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Seasonal Variations In Infiltrability Of Moss‐dominated Biocrusts On Aeolian Sand And Loess Soil In The Chinese Loess Plateau

Bo Xiao, Bo Xiao, F. Sun, Xiaomeng Yao, Ke-Lin Hu, G. J. Kidron
Published 2019 · Environmental Science

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Biocrust effects on soil infiltration have attracted increasing attention in dryland ecosystems, but their seasonal variations in infiltrability have not yet been well understood. On the Chinese Loess Plateau, soil infiltrability indicated by saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kₛ) of biocrusts and bare soil, both on aeolian sand and loess soil, was determined by disc infiltrometer in late spring (SPR), midsummer (SUM), and early fall (FAL). Then their correlations with soil biological and physiochemical properties and water repellency index (RI) were analysed. The results showed that the biocrusts significantly decreased Kₛ both on sand during SPR, SUM, and FAL (by 43%, 66%, and 35%, respectively; P < .05) and on loess (by 42%, 92%, and 10%, respectively; P <.05). As compared with the bare soil, the decreased Kₛ in the biocrusted surfaces was mostly attributed to the microorganism biomass and also to the increasing content of fine particles and organic matter. Most importantly, both the biocrusts and bare soil exhibited significant (F ≥ 11.89, P ≤ .003) seasonal variations in Kₛ, but their patterns were quite different. Specifically, the Kₛ of bare soil gradually decreased from SPR to SUM (32% and 42% for sand and loess, respectively) and FAL (29% and 39%); the Kₛ of biocrusts also decreased from SPR to SUM (59% and 92%) but then increased in FAL (36% and 588%). Whereas the seasonal variations in Kₛ of the biocrusts were closely correlated with the seasonal variations in RI, the RI values were not high enough to point at hydrophobicity. Instead of that, the seasonal variations of Kₛ were principally explained by the changes in the crust biomass and possibly by the microbial exopolysaccharides. We conclude that the biocrusts significantly decreased soil infiltrability and exhibited a different seasonal variation pattern, which should be carefully considered in future analyses of hydropedological processes.
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