The terrestrial carbon cycle and land-atmosphere carbon dioxide fluxes are central issues of recent political and scientific efforts to understand and compete with the potential hazards of uncontrolled anthropogenic impacts on the Earth's climate. A global network has been established to investigate the carbon dioxide fluxes in ecosystems, which are prominent regarding their carbon stocks in biomass and/or soil organic carbon. Arid land ecosystems are not well represented in the global network because of their low net ecosystem productivity (NEP) that includes a minor contribution to the annual carbon dioxide fluxes.
Though the whole arid land ecosystems comprise only of 2% of the total carbon stored in biomass, they cover about a third of the entire land surface, and keep about 10% of the global soil carbon stock buried. Since recently, there is a growing awareness that disturbance in ecosystems can be associated with a significant emission of carbon dioxide from the oxidation of soil organic carbon. In arid land ecosystems the land cover with higher plants ranges from non-continuous growth over the year, to patchy growth and up to the presence of individual specimen. Biological Soil Crusts take over to cover and stabilize soil surfaces with proportionally gro wing importance along the gradient of increasing water deficit. The proposed research aims to implement carbon dioxide flux measurements in Biological Soil Crust (BSC) dominated ecosystems.
The results would be useful to:
(1) assess the contribution of BSC to carbon dioxide fluxes in different arid land ecosystems,
(2) evaluate the profit gained with BSC growth relative to the conservation of soil carbon stocks as compared with disturbed arid lands,
(3) and finally to provide improved information for policy and land use management with respect to a growing population in arid lands.
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