26 Sep 2022
26 Sep 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Key drivers of the annual carbon budget of biocrusts from various climatic zones determined with a mechanistic data-driven model

Yunyao Ma1, Bettina Weber2,3, Alexandra Kratz3, José Raggio4, Claudia Colesie5, Maik Veste6,7, Maaike Y. Bader8, and Philipp Porada1 Yunyao Ma et al.
  • 1Institute of Plant Science and Microbiology, Universität Hamburg, 22609 Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Institute of Plant Sciences, Department of Biology, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria
  • 3Department of Multiphase Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, 55128 Mainz, Germany
  • 4Farmacología, Farmacognosia y Botánica Department, Complutense University of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
  • 5School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, EH9 3FF Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 6Institute of Environmental Sciences, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, 03046 Cottbus, Germany
  • 7CEBra - Centre for Energy Technology Brandenburg e.V., 03042 Cottbus, Germany
  • 8Faculty of Geography, University of Marburg, 35032 Marburg, Germany

Abstract. Biocrusts are a worldwide phenomenon, contributing substantially to ecosystem functioning. Their growth and survival depend on multiple environmental factors, including climatic conditions. While the physiological responses of biocrusts to individual environmental factors have been examined in laboratory experiments, the relative importance of these factors along climatic gradients is largely unknown. Moreover, it is not fully understood how acclimation of biocrusts may alter the relative impacts of certain factors. We aim here at determining the relative effects of environmental factors on biocrusts along climatic gradients, using the carbon balance of biocrust organisms as a measure of their performance. Additionally, we explore the role that seasonal acclimation plays in the carbon balance of biocrusts. We applied a data-driven mechanistic model at six study sites along a climatic gradient to simulate the annual carbon balance of biocrusts dominated by different lichen and moss species. Furthermore, we performed several sensitivity analyses to investigate the relative importance of driving factors, thereby including the impacts of acclimation. Our modeling approach suggests substantial effects of light intensity and relative humidity in temperate regions, while air temperature has the strongest impact at alpine sites. In drylands, ambient CO2 concentration and also the amount of rainfall are important drivers of the carbon balance of biocrusts. Seasonal acclimation is a key feature, mostly in temperate regions, affecting biocrust functioning. We conclude that climate change, which may lead to warmer and, in some regions, drier air, will potentially have large effects on long-term carbon balances of biocrusts at global scale. Moreover, we highlight the key role of seasonal acclimation, which suggests that the season and timing of collecting and monitoring biocrusts should be given additional consideration in experimental investigations, especially when measurements are used as the basis for quantitative estimates and forecasts.

Yunyao Ma et al.

Status: open (until 27 Dec 2022)

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Yunyao Ma et al.


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Short summary
Our study found while air temperature, ambient CO2 concentration, light intensity, and relative humidity are key drivers for annual carbon (C) balance, their relative impacts vary markedly among climatic zones. Moreover, seasonal acclimation may alter the C balance substantially at humid sites. Our study implies that climate change may have large effects on biocrust C balance at global scale, and suggests covering different seasons when measuring physiological traits to account for acclimation.