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Arizona State University (2017)

Rates of Lateral Expansion of Biological Soil Crusts

Sorochkina Kira

Titre : Rates of Lateral Expansion of Biological Soil Crusts

Auteur : Sorochkina Kira

Université de soutenance : Arizona State University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2017

Biological soil crusts (biocrust) are photosynthetic communities of organisms forming in the top millimeters of unvegetated soil. Because soil crusts contribute several ecosystem services to the areas they inhabit, their loss under anthropogenic pressure has negative ecological consequences. There is a considerable interest in developing technologies for biocrust restoration such as biocrust nurseries to grow viable inoculum and the optimization of techniques for field deployment of this inoculum. For the latter, knowledge of the natural rates of biocrust dispersal is needed. Lateral dispersal can be based on self-propelled motility by component microbes, or on passive transport through propagule entrainment in runoff water or wind currents, all of which remain to be assessed. I focused my research on determining the capacity of biocrust for lateral self propelled dispersal. Over the course of one year, I set up two greenhouse experiments where sterile soil substrates were inoculated with biocrusts and where the lateral advancement of biocrust and their cyanobacteria was monitored using time-course photography, discrete determination of soil chlorophyll a concentration, and microscopic observations. Appropriate uninoculated controls were also set up and monitored. These experiments confirm that cyanobacterial biological soil crusts are capable of laterally expanding when provided with presumably optimal watering regime similar to field conditions and moderate temperatures. The maximum temperatures of Sonoran Desert summer (up to 42 °C), exacerbated in the greenhouse setting (48 °C), caused a loss of biomass and the cessation of lateral dispersal, which resumed as temperature decreased. In 8 independent experiments, biocrust communities advanced laterally at an average rate of 2 cm per month, which is half the maximal rate possible based on the instantaneous speed of gliding motility of the cyanobacterium Microcoleus vaginatus. In a span of three months, populations of M. vaginatus, M. steenstrupii, and Scytonema spp. advanced 1 cm/month on average. The advancing crust front was found to be preferentially composed of hormogonia (differentiated, fast-gliding propagules of cyanobacteria). Having established the potential for laterally self-propelled community dispersal (without wind or runoff contributions) will help inform restoration efforts by proposing minimal inoculum size and optimal distance between inoculum patches.


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Page publiée le 15 novembre 2017