Vegetation cover regulates the quantity, quality and temporal dynamics of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in Antarctic soils
Populations of the two native Antarctic vascular plant species (Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis) have expanded rapidly in recent decades, yet little is known about the effects of these expansions on soil nutrient cycling. We measured the concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON), amino acids and inorganic N in soils under these two vascular plant species, and under mosses and lichens, over a growing season at Signy Island in the maritime Antarctic. We recorded higher concentrations of nitrate, total dissolved nitrogen, DOC, DON and free amino acids in soil under D. antarctica and C. quitensis than in lichen or moss dominated soils. Each vegetation cover gave a unique profile of individual free amino acids in soil solution. Significant interactions between soil type and time were found for free amino acid concentrations and C/N ratios, indicating that vascular plants significantly change the temporal dynamics of N mineralization and immobilization. We conclude that D. antarctica and C. quitensis exert a significant influence over C and N cycling in the maritime Antarctic, and that their recent population expansion will have led to significant changes in the amount, type and rate of organic C and N cycling in soil.
Authors: Roberts, Paula, Newsham, Kevin K., Bardgett, Richard D., Farrar, John F., Jones, David L.