We examined the photosynthetic characteristics and net primary production of biological soil crusts to evaluate their contribution to the carbon cycle in the High Arctic glacier foreland. Biological soil crust samples were collected from a deglaciated area in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, Norway. Net photosynthetic rates (Pn) and dark respiration rates (R) of biological soil crusts were determined using CO2 gas exchange rates. We examined the effects of moisture conditions, temperature and photon flux density on Pn and R, and estimated the net primary production by a model based on the relationships between abiotic factors and Pn and R. The maximum Pn value occurred at 50% of the maximum water-holding capacity. Pn decreased with increasing temperature and dropped below zero at high temperatures (c.>13°C). The estimated net primary production of the biological soil crust was greater than the net primary production of other vegetation when based on ground surface area, during the early stage of primary succession. Model simulation showed that the net primary production of the biological soil crust decreased with increasing temperature. These results suggest that biological soil crust productivity plays an important role in the carbon cycle during the early stage of succession of the High Arctic glacier foreland, and is susceptible to temperature increases from global warming.
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