Simulated climate change affects how biocrusts modulate water gains and desiccation dynamics after rainfall events

Angela Lafuente*, Miguel Berdugo, Mónica Ladrón de Guevara, Beatriz Gozalo, Fernando T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Soil surface communities dominated by mosses, lichens, and cyanobacteria (biocrusts) are common between vegetation patches in drylands worldwide and are known to affect soil wetting and drying after rainfall events. Although ongoing climate change is already warming and changing rainfall patterns of drylands in many regions, little is known on how these changes may affect the hydrological behaviour of biocrust-covered soils. We used 8 years of continuous soil moisture and rainfall data from a climate change experiment in central Spain to explore how biocrusts modify soil water gains and losses after rainfall events under simulated changes in temperature (2.5 °C warming) and rainfall (33% reduction). Both rainfall amount and biocrust cover increased soil water gains after rainfall events, whereas experimental warming, rainfall intensity, and initial soil moisture decreased them. Initial moisture, maximum temperature, and biocrust cover, by means of enhancing potential evapotranspiration or by soil darkening, increased the drying rates and enhanced the exponential behaviour of the drying events. Meanwhile, warming reduced their exponential behaviour. The effects of climate change treatments on soil water gains and losses changed through time, with important differences between the first 2 years of the experiment and 5 years after its set-up. These effects were mainly driven by the important reductions in biocrust cover and diversity observed under warming. Our results highlight the importance of long-term studies to understand soil moisture responses to ongoing climate change in drylands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1935
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • biological soil crusts
  • drying
  • drylands
  • rainfall exclusion
  • soil moisture
  • warming
  • wetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Simulated climate change affects how biocrusts modulate water gains and desiccation dynamics after rainfall events'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this