Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Topographic differentiations of biological soil crusts and hydraulic properties in fixed sand dunes, Tengger Desert


Biological soil crusts (BSCs) play an important role in surface soil hydrology. Soils dominated with moss BSCs may have higher infiltration rates than those dominated with cyanobacteria or algal BSCs. However, it is unnown whether improved infiltration in moss BSCs is accompanied by an increase in soil hydraulic conductivity or water retention capacity. We investigated this question in the Tengger Desert, where a 43-year-old revegetation program has promoted the formation of two distinct types of BSCs along topographic positions, i.e. the moss-dominated BSCs on the interdune land and windward slopes of the fixed sand dunes, and the algal-dominated BSCs on the crest and leeward slopes. Soil water retention capacity and hydraulic conductivity were measured using an indoor evaporation method and a field infiltration method. And the results were fitted to the van Genuchten–Mualem model. Unsaturated hydraulic conductivities under greater water pressure (<–0.01 MPa) and water retention capacities in the entire pressure head range were higher for both crust types than for bare sand. However, saturated and unsaturated hydraulic conductivities in the near-saturation range (>–0.01 MPa) showed decreasing trends from bare sand to moss crusts and to algal crusts. Our data suggested that topographic differentiation of BSCs significantly affected not only soil water retention and hydraulic conductivities, but also the overall hydrology of the fixed sand dunes at a landscape scale, as seen in the reduction and spatial variability in deep soil water storage.


algal crusts; hydraulic conductivity; moss crusts; soil water retention curve; Tengger Desert

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