Microbial Ecology

, Volume 77, Issue 1, pp 217–229 | Cite as

Effects of an Early Successional Biological Soil Crust from a Temperate Coastal Sand Dune (NE Germany) on Soil Elemental Stoichiometry and Phosphatase Activity

  • Iris Schaub
  • Christel Baum
  • Rhena Schumann
  • Ulf Karsten
Soil Microbiology


Early successional biological soil crusts (BSCs), a consortium of bacteria, cyanobacteria, and other microalgae, are one of the first settlement stages on temperate coastal sand dunes. In this study, we investigated the algal biomass (Chlorophyll a (Chl a)), algal (Calgal) and microbial carbon (Cmic), elemental stoichiometry (C:N:P), and acid and alkaline phosphatase activity (AcidPA and AlkPA) of two algae-dominated BSCs from a coastal white dune (northeast Germany, on the southwestern Baltic Sea) which differed in the exposure to wind forces. The dune sediment (DS) was generally low in total carbon (TC), nitrogen (TN), and phosphorus (TP). These elements, together with the soil organic matter (SOM) accumulated in the BSC layer and in the sediment underneath (crust sediment CS), leading to initial soil development. The more disturbed BSC (BSC1) exhibited lower algal and microbial biomass and lower Calgal/Cmic ratios than the undisturbed BSC (BSC2). The BSC1 accumulated more organic carbon (OC) than BSC2. However, the OC in the BSC2 was more effectively incorporated into Cmic than in the BSC1, as indicated by lower OC:Cmic ratios. The AcidPA (1.1–1.3 μmol g−1 DM h−1 or 147–178 μg g−1 DM h−1) and AlkPA (2.7–5.5 μmol g−1 DM h−1 or 372–764 μg g−1 DM h−1) were low in both BSCs. The PA, together with the elemental stoichiometry, indicated no P limitation of both BSCs but rather water limitation followed by N limitation for the algae community and a carbon limitation for the microbial community. Our results explain the observed distribution of early successional and more developed BSCs on the sand dune.


Biological soil crust Early successional stage Coastal sand dune Soil elemental stoichiometry Soil fertility Phosphatase activity Nutrient limitation 



The authors thank Dr. Tatiana Mikhailyuk (National Academy of Science of Ukraine, Institute of Botany) for identifying the BSC’s phototrophic microorganisms. Furthermore, we thank Britta Balz, Elena Heilmann (University of Rostock, Soil Science), and Rita Wulff (University of Rostock, Biological Station Zingst) for valuable technical assistance.


This research was financially supported by the funding line strategic networks of the Leibniz Association within the scope of the Leibniz ScienceCampus Phosphorus Research Rostock (SAS-2015-IOW-LWC, and was closely connected to the Research Training Group “Baltic TRANSCOAST” (DFG, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; grant number GRK 2000/1; publication no. GRK2000/0014).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biological Sciences, Applied Ecology and PhycologyUniversity of RostockRostockGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Soil ScienceUniversity of RostockRostockGermany

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