Protist Diversity Responses to Experimental N Deposition in Biological Crusts of a Semiarid Mediterranean Ecosystem

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Biological soil crusts (BSC) are associations of different macro and microorganisms and aggregated soil particles located on the surface of soils in many different habitats. BSC harbour a diverse and complex community of ciliates and testate amoebae. These phagotrophic protists play an important role in C and N recycling in soil ecosystems but have not been frequently studied in BSC. In this context, the effects of three increasing N inputs on ciliates and testate amoebae in crusts from a semi-arid Mediterranean ecosystem were evaluated. A field experiment with artificial N-deposition was designed to mimic the effects caused by anthropogenic N depositions. The results have shown that the protist populations of these semi-arid Mediterranean environments have lower species richness than other soil environments. The increase in N produces a net loss of diversity in the populations studied and shifts in the community structure. It has also been shown that some ciliates and testate amoebae, due to their population responses to increased N concentrations, could potentially be used as bio-indicators of N contamination in these BSCs.
CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2022)