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Moss-dominated biological soil crusts modulate soil nitrogen following vegetation restoration in a subtropical karst region

Hu, Peilei, Zhang, Wei, Xiao, Lumei, Yang, Rong, Xiao, Dan, Zhao, Jie, Wang, Wenlin, Chen, Haisheng, Wang, Kelin
Geoderma 2019 v.352 pp. 70-79
adsorption, ammonium, biological soil crusts, biomass, cropland, ecological restoration, forage grasses, forest plantations, forests, karsts, microbial carbon, nitrates, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nitrogen cycle, regression analysis, subtropics, topsoil, China
Vegetation restoration often promotes the development of biological soil crusts (biocrusts), which have a significant role in the terrestrial nitrogen (N) cycle. However, biocrusts are not always considered when assessing soil N responses to restoration efforts, especially in subtropical regions. We assessed the effect of various restoration strategies on moss-dominated biocrust properties and soil N variables (0–5 cm topsoil and 5–10 cm sub-topsoil) in the subtropical karst region of southwestern China. Four restoration strategies were included: restoration with plantation forest, forage grass, and a combination of forest and grass, and spontaneous regeneration to natural grassland. Cropland under maize-soybean rotation (CR) was used as reference. The biocrust under combination restoration strategy had significantly higher biomass, saturated water adsorption ratio, and carbon content than did the other strategies; and the soil generally had the highest total N, ammonium, and microbial biomass carbon and N content but the lowest nitrate content. Redundancy analysis, variation partitioning, and stepwise multiple linear regression all indicated that biocrust properties play an important role in affecting soil N variables, especially in the topsoil. Vegetation restoration strategies that use various plant functional group assemblages, such as forest and grass, are preferable in enhancing the development of biocrusts and thus improving soil N properties.