Factors affecting distribution of microbiotic crusts in the grain-for-green land of the loess region, northern Shaanxi, China

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A field survey was conducted in the grain-forgreen land of the loess region, northern Shaanxi, China, from July to August of 2005 to provide a scientific evaluation of the grain-for-green project, including its soil and water conservation and other ecological benefits for the region. The distribution of microbiotic crusts were studied, while human disturbance, aspect, topography, vegetation structure and other factors affecting it were obtained from the analysis of survey data from 78 sample plots. Results show that crust coverage is larger on less-disturbed plots than on highly-disturbed ones, on north-facing plots than on south-facing ones and on gully-slopes than on ridge-slopes. Coverage increases with herbal coverage and trees can provide better conditions for distribution of crusts than shrubs. Therefore, crust coverage is larger in herb-dominated plots than in tree-dominated ones and crusts in shrub-dominated plots are smaller. However, we made no progress in our study on deciding how slope degrees and herb species affect the distribution of crusts. We believe that more studies are necessary for a further exploration of the relationship between them.

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