Soil and vegetation in the Alps

Relationships between soil properties and plant communities under climate change

The distribution of plant communities is influenced by climatic conditions (mean temperatures and precipitations), rock chemistry and snow cover (topography and microtopography). These factors influence similarly soil formation processes and dynamics. But soil and vegetation interact and influence each other: the soil morphology and chemistry constrain plant growth which, in turns, contribute to soil development by the amount and quality of litter and root exudates interacting with the soil material. All these strong relationships and feedbacks are influenced by climate change.

This project aims to study the incorporation of organic matter in alpine soils in relation to climatic conditions and the composition of plant communities. This organic matter represents a large carbon stock that is highly vulnerable to the already occurring rapid warming in the Alps. The questions addressed in this study are: (i) what is the influence of the plant composition on soil organic matter properties? (ii) What are the main factors influencing the organic matter stability? (iii) How does this stability change between horizons? (iv) How is climate change susceptible to influence alpine vegetation dynamics and the future carbon content of soils?

 

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By Magali Matteodo

References
Grand S., A. Rubin, E. Verrecchia & P. Vittoz (2016). Variation of soil respiration across soil and vegetation types in an Alpine valley. PlosONE 11: e0163968.
Matteodo M., K. Ammann, E. Verrecchia & P. Vittoz (2016). Snowbeds are more affected than other subalpine-alpine plant communities by climate change in the Swiss Alps. Ecology and Evolution 6: 6969-6982.

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