Spatial variance of photosynthesis of biological soil crusts

Photosynthetic characteristics and their spatial variance of biological soil crusts covering initial soils of post-mining sites in Lower Lusatia, NE Germany

Following surface disturbance, quaternary sands are the basic substrate for soil development in the Lusatian reclamation area. These substrates mostly contain low organic matter and, hence, are nutrient poor. Accumulation of soil carbon is an important factor for ecosystem development, where biological soil crusts initially influence soil processes and promote ecosystem succession. The compositional structures of biological soil crusts at various developmental stages and their photosynthetic properties were investigated on two former open-cast lignite sites, currently under reclamation, an artificial sand dune in Welzow Süd, and a forest plantation in Schlabendorf Süd (Brandenburg, Germany). As development of biological soil crusts progressed, their contents of organic carbon and total chlorophyll increased. The ratio of these parameters, however, varied with the relative contribution of lichens and mosses in particular. Also maximum photochemical efficiency, net photosynthesis and respiration increased with crustal development. An additional evaluation of NDVI and chlorophyll fluorescence images showed that especially moss-dominated biocrusts had higher photosynthetic capacity compared to green algae-dominated biocrusts or soil lichens, so the photosynthetic capacity showed to be highly species-specific. The ratio of gross photosynthesis to respiration indicated a higher ecological efficiency of biocrusts dominated by green algae than of biocrusts. The occurrence of soil lichens reduced net CO2 fixation and increased CO2 release due to the enhanced mycobiontic respiration. During crustal succession, the rise of photosynthesis-related parameters is not necessarily linear as a result of the highly heterogenic distribution of the different crustal organisms between biocrusts of similar developmental stages as well as between those growing at the two study sites. Therefore, the evaluation of relevant ecophysiological parameters highlighted that not all biocrust-forming organisms similarly contribute to the ecophysiological behavior of biological soil crusts. Nevertheless, the occurrence of the biological soil crusts promoted soil formation and accumulation of soil carbon in initial soils.

Stella Gypser, Werner B. Herppich, Thomas Fischer, Philipp Lange, Maik Veste (2016):
Photosynthetic characteristics and their spatial variance on biological soil crusts covering initial soils of post-mining sites in Lower Lusatia, NE Germany. Flora 220: 103-116.