Biological Soil Crusts as a Model System in Ecology
We explore in this chapter how biological soil crusts (biocrusts) may serve as a useful model system for studying multiple questions of interest in ecology, including biodiversity–ecosystem function relationships, positive and negative species interactions along environmental gradients, the source–sink hydrological dynamics in drylands, and ecosystem resistance and resilience. To illustrate our views, we synthesize recent and ongoing studies that are employing biocrusts as model systems to tackle these and other related questions, emphasizing the main features of biocrusts that make them special and well suited to advance ecological theory and our understanding of many important topics in community and ecosystem ecology. We complete the synthesis of the studies conducted so far with recommendations aiming to promote the use of biocrusts by community and ecosystem ecologists.
KeywordsVascular Plant Biotic Interaction Biological Soil Crust Ecosystem Ecology Biodiversity Effect
FTM and EV were supported by the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement 242658 (BIOCOM) during the writing of this chapter. The contribution of JC was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (project UNCROACH, CGL2011-30581-C02-01). MB was supported by a FPU fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (Ref. AP2010-0759). RL was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (SCIN—Soil Crust InterNational-, PRI-PIMBDV-2011-0874, a BiodivERsA project).
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