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Title: Monitoring water content dynamics of biological soil crusts

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Journal Article: Publisher's Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Arid Environments
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 142; Journal Issue: C; Related Information: CHORUS Timestamp: 2017-12-15 21:44:16; Journal ID: ISSN 0140-1963
Country of Publication:
United Kingdom

Citation Formats

Young, Michael H., Fenstermaker, Lynn F., and Belnap, Jayne. Monitoring water content dynamics of biological soil crusts. United Kingdom: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.03.004.
Young, Michael H., Fenstermaker, Lynn F., & Belnap, Jayne. Monitoring water content dynamics of biological soil crusts. United Kingdom. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.03.004.
Young, Michael H., Fenstermaker, Lynn F., and Belnap, Jayne. 2017. "Monitoring water content dynamics of biological soil crusts". United Kingdom. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.03.004.
title = {Monitoring water content dynamics of biological soil crusts},
author = {Young, Michael H. and Fenstermaker, Lynn F. and Belnap, Jayne},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.03.004},
journal = {Journal of Arid Environments},
number = C,
volume = 142,
place = {United Kingdom},
year = 2017,
month = 7

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
This content will become publicly available on April 12, 2018
Publisher's Accepted Manuscript

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  • In this paper we report the bacterial diversity of biological soil crusts (biocrusts) inhabiting polar desert soils at the northern land limit of the Arctic polar region (83° 05 N). Employing pyrosequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes this study demonstrated that these biocrusts harbor diverse bacterial communities, often as diverse as temperate latitude communities. The effect of wetting pulses on the composition of communities was also determined by collecting samples from soils outside and inside of permafrost water tracks, hill slope flow paths that drain permafrost-affected soils. The intermittent flow regime in the water tracks was correlated with altered relativemore » abundance of phylum level taxonomic bins in the bacterial communities, but the alterations varied between individual sampling sites. Bacteria related to the Cyanobacteria and Acidobacteria demonstrated shifts in relative abundance based on their location either inside or outside of the water tracks. Among cyanobacterial sequences, the proportion of sequences belonging to the family Oscillatoriales consistently increased in relative abundance in the samples from inside the water tracks compared to those outside. Acidobacteria showed responses to wetting pulses in the water tracks, increasing in abundance at one site and decreasing at the other two sites. Subdivision 4 acidobacterial sequences tended to follow the trends in the total Acidobacteria relative abundance, suggesting these organisms were largely responsible for the changes observed in the Acidobacteria. Finally, taken together, these data suggest that the bacterial communities of these high latitude polar biocrusts are diverse but do not show a consensus response to intermittent flow in water tracks over high Arctic permafrost.« less
  • The water cycle in urban and hydrologically managed settings is subject to perturbations that are dynamic on small spatial and temporal scales; the effects of which may be especially profound in soils. We deploy a membrane inlet-based laser spectroscopy system in conjunction with soil moisture and temperature sensors to monitor soil water dynamics and H and O stable isotope ratios (δ 2H and δ 18O values) in a seasonally irrigated urban-landscaped garden soil over the course of 9 months between the cessation of irrigation in the autumn and the onset of irrigation through the summer. Here, we find that soilmore » water δ 2H and δ 18O values predominately reflect seasonal precipitation and irrigation inputs. A comparison of total soil water by cryogenic extraction and mobile soil water measured by in situ water vapor probes reveals that initial infiltration events after long periods of soil drying (the autumn season in this case) emplace water into the soil matrix that is not easily replaced by, or mixed with, successive pulses of infiltrating soil water. Tree stem xylem water H and O stable isotope composition did not match that of available water sources. Our findings suggest that partitioning of soil water into mobile and immobile “pools” and resulting ecohydrologic separation may occur in engineered and hydrologically managed soils and not be limited to natural settings. Furthermore, the laser spectroscopy method detailed here has potential to yield insights in a variety of critical zone and vadose zone studies, potential that is heightened by the simplicity and portability of the system.« less
  • Frequent hydration and drying of soils in arid systems can accelerate desert carbon and nitrogen mobilization due to respiration, microbial death, and release of intracellular solutes. Because desert microinvertebrates can mediate nutrient cycling, and the autotrophic components of crusts are known to be sensitive to rapid desiccation due to elevated temperatures after wetting events, we studied whether altered soil temperature and frequency of summer precipitation can also affect the composition of food web consumer functional groups. We conducted a two-year field study with experimentally-elevated temperature and frequency of summer precipitation in the Colorado Plateau desert, measuring the change in abundancemore » of nematodes, protozoans, and microarthropods. We hypothesized that microfauna would be more adversely affected by the combination of elevated temperature and frequency of summer precipitation than either effect alone, as found previously for phototrophic crust biota. Microfauna experienced normal seasonal fluctuations in abundance, but the effect of elevated temperature and frequency of summer precipitation was statistically non-significant for most microfaunal groups, except amoebae. The seasonal increase in abundance of amoebae was reduced with combined elevated temperature and increased frequency of summer precipitation compared to either treatment alone, but comparable with control (untreated) plots. Based on our findings, we suggest that desert soil microfauna are relatively more tolerant to increases in ambient temperature and frequency of summer precipitation than the autotrophic components of biological soil crust at the surface.« less
  • Changes in temperature and precipitation are expected to influence ecosystem processes worldwide. Despite their globally large extent, few studies to date have examined the effects of climate change in desert ecosystems, where biological soil crusts are key nutrient cycling components. The goal of this work was to assess how increased temperature and frequency of summertime precipitation affect the contributions of crust organisms to soil processes. With a combination of experimental 2°C warming and altered summer precipitation frequency applied over 2 years, we measured soil nutrient cycling and the structure and function of crust communities. We saw no change in crustmore » cover, composition, or other measures of crust function in response to 2°C warming and no effects on any measure of soil chemistry. In contrast, crust cover and function responded to increased frequency of summer precipitation, shifting from moss to cyanobacteria-dominated crusts; however, in the short timeframe we measured, there was no accompanying change in soil chemistry. Total bacterial and fungal biomass was also reduced in watered plots, while the activity of two enzymes increased, indicating a functional change in the microbial community. Taken together, our results highlight the limited effects of warming alone on biological soil crust communities and soil chemistry, but demonstrate the substantially larger effects of altered summertime precipitation.« less