Increased methane uptake but unchanged nitrous oxide flux in montane grasslands under simulated climate change conditions

S. Unteregelsbacher, R. Gasche, L. Lipp, W. Sun, O. Kreyling, H. Geitlinger, I. Kögel-Knabner, H. Papen, R. Kiese, H. P. Schmid, M. Dannenmann

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29 Scopus citations


Montane grasslands of Central Europe are expected to be exposed to strong warming and to altered precipitation patterns, suggesting that biosphere-atmosphere-hydrosphere exchange of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) compounds may be vulnerable to future climatic conditions. By transferring small lysimeters along an altitudinal gradient, we assessed the impact of climate change conditions on soil-atmosphere exchange of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) as well as on ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-) in soil water in extensively managed montane grassland in southern Germany. Lysimeter transfer to lower altitude increased air and soil temperatures by more than 2°C and reduced summer precipitation as well as soil moisture throughout the year compared with a control transfer within the high altitude site. This simulation of climate change conditions almost doubled the CH4 sink strength from -0.11 to -0.19gCm-2year-1, which appeared to be mainly related to improved gas diffusion after reduced soil moisture. Mean NH4+ and NO3- concentrations in soil water (0.05mg NH4+-Nl-1 and 0.08mg NO3--Nl-1) and N2O emissions (approximately 0.03gNm-2year-1) remained small and unaffected by climate change simulation. Our study suggests that expected climate change conditions will have positive effects on the non-CO2 greenhouse gas balance in extensively managed montane grassland because of increased net CH4 uptake in soil. For N2O emission, we conclude that potential effects of management changes may override the small effects of simulated climate change on N2O emissions observed in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-596
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013


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