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Desert Moss Mortality Significantly Affects Soil Multifunctionality and Microbial Networks


In temperate desert regions, mosses are extensively distributed. They play an important role in stabilizing sand, increasing soil moisture, reducing soil temperature, and providing a refuge for desert microorganisms. However, global warming are altering the precipitation patterns in deserts, leading to significant moss mortality.

The impact of moss mortality on desert soil environments is worthy to be studied. A research team led by Professor ZHANG Yuanming from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has published a study in Land Degradation & Development to investigate this issue.

The researchers collected samples of living and dead moss crusts (Syntrichia caninervis) from the Gurbantunggut Desert and analyzed the soil nutrient content and microbial community characteristics.

The results indicated that dead moss crusts increase organic carbon storage in the soil, which enhances soil nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient cycling, thereby increasing soil multifunctionality. However, researchers found that moss mortality significantly reduces soil microbial activity, with fungi being more adversely affected than bacteria.

"The long-term consequences of damaged microbial networks are likely to lead to desert soil degradation, thus it's important to enhance the management and protection of non-vascular plants such as mosses," said YIN Benfeng, first author of the study.

This study offers scientific evidence of the mosses' role for maintaining the soil quality in desert ecosystems and preventing soil degradation and desertification under global climate changes.

Article link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ldr.5041 


LONG Huaping

Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography

E-mail: longhp@ms.xjb.ac.cn

Web: http://english.egi.cas.cn