Quantifying the influence of different biocrust community states and their responses to warming temperatures on soil biogeochemistry in field and mesocosm studies

Scott Ferrenberg, Colin L. Tucker, Robin Reibold, Armin Howell, Sasha C. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Biocrusts influence soil biogeochemistry by fixing carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) and through leachate inputs to soils. Functional rates can vary among biocrust community states and in response to edaphic properties, heterotrophic microbial activity, and global change. Using soils and biocrusts from the Colorado Plateau, Utah, USA, we aimed to quantify the influence of early-successional (ES) and late-successional (LS) biocrust community states on soil biogeochemistry. In a field setting, we found soil was less “fertile” under ES than LS biocrust, but ES biocrust had a relative influence 1.3 times greater than LS biocrust on soil fertility. Leachate collected from LS biocrust had, on average, 6 times more organic C and 1.7 times more dissolved N than ES biocrust, but concentrations of phosphorus (P) and inorganic N did not differ among the two biocrust types. To disentangle influences of biocrusts and soil properties on biogeochemical pools, we constructed mesocosms from homogenized soil and left the surface bare or covered with ES or LS biocrust, before assignment to ambient or warmed (+5 °C) temperature treatments for 3 months. Multivariate biogeochemical properties differed among cover types, yet all exhibited losses of P, N, and organic C and nearly half of the biogeochemical variables considered did not differ among cover types. Mesocosms with LS biocrust retained more dissolved N, supported 8 additional, significant correlations among biogeochemical pools of the biocrust and mineral soil layer on average, and lost fewer of these correlations under warming. Overall, while soils under LS biocrusts were more fertile (i.e., had higher nutrient concentrations) than under ES, we did not find evidence implicating leachate as the primary driver of this difference. Biocrust influences on soil fertility were greater when mineral soil nutrients were in lower concentrations, highlighting the value of even incipient biocrusts for dryland functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115633
JournalGeoderma
Volume409
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

Keywords

  • Biological soil crust
  • Drylands
  • Ecosystem ecology
  • Leachate
  • Soil fertility
  • Warming

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying the influence of different biocrust community states and their responses to warming temperatures on soil biogeochemistry in field and mesocosm studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this