Summer activity patterns of antarctic and high alpine lichen-dominated biological soil crusts-similar but different?

Claudia Colesie*, T. G.Allan Green, Jose Raggio, Burkhard Büdel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are small-scale communities of lichens, mosses, algae, and cyanobacteria that cover much of the surface area in regions where vascular plant growth is restricted due to harsh environmental conditions, such as perpetually ice-free areas in terrestrial Antarctic environments and alpine areas above the tree line. To our knowledge, none of the available studies provides a direct Antarctic-alpine comparison of BSC activity periods and the water use, both key traits to understand their physiological behavior and therefore related growth and fitness. Here, activity patterns and water relations were studied at two sites, one in continental Antarctica (Garwood Valley 78°S) and one in the High Alps of Austria (Hochtor, Großglockner 2350m). BSCs in continental Antarctica were only rarely active, and if so, then during melt after snowfalls and by fog. In the Austrian Alps, BSCs were continuously active and additionally activated by rainfall, fog, and dew. Consequently, high alpine BSCs can be expected to have much higher photosynthetic productivity supporting higher growth rates than the same functional vegetation unit has in continental Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-460
Number of pages12
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2018

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