Species-specific effects of biocrust-forming lichens on soil properties under simulated climate change are driven by functional traits

Laura Concostrina-Zubiri*, Enrique Valencia, Victoria Ochoa, Beatriz Gozalo, Betty J. Mendoza, Fernando T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Biocrusts are key drivers of ecosystem functioning in drylands, yet our understanding of how climate change will affect the chemistry of biocrust-forming species and their impacts on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling is still very limited. Using a manipulative experiment conducted with common biocrust-forming lichens with distinct morphology and chemistry (Buellia zoharyi, Diploschistes diacapsis, Psora decipiens and Squamarina lentigera), we evaluated changes in lichen total and isotopic C and N and several soil C and N variables after 50 months of simulated warming and rainfall reduction. Climate change treatments reduced δ13C and the C : N ratio in B. zoharyi, and increased δ15N in S. lentigera. Lichens had species-specific effects on soil dissolved organic N (DON), (Formula presented.), β-glucosidase and acid phosphatase activity regardless of climate change treatments, while these treatments changed how lichens affected several soil properties regardless of biocrust species. Changes in thallus δ13C, N and C : N drove species-specific effects on dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), (Formula presented.), β-glucosidase and acid phosphatase activity. Our findings indicate that warmer and drier conditions will alter the chemistry of biocrust-forming lichens, affecting soil nutrient cycling, and emphasize their key role as modulators of climate change impacts in dryland soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages15
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors New Phytologist © 2020 New Phytologist Foundation


  • biological soil crusts
  • climate change
  • drylands
  • functional traits
  • lichens
  • morphology
  • soil fertility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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