A networking resource devoted to biological soil crusts and the researchers who study them. We will provide a means for international scientists to communicate, share their research, share important news and announcements, ask questions and find collaborators. We will also provide a space for informal writing on research, opinion, and ideas (now seeking posters!).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Position researching biocrusts

A PhD-level position is available at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

30 janvier 2014

Biological Soil Crusts: The Role of Trampling, Climate Change and Nitrogen Deposition in Affecting Community Species Composition
A PhD-level position is available at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to study the species dynamics of biological soil crusts communities. The successful candidate will work on a collaborative project that will examine the natural dynamics in undisturbed communities, as well as how trampling (from both cattle and people), climate change (experimentally manipulations with heating lamps and watering treatments), drought (using rainout shelters), fire, and nitrogen deposition is or has affected the composition of biological soil crusts communities. These studies will occur on both the Colorado Plateau and in the Mojave Deserts. This position will: 1) sample current and past experiments to assess treatment effects and recovery from those treatments; 2) synthesize 15 years of data on the natural dynamics of biological soil crust communities in undisturbed areas of both the Colorado Plateau and the Mojave Deserts; 3) effectively use statistical analyses to assess effects, and 4) communicate results in presentations and peer-reviewed publications. This project offers an unparalleled opportunity to examine how species composition of biological soil crusts changes through time, as we have the longest existing data set in the world. This position will also revisit some sites and examine how treatments have affected biocrust cover and physiology, using a portable fluorometer. A background in laboratory and field methods in ecology, physiology, and/or biogeochemistry is preferred. This position will be working with Drs. Henry Sun (Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas, NV) and Jayne Belnap (USGS, Canyonlands Research Station in Moab, UT). Salary is $1800/month. Start date will be fall 2014 or spring 2015, depending on the application date. Position is expected to last 4 years. Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and three references to Dr.
Henry Sun (henry.sun@dri.edu).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I aim to rebuild the living skin of the Earth

Living on Earth: Using Bacteria to Heal the Desert

Follow the link to a recent radio interview I did. It's about erosion and dust issues in the western US, and the practice of biocrust restoration. I think the finished product came out good….many thanks to Living on Earth intern Clairissa Baker, for initiating the interview.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Attack of the clones!

Our Syntrichia culture collection is establishing (photo: Kyle Doherty). The older field collected Syntrichia ruralis stem is growing new green shoots, after only a couple weeks.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nice video explaining straw checkerboard dune stabilization

If you want to see the footprint of the massive dune stabilization work associated with this railroad, go to 37°29'22.94"N 105° 1'42.60"E in Google Earth. Zoom out enough so you can see the stabilized area near the rails and the unstabilized sand. Cool isn't it?

By the way, straw checkerboards lead to biocrust growth.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New book series: Terricolous Lichens in India

This is a newly published, 5 chapter volume edited by Rai & Upreti. Learn more here (Springer page) and here (Google site).  There is also a volume 2 on Morphotaxonomic studies.


Rai, Himanshu; Khare, Roshni; Upreti, Dalip Kumar

The symbiotic association of fungi and algae/cyanobacteria, known as lichen, is one of the most successful associations in nature. Dominated by ascomycetous mycobiont majority (85 %) of lichens have green algae as their photobionts, rest (15 %) have cyanobacteria as their primary or secondary photobionts. Cyanolichens, owing to their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, help in nitrogen dynamics of terrestrial biomes. On the basis of substratum, lichens are categorized into saxicolous (inhabiting rocks and stones), corticolous (growing on tree barks), terricolous (soil inhabiting), ramicolous (growing on twigs), muscicolous (growing over mosses), and omnicolous (inhabiting various substrates and manmade structures). Among these, soil-inhabiting terricolous lichens are among the most sensitive lichens, used in biomonitoring studies. Lichenological researches in India in the past 50 years have accumulated a good amount of taxonomic knowledge and now, applied fields of lichenological researches are being explored such as bioprospection of lichen metabolites, lichen-based pollution monitoring, ethnopharmacological uses of lichens and functional ecophysiology of lichens. Indian terricolous lichens, besides being mentioned in taxonomic records and enumerations, have also been studied for their ethnopharmacological uses and their role in functional ecology (nutrient dynamics, photobiont specificity, altitudinal optimum, and biomonitoring of zooanthropogenic pressures) of their habitats.

Rosentreter, Roger; Rai, Himanshu; Upreti, Dalip Kumar

Soil-inhabiting terricolous lichens along with other cryptogams such as mosses and cyanobacteria form a functional entity, referred to as biological soil crust (BSC). Lichen-dominated BSCs occur worldwide. The formation of BSCs and their species diversity is governed by factors such as, climate, soil-type, calcareousness, soil-texture, hydrology, and zooanthropogenic pressures. In India, soil crust formation and terricolous lichen diversity is governed by the same set of factors that govern soil crusts globally. The western dryer region of the country is poor in soil crust lichens due to dryer climate, sandy-textured soils, and high zooanthropogenic perturbations. Terricolous lichens in these regions are restricted to some high altitude, moist habitats and largely composed of calcicolous species such as the genus Collema. The Himalayan habitats harbour maximum diversity of biological soil crusts and terricolous lichens dominated by species of Stereocaulon and Cladonia, followed by Peltigeraand Xanthoparmelia. The soil crust lichens in these temperate habitats are constrained by grazing pressures and decrease in soil cover along increasing altitudinal gradient.

Baniya, Chitra Bahadur; Rai, Himanshu; Upreti, Dalip Kumar
Despite the great importance of terricolous lichens very few efforts have been done towards the elevational richness pattern and their ecology from the Himalayas. In present study elevational ranges of terricolous lichen richness were interpolated at every 100 m altitudinal band. They were found distributed from 100 to 6,000 m. A total of 212 terricolous lichen species under 54 genera and 24 families were found recorded in India and Nepal. These terricolous lichen species showed a highly significant unimodal elevational declining pattern with dominant peak at 2,400 m. This unimodal richness pattern was also followed by their dominant families but differed in elevation of peak richness. The zones of dominance and diversity richness of terricolous lichen species were discussed with reference to natural and anthropogenic factors specific to Himalayan habitats.

Řídká, Tereza; Peksa, Ondřej; Rai, Himanshu; Upreti, Dalip Kumar; Škaloud, Pavel

The biogeography of lichen photobionts is still poorly known, in particular, as the majority of reports have been published from Europe and North America. In this study, we examined the diversity of Asterochloris photobionts from terricolous lichens (Cladonia spp.) collected in five different areas in India and Nepal during the years 2007 and 2010. In total, we obtained 20 internal transcribed spacer (ITS) ribosomal DNA (rDNA) photobiont sequences from 11 different Cladonia species. The phylogenetic position of Asterochloris photobionts was investigated by the phylogenetic analysis based on the concatenated ITS rDNA and actin type I intron dataset. The newly obtained photobiont sequences were inferred in six clades, including two novel clades exclusively formed by photobionts of Indian Cladonia lichens. As the sequences of these two clades were genetically considerably different from all other known Asterochloris lineages, they most probably represent new, undescribed photobiont species. According to our data, three clades seem to have rather restricted distribution, reported so far only from Europe and Asia, respectively. However, we propose that the restricted distribution of these three photobiont clades is not caused by either historic or biological factors, but more likely by specific climatic or habitat preferences and the under-exploration of such habitats in different regions.

Anna, Voytsekhovich; Dymytrova, Lyudmyla; Rai, Himanshu; Upreti, Dalip Kumar

The symbiotic coevolution of algae and fungi in lichens has been instrumental in overall success of lichens in some of the most unfavourable habitats of the planet. Himalayas by virtue of their fragile temperature regime and diverse topography allow variety of lichen functional groups to flourish. Among these, soil-inhabiting terricolous lichens have proved to be good indicators of habitat heterogeneity and zooanthropogenic pressures. Photobiont diversity of terricolous lichens of Garhwal Himalayas showed the dominance of Chlorophyta (70 %) over Cyanoprokaryota (30 %) as photobionts. The ecological preference analysis of the photobionts indicated that majority of photobionts preferred lichens belonging to terricolous or terricolous–rupicolous ecological subgroups. Asterochloris dominated in the both subgroups, whereas Nostoc was common in muscicolous–rupicolous subgroup. The comparative dominance of the photobionts in ecological subgroups was a function of hydration preferences of photobionts. Cyanobionts dominate niches which can hold water for longer period, whereas dominate green algal chlorobionts dominate the rest. The altitudinal preferences showed that lichen species with Asterochloris were found in the range of 2,300–3,700 m, followed by Scytonema at 1,700–3,900 m, Nostoc at 2,100–3,500 m andTrebouxia at 2,800–4,000 m. As the maximum richness was within the range of 2,800–3,500-m altitude, it is evident that the diversity drivers of lichen photobionts were climatic factors (i.e. light intensity, humidity/precipitation and temperature).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine: Can biological soil crust communities be restored?

Nice, recent article on our biocrust restoration project on military lands (led by Nichole Barger with a team consisting of Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Ana Giraldo, Sergio Velasco, myself, Anita Antoninka, Jayne Belnap, Sasha Reed, & Mike Duniway) here.

Ana Giraldo tending her cyanobacterial cultures in the Garcia-Pichel lab (Arizona State University)