Uncovering biological soil crusts: carbon content and structure of intact Arctic, Antarctic and alpine biological soil crusts

Jung, Patrick; Briegel-Williams, Laura; Simon, Anika; Thyssen, Anne; Büdel, Burkhard

Arctic, Antarctic and alpine biological soil crusts (BSCs) are formed by adhesion of soil particles to exopolysaccharides (EPSs) excreted by cyanobacterial and green algal communities, the pioneers and main primary producers in these habitats. These BSCs provide and influence many ecosystem services such as soil erodibility, soil formation and nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) cycles. In cold environments degradation rates are low and BSCs continuously increase soil organic C; therefore, these soils are considered to be inline-formulaCO2 sinks. This work provides a novel, non-destructive and highly comparable method to investigate intact BSCs with a focus on cyanobacteria and green algae and their contribution to soil organic C. A new terminology arose, based on confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) 2-D biomaps, dividing BSCs into a photosynthetic active layer (PAL) made of active photoautotrophic organisms and a photosynthetic inactive layer (PIL) harbouring remnants of cyanobacteria and green algae glued together by their remaining EPSs. By the application of CLSM image analysis (CLSM–IA) to 3-D biomaps, C coming from photosynthetic active organisms could be visualized as depth profiles with C peaks at 0.5 to 2 mm depth. Additionally, the inline-formulaCO2 sink character of these cold soil habitats dominated by BSCs could be highlighted, demonstrating that the first cubic centimetre of soil consists of between 7 and 17 % total organic carbon, identified by loss on ignition.

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Jung, Patrick / Briegel-Williams, Laura / Simon, Anika / et al: Uncovering biological soil crusts: carbon content and structure of intact Arctic, Antarctic and alpine biological soil crusts. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Patrick Jung et al.

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