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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Slowed biogeochemical cycling in sub-arctic birch forest linked to reduced mycorrhizal growth and community change after a defoliation event
Author(s): Parker, Thomas
Sadowsky, Jesse
Dunleavy, Haley
Subke, Jens-Arne
Frey, Serita
Wookey, Philip
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Keywords: Defoliation
Birch forest
Ectomycorrhizal fungi
Community Change
Issue Date: Mar-2017
Citation: Parker T, Sadowsky J, Dunleavy H, Subke J, Frey S & Wookey P (2017) Slowed biogeochemical cycling in sub-arctic birch forest linked to reduced mycorrhizal growth and community change after a defoliation event, Ecosystems, 20 (2), pp. 316-330.
Abstract: Sub-arctic birch forests (Betula pubescens Ehrh. ssp. czerepanovii) periodically suffer large-scale defoliation events caused by the caterpillars of the geometrid moths Epirrita autumnata and Operophtera brumata. Despite their obvious influence on ecosystem primary productivity, little is known about how the associated reduction in belowground C allocation affects soil processes. We quantified the soil response following a natural defoliation event in sub-arctic Sweden by measuring soil respiration, nitrogen availability and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) hyphal production and root tip community composition. There was a reduction in soil respiration and an accumulation of soil inorganic N in defoliated plots, symptomatic of a slow-down of soil processes. This coincided with a reduction of EMF hyphal production and a shift in the EMF community to lower autotrophic C-demanding lineages (e.g. /russula-lactarius). We show that microbial and nutrient cycling processes shift to a slower, less C-demanding state in response to canopy defoliation. We speculate that, amongst other factors, a reduction in the potential of EMF biomass to immobilize excess mineral nitrogen resulted in its build-up in the soil. These defoliation events are becoming more geographically widespread with climate warming, and could result in a fundamental shift in sub-arctic ecosystem processes and properties. EMF fungi may be important in mediating the response of soil cycles to defoliation and their role merits further investigation.
DOI Link: 10.1007/s10021-016-0026-7
Rights: © The Author(s) 2016 This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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