Australia: The Land Where Time Began

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Biocrust-Forming Mosses Mitigating Negative Impacts on Dry-Land Ecosystem Multifunctionality of Impacts of Increasing Aridity

It is predicted that the increased aridity associated with climate change will negatively impact the multiple functions and services that are currently provided by dryland ecosystems around the world. Biocrusts, soil communities that are dominated by mosses, lichens and cyanobacteria, play a key role in supporting multifunctionality in these ecosystems. It remains largely unknown, however, whether the negative impacts of aridity on important biogeochemical processes that control carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous pools and fluxes can be buffered by biocrusts.

In this paper Delgado-Baquerizo et al. presented the results of their study in which they carried out an empirical study on samples from Australia, Europe and America to evaluate how the predicted aridity increase resulting from climate change will change the capacity of mosses that form biocrusts to modulate multiple ecosystem processes that are related to the cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.

In semiarid and arid, but not humid and dry dry-subhumid environments, mosses that form biocrusts enhance multiple functions relate to C, N and P cycling and storage compared to soil surfaces with no biocrust. Their most important finding was that the relative positive effects of mosses that form biocrusts on multifunctionality compared with bare soil increased as aridity increased. These results were mediated by vegetation cover and the positive effects that are exerted by mosses that form biocrusts on the abundance of soil bacteria and fungi.

Strong evidence is provided by their findings for the crucial nature of maintenance of biocrusts to buffer the negative effects of climate change on multifunctionality in drylands worldwide.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Delgado-Baquerizo, M., F. T. Maestre, D. J. Eldridge, M. A. Bowker, V. Ochoa, B. Gozalo, M. Berdugo, J. Val and B. K. Singh (2016). "Biocrust-forming mosses mitigate the negative impacts of increasing aridity on ecosystem multifunctionality in drylands." New Phytologist 209(4): 1540-1552.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 12/02/2016
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