skip to main content


Title: Spectrally monitoring the response of the biocrust moss Syntrichia caninervis to altered precipitation regimes

Climate change is expected to impact drylands worldwide by increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. These effects have known feedbacks to the functional roles of dryland biological soil crust communities (biocrusts), which are expected to undergo significant climate-induced changes in community structure and function. Nevertheless, our ability to monitor the status and physiology of biocrusts with remote sensing is limited due to the heterogeneous nature of dryland landscapes and the desiccation tolerance of biocrusts, which leaves them frequently photosynthetically inactive and difficult to assess. To address this critical limitation, we subjected a dominant biocrust species Syntrichia caninervis to climate-induced stress in the form of small, frequent watering events, and spectrally monitored the dry mosses’ progression towards mortality. We found points of spectral sensitivity responding to experimentally-induced stress in desiccated mosses, indicating that spectral imaging is an effective tool to monitor photosynthetically inactive biocrusts. Comparing the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), the Simple Ratio (SR), and the Normalized Pigment Chlorophyll Index (NPCI), we found NDVI minimally effective at capturing stress in precipitation-stressed dry mosses, while the SR and NPCI were highly effective. Lastly, our results suggest the strong potential for utilizing spectroscopy and chlorophyll-derived indices to monitor biocrust ecophysiological status, evenmore » when biocrusts are dry, with important implications for improving our understanding of dryland functioning.« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. U.S. Geological Survey, Moab, UT (United States); Northern Arizona Univ., Flagstaff, AZ (United States)
  2. U.S. Geological Survey, Moab, UT (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal ID: ISSN 2045-2322
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
USGS Western Region, Moab, UT (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; biogeochemistry; climate-change ecology; ecophysiology
OSTI Identifier: