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Induced biological soil crust controls on wind erodibility and dust (PM10) emissions

September 11, 2019

Inducing biological soil crust (biocrust) development is an appealing approach for dust mitigation in drylands due to the resistance biocrusts can provide against erosion. Using a portable device, we evaluated dust emissions from surfaces either inoculated with biocrust, amended with a plant‐based soil stabilizer, or both at varying wind friction velocities. Four months after application, emissions from all treatments were either indistinguishable from or greater than controls, despite evidence of biocrust establishment. All treatments had greater surface roughness and showed more evidence of entrapment of windblown sediment than controls, factors which may have been partially responsible for elevated emissions. There was a synergistic effect of inoculation and stabilizer addition, resulting in a nearly two‐fold reduction in estimated emissions compared to either treatment alone. Stepwise regression analysis indicated that variables associated with surface crust strength (aggregate stability, penetration resistance) were negatively associated with emissions and variables associated with sediment supply (sand content, loose sediment cover) were positively associated with emissions. With more time to develop, the soil‐trapping activity and surface integrity of biocrust inoculum and soil stabilizer mixtures is expected to increase with the accumulation of surface biomass and enhancement of roughness through freeze–thaw cycles.

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