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Cyanobacterial- and moss-forming biocrusts consistently mitigate the temperature sensitivity of microbial respiration along a continental precipitation gradient

Citation

Su, Yan-gui; Huang, Gang (2022), Cyanobacterial- and moss-forming biocrusts consistently mitigate the temperature sensitivity of microbial respiration along a continental precipitation gradient, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.jm63xsjf8

Abstract

1. Biocrusts are prevalent and participate in many soil organic carbon (C) processes in drylands. The predicted increase in aridity will expand the biocrust cover and significantly impact soil organic C dynamics. However, how biocrusts change soil organic C decomposition and what factors drive the effect in response to climate warming remains largely unknown at a continental scale.

2. We measured microbial respiration and its temperature sensitivity (Q10) in bare soil lacking biocrusts and two universal biocrusted soils (cyanobacterial- and moss-crusted soil) from 43 sites across a precipitation gradient from 39 mm to 443 mm to evaluate the relative effects of biocrusts on Q10 and the driving forces in northern China’s dryland.

3. Microbial respiration increased and Q10 decreased with increasing precipitation in bare soil, cyanobacterial- and moss-crusted soil. Biocrusts positively affected microbial respiration, with a more substantial magnitude by moss crusts than cyanobacterial crusts. Biocrusts negatively impacted Q10, and the magnitudes were similar between moss and cyanobacterial crusts. Most importantly, the relative effects of biocrusts on microbial respiration and Q10 increased with decreasing precipitation.

4. The positive effects of biocrusts on soil organic C content and microbial biomass carbon were positively correlated with the level of increased microbial respiration. Contrastingly, the magnitude of reduced Q10 was attributed to the biocrusts’ positive effects on soil organic C quality and adverse effects on the ratio of fungal to bacterial PLFAs (F: B).

5. Our study provides strong evidence that biocrusts decrease the temperature sensitivity of microbial respiration in northern China’s dryland. This result suggests that the predicted expanding biocrust cover is crucial for maintaining the soil organic C stability by buffering the positive impacts of climate warming on soil organic C decomposition in drylands.

Funding

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 32171643

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: U1703332

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 41671115

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 41771105