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Manipulation of snow in small headwater catchments at Storgama, Norway: Effects on leaching of inorganic nitrogen

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Øyvind Kaste, Kari Austnes, Live Semb Vestgarden, Richard Frederic Wright


We have manipulated the winter-time soil temperature regime of small headwater catchments in a montane heathland area of southern Norway to study the possible effects on concentrations and fluxes of inorganic nitrogen in runoff. The experiments included extra insulation of soils in two catchments to prevent subzero temperatures during winter, and removal of snow in two other catchments to promote soil frost. Increased soil temperatures during winter increased the springtime concentrations and fluxes of ammonium (NH4) and nitrate (NO3) in runoff. By contrast, snow removal with development of significant soil frost showed no systematic effects on mean concentrations or fluxes of inorganic N. The results from our experiments suggest that warmer soils during winter caused by exceptionally mild winters, or alternatively a heavy snowpack, imply a greater risk for inorganic N leaching in this region than a possible increase of soil frost events because of reduced snow cover.