Biocrust cyanobacteria inoculants biomineralize gypsum and preserve indigenous bacterial communities in dryland topsoil

Marco A. Jiménez-González, Nathali Machado de Lima, Angela M. Chilton, Gonzalo Almendros, Miriam Muñoz-Rojas

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Biocrust cyanobacteria are ubiquitous organisms in dryland environments that can enhance soil stability and improve nutrient conditions in reconstructed or disturbed soils. Despite the demonstrated benefits of cyanobacterial inoculation for promoting soil fertility, there is limited knowledge about the impacts of introducing cultured cyanobacteria on the indigenous microbial communities. Here, we conducted a microcosm experiment under controlled conditions using indigenous biocrust cyanobacteria and locally sourced topsoil substrate commonly used in dryland restoration in the Australian arid zone. We inoculated the topsoil with a consortium composed of Leptolyngbya sp. and Scytonema sp. cyanobacteria, to assess the effects of the inoculated cyanobacteria on (i) the soil chemical properties, i.e., pH, electrical conductivity (EC), total organic carbon (TOC), and nitrogen (TN) of the inoculated topsoil, (ii) the early formation of an artificial soil biocrust and iii) the composition and diversity of the resident bacterial community. Our results showed that the inoculated cyanobacterial consortia decreased the EC, but changes in the TOC and TN were not significant after 80 days. A higher content of chlorophyll a in the inoculated samples compared to the control, confirmed the survival of the cyanobacterial inoculants after 80 days. The inoculated cyanobacteria promoted gypsum formation on the soil surface indicating that they are actively modifying the upper layers of the soil profile and improving habitability. Although immediately after inoculation cyanobacteria dominated the abundance of bacterial phylotypes, these were replaced by other phyla such as Actinobacteria, after 80 days. The Shannon diversity and Simpson diversity indexes between control and inoculated soils differed at the time of inoculation but were similar at the end of the experiment. These results suggest that, in the short term, the introduced cyanobacteria do not significantly affect the native resident bacterial communities and are capable of colonizing the topsoil without affecting the natural community.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115527
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022


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