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Responses of biological soil crusts to rehabilitation strategies

November 30, 2018

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.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Responses of biological soil crusts to rehabilitation strategies
DOI 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2018.10.007
Authors Taylor Chock, Anita J. Antoninka, Akasha M. Faist, Matthew A. Bowker, Jayne Belnap, Nichole N. Barger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Arid Environments
Series Number
Index ID 70203708
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center