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!).

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The New Testament is on it's way

Remember this thing? Hopefully every biocrust enthusiast has one on their shelves. Mine is signed by Jayne, and I need to remember to bring it to Spain to collect autographs of Otto Lange and all the other contributors. Of course there were plenty of seminal papers and some pretty good reviews before, but this book (1st edition 2001) has become such a valuable one stop shopping source for crust information that many people have taken to referring to it as the crust bible.

Well, alot has happened since this publication. First, there's just more biocrust researchers which has alot to do with the publication of the crust bible. The subject matter of crust research has changed, for example we are now seeing biocrusts used as model organisms in ecology and more and more climate change research, and we are seeing more and more work on ecological restoration. The geography of the biocrust research community has shifted also. At the time this book was written, biocrust researchers were primarily based in the US, Germany, Israel, and Australia. Now, I think its fair to say that China accounts for at least half if not more of the biocrust research production. Also the emergence of biocrust research in Spain has also been impactful, and a sizable group based in France is also notable. Basically, many more people in many more places are contributing to the biocrust knowledge base. This is undeniably a good thing, but it means that the crust bible is a bit out of date. It needs and update, but more than that.....a sequel. A New Testament!

While there will be several contributors in common, the new book seems to be a bit of a youth movement. Some of the students of the original authors will contribute, in additional to several new contributors. Below is an outline as it stands now. I love the title. To me there seems to be a thinly veiled message: this is an extremely important thing that most of you desert scientists are not noticing, look down once in a while (eyes rolling).

Ecological Studies
Biological Soil Crusts: An Organizing Principle in Drylands
Ed. by B. Weber, B. Büdel and J. Belnap

Table of Contents

Part I: Introduction  
1 Biological soil crusts as a critical zone of global importance (J. Belnap, <jayne_belnap@usgs.gov>)
In this chapter, the concept of biocrusts as the critical zone in drylands will be presented. As these communities cover the soil surface in these regions, they mediate almost all materials entering and leaving the soil, thereby influencing most ecosystem processes including, hydrology, erosion protection, nutrient cycling, vascular plant nutrition and community composition. Their role in ecosystem services will be introduced in this opening chapter.
2 How biological soil crusts became studied as a community (O.L. Lange, <ollange@botanik.uni-wuerzburg.de>)
In this chapter, Professor Lange will describe the history of the first research on biocrusts: the recognition of the organisms as a community, the people who studied them and the techniques utilized.
Part II: Morphology, composition, and distribution of biological soil crusts at different scales
3 Fossil crusts: (H. Beraldi, <hberaldi@unam.mx>)
Biological soil crusts and their components have been identified as fossils from a wide range of rock types found in different parts of the world. In this chapter, these fossil findings will be described and their implications for the evolution of biocrusts and their components will be discussed.
4 Cyanobacteria and algae within biological soil crusts (B. Büdel, <buedel@rhrk.uni-kl.de>)
The diversity and functional roles of cyanobacteria and algae within biocrusts of different (climatic) regions will be described in this chapter. Reasons for variation and stability of taxonomic composition, as well as present and future determination methods will be discussed.
5 Fungi and bacteria within biological soil crusts (M. Grube, <martin.grube@uni-graz.at>)
Description of the diversity and functional roles of fungi and bacteria within biocrusts of different types and (climatic) regions. Present and future methods of determination methods will be discussed.
6 Bryophytes within biological soil crusts (H. Kürschner, <kuersch@zedat.fu-berlin.de>)
The diversity and functional roles of biocrust bryophytes in different habitats (soils, climate, vegetation type) will be described in this chapter. Advantages of a molecular approach in bryophyte identification will be discussed.
7 Lichens within biological soil crusts (M. Westberg, <Martin.Westberg@nrm.se>)
Description of the diversity and functional roles of biocrust lichens from different habitats (soils, climate, vegetation type). Advantages of molecular as compared to classical morphological identifcation methods will be discussed.
8 Microfauna within biological soil crusts (B. Darby, <brian.darby@UND.edu>)
Biocrusts are known to constitute an important habitat for microfauna such as nematodes, collembola, mites, springtails and snails. The diversity and potential functional roles of microfauna within biocrusts of different habitats will be described in this chapter.
9 Composition and structure of biological soil crusts (B. Büdel, <buedel@rhrk.uni-kl.de>)
The composition of biocrusts, comprising the organisms described in chapters 5 to 9, is influenced by climatic, pedogenic and successional parameters. This organism composition, but also macro- and microclimatic conditions as well as landuse patterns are known to influence the external morphology of biocrusts. The variation of biocrust composition and morphology and the resulting effects on ecosystem function will be described.
10 Controls on distribution patterns of biological soil crusts at the micro-, macro-, and global scale (M.A. Bowker, <Matthew.Bowker@nau.edu>)
Distribution patterns of biological soil crusts are determined by a variety of different abiotic factors, such as soil structure and chemistry, vegetation, and climate conditions. Distribution patterns will analyzed and described at different scales.
11 Long-term studies on different types of biological soil crusts (J. Belnap, <jayne_belnap@usgs.gov>)
Biocrusts and their components have been monitored at multiple sites for five to twenty years. Their growth, distribution patterns, and response to climate and vegetation changes give important insights into the long-term stability, development and structure of biocrusts.
12 Remote sensing of biological soil crusts at different scales (B. Weber, <b.weber@mpic.de>)
Imaging spectroscopy methods have been utilized to classify biocrusts within different types of remote sensing imagery. Aside from the classification of biocrusts at the macroscale, imaging spectroscopy has been used to differentiate between different types of biocrusts and also different land use intensities have been differentiated by means of remote sensing techniques.
Part III: Functional roles of biological soil crusts
13 Microstructure and weathering processes within biological soil crusts (F. Garcia-Pichel, <ferran@asu.edu>)
Biological soil crust organisms have been shown to influence the microstructure of the soil and cause weathering processes within the upper soil matrix. These processes, depending on the type of biocrust organisms present, as well as the initial soil composition and structure, will be described in this chapter.
14 Nitrogen cycling of biological soil crusts at micro- macro-, and global scales (N. Barger, <Nichole.Barger@Colorado.EDU>)
Many cyanobacteria and cyanobacterial lichens in biocrusts fix atmospheric nitrogen. This newly fixed nitrogen has three pathways: some is nitrified or denitrified within the biological soil crust, some is leached into underlying soils, and a third part is released into the atmosphere as NO and N2O. The different sinks of biocrusts have been shown to differ among them, depending on the N-content of the soil, temperature, soil texture and water status. New studies at the global, ecosystem and micro-scales will be presented. Future research methods and questions regarding this highly relevant field of research will also be analyzed.
15 Carbon budgets of biological soil crusts at micro- macro-, and global scales (L. Sancho, <sancholg@farm.ucm.es>)
During the last few years there have been several long-term studies determining the C-budget of biocrusts at the micro- and the mesoscale. These investigations have been conducted at sites within different climatic regions and on several continents. Synthesizing these data promises a big step towards more precise calculations of long-term nutrient fluxes. Apart from these field studies, a global modelling analysis of C-fixation accomplished by biocrusts will be presented in this chapter.
16 Biological soil crusts as soil stabilizers (J. Belnap, <jayne_belnap@usgs.gov>)
Where the biomass of biocrusts is sufficient, they stabilize soils, decreasing both wind and water erosion. They also capture dust, which contains nutrients. Thus, in addition to fixing nitrogen (Chap 14) and carbon (Chap 15) they influence soil fertility in other ways
17 Effects of biological soil crusts on arid land hydrology (S. Chamizo, <scd394@ual.es>)
Biological soil crusts are well-known to affect soil hydrology of arid lands in a complex and non-uniform manner. The effect of biocrusts on infiltration and runoff appear dependent on crust composition, external morphology, soils, site characteristics (e.g., slope), vegetative cover, and macroclimatic conditions. During the last decade, there have been many new insights, which will be presented here.
18 Response of biological soil crust organisms to light, temperature, and water conditions (T.G.A. Green, <greentga@waikato.ac.nz>)
Biocrusts consist of poikilohydric organisms, which passively outlast dry conditions to resurrect again upon favourable water conditions. During the last years they have been shown to adapt to varying light, water and temperature conditions within their environment. Their ability to adapt seems to depend on the overall plasticity of individual crust organisms. The great variability in adaptation potential of different crust organisms will be discussed here.
Part IV: Interactions between biological soil crusts and vascular plants
19 Interactions of biological soil crusts with vascular plants (Y. Zhang, <zhangym@ms.xjb.ac.cn>)
Whereas a nutrient transfer between biocrusts and vascular plants has been assumed in many studies, evidence proving this has only recently been obtained. Several studies have now shown that both C and N can be moved from biocrusts to plants and from plants to biocrusts via fungal hyphae.
Aside from this nutrient transfer, biocrusts have been shown to affect seed retention, germination and plant emergence of vascular plants. Plants adapted to biological soil crust habitats were observed to have smooth seeds (thus lacking appendages), which may facilitate their ability to slip into cracks in the biocrusts. Thus, biological soil crusts have a profound impact on plant structure and communities within arid environments.
20 Biological soil crusts as model to study plant interactions and functional roles (F. Maestre, <fernando.maestre@urjc.es>)
In this chapter, the authors explore how biocrusts of deserts and many other ecosystems may serve as a useful model system for studying multiple questions of interest in community and ecosystem ecology, including biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships, the interplay between positive and negative interactions along environmental gradients, the source-sink hydrological dynamics in drylands, and the role of attributes of biotic communities as modulators of ecosystem responses to global environmental change. To illustrate their views, they synthesize recent and ongoing studies. They complete the synthesis of the studies conducted so far with recommendations for promoting the use of biocrusts by community and ecosystem ecologists, and with a list of priorities for future research on this topic.
Part V: Threats to biological soil crusts
21 Effects of surface disturbance on biological soil crusts (E. Zaady, <zaadye@volcani.agri.gov.il>)
Surface disturbances (e.g., mechanical disturbance, herbicides, fire) all can have severe effects on biological soil crust composition and its physiological activity. Studies of these effects will be discussed in this chapter.
Herbicides, functioning as photosynthesis inhibitors, have been shown to kill cyanobacteria and soil algae, resulting in a decrease in polysaccharide production and biomass.  This, in turn, can lead to a reduction in organic matter and increased soil and nutrient loss through erosion. The detrimental effects of herbicides on biocrusts will be investigated on different time-scales within this chapter.
22 Effects of climate change on biological soil crusts (S. Reed, <screed@usgs.gov>)
The effects of climate change on biological soil crusts are expected to be complex. An increase in temperature will reduce soil moisture, especially at the soil surface. Future changes in precipitation amount and patterns will vary between different regions. In areas with fewer precipitation events and lower total amounts of rainfall, biological soil crust coverage is expected to decrease and composition is predicted to shift towards more early-successional biocrust types. As most processes (e.g., nitrogen and carbon fixation) are temperature and moisture dependent, these will be affected as well. On the other hand, arid and semi-arid regions are known to expand and the increased melting rate of glaciers exposes bare soil surfaces, which serve as an ideal habitat for biocrusts to colonize. Thus, the effects of climate change on biocrusts are expected to be variable.
Part VI: Natural and Enhanced Recovery and Management
23 Natural recovery of biological soil crusts after disturbance (B. Weber, <b.weber@mpic.de>)
Natural recovery of biological soil crusts after disturbance has been studied both in descriptive and experimental studies. Whereas many investigations have shown that biocrusts need decades, if not centuries, to completely recover after disturbance, other studies reveal that biocrusts show significant recovery after only a few years. In this chapter, we will examine the data to find the factors (e.g., crust composition, soil, climate, disturbance type) that predict recovery rates.   
24 Enhanced recovery of biological soil crusts after disturbance (Y. Zhao, <zyunge@ms.iswc.ac.cn>)
Different methods to enhance biological soil crust recovery after disturbance have been experimentally investigated. These have included stabilization of the soil surface with polyacrylamide gels, inoculation of disturbed sites with cyanobacterial cultures or field-collected material, and shade structures. These efforts have been differentially successful, and factors leading to success will be discussed.
Part VII: Future Research on biological soil crusts
25 Synthesis on biological soil crust research (B. Weber, <b.weber@mpic.de>)
In the final synthesis chapter, we will summarize the essential new findings regarding the different topics of biocrusts. Additionally, we will identify knowledge gaps and promising new fields of research. We will call for unified approaches to biocrust research and linking of researchers and sites in order to answer pressing questions. 

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