Responses of biological soil crusts to rehabilitation strategies

Taylor Chock, Anita J. Antoninka, Akasha M. Faist, Matthew A. Bowker, Jayne Belnap, Nichole N. Barger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


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 and other biocrust organisms from harsh environmental conditions. We examined whether biocrust rehabilitation strategies (combinations of inoculation 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 soils (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 on the fine soil texture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-85
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Chlorophyll a
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Exopolysaccharides
  • Restoration
  • Soil stability


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