Canyonlands Research Bibliography


Biological soil crusts: Characteristics and distribution

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Biological Soil Crusts: Structure, Function, and Management

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Biological soil crusts result from an intimate association between soil particles and cyanobacteria, algae, microfungi, lichens, and bryophytes (in different proportions) which live within, or immediately on top of, the uppermost millimeters of soil. Soil particles are aggregated through the presence and activity of these biota, and the resultant living crust covers the surface of the ground as a coherent layer (Fig. 1.1). This definition does not include communities where soil particles are not aggregated by these organisms (e.g., cyanobacterial/algal horizons in littoral sand and mudflats), where organisms are not in close contact with the soil surface (e.g., thick moss-lichen mats growing on top of decaying organic material, as in boreal regions), nor where the majority of the biomass is above the soil surface (e.g., large club-moss mats found in North American grasslands or dense stands of fruticose lichens, such as Niebla and Teloschistes species from the coastal fog deserts of California and of Namibia, respectively). However, the boundaries between the latter communities and biological soil crusts are fluid. In a similar fashion, there is no strict dividing line between the cyanobacterial, green algal, and fungal species that occur in soil-crust communities, yet are also found in a multitude of additional habitats (e.g., intertidal mates, tree trunks and leaves, rock faces).


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