This study investigated the effects of soil crust development on the underlying soil properties. The field sampling work was conducted in June 2016 in the Hobq Desert in Inner Mongolia, North China. Soil crust samples and 0–6, 6–12, 12–18, 18–24, and 24–30 cm deep underlying soil samples were taken from five representative areas of different soil crust development stages. All samples were analyzed for physicochemical properties, including water content, bulk density, aggregate content, organic matter content, enzyme activities, and microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen. The results showed that the thickness, water content, macro-aggregate (>250 μm) content, organic matter content, microbial biomass, and enzyme activities of the soil crusts gradually increased along the soil crust development gradient, while the bulk density of the soil crusts decreased. Meanwhile, the physicochemical and biological properties of the soils below the algal and moss crusts were significantly ameliorated when compared with the physical crust. Moreover, the amelioration effects were significant in the upper horizons (approx. 0–12 cm deep) and diminished quickly in the deeper soil layers.
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