The influence of biological soil crusts on dew deposition in Gurbantunggut Desert, Northwestern China

Jing Zhang, Yuan ming Zhang*, Alison Downing, Jun hui Cheng, Xiao bing Zhou, Bing chang Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    96 Citations (Scopus)


    Dew is an important source of moisture for plants, biological soil crusts, invertebrates and small vertebrates in desert environments. In this paper, measurements were taken to investigate the effects of three different types of biological soil crusts (cyanobacteria, lichen and moss) and bare sand on dew deposition in the Gurbantunggut Desert. Dew quantities were measured using micro-lysimeters with a diameter of 6 cm and a height of 3.5 cm. The results showed that the total amount of dew deposited increased with the development of soil crusts, from bare sand to cyanobacterial crust to lichen crust to moss crust. The average amount of dew deposited daily on the moss crust was the highest of all and it was significant higher than the other three soil surfaces (lichen crust, cyanobacterial crust and bare sand) (p < 0.05). During the period of the study, for each type of crust studied, the maximum amount of dew recorded was several times greater than the minimum. Moss crust was characterized by having the greatest amount of dew at dawn and also the maximum amount of dew deposited, whereas bare sand yielded the lowest amount of dew, with lichen crust and cyanobacterial crust exhibiting intermediate values. However, this was not the case for dew duration, as bare sand retained moisture for the longest period of time, followed by cyanobacterial crust, moss crust and finally lichen crust. Dew continued to condense even after sunrise. Furthermore, the differences in dew deposition may be partially attributed to an effect of the biological soil crusts on surface area. This study demonstrates the important effect of biological soil crusts upon dew deposition and may assist in evaluating the role of dew in arid and semi-arid environments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)220-228
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2009


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