Biocrust Research in China: Recent Progress and Application in Land Degradation Control

Xinrong Li, Rong Hui, Huijuan Tan, Yang Zhao, Rentao Liu, Naiping Song

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Desert ecosystems are generally considered lifeless habitats characterised by extreme environmental conditions, yet they are successfully colonised by various biocrust nonvascular communities. A biocrust is not only an important ecosystem engineer and a bioindicator of desert ecological restoration but also plays a vital role in linking surficial abiotic and biotic factors. Thus, extensive research has been conducted on biocrusts in critical dryland zones. However, few studies have been conducted in the vast temperate deserts of China prior to the beginning of this century. We reviewed the research on biocrusts conducted in China since 2000, which firstly focused on the eco-physiological responses of biocrusts to species composition, abiotic stresses, and anthropological disturbances. Further, research on the spatial distributions of biocrusts as well as their succession at different spatial scales, and relationships with vascular plants and soil biomes (especially underlying mechanisms of seed retention, germination, establishment and survival of vascular plants during biocrust succession, and creation of suitable niches and food webs for soil animals and microorganisms) was analysed. Additionally, studies emphasising on the contribution of biocrusts to ecological and hydrological processes in deserts as well as their applications in the cultivation and inoculation of nonvascular plants for land degradation control and ecological restoration were assessed. Finally, recent research on biocrusts was evaluated to propose future emerging research themes and new frontiers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number751521
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 25 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Li, Hui, Tan, Zhao, Liu and Song.


This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 41621001 and 32061123006).

FundersFunder number
National Natural Science Foundation of China41621001, 32061123006


    • biocrust
    • land degradation control
    • nonvascular plant
    • soil eco-hydrology processes
    • temperate desert


    Dive into the research topics of 'Biocrust Research in China: Recent Progress and Application in Land Degradation Control'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this