Natural Recovery of Biological Soil Crusts After Disturbance

  • Bettina WeberEmail author
  • Matt Bowker
  • Yuanming Zhang
  • Jayne Belnap
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 226)


Natural recovery of biological soil crusts (biocrusts) is influenced by a number of different parameters, such as climate, soil conditions, the severity of disturbance, and the timing of disturbance relative to the climatic conditions. In recent studies, it has been shown that recovery is often not linear, but a highly dynamic process directly influenced by nonlinear external parameters as extraordinary climatic conditions (e.g., particularly dry or wet year). Natural recovery often follows a general succession pattern, starting out with cyanobacteria and algae, which is then followed by lichens and bryophytes at a later stage. However, this general sequence can be altered by parameters like dust deposition, fire effects, and special climatic conditions as in fog deserts and under mesic climates. Recent studies have proposed that under favorable, stable soil conditions, the initial soil-stabilizing cyanobacteria-dominated succession stages may be omitted and moss-dominated biocrusts can develop in the initial phases of biocrust development. During natural recovery of biocrusts, soil properties change, e.g., soil nutrient and organic matter contents increase. Also, silt and clay contents of encrusted soils increase with biocrust maturity, which may be caused by two mechanisms, i.e., entrapment of fine soil particles by biocrusts and the new formation of smaller particles by weathering of the existing substrate.


Biological Soil Crust Filamentous Cyanobacterium Natural Recovery Tengger Desert Successional Trajectory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



MAB gratefully acknowledges the support of the Bureau of Land Management. BW was supported by the Max Planck Society (Nobel Laureate Fellowship) and the German Research Foundation (projects WE2393/2-1 and WE2393/2-2). JB was supported by US Geological Survey’s Ecosystem program. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US government.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bettina Weber
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matt Bowker
    • 2
  • Yuanming Zhang
    • 3
  • Jayne Belnap
    • 4
  1. 1.Multiphase Chemistry DepartmentMax Planck Institute for ChemistryMainzGermany
  2. 2.School of ForestryNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biogeography and BioresourceXinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of SciencesUrumqi CityChina
  4. 4.U.S. Geological SurveySouthwest Biological Science CenterMoabUSA

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