Plant and Soil

, Volume 429, Issue 1–2, pp 147–157 | Cite as

Environmental determinants of biocrust carbon fluxes across Europe: possibilities for a functional type approach

  • Jose RaggioEmail author
  • T. G. Allan Green
  • Ana Pintado
  • Leopoldo G. Sancho
  • Burkhard Büdel
Regular Article


Background and aims

Due to the well-known importance of biocrusts for several ecosystem properties linked to soil functionality, we aim to go deeper into the physiological performance of biocrusts components. Possible functional convergences in the physiology of biocrust constituents would facilitate the understanding of both species and genus distributional patterns and improve the possibility of modelling their response to climate change.


We measured gas exchange in the laboratory under controlled conditions of lichen- and moss-dominated biocrusts from four environmentally different locations in Europe. Field data were used to determine the natural hydration sources that drive metabolic activity of biocrusts.


Our results show different activity drivers at the four sites. Within site analyses showed similar C fixation for the different crust types in the three sites without hydric stress whilst light use related parameters and respiration at 15 °C were similar in the between sites analyses. There were significant differences in water relations between the biocrusts types, with moss-dominated crusts showing higher maximum and optimum water contents.


The functional type approach for biocrusts can be justified from a physiological perspective when similar values are found in the within and between site analyses, the latter indicating habitat independent adaptation patterns. Our multi-site analyses for biocrusts functional performance provide comparisons of C fluxes and water relations in the plant-soil interface that will help to understand the adaptation ability of these communities to possible environmental changes.


Biological soil crusts Climate change impact modelling Functional ecology Metabolic activity drivers Photosynthesis Stress tolerance 



This research was funded by the ERA-Net BiodivERsA program as “Soil Crust InterNational “(SCIN) – Understanding and valuing biological soil protection of disturbed and open land surfaces”, as part of the 2010–2011 BiodivERsA call. The Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO) project number PRI-PIMBDV-2011-0874 funded this part of the global research. Rolf Gademann (Gademann Instruments) is thanked for development of the monitoring equipment (MoniDA) used in this project. Roberto Lázaro is also thanked for field assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

Authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3646_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (629 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 629 kb)
11104_2018_3646_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (73 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 72 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biología Vegetal II, Facultad de FarmaciaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Biological SciencesWaikato UniversityHamiltonNew Zealand
  3. 3.Plant Ecology and Systematics, BiologyUniversity of KaiserslauternKaiserslauternGermany

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