Climate change to impact desert ecosystems: Chinese researchers

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LANZHOU, Aug 16, 2018 (BSS/XINHUA) – 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.