Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Moss farming: How cultivation of biocrust bryophytes may be the key to arid soil restoration
by Doherty, Kyle David, M.S., Northern Arizona University, 2014, 72; 1583245
Abstract (Summary)

Biocrusts are a community dominated by autotrophic soil organisms that form a living matrix on the soil surface in arid regions, and are found throughout the Western United States. They provide numerous ecosystem services, including soil stabilization, dust trapping, and nutrient fixation. Disturbance from increased human activity in biocrust habitat has led to a reduction in their presence on the landscape. Resource extraction, cattle grazing, and development are primary mechanisms of disturbance to biocrusts in the West. The result of these activities is widespread soil loss, which compromises rangeland soil fertility, human health, human safety, and regional water security.

To mitigate the effects of soil disturbance, we investigated the potential to rapidly cultivate biocrust for use in restoration. We developed an automated system of culturing all components of biocrust communities in the greenhouse that allow for ease of replication and manipulation of growth parameters to determine optimal rates of biomass increase, and compared its efficacy to other systems. We explored the feasibility of cultivating the moss component of biocrust by cultivating five populations of the common biocrust moss, Syntrichia ruralis, collected from the Colorado Plateau. Populations were selected based on differing precipitation patterns received at their home site to explore adaptation to a monsoonal gradient. We then subjected cultivated materials to physiologically stressful watering, to evaluate their response to potentially unfavorable future climate. We found that populations differ in rates of growth and stress tolerance, implying genetic variation across populations sampled. Interestingly, cyanobacterial biocrust components developed alongside inoculated moss tissue under greenhouse cultivation, suggesting that biocrust mosses may be used as a propagule, or seed analog, for a functional biocrust community. Our findings indicate that biocrusts may be rapidly cultivated in a greenhouse to develop restoration-relevant quantities for use in soil disturbance mitigation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Johnson, Nancy C.
Commitee: Bowker, Matthew A., Wood, Troy E.
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Biological Sciences
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 54/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Plant biology, Ecology, Conservation
Keywords: Aridland, Biocrust, Biological soil crust, Moss, Soil restoration, Soil stabilization
Publication Number: 1583245
ISBN: 978-1-321-53950-9
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