Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2019, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (1): 81-92.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2019.00081

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Increase in medium-size rainfall events will enhance the C-sequestration capacity of biological soil crusts

CuiHua Huang1,Fei Peng1,2,3,*(),Itaru Shibata3,Jun Luo1,Xian Xue1,Kinya Akashi2,3,Atsushi Tsunekawa2,3,Tao Wang1   

  1. 1. Minqin Salinization Research Station, Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Science, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
    2. International Platform for Dryland Research and Education, Tottori University, Koyama-Minami, Tottori 680-8550, Japan
    3. Arid Land Research Center, Tottori University, Hamasaka, Tottori 680-0001, Japan
  • Received:2018-07-18 Accepted:2018-09-29 Online:2019-02-01 Published:2019-03-22
  • Contact: Fei Peng
  • About author:Fei Peng, Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Science, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China. Tel: +86-931-4967484; Fax: +86-931-8273894;


Biological soil crusts (BSCs) play important roles in the carbon (C) balance in arid regions. Net C balance of BSCs is strongly dependent on rainfall and consequent activation of microbes in the BSCs. The compensation-rainfall size for BSCs (the minimum rainfall amount for a positive net C balance) is assumed to be different with BSCs of different developmental stages. A field experiment with simulated rainfall amount (SRA) of 0, 1, 5, 10, 20, and 40 mm was conducted to examine the C fluxes and compensation-rainfall size of BSCs in different parts of fixed dunes in the ecotone between the Badain Jaran Desert and the Minqin Oasis. We found algae?lichen crust on the interdunes and crest, algae crust on the leeward side, and lichen?moss crust on the windward. Even a small rainfall (1 mm) can activate both photosynthesis and respiration of all types of BSCs. The gross ecosystem production, ecosystem respiration, and net ecosystem exchange were significantly affected by SRA, hours after the simulated rainfall, position on a dune, and their interactions. The rapid activation of photosynthesis provides a C source and therefore could be responsible for the increase of C efflux after each rewetting. C-uptake and -emission capacity of all the BSCs positively correlated with rainfall size, with the lowest C fluxes on the leeward side. The compensation rainfall for a net C uptake was 3.80, 15.54, 8.62, and 1.88 mm for BSCs on the interdunes, the leeward side, the crest, and the windward side, respectively. The whole dune started to show a net C uptake with an SRA of 5 mm and maximized with an SRA of about 30 mm. The compensation-rainfall size is negatively correlated with chlorophyll content. Our results suggest that BSCs will be favored in terms of C balance, and sand dune stabilization could be sustained with an increasing frequency of 5?10 mm rainfall events in the desert?oasis transitional zone.

Key words: biological soil crust, rainfall size, desert?oasis ecotone, C balance, arid region

Table 1

Soil texture and chemical characteristics for different parts of the dune at the surface (0?2 cm) and subsurface (2?5 cm) layers"

Depth Position SOC (g/kg) TN (g/kg) NO 3 - (mg/kg) NH 4 + (mg/kg) Clay (%) Silt (%) Sand (%) pH
0?2 cm Interdunes 6.91±0.98a 0.71±0.08a 8.33±4.92a 10.26±0.47bc 1.02±0.01ab 38.98±2.26ab 60.00±2.84ab 8.24±0.36a
Leeward 5.30±0.80ab 0.53±0.07ab 5.82±3.30a 12.43±0.14ab 1.18±0.10a 46.56±1.68a 52.26±1.77b 8.10±0.26a
Crest 6.23±0.24ab 0.65±0.03ab 7.67±1.42a 9.34±1.14cd 1.11±0.08a 44.09±2.49ab 54.80±2.56ab 8.02±0.22a
Windward 8.82±0.47a 0.88±0.05a 10.56±4.59a 13.97±0.40a 0.84±0.15ab 33.80±4.81ab 65.36±4.91ab 8.17±0.14a
2?5 cm Interdunes 1.83±0.80c 0.23±0.07c 5.82±3.30a 7.25±0.14de 0.46±0.17b 20.49±10.71b 79.05±10.87a 8.43±0.26a
Leeward 2.94±0.24bc 0.31±0.03bc 7.67±1.42a 7.29±1.14de 0.85±0.17ab 34.48±6.22ab 64.68±6.40ab 8.18±0.22a
Crest 2.82±0.47bc 0.29±0.05bc 10.56±4.59a 6.67±0.40e 0.75±0.12ab 32.97±5.47ab 66.28±5.59ab 8.45±0.14a
Windward 2.38±2.15bc 0.25±0.24c 10.09±4.69a 7.08±0.37de 0.76±0.25ab 29.05±10.96ab 79.29±11.21ab 8.34±0.11a

Figure 1

Soil moisture after each rainfall simulation of 0, 1, 5, 10, 20, and 40 mm. Error bars are the standard error of three replicates"

Figure 2

Percentage of algae, lichen, and moss on the"

Figure 3

Chlorophyll content of algae, lichen, and moss on interdune, leeward, crest, and windward parts of the stabilized dunes with BSCs. Error bars are the standard error of three replicates"

Table 2

Results (F value ) of four-way ANOVA analysis about the effect of month, hours after simulated rainfall (HAF), position of the dunes (Position), simulated rainfall amount (SRA), interaction of position and SRA, and interaction of HAF and SRA on ecosystem respiration (ER), net ecosystem exchange (NEE), and gross ecosystem production (GEP)"

Source of variance/df NEE ER GEP
Month / 2 4.5* 20.9** 11.8**
HAF / 6 74.5** 103.2** 106.5**
SRA / 5 54.8** 97.0** 94.7**
Position / 3 20.9** 32.3** 32.9**
HAF×SRA / 29 7.6** 9.1** 9.6**
SRA×Position / 15 2.2** 2.8** 2.8**

Figure 4

Average gross ecosystem production (GEP), net ecosystem exchange (NEE), and ecosystem respiration (ER) of organisms in biological soil crusts with different amounts of simulated rainfall on the interdune, leeward, crest, and windward parts of a sand dune. Values in each rainfall simulation are the average of 0, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 hours after rainfall simulation of the three replicates. Error bars are the standard error of three replicates"

Figure 5

GEP, NEE, and ER of organisms in biological soil crust at 10 minutes; 0,1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 hours after rainfall simulation on the interdune, leeward, crest, and windward parts of a dune. Values for each time are the average of C fluxes with 0, 1, 5, 10, 20, and 40 mm of rainfall simulation in three replicates. Error bars are the standard error of the three replicates"

Figure 6

Cumulative net ecosystem change (NEE) and ecosystem respiration (ER) after the SRA in June, August, and September"

Figure 7

Linear fitting between the cumulated NEE and SRA on the interdune, leeward, crest, and windward parts of fixed sand dunes. Negative values represent net C loss, and positive represent net C gain"

Figure 8

Polynomial fitting between cumulated NEE and SRA, combining the interdune, leeward, crest, and windward parts of a dune. Negative values represent net C loss, and positive represent net C gain"

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