Impacts of Biological Soil Crust Disturbance and Composition on C and N Loss from Water Erosion
Article Received: 14 January 2005 Accepted: 27 July 2005 Abstract
In this study, we conducted rainfall simulation experiments in a cool desert ecosystem to examine the role of biological soil crust disturbance and composition on dissolved and sediment C and N losses. We compared runoff and sediment C and N losses from intact late-successional dark cyanolichen crusts (intact) to both trampled dark crusts (trampled) and dark crusts where the top 1 cm of the soil surface was removed (scraped). In a second experiment, we compared C and N losses in runoff and sediments in early-successional light cyanobacterial crusts (light) to that of intact late-successional dark cyanolichen crusts (dark). A relatively high rainfall intensity of approximately 38 mm per 10-min period was used to ensure that at least some runoff was generated from all plots. Losses of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and ammonium (NH
) were significantly higher from trampled plots as compared to scraped and intact plots. Sediment C and N losses, which made up more than 98% of total nutrient losses in all treatments, were more than 4-fold higher from trampled plots relative to intact plots (sediment C g/m 4 + 2, intact = 0.74, trampled = 3.47; sediment N g/m 2, intact = 0.06, trampled = 0.28). In light crusts, DOC loss was higher relative to dark crusts, but no differences were observed in dissolved N. Higher sediment loss in light crusts relative to dark crusts resulted in 5-fold higher loss of sediment-bound C and N. Total C flux (sediment + dissolved) was on the order of 0.9 and 7.9 g/m 2 for dark and light crusts, respectively. Sediment N concentration in the first minutes after runoff from light crusts was 3-fold higher than the percent N of the top 1 cm of soil, suggesting that even short-term runoff events may have a high potential for N loss due to the movement of sediments highly enriched in N. Total N loss from dark crusts was an order of magnitude lower than light crusts (dark = 0.06 g N/m 2, light = 0.63 g/m 2). Overall, our results from the small plot scale (0.5 m 2) suggest that C and N losses are much lower from intact late-successional cyanolichen crusts as compared to recently disturbed or early-successional light cyanobacterial crusts. Keywords Biological soil crust Carbon Canyonlands National Park Colorado Plateau Disturbance Erosion Nitrogen Rainfall simulation Runoff References Abrahams, A.D., Parsons, A.J., Wainwright, J. 1994 Resistance to overland flow on semiarid grassland and shrubland hillslopes, Walnut Gulch, southern Arizona J. Hydrol. 156 431 446 CrossRef Google Scholar Barger, N.N. 2003Biogeochemical cycling and N dynamics of biological soil crusts in a semi-arid ecosystem Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO Google Scholar Belnap, J. 1996 Soil surface disturbances in cold deserts: effects on nitrogenase activity in cyanobacterial–lichen soil crusts Biol. Fertil. Soils 23 362 367 Google Scholar Belnap, J., Gardner, J.S. 1993 Soil microstructure in soils of the Colorado Plateau: the role of the cyanobacterium Microcoleus vaginatus Great Basin Natural. 53 40 47 Google Scholar Belnap, J., Budel, B., Lange, O.L. 2001 Biological soil crusts: characteristics and distribution Belnap, J. Lange, O. eds. Biological Soil Crusts: StructureFunction, and Management Springer-Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg 3 30 Google Scholar Belnap, J., Eldridge, D. 2001 Disturbance and recovery of biological soil crusts Belnap, J. Lange, O. eds. Biological Soil Crusts: StructureFunction, and Management Springer-Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg 363 383 Google Scholar Belnap, J., Hawkes, C.V., Firestone, M.K. 2003 Boundaries in miniature: two examples from soils Bioscience 53 739 749 Google Scholar Belnap, J., Phillips, S.L., Miller, M.E. 2004 Response of desert biological soil crust to alterations in precipitation frequency Oecologia 141 306 316 CrossRef Google Scholar Belnap, J., Welter, J.K., Grimm, N.B., Barger, N.N., Ludwig, J. 2005 Linkages between microbial and hydrologic processes in arid and semi-arid watersheds Ecology 86 298 307 Google Scholar
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