Cyanobacteria inoculation enhances carbon sequestration in soil substrates used in dryland restoration

M. Muñoz-Rojas, J. R. Román, B. Roncero-Ramos, T. E. Erickson, D. J. Merritt, P. Aguila-Carricondo, Y. Cantón

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


Despite significant efforts to restore dryland ecosystems worldwide, the rate of success of restoration is extremely low in these areas. The role of cyanobacteria from soil biocrusts in reestablishing soil functions of degraded land has been highlighted in recent years. These organisms are capable of improving soil structure and promoting soil N and C fixation. Nevertheless, their application to restore functions of reconstructed soils in dryland restoration programs is yet to be harnessed. In this study, we used microcosms under laboratory conditions to analyse the effects of inoculating soil substrates used in post-mine restoration with a mixture of N-fixing cyanobacteria isolated from soil biocrust (Nostoc commune, Tolypothrix distorta and Scytonema hyalinum) on i) the recovery of the biocrust, and ii) the carbon sequestration and mineralisation rates of these substrates. Soils were collected from an active mine site in the mining-intensive biodiverse Pilbara region (north-west Western Australia) and consisted of previously stockpiled topsoil, overburden waste material, a mixture of both substrates, and a natural soil from an undisturbed area. Our results showed that cyanobacteria rapidly colonised the mine substrates, with biocrust coverage ranging from 23.8 to 52.2% and chlorophyll a concentrations of up to 12.2 μg g−1 three months after inoculation. Notably, soil organic C contents increased 3-fold (P < 0.001) in the mine waste substrate (from 0.6 g kg−1 to 1.9 g kg−1) during this period of time. Overall, our results showed that cyanobacteria inoculation can rapidly modify properties of reconstructed soil substrates, underpinning the potential key role of these organisms as bio-tools to initiate recovery of soil functions in infertile, reconstructed soil substrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1154
Number of pages6
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2018


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