Journal article
Soil microstructure as an under-explored feature of biological soil crust hydrological properties: case study from the NW Negev Desert

Publication Details
Felde, V.; Peth, S.; Uteau Puschmann, D.; Drahorad, S.; Felix-Henningsen, P.
Publication year:
Biodiversity and Conservation
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Journal acronym:
Biodivers Conserv
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Biological soil crusts (BSCs) can play an important role in hydrological cycles, especially in dryland ecosystems where the availability of water is limited. Many factors influence the hydrological behavior of BSCs, one of which is the microstructure. In order to describe the influence of the soil microstructure of BSCs on water redistribution, we investigated the change of the pore system of three different successional stages of BSCs, as well as their respective subcrusts in the NW Negev desert, Israel, using 2-dimensional thin sections, as well as non-invasive X-ray 3D computed microtomography (XCMT) and mercury intrusion porosimetry. Our results show that the pore system undergoes significant changes during crust succession. Both the total porosity, as well as the pore sizes significantly increased from cyano- to lichen- to mosscrust and the pore geometry changed from tortuous to straight pore shapes. We introduce two new mechanisms that contribute to the hydrological properties of the BSCs in the NW Negev that impede infiltration: (i) vesicular pores and (ii) a discontinuous pore system with capillary barrier effects, caused by a rapid change of grain sizes due to sand burial. Since both of these mechanisms are present mostly in early stage cyanobacterial crusts and their abundance decreases strongly with succession, it is very likely that they influence BSC hydrology to different extents in the various crust types and that they are partly responsible for differences in runoff in the NW Negev.

Biological soil crust, Capillary barrier, Computed tomography, Pore size distribution, Soil microstructure, Vesicular pores

Last updated on 2019-25-07 at 19:53