Biocrusts beneath replanted shrubs account for the enrichment of macro and micronutrients in semi-arid sandy land

Jun Yu, Pingting Guan, Xiaoke Zhang, Ningning Ma, Yosef Steinberger

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8 Scopus citations


After 30 years of rehabilitation, moss-dominated crusts (biocrusts) formed under the canopies of Caragana microphylla shrubs on shifting sand dunes in the Horqin Sandy Land, China. Their impact on the spatiotemporal distribution of macro/micronutrients beneath the shrubs was determined. Soils were collected from 0 to 1 and 1-5 cm layers at three locations: two beneath shrubs (with/without biocrusts), the third at between-shrub interspaces, at end August 2013 (end wet season) and early June 2014 (end dry season). The biocrusts beneath shrubs enhanced macro/micronutrient enrichment (except extractable Ca), particularly in the 0-1 cm layer. Such positive effects exhibited seasonal dependence, i.e., the availability of phosphorus and micronutrients (iron, manganese, copper, zinc) in the 0-1 cm layer under biocrusts was significantly higher than at the other two sampling sites at end of dry season; no similar trend was observed at end of wet season. Significant increases in phosphorus and micronutrient availability were observed at end of dry season compared to wet season in both sampling layers at all sites, except topsoil beneath C. microphylla without biocrusts. This means that the colonization of moss-dominated crusts beneath C. microphylla can accumulate essential macro/micronutrients and partly compensate for the deficiency of essential nutrients in Horqin Sandy Land.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - 1 May 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the State Key Laboratory of Forest and Soil Ecology (Grant no. LFSE2013-05 to Dr. Jun Yu) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31270669 to Prof. Xiaoke Zhang, No. 31300452 to Dr. Jun Yu). We thank Mr. Yongming Luo, the technician of the Wulanaodu Desertification Experiment Station, for soil sampling, and Ms. Cuiying Liang for technical assistance during the soil analysis. Special thanks to Ms. Sharon Victor for preparing the manuscript for publication. The funding sources played no role in the preparation of the manuscript or decision to submit.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Caragana microphylla
  • Horqin Sandy Land
  • Moss-dominated crusts
  • Soil nutrient
  • Spatiotemporal heterogeneity
  • Vegetation rehabilitation


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