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Climate models project an increase in mean annual air temperatures and a reduction in the depth and duration of winter snowpack for many mid and high latitude and high elevation seasonally snow-covered ecosystems over the next century. The combined effects of these changes in climate will lead to warmer soils in the growing season and increased frequency of soil freeze-thaw cycles (FTCs) in winter due to the loss of a continuous, insulating snowpack. Previous experiments have warmed soils or removed snow via shoveling or with shelters to mimic projected declines in the winter snowpack. To our knowledge, no experiment has examined the interactive effects of declining snowpack and increased frequency of soil FTCs, combined with soil warming in the snow-free season on terrestrial ecosystems. In addition, none have mimicked directly the projected increase in soil FTC frequency in tall statured forests that is expected as a result of a loss of insulating snow in winter. We established the Climate Change Across Seasons Experiment (CCASE) at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in 2012 to assess the combined effects of these changes in climate on a variety of pedoclimate conditions, biogeochemical processes, and ecology of northern hardwood forests. This paper demonstrates the feasibility of creating soil FTC events in a tall statured ecosystem in winter to simulate the projected increase in soil FTC frequency over the next century and combines this projected change in winter climate with ecosystem warming throughout the snow-free season. Together, this experiment provides a new and more comprehensive approach for climate change experiments that can be adopted in other seasonally snow-covered ecosystems to simulate expected changes resulting from global air temperature rise.


This article was originally published in PLOS one, available at DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0171928.

The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.



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