Climate change to impact desert ecosystems

Changes in climate, especially a rising temperature and reduced precipitation, will influence the ecological stability in desert regions, according to the latest research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Researchers of the CAS Shapotou Desert Research and Experiment Station have found that changes in temperature and precipitation are expected to impact desert ecosystems by altering biotic components, mainly moss found on soil crusts.

Biological soil crusts are vital biotic components of desert ecosystems that help maintain soil stability and carbon and nitrogen levels, and serve as habitats for microorganisms, said Li Xinrong, a researcher with the station.

The research team simulated warming and reduced precipitation during a ten-year study, focusing on how soil crusts respond to these alterations in climate.

“The abundance of moss, surface cover, and biomass will sharply decrease due to a continued warming period coupled with reduced precipitation,” Li said.

According to Li, since the diversity and biomass of crustal communities rely on moss, the reductions will result in a structural and functional change in crustal communities and an imbalance of soil water in deserts, which may have detrimental effects on the stability and sustainability of ecological restoration.

The research has been published on the website Global Change Biology, an international ecological journal.

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