Biological Soil Crusts - Linking ecophysiology and soil processes

In many ecosystems of the world biological soil crusts play an important role for ecosystem processes. These biological crusts (biocrusts) are assemblages of cyanobacteria, green algae, mosses, fungi and soil lichens. Biocrusts influencing the ecosysten processes: they decrease infiltration rates and, thus, run-off could be observed even in a sandy area when covered by a biological crust. In addition to the influence on the ecohydrological conditions, the biological crust also stabilises the topsoil, reduces soil erosion, and enhances the nitrogen pools by nitrogen fixation. The understanding of pattern formations and interactions with biogeochemical and biotic processes are important for ecological theory and for applications in soil formation, restoration ecology and combating desertification. 


Investigations of biocrust physiological activity on post-mining soilsMoss-soil lichens crust at reclaimed post-mining site, Brandenburg, GermanyBiocrust wetness probesSpatial analysis of photosynthesis using Imaging-Chlorophyll FluoresenceNDVI images of biocrusts with a modified consumer cameraMoss-soil lichens crust covering inland dunes, Lieberoser Heide, BrandenburgInitial green-algae soil crust on temperate sand dunes, Brandenburg, GermanyPost-mining site Schlabendorf with biocrustsDevelopment of biocrusts and their application in restoration ecologySoil lichens crust, Karoo, South AfricaBiocrusts on reclaimed post-mining site, Lower Lausatia, GermanyCyanobacterial biocrust on desert dunes, Succulent Karoo, South Africa


Influence of climate on physiological activity and small-scale development of biological soil crusts in initiale ecosystems in Brandenburg

The successional development of biocrusts communities and the resulting spatiotemporal heterogeneity of biocrust patches in the landscape depend on various abiotic factors e.g. surface stability, soil chemistry, microclimate and surface wetness. Aim of our research is to link physiological processes with the development of spatial pattern of biocrusts in relation to environmental boundary conditions.

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Investigations of biological soil crust on the Research Platform Chicken Creek / Quellberg Hühnerwasser 


Ecophysiology of biocrusts on reclaimed post-mining soils in Lower Lusatia, Germany

Reclaimed post-mining sites undergo long time periods of succession. These initial soils, consisting of excavated and dumped material, are characterized by a high vulnerability to erosion, low water holding capacity, lack of nutrients, low pH or sparse vegetation. Stress tolerant microorganisms colonize the new soil surface in reclaimed areas. On the upper few millimeters of the topsoil they are forming a biological soil crust (biocrust); containing cyanobacteria, bacteria, green algae, mosses, lichens and fungi, which crosslink soil particles. 

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Biocrusts as drivers for ecosystem functions and development in arid sand dunes 

Sand dunes occur in many parts of the world, not only in deserts and other arid regions but also along many coastlines in humid biomes and environments.  Biological soil crusts plays important role for ecosystem processes is desert ecosystems. Biocrusts influencing the ecosysten processes: they decrease infiltration rates and, thus, run-off could be observed even in a sandy area when covered by a biological crust. In addition to the influence on the ecohydrological conditions, the biological crust also stabilises the topsoil, reduces soil erosion, and enhances the nitrogen pools by nitrogen fixation. Long-term investigations on ecological functions and development of various biocrusts types were carried out  in the Negev desert of Sirael and in China. 

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Development of biocrusts in initial ecosystems in the temperate zone (SFB-TRR 38)

In 2007 the German–Swiss Transregional Collaborative Research Centre (SFB/TRR 38) ‘‘Structures and processes of the initial ecosystem development phase in an artificial water catchment’’ was launched as a collaboration of the Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus (BTU), the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH). The overall objective of this interdisciplinary project is to elucidate the role of structures and processes during the initial establishment of an ecosystem. The central hypothesis of the project assumes that initial patterns substantially define and shape the development and later stages of an ecosystem. In this context, we studied the importances of biocrusts in early successional stages of ecosystem developments.

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