Soil surfaces dominated by cyanobacteria and cyanolichens (such as Collema sp.) are widespread in deserts of the world. The influence of these biological soil crusts on the uptake of bioessential elements is reported for the first time for six seed plants of the deserts of Utah. This sample almost doubles the number of species for which the influence of biological soil crusts on mineral uptake of associated vascular plants is known. These new case studies, and others previously published, demonstrate that cyanobacterial or cyanobacteria- Collema crusts significantly alter uptake by plants of many bioessential elements. In studies now available, these crusts always increase the N content of associated seed plants. Uptake of Cu, K, Mg, and Zn is usually (>70% of reported cases) increased in the presence of the biological soil crusts. Soil crusts are generally negatively associated with Fe and P levels in associated seed plant tissue, while plant tissue levels of Ca, Mn, and Na are positively as often as negatively associated with the presence of soil crusts. Increases in bioessential elements in vascular plant tissue from biologically-crusted areas are greatest for short-lived herbs that are rooted primarily within the surface soil, the horizon most influenced by crustal organisms. The mineral content of a deeply rooted shrub (Coleogyne ramosissima) was less influenced by co-occurrence of biological soil crusts.
Additional publication details
The influence of biological soil crusts on mineral uptake by associated vascular plants