Arid ecosystems constitute 41% of land’s surface and play an important role in global carbon cycle. In particular, biological soil crusts (BSC) are known to be a hotspot of carbon fixation as well as mineralization in arid ecosystems. However, little information is available on carbon decomposition and microbes in BSC and key controlling variables for microbial activities in arid ecosystems. The current study, carried out in South Mediterranean arid ecosystem, aimed to evaluate the effects of intact and removed cyanobacteria/lichen crusts on soil properties, soil enzyme activities, and microbial abundances (bacteria and fungi). We compared five different treatments (bare soil, soil with intact cyanobacteria, soil with cyanobacteria removed, soil with intact lichens, and soil with lichens removed) in four different soil layers (0–5, 5–10, 10–15, and 15–20 cm). Regardless of soil treatments, activities of hydrolases and water content increased with increasing soil depth. The presence of lichens increased significantly hydrolase activities, which appeared to be associated with greater organic matter, nitrogen, and water contents. However, phenol oxidase was mainly controlled by pH and oxygen availability. Neither fungal nor bacterial abundance exhibited a significant correlation with enzyme activities suggesting that soil enzyme activities are mainly controlled by edaphic and environmental conditions rather than source microbes. Interestingly, the presence of lichens reduced the abundance of bacteria of which mechanism is still to be investigated.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science