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Microb Ecol. 2013 Aug;66(2):394-403. doi: 10.1007/s00248-013-0191-6. Epub 2013 Feb 7.

Assessing level of development and successional stages in biological soil crusts with biological indicators.

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Key Laboratory of Algal Biology, Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, 430072, China.


Biological soil crusts (BSCs) perform vital ecosystem services, but the difference in biological components or developmental level still affects the rate and type of these services. In order to differentiate crust successional stages in quantity and analyze the relationship between crust developmental level and successional stages, this work determined several biological indicators in a series of different developmental BSCs in the Shapotou region of China. The results showed that crust developmental level (level of development index) can be well indicated by crust biological indicators. Photosynthetic biomass was the most appropriate to differentiate crust successional stages, although both photosynthetic biomass and respiration intensity increased with the development and succession of BSCs. Based on of the different biological compositions, BSCs were quantificationally categorized into different successional stages including cyanobacterial crusts (lichen and moss coverages <20 %), lichen crusts (lichen coverage >20 % but moss coverage <20 %), semi-moss crusts (moss coverage >20 % but <75 %), and moss crusts (moss coverage >75 %). In addition, it was found that cyanobacterial and microalgal biomass first increased as cyanobacterial crusts formed, then decreased when lots of mosses emerged on the crust surface; however nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria and heterotrophic microbes increased in the later developmental BSCs. The structural adjustment of biological components in the different developmental BSCs may reflect the requirement of crust survival and material transition.

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