Plant and Soil

, Volume 281, Issue 1–2, pp 255–268 | Cite as

Diversity and Abundance of Biological Soil Crust Taxa in Relation to Fine and Coarse-Scale Disturbances in a Grassy Eucalypt Woodland in Eastern Australia

  • David J. Eldridge
  • David Freudenberger
  • Terry B. Koen


Over the last 200 years the box woodlands of eastern Australia have been considerably altered by European farming practices. These changes have been accompanied by a reduction in the size and number of patches of vegetation as well as the quality of the understorey vegetation and underlying soil surface. We measured diversity and abundance of soil crust taxa in relation to habitat complexity, remnant area and width, diversity of vascular plants as well as the number, size and separation of patches of vegetation and grass butts (coarse-scale patchiness), and an index of surface stability derived from measures of seven soil surface features of small microsites (patches of bare/crusted, litter- or grass-covered soil; micro-scale) on both coarse- and fine-textured soils at 35 sites in south-eastern Australia. Fifty taxa were recorded from the 35 sites, and there were more taxa from sites with fine-textured soils (12.7) compared with coarse-textured soils (4.4). The soil crust community was dominated by a few relatively common species, with many species occurring at only a few sites. Half the number of species accounting for <1% of total abundance. Bare and crusted microsites supported more species and greater cover compared with grassy microsites. Crust diversity declined with increasing coarse-level disturbances (i.e. declines in habitat complexity, remnant area and width, and diversity of vascular plants) but the results were not consistent between soil types. No measures of fine-scale disturbance were related significantly to any of the crust diversity or abundance measures, and there was no evidence of a recent grazing effect on crust composition. The fact that few sites had many species (and visa versa) suggests to us that many sites are probably required to conserve soil crust taxa in these highly fragmented landscapes


cryptogam disturbance non-vascular plants patchiness woodlands woodland condition 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Eldridge
    • 1
  • David Freudenberger
    • 2
  • Terry B. Koen
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of NSWSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Natural ResourcesCowraAustralia

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