Combined climate factors alleviate changes in gross soil nitrogen dynamics in heathlands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The ongoing climate change affects biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, but the magnitude and direction of this impact is yet unclear. To shed further light on the climate change impact, we investigated alterations in the soil nitrogen (N) cycling in a Danish heathland after 5 years of exposure to three climate change factors, i.e. warming, elevated CO2 (eCO(2)) and summer drought, applied both in isolation and in combination. By conducting laboratory N-15 tracing experiments we show that warming increased both gross N mineralization and nitrification rates. In contrast, gross nitrification was decreased by eCO(2), an effect that was more pronounced when eCO(2) was combined with warming and drought. Moreover, there was an interactive effect between the warming and CO2 treatment, especially for N mineralization: rates increased at warming alone but decreased at warming combined with eCO(2). In the full treatment combination, simulating the predicted climate for the year 2075, gross N transformations were only moderately affected compared to control, suggesting a minor alteration of the N cycle due to climate change. Overall, our study confirms the importance of multifactorial field experiments for a better understanding of N cycling in a changing climate, which is a prerequisite for more reliable model predictions of ecosystems responses to climate change.


  • Anna-Karin Björsne
  • Tobias Rütting
  • P. Ambus
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


  • N, DYNAMICS, MODELS, N-15, Geosciences, Multidisciplinary, Environmental Sciences, Warming, Nitrogen cycle, SUMMER DROUGHT, ATMOSPHERIC CARBON-DIOXIDE, TERRESTRIAL, ECOSYSTEMS, PROCESS RESPONSES, TEMPERATE HEATHLAND, GRASSLAND SOIL, Elevated CO2, N-15 tracing, Climate change
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-201
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes