Freezing and Its Effect on Chemical and Biological Properties of Soil

  • A. C. Edwards
  • M. S. Cresser
Part of the Advances in Soil Science book series (SOIL, volume 18)


The effects of subzero temperatures on soil are varied, influencing a wide range of physical, biological, and chemical processes. Since the formation of ice in soil requires an understanding of thermal gradients and water movement, the major thrust of recent work has been from a physically based approach. The visible effects of freezing and thawing, such as changes in soil structure and damage to building and road foundations, have also received considerable attention. There is far less information available concerning possible effects on chemical and biological soil reactions. Our aim, therefore, is to present an overview of the freeze/thaw cycle, placing particular emphasis on factors relating to the less well-documented and understood influences on nutrient availability.


Soil Freezing Freeze Ground Litter Removal Soil Frost Freezing Front 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, S.E., and H.M. Grimshaw. 1962. Effect of low-temperature storage on the extractable nutrient ions in soils. J. Sci. Food Agric. 13: 525–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, D.M. 1970. Phase boundary water in frozen soils. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory Research Report 274.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, D.M., and P. Hoekstra. 1965. Migration of interlamellar water during freezing and thawing of Wyoming bentonite. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 29: 498–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arefyeva, Z.N., and B.D. Kolesnikof. 1964. Chemistry and biochemistry dynamics of ammonia and nitrate nitrogen in forest soils of the Transurals at high and low temperature. Soviet Soil Sci. 3: 246–260.Google Scholar
  5. Augustine, M.T. 1941. Infiltration runs on frozen ground. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 6: 435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barnett, R.J. 1937. Ground cover affects frost penetration. Kansas. Acad. Sci. Trans. 4: 203–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bisal, F., and K.F. Nielsen. 1967. Effect of frost action on the size of soil aggregates. Soil Sci. 104: 268–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benz, L.C., W.O. Willis, F.M. Sandoval, and R.H. Mickelson. 1968. Soil water translocation in a high water table area. Water Resources Res. 4: 95–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Birse, E.L., and L. Robertson. 1970. Assessment of climatic conditions in Scotland. 2. Based on exposure and accumulated frost (Soil Survey of Scotland, Aberdeen).Google Scholar
  10. Bouyoucos, G.J., and M.M. McCool. 1915. The freezing point method as a new means of measuring the concentration of the soil solution directly in the soil. Mich. Agric. College Exper. Station Tech. Bull. No. 24.Google Scholar
  11. Bremner, J.M., S.G. Robbins, and A.M. Blackmer. 1980. Seasonal variability in emission of nitrous oxide from soil. Geophys. Res. Lett. 7: 641–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown, R.J.E., and G.P. Williams. 1972. The freezing of peatland. N.R.C. Technical Paper 381, N.R.C. 12881.Google Scholar
  13. Burt, T.P., and P.J. Williams. 1976. Hydraulic conductivity in frozen soils. Earth Surf. Process. 1: 349–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cary, J.W., and H.F. Mayland. 1972. Salt and water movement in unsaturated frozen soil. Soil. Sci. Soc. Proc. 36: 549–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Christensen, S., and J.M. Tiedje. 1990. Brief and vigorous N2 production by soil at spring thaw. J. Soil Sci. 41: 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Christianson, C.B., and C.M. Cho. 1983. Chemical denitrification of nitrite in frozen soils.Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 47: 39–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Christopherson, N., S. Rustad, and H.M. Seip. 1984. Modelling streamwater chemistry with snowmelt. Phil. Trans. Royal. Sco., Lond. B305: 427–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Crawford, C.B., and R.F. Legget. 1957. Ground temperature investigation in Canada. Engin. J. 40: 1–8.Google Scholar
  19. Dergacheva, M.I., and V.S. Dedkov. 1977. Influence of freezing and thawing on soil organic matter in OB forest tundra. Soviet J. Ecol. 8: 111–118.Google Scholar
  20. Dirksen, C., and R.D. Miller. 1966. Closed-system freezing of unsaturated soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 30: 168–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Edwards, A.C. 1984. Some factors influencing elemental mobilities in an upland catchment in the Grampian Region. PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen.Google Scholar
  22. Edwards, A.C., J. Creasey, and M.S. Cresser. 1986. Soil freezing effects on upland stream solute chemistry. Wat. Res. 20: 832–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Edwards, A.C., and K. Killham. 1986. The effect of freeze/thaw on gaseous nitrogen loss from upland soils. Soil Use Manag. 2: 86–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Edwards, L.M., and J.R. Burney. 1989. The effect of antecedent freeze-thaw frequency on runoff and soil loss from frozen soil with and without subsoil compaction and ground cover. Can. J. Soil Sci. 69: 799–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fine, L.O., T.A. Bailey, and E. Truog. 1940. Availability of fixed potassium as influenced by freezing and thawing. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 5: 183–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. FitzPatrick, E.A. 1956. An indurated soil horizon formed by permafrost. J. Soil Sci. 1: 248–254.Google Scholar
  27. Florence, T.M. 1982. The speciation of trace elements in waters. Talanta 29: 345–364.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Formanek, G.E., D.K. McCool, and R.I. Papendiek. 1983. Effect of freeze-thaw cycles on erosion in the Palouse. Am. Soc. Agric. Engineers, St. Joseph, Mich. paper No. 83–2069.Google Scholar
  29. Forsyth, W.G.C., and G.K. Fraser. 1947. Freezing as an aid to the drying and purification of humus and allied materials. Nature Lond. 160: 607.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fuchs, M., G.S. Campbell, and R.I. Papendiek. 1978. An analysis of sensible and latent heat flow in a partially frozen unsaturated soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 42: 379–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Giesy, J.P., and L.A. Briese. 1978. Particulate formation due to freezing humic waters. Water Resources Res. 14: 542–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goodroad, L.L., and D.R. Keeney. 1984. Nitrogen oxide emissions from soils during thawing. Can. J. Soil Sci. 64: 187–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gurr, C.G., T.J. Marshall, and J.T. Hutton. 1952. Movement of water in soil due to a temperature gradient. Soil Sci. 74: 335–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harris, A.F. 1972. Infiltration rate as affected by soil freezing under three cover types. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 36: 489–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hayhoe, H.N., and N.G. Bailey. 1985. Monitoring changes in total and unfrozen water content in seasonally frozen soil using time domain reflectometry and neutron moderation techniques. Water Resources Res. 21: 1077–1084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hinman, W.G. 1970. Effects of freezing and thawing on some chemical properties of three soils. Can. J. Soil Sci. 50: 179–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hinman, W.C., and B. Frederick. 1968. Alterations of soil structure upon freezing and thawing and subsequent drying. Can. J. Soil Sci. 48: 193–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hoeckstra, P. 1966. Moisture movement in soils under temperature gradients with the cold-side temperature below freezing. Water Resources Res. 2: 241–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Inoue, K., and P.M. Huang. 1984. Influence of citric acid on the natural formation of imogolite. Nature Lond. 308: 58–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ivarson, K.C., and F.J. Sowden. 1966. Effect of freezing on the free amino acids in soil. Can. J. Soil Sci. 46: 115–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jager, G. 1967. Changes in the activity of soil microorganisms influenced by physical factors (drying-remoistening freezing-thawing). In: Graff, O., Satchell, J.E. (eds.) Progress in Soil Biology, pp. 178–191, North-Holland, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  42. Johannessen, M., and A. Henriksen. 1978. Chemistry of snowmelt water: changes in concentrations during snowmelt. Water Resources Res. 14: 615–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Johannessen, M., A. Skartveit, and R.F. Wright. 1980. Streamwater chemistry before, during and after snowmelt. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation, pp. 224–225, Norway.Google Scholar
  44. Kay, B.D., and P.H. Groenevelt. 1983. The redistribution of solutes in freezing soil: exclusion of solutes. Permafrost: 4th International Conference Proceedings. pp. 584–588, National Academy Press, Washington.Google Scholar
  45. Kay, B.D., C.D. Grant, and P.H. Groenevelt. 1985. Significance of ground freezing on soil bulk density under zero tillage. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 49: 973–978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kohnke, H., and C.H. Werkhoven. 1963. Soil temperature and soil freezing as affected by an organic mulch. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 27: 13–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Larson, W.E., and R.R. Allmaras. 1971. Management and natural force as related to compaction. In: Barnes, K.K., Carleton, W.M., Taylor, H.M., Throckmorton, R.I., Vanden Berg, G. (eds) Compaction of Agricultural Soils. Am. Soc. Agric. Engineers, pp. 367–427, St. Joseph, Mich.Google Scholar
  48. Likens, G.E., F.H. Bormann, R.S. Pierce, J.S. Eaton, and N.M. Johnson. 1977. Biogeochemistry of a Forested Ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  49. Loch, J.P.G., and R.D. Miller. 1975. Tests of the concept of secondary frost heaving. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 39: 1036–1041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Logsdail, D.E., and L.R. Webber. 1959. Effect of frost action on structure of Haldimand clay. Can. J. Soil Sci. 39: 103–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mack, A.R. 1963. Biological activity and mineralization of nitrogen in three soils as influenced by freezing and drying. Can. J. Soil Sci. 43: 316–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mahler, W., and M.F. Bechtold. 1980. Freeze-formed silica fibers. Nature Lond. 285: 27–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McGarity, J.W. 1961. Denitrification studies in some south Australian soils. Plant Soil 14: 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McGarity, J.W., and J.A. Rajaratnam. 1973. Apparatus for the measurement of losses of nitrogen as gas from the field and simulated field environments. Soil Biol. Bioch. 5: 121–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Miller, R.D. 1980. Freezing phenomena in soils. In: Hillel, D. (ed). Applications of Soils Physics, pp. 254–299, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  56. Miller, R.D., J.P.G. Loch, and E. Brester. 1975. Transport of water and heat in a frozen permeameter. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 39: 1029–1036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Murrmann, R.P., P. Hoekstra, and R.C. Bialkowski. 1968. Self-diffusion of sodium ions in frozen Wyoming bentonite-water paste. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 32: 502–506.Google Scholar
  58. Oliphant, J.L., A.R. Tice, and Y. Nakano. 1983. Water migration due to a temperature gradient in frozen soil. Permafrost: 4th International Conference Proceedings, pp. 951–956, National Academy Press, Washington.Google Scholar
  59. Penman, H.L., and R.K. Schofield. 1941. Drainage and evaporation from fallow soil at Rothamsted. J. Agric. Sci. 31: 74–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pikul, Jr., J.L., J.F. Zuzel, and R.N. Greenwalt. 1986. Formation of soil frost as influenced by tillage and residue management. J. Soil Water Cons. 41: 196–199.Google Scholar
  61. Post, F.A., and F.R. Dreibelbis. 1942. Some influence of frost penetration and microclimate on the water relationships of woodland, pasture and cultivated soils.Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 7: 95–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Price, J. S. 1983. The effect of hydrology on ground freezing in a watershed with organic terrain, pp. 95–104. Permafrost: 4th International Conference Proceedings. National Academy Press, Washington.Google Scholar
  63. Sartz, R.S. 1969. Soil water movement as affected by deep freezing. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 33: 333–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sinclair, A.H. 1979. Availability of potassium to ryegrass from Scottish soils. I. Effects of intensive cropping on potassium parameters. J. Soil Sci. 30: 757–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Soulides, D.A., and F.E. Allison. 1961. Effect of drying and freezing soil on carbon dioxide production, available mineral nutrients, aggregation and bacterial population. Soil Sci. 91: 291–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Stoeckeler, J.H., and S. Weitzman. 1960. Infiltration rates in frozen soils in Northern Minnesota.Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 24: 137–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Summerfield, R.J., and J.O. Rieley. 1973. Substrate freezing and thawing as a factor in the mineral nutrient status of mire ecosystems. Plant Soil 38: 557–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Thorud, D.B., and D.P. Duncan. 1972. Effects of snow removal, litter removal and soil compaction on soil freezing and thawing in a Minnesota Oak Stand. Soil Sci. Soc. Proc. 36: 153–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wada, S., and A. Nagasto. 1983. Formation of silica microplates by freezing dilute silicic acid solutions. Soil Sci. Plant Nutr. 29: 93–95.Google Scholar
  70. White, E.M. 1973. Water-leachable nutrients from frozen or dried prairie vegetation. J. Environ. Qual. 2: 104–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Willis, W.O., C.W. Carlson, J. Alessi, and H.J. Haas. 1961. Depth of freezing and spring run off as related to full soil-moisture levels. Can. J. Soil Sci. 41: 115–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Willis, W.O., H.L. Parkinson, C.W. Carlson, and H.J. Haass. 1964. Water table changes and soil moisture loss under frozen conditions. Soil Sci. 98: 244–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wynn-Williams, D.D. 1982. Simulation of seasonal changes in microbial activity of maritime antarctic peat. Soil Biol. Biochem. 14: 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Young, R.A., and C.K. Mutchler. 1976. Potential pollution of manure spread on frozen ground. J. Environ. Qual. 5: 174–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zuzel, J.F., R.R. Allmaras, and R. Greenwalt. 1982. Runoff and soil erosion on frozen soils in northeastern Oregon. J. Soil Water Cons. 37: 351–354.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. C. Edwards
  • M. S. Cresser

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations