Biocrusts Modulate Responses of Nitrous Oxide and Methane Soil Fluxes to Simulated Climate Change in a Mediterranean Dryland

Angela Lafuente*, Jorge Durán, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Jaime Recio, Antonio Gallardo, Brajesh K. Singh, Fernando T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Little is known about the role of biocrusts in regulating the responses of N2O and CH4 fluxes to climate change in drylands. Here, we aim to help filling this knowledge gap by using an 8-year field experiment in central Spain where temperature and rainfall are being manipulated (~ 1.9°C warming, 33% rainfall reduction and their combination) in areas with and without well-developed biocrust communities. Areas with initial high cover of well-developed biocrusts showed lower N2O emissions, enhanced CH4 uptake and higher abundances of functional genes linked to N2O and CH4 fluxes compared with areas with poorly developed biocrusts. Moreover, biocrusts modulated the responses of gases emissions and related functional genes to warming and rainfall reductions. Specifically, we found under rainfall exclusion and its combination with warming a sharp reduction in N2O fluxes (~ 96% and ~ 197%, respectively) only under well-developed biocrust cover. Warming and its combination with rainfall exclusion reduced CH4 consumption in areas with initial low cover of well-developed biocrust, whereas rainfall exclusion enhanced CH4 uptake only in areas with high initial cover of well-developed biocrusts. Similarly, the combination of warming and rainfall exclusion increased the abundance of the nosZ gene compared to the rainfall exclusion treatment and increased the abundance of the pmoA gene compared to the control, but only in areas with low biocrust cover. Taken together, our results indicate that well-developed biocrust communities could counteract the impact of warming and altered rainfall patterns on soil N2O and CH4 fluxes, highlighting their importance and the need to preserve them to minimize climate change impacts on drylands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1690-1701
Number of pages12
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • biocrust
  • denitrifiers
  • dryland
  • methane
  • methanotrophs
  • nitrous oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology


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