Ecology and responses to climate change of biocrust-forming mosses in drylands

Mónica Ladrón De Guevara*, Fernando T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Interest in understanding the role of biocrusts as ecosystem engineers in drylands has substantially increased during the past two decades. Mosses are a major component of biocrusts and dominate their late successional stages. In general, their impacts on most ecosystem functions are greater than those of early-stage biocrust constituents. However, it is common to find contradictory results regarding how moss interactions with different biotic and abiotic factors affect ecosystem processes. This review aims to (i) describe the adaptations and environmental constraints of biocrust-forming mosses in drylands, (ii) identify their primary ecological roles in these ecosystems, and (iii) synthesize their responses to climate change. We emphasize the importance of interactions between specific functional traits of mosses (e.g. height, radiation reflectance, morphology, and shoot densities) and both the environment (e.g. climate, topography, and soil properties) and other organisms to understand their ecological roles and responses to climate change. We also highlight key areas that should be researched in the future to fill essential gaps in our understanding of the ecology and the responses to ongoing climate change of biocrust-forming mosses. These include a better understanding of intra- and interspecific interactions and mechanisms driving mosses' carbon balance during desiccation-rehydration cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4380-4395
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of experimental botany
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 16 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.


  • Abiotic interactions
  • biological soil crusts
  • biotic interactions
  • bryophytes
  • global change
  • hydrology
  • microbial community
  • nutrient cycles
  • plant interactions
  • soil properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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