I was reading this paper: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1011398431524, which makes claims based on the the idea that frost can increase soil fertility. How/Why will frost increase the fertility of the soil? I was always under the assumption that frost was bad for soil and plants in general.


I found this article on why frost increase soil fertility - specifically nutrient density in the soil. 101 years old!

The Occurrence of Bacteria in Frozen Soil E. C. Harder Botanical Gazette Vol. 61, No. 6 (Jun., 1916), pp. 507-517 https://www.jstor.org/stable/2469064?seq=3#fndtn-page_scan_tab_contents

Relevant text pasted below. In short: it is bacterial action and nitrogen fixation which contributes to soil fertility. Freezing increases bacterial population and these metabolic activites. The theory is that freezing kills bacterial predators on higher trophic levels (protozoans) but the bacteria live and thrive in the absence of predators.

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  • $\begingroup$ hmm how interesting, I never would of thought of that $\endgroup$ – qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhn Aug 1 '17 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ It is interesting, and I was glad your question provoked me to read up. $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 2 '17 at 15:30

From the introduction (bottom of page 167 and top of page 168) of the paper you linked (Masters and McMillan 2001)

We use newly available worldwide climate data to quantify the prevalence of seasonal frosts, hypothesizing that what the tropics have in common is an absence of winter frost, "the great executioner of nature" (Kamarck, 1976, p.17). A hard frost that kills exposed organisms in nature could have a major influence on the productivity of human investment in agriculture and health, by reducing competition from pests, pathogens and parasites.

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  • $\begingroup$ But what does that have to do with the soil? $\endgroup$ – qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhn Aug 1 '17 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ Frost kills pathogens in the soil, making the soil more fertile for crops (it is their hypothesis). Is it unclear? $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Aug 1 '17 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ then why are there no plants in the north pole? $\endgroup$ – qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhn Aug 1 '17 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ I am not making any claim myself. It is their hypothesis. You're going to have to read the paper to learn more about whether they found support for their hypothesis. Note that your north pole argument is extremely poor because 1) there is no land in the north pole, only ice (unlike in antartica) 2) there is no seasonal frost int he north pole (they are specifically talking about seasonal frost). $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Aug 1 '17 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ oh␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣␣ $\endgroup$ – qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhn Aug 1 '17 at 18:06

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