Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Hydrobiol, Wuhan 430072, Peoples R China; NW Normal Univ, Coll Life Sci, Lanzhou 730070, Peoples R China; Univ Oslo, Sch Pharm, N-0316 Oslo, Norway
34-, 17-, 4-, 1.5-year old natural algal crusts were collected from Shapotou Scientific Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 40-day old field and greenhouse artificial algal crusts were in situ developed in the same sandy soil and the same place (37degrees27'N, 104degrees57'E). Their different cohesions both against wind force and pressure were measured respectively by a sandy wind-tunnel experiment and a penetrometer. On the basis of these algal crusts, the cementing mechanism was revealed from many subjects and different levels. The results showed that in the indoor artificial crusts with the weakest cohesion bunchy algal filaments were distributed in the surface of the crusts, produced few extracellular polymers (EPS), the binding capacity of the crusts just accomplished by mechanical bundle of algal filaments. For field crusts, most filaments grew toward the deeper layers of algal crusts, secreted much more EPS, and when organic matter content was more than 2.4 times of chlorophyll a, overmuch organic matter (primarily is EPS) began to gather onto the surface of the crusts and formed an organic layer in the relatively lower micro-area, and this made the crust cohesion increase 2.5 times. When the organic layer adsorbed and intercepted amounts of dusts, soil particles and sand grains scattered down from wind, it changed gradually into an inorganic layer in which inorganic matter dominated, and this made the crusts cohesion further enhanced 2-6 times. For crust-building species Microcoleus vaginatus, 88.5% of EPS were the acidic components, 78% were the acidic proteglycan of 380 kD. The uronic acid content accounted for 8% of proteglycan, and their free carboxyls were important sites of binding with metal cations from surrounding matrix.