Infiltration and water retention of biological soil crusts on reclaimed soils of former open-cast lignite mining sites in Brandenburg, north-east Germany

Stella Gypser 1 , Maik Veste 1 , 2 , Thomas Fischer 3  and Philipp Lange 4
  • 1 Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Chair of Soil Protection and Recultivation, Konrad-Wachsmann-Allee 6, 03046 Cottbus, Germany.
  • 2 University of Hohenheim, Institute of Botany - Experimental Ecology, Garbenstrasse 30, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany.
  • 3 Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Central Analytical Laboratory, Konrad-Wachsmann-Allee 6, 03046 Cottbus, Germany.
  • 4 Dresden University of Technology, Department of Chemistry and Food Chemistry, Mommsenstraße 4, 01062 Dresden, Germany.


Investigations were done on two former open-cast lignite mining sites under reclamation, an artificial sand dune in Welzow Süd, and a forest plantation in Schlabendorf Süd (Brandenburg, Germany). The aim was to associate the topsoil hydrological characteristics of green algae dominated as well as moss and soil lichen dominated biological soil crusts during crustal succession with their water retention and the repellency index on sandy soils under temperate climate and different reliefs.

The investigation of the repellency index showed on the one hand an increase due to the cross-linking of sand particles by green algae which resulted in clogging of pores. On the other hand, the occurrence of moss plants led to a decrease of the repellency index due to absorption caused by bryophytes. The determination of the water retention curves showed an increase of the water holding capacity, especially in conjunction with the growth of green algae layer. The pore-related van Genuchten parameter indicate a clay-like behaviour of the developed soil crusts. Because of the inhomogeneous distribution of lichens and mosses as well as the varying thickness of green algae layers, the water retention differed between the study sites and between samples of similar developmental stages. However, similar tendencies of water retention and water repellency related to the soil crust formation were observed.

Biological soil crusts should be considered after disturbances in the context of reclamation measures, because the initial development of green algae biocrusts lead to an increasing repellency index, while the occurrence of mosses and a gain in organic matter enhance the water holding capacity. Thus, the succession of biocrusts and their small-scale succession promote the development of soil and ecosystem.

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