The Role of Biocrusts in Arid Land Hydrology
Biocrusts exert a strong influence on hydrological processes in drylands by modifying numerous soil properties that affect water retention and movement in soils. Yet, their role in these processes is not clearly understood due to the large number of factors that act simultaneously and can mask the biocrust effect. The influence of biocrusts on soil hydrology depends on biocrust intrinsic characteristics such as cover, composition, and external morphology, which differ greatly among climate regimes, but also on external factors as soil type, topography, and vegetation distribution patterns, as well as interactions among these factors. This chapter reviews the most recent literature published on the role of biocrusts in infiltration and runoff, soil moisture, evaporation, and non-rainfall water inputs (fog, dew, water absorption), in an attempt to elucidate the key factors that explain how biocrusts affect land hydrology. In addition to the crust type and site characteristics, recent studies point to the crucial importance of the type of rainfall and the spatial scale at which biocrust effects are analyzed to understand their role in hydrological processes. Future studies need to consider the temporal and spatial scale investigated to obtain more accurate generalizations on the role of biocrusts in land hydrology.
KeywordsHydraulic Conductivity Bare Soil Tengger Desert Antecedent Soil Moisture Gurbantunggut Desert
SC was supported by the project BACARCOS (CGL2011-29429), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology and European Union ERDF funds. JB was supported by the US Geological Survey’s Ecosystems and Climate and Land Use programs. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US government.
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