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Soil geochemistry confines microbial abundances across an Arctic landscape; Implications for net carbon exchange with the atmosphere

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Neil GrayORCiD, Dr Clare McCannORCiD, Dr Beate Christgen, Professor David GrahamORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


A large portion of the World’s terrestrial organic carbon is stored in Arctic permafrost soils.However, due to permafrost warming and increased in situ microbial mineralisation of released carbon,greenhouse gas releases from Arctic soils are increasing, including methane (CH4(g)). To identify environ-mental controls on such releases, we characterised soil geochemistry and microbial community conditions in13 near-surface Arctic soils collected across Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Statistically significant correlationswere found between proxies for carbonate mineral content (i.e. Ca and Mg) and soil pH (Spearman rho =0.87, p \ 0.001). In turn, pH significantly inversely correlated with bacterial and Type I methanotrophgene abundances across the soils (r =-0.71, p = 0.01 and r =-0.74, p = 0.006, respectively),which also co-varied with soil phosphorous (P) level (r = 0.79, p = 0.01 and r = 0.63, p = 0.02, respec-tively). These results suggest that soil P supply, which is controlled by pH and other factors, significantlyinfluences in situ microbial abundances in these Arctic soils. Overall, we conclude microbial responses toincreasing ‘old carbon’ releases in this Arctic region are constrained by nutrient-deficiency in surface soils,with consequential impacts on the flux and composition of carbon gasses released to the atmosphere.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gray ND, McCann CM, Christgen B, Ahammad SZ, Roberts JA, Graham DW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biogeochemistry

Year: 2014

Volume: 120

Issue: 1-3

Pages: 307-317

Print publication date: 01/08/2014

Online publication date: 30/05/2014

Acceptance date: 17/05/2014

Date deposited: 23/07/2014

ISSN (print): 0168-2563

ISSN (electronic): 1573-515X

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s10533-014-9997-7


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Funder referenceFunder name
University of Kansas General Research Fund
NE/F00608X/1Natural Environment Research Council