Concostrina-Zubiri, L., Martínez, I. & Escudero, A. (2018) Lichen-biocrust diversity in a fragmented dryland: fine scale factors are better predictors than landscape structure.Science of the Total Environment, 628-629, 882-892. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.02.090 (IF2018 5,589; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
Biological soil crusts (or biocrusts) are widespread, diverse and important components of drylands sometimes threatened by global change drivers. However, their response to fragmentation processes is poorly known. The aimof this studywas to assess the effects of changing landscape structure, given by land use change and the presence of linear infrastructure (e.g., roads), on the cover and diversity of lichen-biocrusts.We also evaluated the influence of several subrogates of fragment quality, such as soil properties, vascular plant community structure and topography. Biocrust cover and diversitywere measured in 50 remnants of aMediterranean shrubland. The fragments varied in size, connectivity and distance to a road, but also in plant and soil attributes, topography and fragment history. We applied general linear and mixed models to assess the effects of environmental variables on biocrust communities. Biocrust cover, richness and species composition were mostly unresponsive to changes in landscape structure, while connectivity and distance to the road decreased species diversity. Soil properties better explained the variation in biocrust cover and diversity. Changes in plant community and biocrust community composition were coupled. We also identified several biocrust species with strong capacity to reflect landscape structure. Our findings suggest that landscape structure needs to be evaluated jointly with other environmental factors to fully understand the consequences of fragmentation processes on biocrust communities and the subsequent implications for their functional role in drylands.