Biological soil crusts are an important component of desert ecosystems, as they influence soil stability and fertility. This study examined and compared the short-term vehicular impacts on lichen cover and nitrogenase activity (NA) of biological soil crusts. Experimental disturbance was applied to different types of soil in regions throughout the western U.S. (Great Basin, Colorado Plateau, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Mojave deserts). Results show that pre-disturbance cover of soil lichens is significantly correlated with the silt content of soils, and negatively correlated with sand and clay. While disturbance appeared to reduce NA at all sites, differences were statistically significant at only 12 of the 26 sites. Cool desert sites showed a greater decline than hot desert sites, which may indicate non-heterocystic cyanobacterial species are more susceptible to disturbance than non-heterocystic species. Sandy soils showed greater reduction of NA as sand content increased, while fine-textured soils showed a greater decline as sand content increased. At all sites, higher NA before the disturbance resulted in less impact to NA post-disturbance. These results may be useful in predicting the impacts of off-road vehicles in different regions and different soils. ?? 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
Additional publication details
Impacts of off-road vehicles on nitrogen cycles in biological soil crusts: Resistance in different U.S. deserts