Functional ecology of biological soil crusts 

ClimateBiocrust - Functional ecology of biocrustsMonitoring biocrust acitivityBiocrust wetness probes for monitoring crust wetnessMoss-soil lichens crust covering inland dunes, Lieberoser Heide, BrandenburgBiocrusts on reclaimed post-mining site, Lower Lausatia, GermanySpatial analysis of photosynthesis using Imaging-Chlorophyll FluoresenceSoil lichens biocrusts on post-mining-sitesInitial green-algae soil crust on temperate sand dunes, Brandenburg, Germany

Worldwide the soils in arid and semi-arid regions is often covered by various  species of cyanobacteria, bacteria, green algae, mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi. Those organisms are important for ecosystem functioning and services in those extreme ecosystems.  Characteristic for the biocrusts are their three-dimensional structure: the microorganisms cross-linking the soil particles and forming a so-called biological soil crusts (biocrusts) on the soil surface, where the thickness can varied between a few  millimeters to several centimeters. The species composition depends from the soil condition (pH, texture) and the microclimatic conditions. Cyanobacteria and green-algae  are characteristic for early successional stages, whereas in mid-succession mosses are dominating the cyrptogamic communities, while soil lichens occurs in the late-successional stages 

Biocrusts influencing the ecosysten processes: they decrease infiltration rates and, thus, run-off could be observed even in a sandy area when covered by a biological crust. In addition to the influence on the ecohydrological conditions, the biological crust also stabilises the topsoil, reduces soil erosion, and enhances the nitrogen pools by nitrogen fixation. The understanding of pattern formations and interactions with biogeochemical and biotic processes are important for ecological theory and for applications in restoration ecology and soil reclamation.

The goals of our research are to:

  • study the influence of microclimatic processes on physiological activity and biocrust pattern
  • estimate the potential carbon cycling of biocrusts and their importance for soil carbon 
  • understand the impacts of biocrusts on ecohydrological processes

Influence of climate on physiological activity and small-scale development of biological soil crusts on initial soils in Brandenburg

The successional development of biocrusts communities and the resulting spatiotemporal heterogeneity of biocrust patches in the landscape depend on various abiotic factors e.g. surface stability, soil chemistry, microclimate and surface wetness. Aim of our research is to link physiological processes with the development of spatial pattern of biocrusts in relation to environmental boundary conditions. Read more

Ecophysiology of biocrusts on reclaimed post-mining soils in Brandenburg

Reclaimed post-mining sites undergo long time periods of succession. These initial soils, consisting of excavated and dumped material, are characterized by a high vulnerability to erosion, low water holding capacity, lack of nutrients, low pH or sparse vegetation. Stress tolerant microorganisms colonize the new soil surface in reclaimed areas. On the upper few millimeters of the topsoil they are forming a biological soil crust (biocrust); containing cyanobacteria, bacteria, green algae, mosses, lichens and fungi, which crosslink soil particles. Read more ...

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