A networking resource devoted to biological soil crusts and the researchers who study them. We will provide a means for international scientists to communicate, share their research, share important news and announcements, ask questions and find collaborators. We will also provide a space for informal writing on research, opinion, and ideas (now seeking posters!).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recent literature on crusts

 Here's a couple papers that have landed in my inbox in the last few days:
 Sohrabi, M., Stenroos, S, Högnabba, F, Nordin, A., Owe-Larsson. 2011. Aspicilia rogeri sp. nov. (Megasporaceae) and other allied vagrant species in North America. Bryologist 114:178-189.

This one is a taxonomic paper passed on to me by Roger Rosentreter. Basically what the authors find is that what we thought was Aspicilia fruticulosa in North America, is actually a new taxon. The best thing about it is that it is named after Roger, Aspicilia rogeri. I like the familiarity of using his first name...now we have our friend Roger the human, and our new friend Roger the lichen. After all his work over the years on this fascinating and frustrating genus...he deserves it. The authors have some additional photos here.

Read, C.F., Duncan,D.H., Vesk, P.A., Elith, J. 2011. Surprisingly fast recovery of biological soil crusts following livestock removal in southern Australia. Journal of Vegetation Science Doi: 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2011.01296.x

Cassia Read follows up one of the first landscape ecology studies of biocrusts with this one about passive recovery of crust after exclusion of livestock. It uses an unusually good gradient of time since disturbance. Also notable is that the more we collectively study this topic the more we find that recovery rates differ from place to place, as well as successional sequences.

Castillo-Monroy, A.P., Maestre, F.T., Rey, A., Soliveres, S., Garcia-Palacios, P. 2011. Biological soil crust microsites are the main contributor to soil respiration in a semiarid ecosystem. 
DOI: 10.1007/s10021-011-9449-3

The journal Ecosystems is turning out to be fertile ground for crust research. On a gyspiferous area with well developed crusts, the authors calculate that the biocrust is associated with about 40% of the soil respiration from the site.

Of course one reason I created this blog was to help disseminate my own research. I switched jobs in the last year so I've been sending out less stuff in the transition, but my collaborators have kept me looking good. Here's a few from 2011 and the latter part of 2010:

García-Palacios, P., Bowker, M.A., Maestre, F.T., Soliveres, S., Valladares, F, Papadopoulos, J., Escudero, A. 2011. Ecosystem development in roadside grasslands: biotic control, plant–soil interactions and dispersal limitations. Ecological Applications in press.

Pablo worked really hard for this one. Developing the structural equation model in this paper was like fighting the hydra...we'd solve one problem and create 2 more. But in the end it looks good, congratulations Pablo.

Miller, M.E., Belote, R.T., Bowker, M.A., Garman, S.L. 2011. Alternative states of a semiarid grassland ecosystem: Implications for erosion susceptibility, ecosystem services and management. Ecosphere 2 A55.

Back to the Colorado Plateau....this is part of my new job. One of my projects is related to state-and-transition models. In this paper we actually define an ecosystem state partially by the dominance by biological crusts.

Maestre, F.T., Bowker, M.A., Cantón, Y., Castillo-Monroy, A.P., Cortina, J., Escolar, C., Escudero, A., Lázaro, R. Martínez, I. 2011. Ecology and functional roles of biological soil crusts in semi-arid ecosystems of Spain. Journal of Arid Environments in press.

This is a review of all the varied crust research being conducted in Spain. It will appear in a special issue of Journal of Arid Environments devoted to Spain's semi-arid zone.

Bowker, M.A., Mau, R.L., Maestre, F.T., Escolar, C., Castillo, A.P. 2011. Functional profiles reveal unique ecological roles of various biological soil crust organisms. Functional Ecology doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2011.01835.x.

In this paper we explore the simple idea of tabulating biocrust species and the ecosystem functions that the species tends to correlate with. We focused on the Spanish species. If you do this, you find little redundancy, most of the common species have a unique suite of functional effects. 

Castillo-Monroy, A.P., Bowker, M.A., Maestre, F.T., Rodríguez-Echeverría, S., Martinez, I., Barraza-Zepeda, C.E., Escolar, C. 2011. Relationships between biological soil crust, bacterial diversity and abundance and ecosystem functioning: Insights from a semi-arid Mediterranean environment. Journal of Vegetation Science 1:165-174.

Here we added some data on the microbial community to an existing study, and posed the question "How much of apparent crust function is actually mediated by their effects on soil microbiota?" At least in this site, the answer seems to be not much. This was part of Andrea's dissertation.

Eldridge, D.J., Bowker, M.A., Maestre, F.T., Alonso, P., Mau, R.L., Papadopoulos, J., and Escudero, A. 2010. Interactive effects of three ecosystem engineers on infiltration in a semi-arid mediterranean grassland. Ecosystems 13: 499-510.

I'm really happy with this study, and it's mostly thanks to Dave Eldridge. I hope to repay him with an equally good study this month in Australia. We studied the effects of crusts, rabbits and tussock grasses on infiltration in a regression-type design. The tussock grasses are infiltration sites (that was well known already). The rabbits have no direct effect, but they can nullify the crust effect. The crust effect can be positive, if mosses dominate, or negative if lichens dominate. All in all, a very cool system studied as an intact system, rather than breaking it into it's parts.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Biocrust symposium this Fall

I'm happy to announce that the organizers of the 11th Biennial Conference for Research on the Colorado Plateau have accepted my proposal for a symposium devoted to crusts. The lineup is tentative, I will update it as it becomes more concrete. I did the same a few year's ago (maybe 4???) and it spawned IBiSCA...not to be confused with RUBISCO or Nabisco. I don't even recall what IBiSCA stood for, maybe International Biological Soil Crust Association or something silly like that. Then we realized we were all living in the USA, so we really needed to add some international people.

Anyways, I'm hoping for some good talks, good Thai food, and good beer. Think of it as IBiSCA 2.0, though maybe a better name might be in order.

Length: 4 hours
Theme: Biological Soil Crusts: Understanding, modeling and restoring their functions in ecosystems
Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) are the protective skin of the earth creating soil stability, building and maintaining soil fertility and influencing hydrology. Ecosystem functions of biocrusts operate from microscopic to landscape scales. They are one of the most informative indicators of terrestrial ecosystem health in the Colorado Plateau region. Despite that the Colorado Plateau ecoregion is one of the major epicenters of biocrust research, and that biocrusts are unusually visible and highly functional on the plateau, the biennial conference usually does not feature much research on this topic. Here we bring together new researchers in the field as well as globally-established biocrust experts. We hope to establish a biennial tradition.
This special session is designed to bring together researchers from multiple western states working on various aspects of biocrust-mediated function and share their research and its management implications. The session will stress: 1. Erosion processes and their societal costs, 2. Methods for spatially modeling biological crust cover at landscape scales, 3. Rehabilitation of biocrusts to degraded sites to restore function., 4. Contributions of biocrusts to ecosystem functioning and nutrient cycling. Speakers will be asked to tailor their talks to both a scientific and natural resource management audience.
Expected outcomes: This session will give regional biocrust researchers the opportunity to disseminate their research and its relevance to resource management professionals. Equally important, especially for early career researchers, is the opportunity to network and meet peers. Symposia such as these lead to friendships, collaborations, research proposals, and more research conducted on these integral components of Colorado Plateau ecology.
1.Matthew Bowker – Introduction to special session 15 min.
2. Steve D. Warren - the effects of a prescribed burn on crust organisms in a mixed sagebrush/juniper community in Central Utah 15 min.
3. Nichole Barger – Prescribed fire and consequences for biological crusts and soil erosion 15 min.
4. Matthew Bowker - What controls dryland soil stability? The surprising importance of biological soil crusts at multiple spatial scales 15 min.
5. Colby Brungard – Modeling biological soil crust classes in Canyonlands National Park: Implications for management 15 min.
6. Jayne Belnap – Interactions between biocrust microtopography and ecosystem function 30 min
7. Panel discussion (Biocrusts role in  erosion and trapping of mobile resources; landscape modeling of BSCs and these functions; Fire impacts)  15 min.
1. Lindsay Chiquoine- Biological soil crust rehabilitation on disturbed gypsiferous soils 15 min.
2. Nicole Decrappeo - Using biological soil crusts to assess the suitability of degraded rangeland sites for restoration 15 min.
3. Roger Rosentreter-- Lessons learned using fragmentation of mosses to revegetate arid lands 15 min.
4. Tamara Zelikova – Biocrust response to three years of experimental warming 15 min
5. Garcia – Pichel student 1-TBA N-cycling or biodiversity? 15 min.
6. Ferran Garcia-Pichel  or student– TBA N-cycling or biodiversity? 30 min.
7. Panel discussion (Biocrust restoration; nutrient cycling in biocrusts  15 min.