Vascular Plants and Biocrusts Modulate How Abiotic Factors Affect Wetting and Drying Events in Drylands

Berdugo, Miguel; Soliveres, Santiago; Maestre, Fernando T. (2014). Vascular Plants and Biocrusts Modulate How Abiotic Factors Affect Wetting and Drying Events in Drylands. Ecosystems, 17(7), pp. 1242-1256. Springer 10.1007/s10021-014-9790-4

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Understanding how organisms control soil water dynamics is a major research goal in dryland ecology. Although previous studies have mostly focused on the role of vascular plants on the hydrological cycle of drylands, recent studies highlight the importance of biological soil crusts formed by lichens, mosses, and cyanobacteria (biocrusts) as a major player in this cycle. We used data from a 6.5-year study to evaluate how multiple abiotic (rainfall characteristics, temperature, and initial soil moisture) and biotic (vascular plants and biocrusts) factors interact to determine wetting and drying processes in a semi-arid grassland from Central Spain. We found that the shrub Retama sphaerocarpa and biocrusts with medium cover (25–75%) enhanced water gain and slowed drying compared with bare ground areas (BSCl). Well-developed biocrusts (>75% cover) gained more water, but lost it faster than BSCl microsites. The grass Stipa tenacissima reduced water gain due to rainfall interception, but increased soil moisture retention compared to BSCl microsites. Biotic modulation of water dynamics was the result of different mechanisms acting in tandem and often in opposite directions. For instance, biocrusts promoted an exponential behavior during the first stage of the drying curve, but reduced the importance of soil characteristics that accentuate drying rates. Biocrust-dominated microsites gained a similar amount of water than vascular plants, although they lost it faster than vascular plants during dry periods. Our results emphasize the importance of biocrusts for water dynamics in drylands, and illustrate the potential mechanisms behind their effects. They will help to further advance theoretical and modeling efforts on the hydrology of drylands and their response to ongoing climate change.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Biodiversity

UniBE Contributor:

Soliveres, Santiago

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

1432-9840

Publisher:

Springer

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

28 Nov 2014 17:05

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2015 11:31

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s10021-014-9790-4

Uncontrolled Keywords:

water dynamics, infiltration, Retama sphaerocarpa, Stipa tenacissima, pulse reserve, semiarid, soil water

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.60212

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/60212

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