Improved appreciation of the functioning and importance of biological soil crusts in Europe: The Soil Crust International Project (SCIN)

Burkhard Büdel*, Claudia Colesie, T. G.Allan Green, Martin Grube, Roberto Lázaro Suau, Katharina Loewen-Schneider, Stefanie Maier, Thomas Peer, Ana Pintado, José Raggio, Ulrike Ruprecht, Leopoldo G. Sancho, Burkhard Schroeter, Roman Türk, Bettina Weber, Mats Wedin, Martin Westberg, Laura Williams, Lingjuan Zheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Here we report details of the European research initiative "Soil Crust International" (SCIN) focusing on the biodiversity of biological soil crusts (BSC, composed of bacteria, algae, lichens, and bryophytes) and on functional aspects in their specific environment. Known as the so-called "colored soil lichen community" (Bunte Erdflechtengesellschaft), these BSCs occur all over Europe, extending into subtropical and arid regions. Our goal is to study the uniqueness of these BSCs on the regional scale and investigate how this community can cope with large macroclimatic differences. One of the major aims of this project is to develop biodiversity conservation and sustainable management strategies for European BSCs. To achieve this, we established a latitudinal transect from the Great Alvar of Öland, Sweden in the north over Gössenheim, Central Germany and Hochtor in the Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria down to the badlands of Tabernas, Spain in the south. The transect stretches over 20° latitude and 2,300 m in altitude, including natural (Hochtor, Tabernas) and semi-natural sites that require maintenance such as by grazing activities (Öland, Gössenheim). At all four sites BSC coverage exceeded 30 % of the referring landscape, with the alpine site (Hochtor) reaching the highest cyanobacterial cover and the two semi-natural sites (Öland, Gössenheim) the highest bryophyte cover. Although BSCs of the four European sites share a common set of bacteria, algae (including cyanobacteria) lichens and bryophytes, first results indicate not only climate specific additions of species, but also genetic/phenotypic uniqueness of species between the four sites. While macroclimatic conditions are rather different, microclimatic conditions and partly soil properties seem fairly homogeneous between the four sites, with the exception of water availability. Continuous activity monitoring of photosystem II revealed the BSCs of the Spanish site as the least active in terms of photosynthetic active periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1639-1658
Number of pages20
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Volume23
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Biological soil crust
  • Bryophytes
  • Lichens
  • Net primary productivity
  • Soil microorganisms

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