Carbohydrates in cyanobacterial soil crusts as a source of carbon in the southwest Kalahari, Botswana
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Semiarid ecosystems, also known as drylands, contain small amounts of carbon (C). To date only few studies have evaluated soil C dynamics in these ecosystems. Cyanobacterial soil crusts are considered a major source of organic C in semiarid ecosystems through photosynthesis, increasing soil organic C (SOC) pool as carbohydrates. This study considers cyanobacterial soil crusts as a source of C in the southwest Kalahari. Cyanobacterial soil crusts are well adapted to drylands because extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) secretions provide stabilization of soil and resistance to desiccation. The carbohydrate and chlorophyll a content were evaluated in the upper soil profile on Kalahari Sands and pan soils. Topsoil carbohydrate concentration decreased exponentially with depth. The carbohydrate content produced in cyanobacterial soil crusts in the southwest Kalahari represents up to 75% of the total SOC and is thus an essential component for the fertility of Kalahari Sand soils.