Climate change in northeastern North America is resulting in warmer winters with reduced snow accumulation. Soils under a thin snowpack are more likely to experience freeze–thaw cycles, disrupting carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) transformations. We conducted a 2 year snow removal experiment in Maine to study the effects of soil freezing on soil C and N processes. O horizon soils were sampled during winter and spring of 2015 and 2016, and they were analyzed for labile inorganic N and water-extractable organic carbon (WEOC) concentrations, specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA254), and potential net N mineralization. The winter of 2015 was cold and snowy, whereas 2016 was warm with a shallow, short-term snowpack. Snow removal caused the soils to freeze, but winter rain-on-soil events in 2015 resulted in the formation of concrete frost, as opposed to granular frost in 2016. Concrete frost increased soil ammonium (NH4 -N) and WEOC concentrations and decreased SUVA254, which we attribute to microbial cell lysis. In contrast, granular frost did not alter soil nutrient concentrations, reflecting limited microbial distress. Our study demonstrates that moisture content influences the intensity of soil freezing, highlighting the importance of snowpack depth and winter rain events in regulating winter and spring biogeochemical processes and nutrient availability.
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