Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Gerald F. Gifford


Gerald F. Gifford


Cryptogamic soil crusts within the Colorado Plateau were studied to determine their effect on infiltration rates, potential sediment production, permeability, and several chemical properties of the soil. Six different crust stages were identified. Undisturbed soil cores were used to determine intrinsic permeability under three treatments and disturbed soil samples were analyzed for pH, percent organic matter, soil texture, Ca+Mg content and total conductivity.

It was found that the cryptogamic crust had little effect on soil chemical properties. Analysis of undisturbed soil core data indicates that high cryptogamic cover tends to decrease intrinsic permeability; this effect was reinforced when cores were irrigated. Data obtained with the Rocky Mountain infiltrometer indicated that sites with any degree of cryptogamic cover had significantly higher infiltration rates than chained areas (no lichen cover). Patterns of sediment production indicate a potential for increased sediment once the crust has been disturbed.