The influence of litter crusts on soil properties and hydrological processes in a sandy ecosystem
Litter crusts are integral components of the water budget in terrestrial ecosystems, especially in arid areas. This innovative study is designed to quantify the ecohydrological effectiveness of litter crusts in desert ecosystems. We focus on the positive effects of litter crusts on soil water holding capacity and water interception capacity compared with biocrusts. Litter crusts significantly increased soil organic matter compared to biocrusts and bare lands, by 2.4 times and 3.8 times, respectively. Higher organic matter content resulted in increased soil porosity and decreased soil bulk density. Meanwhile, soil organic matter can help to maintain maximum infiltration rates. Litter crusts significantly increased the water infiltration rate under high water supply. Our results suggested that litter crusts significantly improve soil properties, thereby influencing hydrological processes. Litter crusts play an important role in improving hydrological effectiveness and provide a microhabitat conducive to vegetation restoration in dry sandy ecosystems.