Ecology of moss-dominated biocrusts on the Loess Plateau of China


Moss-dominated biocrusts increase soil microbial abundance and community diversity and improve soil fertility in semi-arid climates on the Loess Plateau of China

Various ecological functions of biocrusts are mostly determined by their bacterial and fungal abundance and community diversity, which has not yet been fully investigated. To provide more insights into this issue, we collected samples of moss biocrusts, fixed sand, and mobile sand from a watershed with semi-arid climate on the Loess Plateau of China. The relative abundances and community diversities of soil bacteria and fungi of the samples were determined using high-throughput DNA sequencing. Finally, we analyzed the characteristics of bacterial and fungal community of the moss biocrusts and their relationships to the content of soil nutrients. Our results showed that the moss biocrusts had 1048 bacterial OTUs (operational taxonomic units) and 58 fungal OTUs, and their Shannon diversity indexes were 5.56 and 1.65, respectively. The bacterial community of the moss biocrusts was dominated by Acidobacteria (24.3%), Proteobacteria (23.8%), Chloroflexi (15.8%), and Actinobacteria (14.5%), and their fungal community was dominated by Ascomycota (68.0%) and Basidiomycota (23.8%). The moss biocrusts had far more bacterial OTUs (≥ 56.9%) but similar number of fungal OTUs as compared with the uncrusted soil, and their Sorenson’s similarity coefficients of bacterial and fungal communities were less than 0.768 and 0.596, respectively. Moreover, the contents of soil nutrients (C, N, P) were significantly correlated with the OTU numbers of bacteria and the relative abundances of bacteria and fungi. Our results indicated that moss biocrusts harbor a large number and high diversity of bacteria and fungi, and these diversified bacteria and fungi play important roles in ecosystem functioning through improving soil fertility.


Xiao, B., Veste, M. (2017): Moss-dominated biocrusts increase soil microbial abundance and community diversity and improve soil fertility in semi-arid climates on the Loess Plateau in Northern China. Applied Soil Ecology 117: 165-177.



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