Biological soil crusts and their role in biogeochemical processes and cycling
Biological soil crusts and their role in biogeochemical processes and cycling
Editor(s): A. Antoninka, E. Rodriguez-Caballero, B. Weber, and K. J. van Groenigen
Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) are complex communities of photoautotrophic cyanobacteria, algae, lichens, and bryophytes growing together with heterotrophic fungi, bacteria, and archaea within the uppermost millimeters of the soil. They cover about 40 % of the open ground surface in hot, cool, and cold arid and semiarid regions around the world. When active, biocrusts provide significant contributions to ecosystem primary productivity, taking up atmospheric CO2 and fixing N2. As result of their physiological activity they secrete some organic compounds that contribute to soil formation rates, modifying key soil surface properties with direct implications for soil fertility, runoff generation, evaporation, and water availability for vascular plants and microorganisms. Moreover, they increase soil cohesion and stability, reducing water and wind erosion and providing stable environments for vascular plants and higher trophic levels. Recent studies also show that they have influenced Earth’s ambient conditions for more than 2 billion years by modifying soil surface albedo and solar radiation budgets, and emitting reactive nitrogen species that affect ozone production and self-cleaning capacity of the atmosphere. However, biocrusts are also recognized as being particularly sensitive to climate change and anthropogenic disturbance, with biocrust destruction causing detrimental effects for habitats and the environment. Natural recovery after disturbance has been shown to depend on a variety of environmental factors and tends to be slow. Thus, there have been several attempts to accelerate biocrust recovery after disturbance by means of artificial inoculation, which presents a promising biotechnological tool for dryland restoration after disturbance events.

In this special issue, we seek to understand the functional roles of biocrusts in biogeochemical cycling processes in a changing environment. We present papers investigating biocrust effects on C and N fluxes, soil formation and stabilization, and restoration methods and success within different areas around the world.

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22 Jun 2018
Fungal loop transfer of nitrogen depends on biocrust constituents and nitrogen form
Zachary T. Aanderud, Trevor B. Smart, Nan Wu, Alexander S. Taylor, Yuanming Zhang, and Jayne Belnap
Biogeosciences, 15, 3831–3840,,, 2018
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28 May 2019
Microbial biobanking – cyanobacteria-rich topsoil facilitates mine rehabilitation
Wendy Williams, Angela Chilton, Mel Schneemilch, Stephen Williams, Brett Neilan, and Colin Driscoll
Biogeosciences, 16, 2189–2204,,, 2019
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23 Feb 2018
Antagonistic effects of drought and sand burial enable the survival of the biocrust moss Bryum argenteum in an arid sandy desert
Rongliang Jia, Yun Zhao, Yanhong Gao, Rong Hui, Haotian Yang, Zenru Wang, and Yixuan Li
Biogeosciences, 15, 1161–1172,,, 2018
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23 Feb 2018
Uncovering biological soil crusts: carbon content and structure of intact Arctic, Antarctic and alpine biological soil crusts
Patrick Jung, Laura Briegel-Williams, Anika Simon, Anne Thyssen, and Burkhard Büdel
Biogeosciences, 15, 1149–1160,,, 2018
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11 Jul 2018
Algal richness in BSCs in forests under different management intensity with some implications for P cycling
Karin Glaser, Karen Baumann, Peter Leinweber, Tatiana Mikhailyuk, and Ulf Karsten
Biogeosciences, 15, 4181–4192,,, 2018
08 Mar 2018
Revisiting chlorophyll extraction methods in biological soil crusts – methodology for determination of chlorophyll a and chlorophyll a + b as compared to previous methods
Jennifer Caesar, Alexandra Tamm, Nina Ruckteschler, Anna Lena Leifke, and Bettina Weber
Biogeosciences, 15, 1415–1424,,, 2018
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03 Apr 2018
Ecophysiological characterization of early successional biological soil crusts in heavily human-impacted areas
Michelle Szyja, Burkhard Büdel, and Claudia Colesie
Biogeosciences, 15, 1919–1931,,, 2018
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26 Jan 2018
Annual net primary productivity of a cyanobacteria-dominated biological soil crust in the Gulf Savannah, Queensland, Australia
Burkhard Büdel, Wendy J. Williams, and Hans Reichenberger
Biogeosciences, 15, 491–505,,, 2018
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10 Apr 2018
Wet season cyanobacterial N enrichment highly correlated with species richness and Nostoc in the northern Australian savannah
Wendy Williams, Burkhard Büdel, and Stephen Williams
Biogeosciences, 15, 2149–2159,,, 2018
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08 Feb 2018
Effects of storage temperature on the physiological characteristics and vegetative propagation of desiccation-tolerant mosses
Yuewei Guo and Yunge Zhao
Biogeosciences, 15, 797–808,,, 2018
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01 Dec 2017
Hydration status and diurnal trophic interactions shape microbial community function in desert biocrusts
Minsu Kim and Dani Or
Biogeosciences, 14, 5403–5424,,, 2017
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13 Sep 2017
Recovery of biological soil crust richness and cover 12–16 years after wildfires in Idaho, USA
Heather T. Root, John C. Brinda, and E. Kyle Dodson
Biogeosciences, 14, 3957–3969,,, 2017
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22 Dec 2017
Bryophyte-dominated biological soil crusts mitigate soil erosion in an early successional Chinese subtropical forest
Steffen Seitz, Martin Nebel, Philipp Goebes, Kathrin Käppeler, Karsten Schmidt, Xuezheng Shi, Zhengshan Song, Carla L. Webber, Bettina Weber, and Thomas Scholten
Biogeosciences, 14, 5775–5788,,, 2017
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