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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (1): 101-109    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-014-0035-3
Research Articles     
Responses of microbial activities and soil physical-chemical properties to the successional process of biological soil crusts in the Gurbantunggut Desert, Xinjiang
BingChang ZHANG, XiaoBing ZHOU, YuanMing ZHANG*
Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresources in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
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Abstract  Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are capable of modifying nutrient availability to favor the estab-lishment of biogeochemical cycles. Microbial activities serve as critical roles for both carbon and nutrient transformation in BSCs. However, little is known about microbial activities and physical-chemical properties of BSCs in the Gurbantunggut Desert, Xinjiang, China. In the present research, a sampling line with 1-m wide and 20-m long was set up in each of five typical interdune areas selected randomly in the Gurbantunggut Desert. Within each sampling line, samples of bare sand sheet, algal crusts, lichen crusts and moss crusts were randomly collected at the depth of 0–2 cm. Variations of microalgal biomass, microbial biomass, enzyme activities and soil physical-chemical properties in different succession of BSCs were analyzed. The relationships between microalgal biomass, microbial biomass, enzymatic activities and soil physical-chemical properties were explored by stepwise regression. Our results indicate that microalgal biomass, microbial biomass and most of enzyme activities increased as the BSCs developed and their highest values occurred in lichen or moss crusts. Except for total K, the contents of most soil nutrients (organic C, total N, total P, available N, available P and available K) were the lowest in the bare sand sheet and significantly increased with the BSCs development, reaching their highest values in moss crusts. However, pH values significantly de-creased as the BSCs developed. Significant and positive correlations were observed between chlorophyll a and microbial biomass C. Total P and N were positively associated with chlorophyll a and microbial biomass C, whereas there was a significant and negative correlation between microbial biomass and available P. The growth of cyanobacteria and microorganism contributed C and N in the soil, which offered substrates for enzyme activities thus increasing enzyme activities. Probably, improvement in enzyme activities increased soil fertility and promoted the growth of cyanobacteria, eukaryotic algae and heterotrophic microorganism, with the accelerating succession of BSCs. The present research found that microalgal-microbial biomass and enzyme activities played important roles on the contents of nutrients in the successional stages of BSCs and helped us to understand developmental mechanism in the succession of BSCs.

Key wordsdrought assessment      drought index      dekad time scale      rainfed agriculture     
Received: 09 December 2013      Published: 10 February 2015

This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41071041; U1203301) and the West Light Foundation of Chinese Academy of Sciences (RCPY201101).

Corresponding Authors: YuanMing ZHANG     E-mail:
Cite this article:

BingChang ZHANG, XiaoBing ZHOU, YuanMing ZHANG. Responses of microbial activities and soil physical-chemical properties to the successional process of biological soil crusts in the Gurbantunggut Desert, Xinjiang. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(1): 101-109.

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