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!).

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Biocrusts on SciShow

Her's our collaborator Rebecca Durham of MPG Ranch in Montana, talking about biocrusts of Montana on SciShow, an internet-based science talk show. Enjoy....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

BioCrust3 Abstract & Financial Assistance Deadline is Approaching!!

Dear all, 

In September you'll have the opportunity to meet biocrust researchers and enthusiasts from around the world in one of the crustiest locations anywhere, Moab Utah. You will have a chance to hear Dr. Jayne Belnap tell us how she became the researcher that she is - a foundation in our field. You will hear an overview of the past, present, and future of our field from Bettina Weber, editor of the upcoming Springer-Verlag Ecological Studies Series Book "Biological soil crusts: an organizing principle in drylands". You will hear plenary talks from the likes of Fernando Maestre and Trent Northen, on the current cutting edge research. You will enjoy organized symposia on climate change, ecological restoration, and molecular frontiers.You will enjoy a dinner on the banks of the Colorado River. You will have the chance to see the biocrusts in their home in the Canyonlands of Utah.

It sounds good, doesn't it?

It all starts with submitting your abstract by May 16 2016. Please do so as soon as you can.

Also, if finances are preventing your attendance, please apply for financial assistance by the same date.

Instructions appear in the message below. Thanks much!

September 26-30, 2016 - Moab, Utah, USA

Deadlines for Abstracts and Financial Assistance Applications is May 16, 2016

We know the end of the school year is a hectic time for all of you who teach or are students, but wanted to gently remind you that the deadline is drawing near for submitting your abstract and/or financial assistance application. We are looking forward to a great meeting and hope to see YOU in Moab in September!

Visa Information & Invitation Letter: The organizers of the Third International Workshop on Biological Soil Crusts encourage you to familiarize yourself with visa and travel requirements well in advance of the conference. Visitors to the United States must have a valid passport. A visa is also required for citizens of countries that do not participate with the Visa Waiver Program. The process may take 3 to 4 months to obtain a visa. To request a letter, please email BioCrust3@nau.edu.

Online Registration is NOW open (single-day registration available): http://www.nau.edu/Merriam-Powell/BioCrust3/Registration/

Questions & Sponsorship Information: Please contact BioCrust3@nau.edu.

The conference organizers would be grateful if you would share this announcement with your organization, colleagues, and students. Thank you!! If you receive this message more than once, we apologize for the inconvenience. Colleagues across the world have generously shared their mailing lists. Thanks for your understanding.

We hope to see you in September!

Big thanks to our sponsors:


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Forest-Rangeland Soil Ecology Lab: New Blog Feature: Web Apps

Forest-Rangeland Soil Ecology Lab: New Blog Feature: Web Apps: To explore new dimensions of science communication and data visualization, the Bowker Lab group is now developing informative web apps for a...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

How Life Arrives on Glacier Barrens

How Life Arrives on Glacier Barrens

Lest we forget that some of the pre-1980s mentions of biocrusts were in the context of post-glacial succession.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Biocrust modulation of dryland climate change impacts: Synthesizing and contrasting two recent papers

We are already accumulating evidence that biocrusts and soil microbial abundance and diversity are sensitive to climate change, in a string of high-profile papers (Reed et al. 2012, Ferrenberg et al. 2015, Maestre et al. 2015). Decreases in biocrust or microbial abundance or diversity might be expected to lead to reduced ecosystem function in drylands as they warm. Warming in and of itself may affect biota and their functions, but it is important to note that warming is also drying due the the effect of temperature on evapotranspiration, and this may be an even more important climate change impact than temperature per se.

Two other recent papers are suggesting either a buffering of negative climate change impacts on dryland soils by biocrusts, or a pronounced warming increase in soils induced by biocrust succession. The papers do not necessarily conflict, in fact they are very different in their goals and the data collected, but they do make a fascinating contrast that leads to some cool questions.

Biocrusts to the rescue?

In Delgado-Baquerizo et al. 2015, dryland soils were collected along aridity gradients in three continents: North America (USA), Europe (Spain), and Australia. Within each site sampled, biocrusts dominated by mosses were present, so the surveyors sampled microsites underneath the moss biocrusts and in uncrusted areas in each site. They measured indicators of C, N, and P cycling, and also aggregated all of these indicators into a multi functionality index. In semi-arid to arid ecosystems, they found that climate does negatively impact nutrient cycling indicators and multi functionality, supporting the general expectation of negative impacts of warming (and drying) on dryland function. The cool thing was that the presence of moss-dominated biocrusts dampened the negative effects of warmer, drier climate. This was especially so in the driest sites sampled where mosses appear to substantially increase ecosystem function relative to uncrusted areas. Also noteworthy was that the abundance of microbes was greater underneath the biocrusts, and this was linkable to the boost in ecosystem function.

Do biocrusts exacerbate global warming effects?
Couradeau et al. 2016 just last week published their results regarding biocrust effects on albedo and soil warming. They focused on cyanobacterial biocrusts from a single site on the Colorado Plateau, and explicitly focused on the successional progression from "light crust" (highly dominated by Microcoleus vaginatus) to "dark crust" (with a visible presence of Nostoc, Scytonema, and Tolypothrix). This latter group of genera is important because, in contrast to Microcoleus which can actually move underneath soil particles, they are surface-bound and unable to shelter from intense light exposure on the soil surface. Thus, they invest heavily in sunscreen pigments which are responsible for the darkening appearance of biocrusts. The outcomes of the darkening are impressive. The authors report that dark biocrusts are up to 10 degrees C warmer than light biocrusts! This alteration of the soil climate goes on to induce a shift in the dominant species of the biocrust from Microcoleus vaginatus to the more thermotolerant Microcoleus steenstrupii. The authors make no statements about nutrient cycling or multifunctionality.

Gradient of light to dark biocrusts (source: soil crust.org)
Comparing these two studies brings up many interesting questions:
1. Are moss biocrusts warmer, cooler, or the same temperature as uncrusted microsites? Could they be buffering underlying soil from climate fluctuations?

2. Is cyanobacterial succession decreasing soil function through its effect on warming? We generally perceive dark cyanobacterial biocrusts to be more functional than light cyanobacterial biocrusts - greater stability, greater N-fixation, greater biological activity in general. Is this because of, or in spite of, their warming effect on soil? What would the Couradeau et al. have seen if they measured the same nutrient cycling indices as Delgado-Baquerizo et al.?

3. What might we gain from combining what both groups of authors have done? A multi-continent study along aridity gradients comparing the microbial composition and functionality in soils under biocrusts ranging from incipient cyanobacterial biocrusts to successionally more mature moss and lichen assemblages. Seems like a worthy target for a network approach!

What do you think?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

3rd International Workshop on Biological Soil Crusts SAVE THE DATE!

Please Save the Dates!
September 26-30, 2016 – MOAB, UTAH, USA

The Third International Workshop on Biological Soil Crusts (BIOCRUST 3) will bring together international scientists working in disciplines such as physiology; taxonomy and systematics; genetics and genomics; restoration; and population, community, ecosystem and landscape ecology. Within BIOCRUST 3, these different fields are unified by their common interest in biological soil crusts, or biocrusts, as a study system. The meeting will cover the following biocrust topics:

Mapping, monitoring, and management
Structure and function in ecosystems
Diversity, ecology, and biogeography
Taxonomy and physiology of biocrust constituents
Assessment methods
Disturbance and restoration
Interaction with vascular plant vegetation
Effects of global environmental change

As the number of researchers in the field steadily increases and becomes increasingly international, the goal of BIOCRUST 3 is to provide the definitive forum for the productive exchange of ideas and the forging of new collaborations in biocrust research. Conference organizers particularly wish to facilitate attendance by researchers from developing nations and students.

Call for sessions, workshops, and papers information will go out in early 2016. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, please contact BioCrust3@nau.edu.

Look forward to seeing you in September!

Conference Sponsors: New Phytologist Trust, BYU’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and the M.L. Bean Life Science Museum, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Arizona University’s School of Forestry and Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research. (Your name here?)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Astrobiology video

Great video by Steve Pointing on astrobiology, extremophiles, and our friends the cyanobacteria.


Sunday, November 22, 2015