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Comment on 'Kidron (2018): Biocrust research: A critical view on eight common hydrological‐related paradigms and dubious theses. Ecohydrology, e2061'

June 24, 2020

Kidron (2018) uses a straw man argument in an attempt to debunk eight putative hydrological‐related paradigms he believes to be “common among hydrologists, ecologists, or microbiologists that investigate biocrusts.” These paradigms relate to the roles of physical crusts and vascular plants in biocrust development, the major drivers (climate, porosity, hydrophobicity, and exopolysaccharides) of hydrology (infiltration and runoff), and the effect of mosses on hydrology and therefore vascular plants. We see two major problems with his arguments. First, they assume that the paradigms in question are generally accepted by biocrust researchers. Second, they are based on Kidron's (2018) world view of biocrusts, which has largely been informed by his own studies from a single, distinctly unique area of sand dunes at the Nizzana Research Site in the Negev Desert, Israel. This narrow focus and the selective use of published material disqualify his arguments. Our collective experience, based on more than 250 person years of biocrust research, and more than 700 scientific publications on biocrusts from all continents including Antarctica, indicates that, far from the straw man arguments proposed by Kidron (2018), there is no evidence to support the existence of a unifying theory that captures the global effects of biocrusts on hydrology. Our collective works demonstrate that, contrary to claims by Kidron (2018), the hydrological effects of biocrusts are strongly nuanced, varying with, but not limited to, differences in ecological context, landscape position, site condition, crust type and composition, climatic zone, soil texture and porosity, surface morphology, and spatial scale (reviewed in Weber, Büdel, & Belnap, 2016). Below, we critically analyse each of Kidron's (2018) paradigms, providing rigorous empirical evidence to show that none represent commonly held views among the biocrust research community.