Kakeh, J., Gorji, M., Mohammadi, M. H., Asadi, H., Khormali, F., Sohrabi, M., & Cerdà, A.
Science of The Total Environment (2020): 139168.
Biological soil crusts are a thin layer within the soil system but strongly determine the infiltration, runoff and water and solute movement. Little is known about the role of biological soil crusts on soil solute dynamics in arid ecosystems and the objective of this paper is to determine in Qara Qir rangeland how biological soil crusts control the water and salt distribution along the soil profile. Rainfall simulation experiments were carried out at five locations, and measurements of the soil at 0–5, 5–10, 10–20, 20–30, 30–50 and 50–80 cm depth were done before, 48 h and 21 days after the rainfall simulations. Soil particle size distribution, bulk density, water content, organic carbon and electrical conductivity were measured at each of the 270 samples (3 seasons × 3 times × 5 sites × 6 depths). Biological soil crusts increased soil organic carbon, soil water content, and infiltration rate; and biological soil crusts decreased soil bulk density, clay fraction, electrical conductivity, and other saline-sodic properties, especially in the upper layers (0–10 cm). Large pores in soils covered by biological soil crusts enhanced the preferential flows, infiltration and solute transport. Biological soil crusts not only directly affected the soil surface, but also influenced soil properties, and consequently determined spatio-temporal soil salinity distribution. Biological soil crusts act as a soil salinity reducing agent and contribute to the soil quality improvement under arid climatic conditions. Biological soil crusts can be considered as a soil conservation strategy and actively used in soil rehabilitation and ecosystems restoration.

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