Structure, function, and development of Biological Soil Crusts (BSCs) in polar regions: a contribution to understand the ecological role of BSC at the planetary scale (WHYCRUST)
Where harsh conditions impair plant growth, Biological Soil Crusts (BSC) represent a stable vegetation coverage. This happens in different areas: polar regions, high mountains, hot and cold deserts. Since BSCs macrostructure is everywhere remarkably conserved in its basic features, this project, coordinated by Stefano Ventura (National Research Council, Italy) and funded by the Italian National Program for Antarctic Researches (PNRA), aimed to characterize in details diversity, structure and functional properties of BSCs from Antarctic and Arctic environments, to understand whether they maintain the same functions in diverse environments and how they act under different pressures. For these purposes molecular approaches have been applied for the characterization of both fungi and bacteria associated to these ecosystems. Obtained data have been compared to physicochemical characterizations of soils to give a picture of parameters shaping the distribution of these communities.