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Biological soil crusts on agricultural soils of mesic regions promote microbial cross-kingdom co-occurrences and nutrient retention (2023)

Kurth J., Albrecht M., Glaser K., Karsten U., Vestergaard G., Armbruster M., Kublik S., Schmid C., Schloter M., Schulz S.

Frontiers in Microbiology, 14 (),



IntroductionBiological soil crusts (biocrusts) are known as biological hotspots on undisturbed, nutrient-poor bare soil surfaces and until now, are mostly observed in (semi-) arid regions but are currently poorly understood in agricultural systems. This is a crucial knowledge gap because managed sites of mesic regions can quickly cover large areas. Thus, we addressed the questions (i) if biocrusts from agricultural sites of mesic regions also increase nutrients and microbial biomass as their (semi-) arid counterparts, and (ii) how microbial community assemblage in those biocrusts is influenced by disturbances like different fertilization and tillage regimes.MethodsWe compared phototrophic biomass, nutrient concentrations as well as the abundance, diversity and co-occurrence of Archaea, Bacteria, and Fungi in biocrusts and bare soils at a site with low agricultural soil quality.Results and DiscussionBiocrusts built up significant quantities of phototrophic and microbial biomass and stored more nutrients compared to bare soils independent of the fertilizer applied and the tillage management. Surprisingly, particularly low abundant Actinobacteria were highly connected in the networks of biocrusts. In contrast, Cyanobacteria were rarely connected, which indicates reduced importance within the microbial community of the biocrusts. However, in bare soil networks, Cyanobacteria were the most connected bacterial group and, hence, might play a role in early biocrust formation due to their ability to, e.g., fix nitrogen and thus induce hotspot-like properties. The microbial community composition differed and network complexity was reduced by conventional tillage. Mineral and organic fertilizers led to networks that are more complex with a higher percentage of positive correlations favoring microbe-microbe interactions. Our study demonstrates that biocrusts represent a microbial hotspot on soil surfaces under agricultural use, which may have important implications for sustainable management of such soils in the future. inplamint