Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Biological soil crust distribution in Artemisia ordosica communities along a grazing pressure gradient in Mu Us Sandy Land, Northern China


This study investigated the distribution pattern of biological soil crust (BSC) in Artemisia ordosica communities in Mu Us Sandy Land. Three experimental sites were selected according to grazing pressure gradient. In each experimental site, the total vegetation cover, A. ordosica cover, BSC cover, litter-fall cover, BSC degree of fragmentation, BSC thickness and soil properties were investigated in both fixed and semi-fixed sand dunes and simultaneously analyzed in the laboratory. The results showed that at the same grazing pressure, BSC cover and composition were significantly affected by the fixation degree of sand dunes. In addition, BSC cover in the fixed sand dunes was 83.74% on average, whereas it is proportionally dominated by 28% mosses, 21% lichens, and 51% algae. Meanwhile, BSC cover in the semi-fixed sand dunes was 23.54% on average, which is proportionally dominated by 6.3% mosses, 2.5% lichens, and 91.2% algae. Fine sand, organic matter, and total nitrogen (N) contents in the fixed sand dunes were all significantly higher than those in the semi-fixed sand dunes. Litter-fall cover decreased along the grazing pressure gradient, whereas BSC fragmentation degree increased. Fine sand content decreased along with the increase of grazing pressure, whereas medium sand content increased in both fixed and semi-fixed dunes. The organic matter and total N contents in the no grazing site were significantly higher than those in light and normal grazing sites. However, there were no significant differences between the light and normal grazing sites. In addition, there were also no significant differences in BSC thickness between the light and normal grazing sites in the fixed sand dunes. However, a significant decrease was observed in both BSC cover and thickness in the normal grazing site. The BSC in the semi-fixed dunes was more sensitive to disturbance.

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