• Climate change alters temporal dynamics of alpine soil microbial functioning and biogeochemical cycling via earlier snowmelt

      Broadbent, Arthur A. D.; orcid: 0000-0002-8438-7163; email: arthur.broadbent@manchester.ac.uk; Snell, Helen S. K.; Michas, Antonios; Pritchard, William J.; Newbold, Lindsay; orcid: 0000-0001-8895-1406; Cordero, Irene; orcid: 0000-0002-6249-8348; Goodall, Tim; orcid: 0000-0002-1526-4071; Schallhart, Nikolaus; Kaufmann, Ruediger; Griffiths, Robert I.; orcid: 0000-0002-3341-4547; et al. (Nature Publishing Group UK, 2021-02-22)
      Abstract: Soil microbial communities regulate global biogeochemical cycles and respond rapidly to changing environmental conditions. However, understanding how soil microbial communities respond to climate change, and how this influences biogeochemical cycles, remains a major challenge. This is especially pertinent in alpine regions where climate change is taking place at double the rate of the global average, with large reductions in snow cover and earlier spring snowmelt expected as a consequence. Here, we show that spring snowmelt triggers an abrupt transition in the composition of soil microbial communities of alpine grassland that is closely linked to shifts in soil microbial functioning and biogeochemical pools and fluxes. Further, by experimentally manipulating snow cover we show that this abrupt seasonal transition in wide-ranging microbial and biogeochemical soil properties is advanced by earlier snowmelt. Preceding winter conditions did not change the processes that take place during snowmelt. Our findings emphasise the importance of seasonal dynamics for soil microbial communities and the biogeochemical cycles that they regulate. Moreover, our findings suggest that earlier spring snowmelt due to climate change will have far reaching consequences for microbial communities and nutrient cycling in these globally widespread alpine ecosystems.
    • Shrub expansion modulates belowground impacts of changing snow conditions in alpine grasslands

      editor: Crowther, Thomas; Broadbent, Arthur A. D.; orcid: 0000-0002-8438-7163; email: arthur.broadbent@manchester.ac.uk; Bahn, Michael; Pritchard, William J.; Newbold, Lindsay K.; Goodall, Tim; Guinta, Andrew; Snell, Helen S. K.; Cordero, Irene; Michas, Antonios; et al. (2021-10-27)
      Abstract: Climate change is disproportionately impacting mountain ecosystems, leading to large reductions in winter snow cover, earlier spring snowmelt and widespread shrub expansion into alpine grasslands. Yet, the combined effects of shrub expansion and changing snow conditions on abiotic and biotic soil properties remains poorly understood. We used complementary field experiments to show that reduced snow cover and earlier snowmelt have effects on soil microbial communities and functioning that persist into summer. However, ericaceous shrub expansion modulates a number of these impacts and has stronger belowground effects than changing snow conditions. Ericaceous shrub expansion did not alter snow depth or snowmelt timing but did increase the abundance of ericoid mycorrhizal fungi and oligotrophic bacteria, which was linked to decreased soil respiration and nitrogen availability. Our findings suggest that changing winter snow conditions have cross‐seasonal impacts on soil properties, but shifts in vegetation can modulate belowground effects of future alpine climate change.