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Title: Pssst … pass the algae: Succession in lichen soil crusts

Author: Root, Heather T.; Dodson, Erich Kyle;

Date: 2016

Source: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 14(2): 451-452.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)


Recovery of ecological communities following disturbance is a central theme of ecology and may be mediated by priority effects, in which the species or individuals that first arrive at a site alter the biotic or abiotic environment in ways that affect the establishment and growth of species or individuals that arrive at a later time. Priority effects are common, influencing species distributions and how ecosystems function (Connell and Slatyer 1977; Werner et al. 2016). Ubiquitous in arid and semi-arid regions worldwide, biological soil crusts (Figure 1) contribute to a large number of ecosystem functions including reducing erosion, increasing water infiltration into the soil, cycling nutrients, and influencing vascular plant establishment (Bowker et al. 2011). Lichens within these soil crusts also provide habitat for rich microbial communities (Wedin et al. 2015), as do species of parasitic fungi and others that live off dead or decaying material (Honegger 2012). Biological soil crusts are sensitive to disturbance, but the recovery of complex lichen-dominated crusts is poorly understood (Belnap and Eldridge 2003; Read et al. 2016). To date, research into how priority effects influence the post-disturbance recovery of soil crust communities has been very limited, despite their ubiquity and importance in numerous ecosystem processes.

Keywords: ecosystems, soil crusts, lichens

Publication Notes:

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Root, Heather T.; Dodson, Erich Kyle. 2016. Pssst … pass the algae: Succession in lichen soil crusts. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 14(2): 451-452.


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