Biological soil crusts are more prevalent in warmer and drier environments within the Great Basin ecoregion: Implications for managing annual grass invasion

Restoration Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) can thrive under environmental conditions that are stressful for vascular plants such as high temperatures and/or extremely low moisture availability. In these settings, and in the absence of disturbance, cover of biocrusts commonly exceeds cover of vascular plants. Arid landscapes are also typically slow to recover from disturbance and prone to altered vegetation and invasion by exotic species. In the sagebrush ecosystems, cover of annual, exotic, invasive grasses are lower where cover of biocrusts and vascular plants are greater, suggesting that biocrusts play a role in helping arid sites avoid conversion to dominance by invasive grasses. The conceptual framework for assessing ecological resistance and resilience (R&R) is used across the region to estimate the risk of invasion by annual grasses and the likelihood of recovery of native plants following disturbance. However, this framework does not currently account for biocrusts. We used data collected by the Bureau of Land Management Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring program to relate biocrusts, specifically the presence of lichens and mosses, to the R&R framework. Lichens frequently occur on warm, dry sites, classified as lower R&R. Mosses frequently occur on sites classified as moderate or moderately low R&R. Without management practices that favor biocrusts in low-moderate R&R, these areas may be more vulnerable to transitioning from being dominated by shrubs to annual grasses. Under climate change scenarios, the area occupied by lower R&R sites is likely to increase, suggesting that the role of biocrusts in maintaining site resistance to invasion may also increase.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Biological soil crusts are more prevalent in warmer and drier environments within the Great Basin ecoregion: Implications for managing annual grass invasion
Series title Restoration Ecology
DOI 10.1111/rec.14150
Edition Online First
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center, Southwest Biological Science Center, Western Ecological Research Center
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