Estimation of annual CO2 efflux of moss biocrust through measuring and simulating its respiration rate in a semiarid climate

Xiaomeng Yao, Matthew A. Bowker, Bo Xiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Biocrust is a potentially extensive living cover in drylands, which comprises much of the land surface, but presently its contribution to the soil respiration rate (Rs) and CO2 efflux is still not clearly understood. In this study, we continuously measured the Rs of moss-dominated biocrust (biocrust and biocrust covered soil) and bare soil, together with soil temperature and moisture, for ~100 days each in a semiarid climate on the Chinese Loess Plateau. We modeled Rs across a two-year period, based on its relationship with soil temperature and moisture. Using the model, the seasonal variation of the Rs was simulated for biocrust and bare soil, and their annual CO2 efflux were further estimated. We also obtained samples of the biocrust layer and bare soil surface and analyzed their physicochemical properties and enzyme activities to explain the biocrust effects on Rs. Our results showed that the measured Rs of the biocrust and bare soil ranged from 0.05 to 7.62 and 0.02–2.73 μmol m−2 s−1, respectively, and was closely exponentially related to the dynamics of soil temperature and moisture (in threshold relationships). The variations of Rs in both the biocrust and bare soil were strongly predicted in a regression model by R2 ≥ 0.50 and P < 0.001. Through this model, we simulated the seasonal variations of Rs, which averaged 1.03 ± 0.01 and 0.54 ± 0.01 μmol m−2 s−1 (F = 225.51, P < 0.001) across all seasons for the biocrust and bare soil, respectively. We further estimated that the annual CO2-C efflux through respiration of the biocrust was 390 g m−2 yr−1 and that of the bare soil was 203 g m−2 yr−1, indicating that the presence of the biocrust layer annually contributed 91.8% (187 g m−2 yr−1) more soil respiration in comparison to the bare soil. Moreover, the main correlates with Rs shifted from largely abiotic, e.g. soil texture and total phosphorus content, in bare soils to biotic, e.g. indicators of carbon and nitrogen content, in biocrust soils. This finding implies that the contribution of the biocrust to Rs is linked to the carbon fixed and organic nutrients stored in the biocrust layer. In conclusion, moss-dominated biocrust highly accelerates soil respiration and increases gross soil CO2 efflux, possibly through regulating soil temperature and moisture, improving soil physicochemical properties, increasing soil enzyme activities, and accelerating decomposition of biocrust-fixed and -stored carbon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114560
StatePublished - Oct 15 2020


  • Biological soil crust
  • Chinese Loess Plateau
  • Soil carbon efflux
  • Soil carbon storage
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Estimation of annual CO2 efflux of moss biocrust through measuring and simulating its respiration rate in a semiarid climate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this