Ecology and functional roles of biological soil crusts in semi-arid ecosystems of Spain

F. T. Maestre, M. A. Bowker, Y. Cantón, A. P. Castillo-Monroy, J. Cortina, C. Escolar, A. Escudero, R. Lázaro, I. Martínez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


Biological soil crusts (BSCs), composed of lichens, cyanobacteria, mosses, liverworts and microorganisms, are key biotic components of arid and semi-arid ecosystems worldwide. Despite they are widespread in Spain, these organisms have been historically understudied in this country. This trend is beginning to change as a recent wave of research has been identifying BSCs as a model ecological system. Many studies and research projects carried out in Spain have explored the role of BSCs on water, carbon and nitrogen fluxes, the interactions between BSCs and vascular plants, their dynamics after disturbances, and their response to global change, among other topics. In this article we review the growing body of research on BSCs available from semi-arid areas of Spain, highlighting its importance for increasing our knowledge on this group of organisms. We also discuss how it is breaking new ground in emerging research areas on the ecology of BSCs, and how it can be use to guide management and restoration efforts. Finally, we provide directions for future research on the ecology of BSCs in Spain and abroad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1282-1291
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Biotic interactions
  • Hydrological processes
  • Mediterranean
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Restoration
  • Semi-arid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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