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Contribution of cryptogamic covers to the global cycles of carbon and nitrogen
Elbert, W.; Weber, B.; Burrows, S.M.; Steinkamp, J.; Büdel, B.; Andreae, M.O.; Pöschl, U. (2012). Contribution of cryptogamic covers to the global cycles of carbon and nitrogen. Nature Geoscience 5(7): 459-462.
In: Nature Geoscience. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1752-0894; e-ISSN 1752-0908, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Elbert, W.
  • Weber, B.
  • Burrows, S.M.
  • Steinkamp, J.
  • Büdel, B.
  • Andreae, M.O.
  • Pöschl, U.

    Many terrestrial surfaces, including soils, rocks and plants, are covered by photoautotrophic communities, capable of synthesizing their own food from inorganic substances using sunlight as an energy source1,2. These communities, known as cryptogamic covers, comprise variable proportions of cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, lichens and bryophytes, and are able to fix carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the atmosphere3. However, their influence on global and regional biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen has not yet been assessed. Here, we analyse previously published data on the spatial coverage of cryptogamic communities, and the associated fluxes of carbon and nitrogen, in different types of ecosystem across the globe. We estimate that globally, cryptogamic covers take up around 3.9 Pg carbon per year, corresponding to around 7% of net primary production by terrestrial vegetation. We derive a nitrogen uptake by cryptogamic covers of around 49 Tg per year, suggesting that cryptogamic covers account for nearly half of the biological nitrogen fixation on land. We suggest that nitrogen fixation by cryptogamic covers may be crucial for carbon sequestration by plants.

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