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Abstract

Organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the soils of the High Arctic play an important role in the context of global warming, biodiversity, and richness of tundra vegetation. The main aim of the present study was to determine the content and spatial distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (N tot ), and total phosphorus (P tot ) in the surface horizons of Arctic soils obtained from the lower part of the Fuglebekken catchment in Spitsbergen as an example of a small non−glaciated catchment representing uplifted marine terraces of the Svalbard Archipelago. The obtained results indicate that surface soil horizons in the Fuglebekken catchment show considerable differences in content of SOC, N tot , and P tot . This mosaic is related to high variability of soil type, local hydrology, vegetation (type and quantity), and especially location of seabird nesting colony. The highest content of SOC, N tot , and P tot occurs in soil surface horizons obtained from sites fertilized by seabird guano and located along streams flowing from the direction of the seabird colony. The content of SOC, N tot , and P tot is strongly negatively correlated with distance from seabird colony indicating a strong influence of the birds on the fertility of the studied soils and indirectly on the accumulation of soil organic matter. The lowest content of SOC, N tot , and P tot occurs in soil surface horizons obtained from the lateral moraine of the Hansbreen glacier and from sites in the close vicinity of the lateral moraine. The content of N tot ,P tot , and SOC in soil surface horizons are strongly and positively correlated with one another, i.e. the higher the content of nutrients, the higher the content of SOC. The spatial distribution of SOC, N tot , and P tot in soils of the Hornsund area in SW Spitsbergen reflects the combined effects of severe climate conditions and periglacial processes. Seabirds play a crucial role in nutrient enrichment in these weakly developed soils.
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Abstract

Physical and chemical properties of Arctic soils and especially the properties of surface horizons of the soils are very important because they are responsible for the rate and character of plant colonization, development of vegetation cover, and influence the rate and depth of thawing of soils and development of active layer of permafrost during summer. The main aim of the present study is to determine and explain the spatial diversity of selected physical and chemical properties of surface horizons of Arctic soils from the non-glaciated Fuglebekken catchment located in the Hornsund area (SW Spitsbergen) by means of geostatistical approach. Results indicate that soil surface horizons in the Fuglebekken catchment are characterized by highly variable physical and chemical properties due to a heterogeneous parent material (marine sediments, moraine, rock debris), tundra vegetation types, and non-uniform influence of seabirds. Soils experiencing the strongest influence of seabird guano have a lower pH than other soils. Soils developed on the lateral moraine of the Hansbreen glacier have the highest pH due to the presence of carbonates in the parent material and a lack or presence of a poorly developed and discontinuous A horizon. The soil surface horizons along the coast of the Hornsund exhibit the highest content of the sand fraction and SiO2. The surface of soils occurring at the foot of the slope of Ariekammen Ridge is characterized by the highest content of silt and clay fractions as well as Al2O3, Fe2O3, and K2O. Soils in the central part of the Fuglebekken catchment are depleted in CaO, MgO, and Na2O in comparison with soils in the other sampling sites, which indicates the highest rate of leaching in this part of the catchment.
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