Spectrally monitoring the response of the biocrust moss Syntrichia caninervis to altered precipitation regimes

Scientific Reports
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Abstract

Climate change is expected to impact drylands worldwide by increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns. These effects have known feedbacks to the functional roles of dryland biological soil crust communities (biocrusts), which are expected to undergo significant climate-induced changes in community structure and function. Nevertheless, our ability to monitor the status and physiology of biocrusts with remote sensing is limited due to the heterogeneous nature of dryland landscapes and the desiccation tolerance of biocrusts, which leaves them frequently photosynthetically inactive and difficult to assess. To address this critical limitation, we subjected a dominant biocrust species Syntrichia caninervis to climate-induced stress in the form of small, frequent watering events, and spectrally monitored the dry mosses’ progression towards mortality. We found points of spectral sensitivity responding to experimentally-induced stress in desiccated mosses, indicating that spectral imaging is an effective tool to monitor photosynthetically inactive biocrusts. Comparing the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), the Simple Ratio (SR), and the Normalized Pigment Chlorophyll Index (NPCI), we found NDVI minimally effective at capturing stress in precipitation-stressed dry mosses, while the SR and NPCI were highly effective. Our results suggest the strong potential for utilizing spectroscopy and chlorophyll-derived indices to monitor biocrust ecophysiological status, even when biocrusts are dry, with important implications for improving our understanding of dryland functioning.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spectrally monitoring the response of the biocrust moss Syntrichia caninervis to altered precipitation regimes
Series title Scientific Reports
DOI 10.1038/srep41793
Volume 7
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description Article 41793