Data variability or paradigm shift? Slow versus fast recovery of biological soil crusts-a review

Giora J. Kidron*, Bo Xiao, Itzhak Benenson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Biological soil crusts, known also as biocrusts, provide valuable ecosystem services, especially in arid and semiarid regions. They may affect geomorphological (stability), hydrological (infiltration, evaporation), biochemical (carbon and nitrogen fixation) and ecological (germination and growth of vascular plants) processes, and their disturbance may have important ecological consequences. The common view, as reflected in hundreds of papers, regards biocrusts as having extremely slow recovery with characteristic time of up to hundreds and even thousands of years. Long recovery time implies that disturbance or climate change may have severe long-lasting consequences even once the conditions return to their initial state, triggering ample efforts to hasten biocrust recovery by inoculation. We critically analyze available estimates of the crust recovery time and present systematic measurements and theoretical considerations that attest to relatively rapid recovery of the crusts. We conclude that the likely recovery time of cyanobacterial crusts is 5–10 years, while that of lichen- and moss-dominated crusts is 10–20 years. Subsequently, costly and potentially negative effects to the ecosystem during inoculation should be weighed against the fast natural recovery of the biocrusts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137683
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2020


  • Biocrusts
  • Chinese loess plateau
  • Ecosystem recovery
  • Grazing
  • Negev Desert
  • Restoration


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