Biocrusts increase the resistance to warming-induced increases in topsoil P pools

Laura García-Velázquez*, Antonio Gallardo*, Victoria Ochoa, Beatriz Gozalo, Roberto Lázaro, Fernando T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Ongoing global warming and alterations in rainfall patterns driven by climate change are known to have large impacts on biogeochemical cycles, particularly on drylands. In addition, the global increase in atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition can destabilize primary productivity in terrestrial ecosystems, and phosphorus (P) may become the most limiting nutrient in many terrestrial ecosystems. However, the impacts of climate change on soil P pools in drylands remain poorly understood. Furthermore, it is unknown whether biocrusts, a major biotic component of drylands worldwide, modulate such impacts. Here we used two long-term (8–10 years) experiments conducted in Central (Aranjuez) and SE (Sorbas) Spain to test how a ~2.5°C warming, a ~30% rainfall reduction and biocrust cover affected topsoil (0–1 cm) P pools (non-occluded P, organic P, calcium bound P, occluded P and total P). Warming significantly increased most P pools—except occluded P—in Aranjuez, whereas only augmented non-occluded P in Sorbas. The rainfall reduction treatment had no effect on the soil P pools at any experimental site. Biocrusts increased most soil P pools and conferred resistance to simulated warming for major P pools at both sites, and to rainfall reduction for non-occluded and occluded P in Aranjuez. Synthesis. Our findings provide novel insights on the responses of soil P pools to warming and rainfall reduction, and highlight the importance of biocrusts as modulators of these responses in dryland ecosystems. Our results suggest that the observed negative impacts of warming on dryland biocrust communities will decrease their capacity to buffer changes in topsoil P driven by climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2074-2087
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.


  • Biological soil crusts
  • climate change
  • dryland ecosystems
  • phosphorus deposition
  • phosphorus fractions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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