, Volume 101, Issue 1–3, pp 165–176 | Cite as

Initial pedogenesis in a topsoil crust 3 years after construction of an artificial catchment in Brandenburg, NE Germany

  • Thomas FischerEmail author
  • Maik Veste
  • Wolfgang Schaaf
  • Alexander Dümig
  • Ingrid Kögel-Knabner
  • Wolfgang Wiehe
  • Oliver Bens
  • Reinhard F. Hüttl


Cyanobacteria and green algae present in biological soil crusts are able to colonize mineral substrates even under extreme environmental conditions. As pioneer organisms, they play a key role during the first phases of habitat colonization. A characteristic crust was sampled 3 years after installation of the artificial water catchment “Chicken creek”, thus representing an early successional stage of ecosystem development. Mean annual rainfall and temperature were 559 mm and 9.3°C, respectively. We combined scanning electron microscopy (SEM/EDX) and infrared (FTIR) microscopy to study the contact zone of algal and cyanobacterial mucilage with soil minerals in an undisturbed biological soil crust and in the subjacent sandy substrate. The crust was characterized by an approximately 50 μm thick surface layer, where microorganisms resided and where mineral deposition was trapped, and by an approximately 2.5 mm thick lower crust where mineral particles were stabilized by organo-mineral structures. SEM/EDX microscopy was used to determine the spatial distribution of elements, organic compounds and minerals were identified using FTIR microscopy and X-ray diffraction (XRD). The concentration of organic carbon in the crust was about twice as much as in the parent material. Depletion of Fe, Al and Mn in the lower crust and in the subjacent 5 mm compared to the geological substrate was observed. This could be interpreted as the initial phase of podzolization. Existence of bridging structures between mineral particles of the lower crust, containing phyllosilicates, Fe compounds and organic matter (OM), may indicate the formation of organo-mineral associations. pH decreased from 8.1 in the original substrate to 5.1 on the crust surface 3 years after construction, pointing to rapid weathering of carbonates. Weathering of silicates could not be detected.


Biological soil crust Initial ecosystem Scanning electron microscopy FTIR microscopy 



This study is part of the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre 38 (SFB/TRR 38) which is financially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, Bonn) and the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, Research and Culture (MWFK, Potsdam). The authors thank Vattenfall Europe Mining AG for providing the research site. We also thank Werner Gerwin (BTU Cottbus, Research Center Landscape Development and Mining Landscapes) for providing the location map, Philipp Lange (BTU Cottbus, Research Center Landscape Development and Mining Landscapes) for technical assistance during the measurements and for the kind review of the manuscript, Roland Spröte and Claudia Zimmermann (BTU Cottbus, Chair of Soil Protection and Recultivation) for assistance during sampling. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for the truly helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Fischer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maik Veste
    • 2
  • Wolfgang Schaaf
    • 3
  • Alexander Dümig
    • 4
  • Ingrid Kögel-Knabner
    • 4
  • Wolfgang Wiehe
    • 1
  • Oliver Bens
    • 5
  • Reinhard F. Hüttl
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Central Analytical Laboratory, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Process EngineeringBrandenburg University of Technology at CottbusCottbusGermany
  2. 2.Research Center Landscape Development and Mining LandscapesBrandenburg University of Technology at CottbusCottbusGermany
  3. 3.Chair of Soil Protection and Recultivation, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Process EngineeringBrandenburg University of Technology at CottbusCottbusGermany
  4. 4.Lehrstuhl für Bodenkunde, Department für Ökologie und ÖkosystemmanagementTechnische Universität MünchenFreising-WeihenstephanGermany
  5. 5.GFZ German Research Centre for GeosciencesPotsdamGermany

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