Responses of biological soil crusts to rehabilitation strategies

Journal of Arid Environments
By: , and 



Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) are common to dryland ecosystems and can influence a broad suite of soil ecological functions including stability and surface hydrology. Due to long recovery times following disturbance, there is a clear need for rehabilitation strategies to enhance the recovery of biocrust communities. Essential to biocrust recovery are exopolysaccharides (EPS): secretions comprised mainly of high molecular weight polymers that protect cyanobacteria from harsh environmental conditions. We examined whether biocrust rehabilitation strategies (inoculation in combination with surface shading and artificial soil stabilization) promote EPS production. To test if responses varied by soil texture, we measured biocrust recovery on two fine-textured soil types (clay and sandy clay loam) in a cool desert ecosystem. Shade coupled with inoculum addition resulted in the highest biocrust recovery, especially on clay soils. Independent of rehabilitation strategies, natural recovery of biocrusts occurred more rapidly on clay soils, reflected by greater increases in chlorophyll a (chl a). Chl a, a proxy for cyanobacterial biomass, was correlated to EPS amounts, suggesting that cyanobacteria are significant contributors to EPS production in biocrust development. Despite the role of EPS in biocrust establishment, EPS amounts had negligible effects on soil stability due inherent properties of fine soil texture.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Responses of biological soil crusts to rehabilitation strategies
Series title Journal of Arid Environments
DOI 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2018.10.007
Volume 163
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher ELSEVIER
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 77
Last page 85
Country United States
State Utah
Other Geospatial HIll Air Force Base
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