Effects of Possible Warming-Induced Increases in Freeze-Thaw Cycles on Soil Microbes
Haei, M., Rousk, J., Ilstedt, U., Oquist, M., Baath, E. and Laudon, H. 2011. Effects of soil frost on growth, composition and respiration of the soil microbial decomposer community. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 41: 2069-2077.
In a study designed to explore this possibility, the authors, as they describe it, "sampled riparian soil from a Swedish boreal forest and applied treatments with variations in four factors related to soil freezing (temperature, treatment duration, soil water content and frequency of freeze-thaw cycles), at three levels in a laboratory experiment" in which they measured "bacterial and fungal growth, basal respiration, soil microbial phospholipid fatty acid composition, and concentration of dissolved organic carbon."
After analyzing the results of the many aspects of their investigation, the six scientists concluded that the number of freeze-thaw events had no effect on the microbial variables they studied, specifically noting that they "did not find any significant effects of the number of freeze-thawing cycles on the soil basal respiration rate," which findings they describe as being "compatible with those reported by Schimel and Clein (1996).
Contrary to several prior suppositions, Haei et al. conclude that the higher frequency of freeze-thaw events predicted to follow global warming -- if global warming ever kicks in and begins raising temperatures again, and if the predicted increase in freeze-thaw cycling ever occurs -- "will likely have a limited impact on soil microorganisms" and, therefore, the various ecosystem services they provide, which fortunately does not sound like a very threatening scenario.
Schimel, J.P. and Clein, J.S. 1996. Microbial response to freeze-thaw cycles in tundra and taiga soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 28: 1061-1066.