ISSN : 2287-8327
Background: Plant vegetation appears in heterogeneous and patchy forms in arid and semi-arid regions. In these regions, underneath the plant patches and the empty spaces between them are covered by biological soil crusts (moss, lichen, cyanobacteria, and fungi). Biological soil crusts lead to the formation and development of fertile islands in between vegetation patches via nitrogen and carbon fixation and the permeation of runoff water and nutrients in the soil. Results: The present study has investigated the association of biological soil crusts, the development of fertile islands, and the formation of plant patches in part of the Takht-e Soltan protected area, located in Khorasan Razavi Province, Iran. Three sites were randomly selected as the working units and differentiated based on their geomorphological characteristics to the alluvial fan, hillslope, and fluvial terrace landforms. Two-step systematic random sampling was conducted along a 100-meter transect using a 5 m2 plot at a 0–5 cm depth in three repetitions. Fifteen samplings were carried out at each site with a total of 45 samples taken. The results showed that the difference in altitude has a significant relationship with species diversity and decreases with decreasing altitude. Results have revealed that the moisture content of the site, with biocrust has had a considerable increase compared to the other sites, helping to form vegetation patterns and fertile islands. Conclusions: The findings indicated that biological crusts had impacted the allocation of soil parameters. They affect the formation of plant patches by increasing the soil’s organic carbon, nitrogen, moisture and nutrient content provide a suitable space for plant growth by increasing the soil fertility in the inter-patch space.