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Desert grasslands, which are very sensitive to external drivers like climate change, are areas affected by rapid land degradation processes. In many regions of the world the common form of land degradation involves the rapid encroachment of woody plants into desert grasslands. This process, thought to be irreversible and sustained by biophysical feedbacks of global desertification, results in the heterogeneous distribution of vegetation and soil resources. Most of these shrub-grass transition systems at the desert margins are prone to disturbances such as fires, which affect the interactions between ecological, hydrological, and land surface processes. Here we investigate the effect of prescribed fires on the landscape...
This interactive workshop was designed to provide background information and stimulate discussion on the effects of climate variability, possible natural and human-related long-term climate change, and land-use change in the rapidly-growing southwestern United States. This information will be used by the U.S. Global Change Research Program as part of a national assessment of Global Change issues. This web conference was open for interactive participation from Monday, July 7 through Friday, July 25, 1997. The articles and comments will remain available indefinitely.
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Biological soil crusts are a diverse soil surface community, prevalent in semiarid regions, which function as ecosystem engineers and perform numerous important ecosystem services. Loss of crusts has been implicated as a factor leading to accelerated soil erosion and other forms of land degradation. To support assessment and monitoring efforts aimed at ensuring the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems, managers require spatially explicit information concerning potential cover and composition of biological soil crusts. We sampled low disturbance sites in Grand Staircase?Escalante National Monument (Utah, USA) to determine the feasibility of modeling the potential cover and composition of biological soil crusts...
In some arid regions, rehabilitation of whole system N-fixation may be strongly facilitated by the recovery of populations of the lichen genus Collema. Identification of the limits to recovery of Collema in apparently suitable habitat should inform selection of rehabilitation techniques. We simultaneously tested the relative importance of three hypothetical limits to Collema recovery: active erosion, resource limitation, and propagule scarcity. We found that in our experimental system, active erosion had no effect on short-term establishment of Collema, whereas propagule addition did enhance recovery and microhabitat (a resource availability gradient) also exerted a strong influence. It is possible that attempts...
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Biological soil crusts are an integral part of dryland ecosystems. We monitored the cover of lichens and mosses, cyanobacterial biomass, concentrations of UV-protective pigments in both free-living and lichenized cyanobacteria, and quantum yield in the soil lichen species Collema in an undisturbed Mojave Desert shrubland. During our sampling time, the site received historically high and low levels of precipitation, whereas temperatures were close to normal. Lichen cover, dominated by Collema tenax and C. coccophorum, and moss cover, dominated by Syntrichia caninervis, responded to both increases and decreases in precipitation. This finding for Collema spp. at a hot Mojave Desert site is in contrast to a similar...
Land degradation in drylands is one of the major environmental issues of the 21st century particularly due to its impact on world food security and environmental quality. Climate change, shifts in vegetation composition, accelerated soil erosion processes, and disturbances have rendered these landscapes susceptible to rapid degradation that has important feedbacks on regional climate and desertification. Even though the role of hydrologic?aeolian erosion and vegetation dynamic processes in accelerating land degradation is well recognized, most studies have concentrated only on the role of one or two of these components, and not on the interactions among all three. Drawing on relevant published studies, here we review...
Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) cover up to 60–70% of the soil surface in grasslands rehabilitated during the “Grain for Green� project implemented in the hilly Loess Plateau region in 1999. As biocrusts fix nitrogen (N), they are an important part of restoring soil fertility. We measured nitrogenase activity (NA) in biocrusts from sites rehabilitated at six different time periods to estimate 1) the effects of moisture content and temperature on NA in biocrusts of different ages and 2) the potential N contribution from biocrusts to soils and plants in this region. Results show that NA in the biocrusts was mostly controlled by the species composition, as the activity of biocrusts dominated by free-living...
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Drylands cover 40% of the global terrestrial surface and provide important ecosystem services. While drylands as a whole are expected to increase in distribution and aridity in coming decades, temperature and precipitation forecasts vary by latitude and geographic region suggesting different trajectories for tropical, subtropical, and temperate drylands. Uncertainty in the future of tropical and subtropical drylands is well constrained, whereas soil moisture and ecological droughts, which drive vegetation productivity and composition, remain poorly understood in temperate drylands. Here we show that, over the 21st century, temperate drylands may contract by a third, primarily converting to subtropical drylands,...
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Water cycling and availability exert dominant control over ecological processes and the sustainability of ecosystem services in water - limited ecosystems. Consequently, dryland ecosystems have the potential to be dramatically impacted by hydrologic alterations emerging from global change, notably increasing temperature and altered precipitation patterns. In addition, the possibility of directly manipulating global solar radiation by augmenting stratospheric SO2 is receiving increasing attention as CO2 emissions continue to increase - these manipulations are anticipated to decrease precipitation, a change that may be as influential as temperature increases in dryland ecosystems. We propose to integrate a proven...
Studies to understand, measure, and predict changes in physical and ecological landscapes and how these changes influence landscape stability, ecosystem dynamics, and human communities of American drylands.
Desert soil surfaces are generally covered with biological soil crusts, a group of organisms dominated by cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses. Despite their unassuming appearance, these tiny organisms are surprisingly critical to many processes in past and present desert ecosystems and are vital in creating and maintaining fertility of desert soils. They fix both carbon and nitrogen, much of which is leaked to the soils below. They stabilize soils, capture nutrient-rich dust, and can stimulate plant growth. These organisms must tolerate extreme temperatures, drought, and solar radiation, despite having relatively few wet hours for metabolic activity. Under most circumstances, they are extremely vulnerable to climate...
Soil evaporation, a critical ecohydrological process in drylands, can exhibit substantial spatio-temporal variation. Spatially, ecohydrological controls of soil evaporation may generally depend on a hierarchical structure spanning from the presence or absence of litter, through canopy patches of woody plants and intercanopy patches separating them, up to the overall vegetation mosaic characterized by density of woody plant cover in the landscape, although assessment of these factors in concert is generally lacking. Temporally, ecohydrological controls can be further complicated by not only seasonal climate, but also phenology, particularly in seasonally deciduous drylands. We experimentally assessed the interactive...
Desert soil surfaces are generally covered with biological soil crusts, a group of organisms dominated by cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses. Despite their unassuming appearance, these tiny organisms are surprisingly critical to many processes in past and present desert ecosystems and are vital in creating and maintaining fertility of desert soils. They fix both carbon and nitrogen, much of which is leaked to the soils below. They stabilize soils, capture nutrient-rich dust, and can stimulate plant growth. These organisms must tolerate extreme temperatures, drought, and solar radiation, despite having relatively few wet hours for metabolic activity. Under most circumstances, they are extremely vulnerable to climate...
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Data was collected to characterize the conditions under which sagebrush occurs after seeding and wildfire in the Great Basin, and used to parameterize models used to explore adaptive seeding approaches. Data includes plot level field data on sagebrush occurrence, density, weather, and soil moisture conditions in the year that seeding after wildfire occurred. Weather data includes both average annual summaries and average weather at 5-day intervals from day 1-250 of the year of seeding. Also included are summaries of annual temperature and soil moisture conditions from 1979 to 2016 and model predictions of the probability of sagebrush establishment in each of these years.
Drylands are considered a net sink for atmospheric methane and a main component of global inventories for greenhouse gas budgets. However, a significant portion of drylands occur over sedimentary basins hosting natural gas and oil reservoirs, with gas migration to the surface (named “microseepage”) producing positive atmospheric CH4 fluxes. In this overview, we summarize the outcomes of microseepage surveys performed in different petroleum basins, describe how the microseepage area is estimated and what are the emission factors that can be used for a preliminary global emission estimate. Microseepage frequently overcomes methanotrophic consumption occurring in dry soil throughout large areas, and it is enhanced...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: CH4, Methane, drylands, microseepage, soil
The Bibliography of Aeolian Research (The BAR) contains 36,342 references to papers and reports that focus on aeolian research — the study of detachment, transport, and deposition of sediments by wind. Aeolian research spans a broad array of disciplines and may include: * the study of the physics of blowing sand, dust, and other granular material (i.e., saltation, suspension, creep and abrasion); * the study of geomorphic processes in arid environments and associated aeolian landforms, deposits, and sedimentary features; * the study of wind erosion and its control by tillage, cover crops, shelterbelts, and other management practices; and * the study of mineral dust, dust emissions, atmospheric transport and the...
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Drylands are integral to the Earth system and the present and future of human society. Drylands encompass more than 40% of the terrestrial landmass and support 34% of the world’s human population. Biocrusts are the “living skin” of Earth’s drylands, sometimes dominating the ground cover and figuring prominently in ecosystem structure and function. Biocrusts are a biological aggregate of cyanobacteria, fungi, algae, lichens and mosses in the surface millimeters of soil. By aggregating soil, biocrusts make sediment less erodible. They also strongly influence the water runoff-infiltration balance. In some ecosystems they generate runoff, whereas in other systems they enhance water capture. Vascular plant germination,...
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Large sediment fluxes can have significant impacts on ecosystems. We measured incoming and outgoing sediment across a gradient of soil disturbance (livestock grazing, plowing) and annual plant invasion for 9 years. Our sites included two currently ungrazed sites: one never grazed by livestock and dominated by perennial grasses/well-developed biocrusts and one not grazed since 1974 and dominated by annual weeds with little biocrusts. We used two currently grazed sites: one dominated by annual weeds and the other dominated by perennial plants, both with little biocrusts. Precipitation was highly variable, with years of average, above-average, and extremely low precipitation. During years with average and above-average...
Land degradation in drylands is one of the major environmental issues of the 21st century particularly due to its impact on world food security and environmental quality. Climate change, shifts in vegetation composition, accelerated soil erosion processes, and disturbances have rendered these landscapes susceptible to rapid degradation that has important feedbacks on regional climate and desertification. Even though the role of hydrologic–aeolian erosion and vegetation dynamic processes in accelerating land degradation is well recognized, most studies have concentrated only on the role of one or two of these components, and not on the interactions among all three. Drawing on relevant published studies, here we...
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Biological soil crusts (BSCs), a consortium of cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses, are essential in most dryland ecosystems. As these organisms are relatively immobile and occur on the soil surface, they are exposed to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition, rising temperatures, and alterations in precipitation patterns. In this study, we applied treatments to three types of BSCs (early, medium, and late successional) over three time periods (spring, summer, and spring–fall). In the first year, we augmented UV and altered precipitation patterns, and in the second year, we augmented UV and N. In the first year, with average air temperatures, we saw little response to our...


    map background search result map search result map Spatial Modeling of Biological Soil Crusts to Support Rangeland Assessment and Monitoring Global change and biological soil crusts: effects of ultraviolet augmentation under altered precipitation regimes and nitrogen additions Dynamics of cover, UV-protective pigments, and quantum yield in biological soil crust communities of an undisturbed Mojave Desert shrubland Sediment losses and gains across a gradient of livestock grazing and plant invasion in a cool, semi-arid grassland, Colorado Plateau, USA Environmental conditions, covariate data used in model fitting, and long-term establishment predictions from 1979 to 2016 in the Great Basin, USA Global change and biological soil crusts: effects of ultraviolet augmentation under altered precipitation regimes and nitrogen additions Sediment losses and gains across a gradient of livestock grazing and plant invasion in a cool, semi-arid grassland, Colorado Plateau, USA Dynamics of cover, UV-protective pigments, and quantum yield in biological soil crust communities of an undisturbed Mojave Desert shrubland Spatial Modeling of Biological Soil Crusts to Support Rangeland Assessment and Monitoring Environmental conditions, covariate data used in model fitting, and long-term establishment predictions from 1979 to 2016 in the Great Basin, USA