Simulated climate change reduced the capacity of lichen-dominated biocrusts to act as carbon sinks in two semi-arid Mediterranean ecosystems

Mónica Ladrón de Guevara*, Roberto Lázaro, José L. Quero, Victoria Ochoa, Beatriz Gozalo, Miguel Berdugo, Olga Uclés, Cristina Escolar, Fernando T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The importance of biological soil crusts (biocrusts) for the biogeochemistry of drylands is widely recognized. However, there are significant gaps in our knowledge about how climate change will affect these organisms and the processes depending on them. We conducted a manipulative full factorial experiment in two representative dryland ecosystems from central (Aranjuez) and southeastern (Sorbas) Spain to evaluate how precipitation, temperature and biocrust cover affected the assimilation and net C balance of biocrusts. Chlorophyll fluorescence, net photosynthesis and dark respiration were measured in situ bimonthly during a year. We also conducted daily cycle measurements of net photosynthesis in winter and at the end of spring. In Sorbas, warming reduced the fixation of atmospheric C in biocrust-dominated microsites throughout the year. In Aranjuez, there was an interaction between the three factors evaluated; during winter, net photosynthesis was significantly greater in high biocrust cover plots under natural conditions and in the rainfall exclusion treatment. During the daily surveys, rainfall exclusion and warming reduced C fixation in Sorbas and in Aranjuez respectively. The effects of the treatments evaluated varied with the rainfall and non-rainfall water inputs (NRWIs) registered before the measurements. Our results suggest that changes in NRWI regimes as consequence of warming could have a greater impact on the C balance of biocrusts than changes in rainfall amounts. They also indicate that climate change may reduce the photosynthetic ability of lichens, with a consequent reduction of their dominance in biocrust communities at the mid to long term. This could reduce the ability of dryland ecosystems to fix atmospheric C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1787-1807
Number of pages21
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Chlorophyll fluorescence
  • Gas exchange
  • Lichens
  • Rain exclusion
  • Semi-arid land
  • Warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


Dive into the research topics of 'Simulated climate change reduced the capacity of lichen-dominated biocrusts to act as carbon sinks in two semi-arid Mediterranean ecosystems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this