Mineralization responses at near-zero temperatures in three alpine soils

Amy E. Miller, Joshua P. Schimel, James O. Sickman, Thomas Meixner, Allen P. Doyle, John M. Melack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Cold-season processes are known to contribute substantially to annual carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) budgets in continental high elevation and high-latitude soils, but their role in more temperate alpine ecosystems has seldom been characterized. We used a 4-month lab incubation to describe temperature (-2, 0, 5°C) and moisture [50, 90% water-holding capacity (WHC)] effects on soil C and N dynamics in two wet and one dry meadow soil from the Sierra Nevada, California. The soils varied in their capacity to process N at and below 0°C. Only the dry meadow soil mineralized N at -2°C, but the wet meadow soils switched from net N consumption at -2°C to net N mineralization at temperatures ≥0°C. When the latter soils were incubated at -2°C at either moisture level (50 or 90% WHC), net NO3 - production decreased even as NH4 + continued to accumulate. The same pattern occurred in saturated (90% WHC) soils at warmer temperatures (≥0°C), suggesting that dissimilatory processes could control N cycling in these soils when they are frozen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Ammonification
  • Cold-season processes
  • Nitrate consumption
  • Nitrogen
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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