but little is known about differences between vegetation types in their root contributions to nutrient cycling. Here, we examine the potential contribution of fine roots to the N cycle in forest and tundra to gain insight into belowground consequences of the widely-observed increase in woody vegetation that accompanies climate change in the Arctic. 2. We combined measurements of root production from minirhizotron images with tissue analysis of roots from differing root diameter and colour classes to obtain potential N input following decomposition. In addition, we tested for changes in N concentration of roots during early stages of decomposition, and investigated whether vegetation type (forest or tundra) affected changes in tissue N concentration during decomposition. For completeness, we also present respective measurements of leaves. 3. The potential N input from roots was two-fold greater in forest than in tundra, mainly due to greater root production in forest. Potential N input varied with root diameter and colour but this variation tended to be similar in forest and tundra. As for roots, the potential N input from leaves was significantly greater in forest than in tundra. Vegetation type had no effect on changes in root or leaf N concentration after one year of decomposition. 4. Our results suggest that shifts in vegetation that accompany climate change in the Arctic will likely increase plant-associated potential N input both belowground and aboveground. In contrast, shifts in vegetation might not alter changes in tissue N concentration during early stages of decomposition. Overall, differences between forest and tundra in potential contribution of decomposing roots to the N cycle reinforce differences between habitats that occur for leaves.

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