24 Jun 2022
24 Jun 2022

Soil organic matter diagenetic state informs boreal forest ecosystem feedbacks to climate change

Allison Myers-Pigg1,a, Karl Kaiser2,3, Ronald Benner4, and Susan Ziegler1 Allison Myers-Pigg et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, A1B2S7, Canada
  • 2Department of Marine Science, Texas A&M University, Galveston Campus, Galveston, 77553, USA
  • 3Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, 77840, USA
  • 4Department of Biological Sciences and School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina, Colombia, 29208, USA
  • aCurrent affiliation: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory, 98382, U.S.A.

Abstract. The fate of soil organic carbon (SOC) in boreal forests is dependent on the integrative ecosystem response to climate change. For example, boreal forest productivity is often nitrogen (N) limited, and climate warming can enhance N cycling and primary productivity. However, the net effect of this feedback on the SOC reservoir and its longevity with climate change remains unclear. Here, we (1) applied lignin biomarkers to assess the diagenetic alteration of SOC in boreal forest organic soils across a climate gradient; and (2) investigated the coupling of soil C and N cycling and the influence of enhanced N availability on soil C stocks along this boreal forest climate transect. The lignin diagenetic state remained constant with climate warming, indicating a balance between the input and removal of lignin in these mesic boreal forests. When combined with previous knowledge of these forest ecosystems, including the diagenetic state of soil organic nitrogen and direct measures of carbon fluxes and stocks, the results indicate a coupled increase in carbon and nitrogen cycling with climate warming that supports forest productivity and maintains SOC stocks. Our observations are consistent with several lines of evidence in other biomes not limited by water availability, although the mechanisms for the maintenance of SOC stocks during climate warming appear to be ecosystem dependent.

Allison Myers-Pigg et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-490', Patricia Elizabeth Garcia, 21 Jul 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Susan Ziegler, 21 Sep 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-490', Lorenzo Menichetti, 01 Sep 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Susan Ziegler, 21 Sep 2022

Allison Myers-Pigg et al.

Allison Myers-Pigg et al.


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Short summary
Boreal forests, historically a global sink for atmospheric CO2, store carbon in vast soil reservoirs. To predict how such stores will respond to climate warming we need to understand climate-ecosystem feedbacks. We find boreal forest soil carbon stores are maintained through enhanced nitrogen cycling with climate warming providing direct evidence for a key feedback. Further application of the approach demonstrated here will improve our understanding of the limits of climate-ecosystem feedbacks.