The first of two soil crust-heavy sessions at EGU happened today. Overall, there were quite a few good presentations or posters. There were 2 in particular that really stuck with me:
1. Thomas Fischer talked about his method of measuring NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) using images from a common digital camera. In addition to the RGB channels, he also takes paired images with and without an Infrared filter, so that he can actually approximate a 4 channel image. Multispectral imagery is very powerful (yet very expensive) for detecting a large number of phenomena including the development of biocrusts. One big problem is that the best possible spatial resolution that can be attained is a 25 cm pixel size. Fischer's approach enables image resulution in microns and makes image analysis affordable for a few hundred dollars.
2. Omarou Malam Issa presented a poster on a project led by Ambouta Karimou Jean-Marie documenting local knowledge of biocrusts in the Sahel region of Africa. The authors sampled the knowledge of people living along a latitudinal gradient of both sexes and belonging to either pastoralist or horticulturalist communities. The sampling spanned 5 different ethnic groups. Interestingly two different ethnic groups, speaking different languages, had converged on the name "toad back" for biocrusts due to it's dark bumpy appearance ("Bankwado" and "Korobanda"). Quite a few other references basically translated to either black soil or fertile soil. The majority of people surveyed clearly knew what biocrusts were. This is a really unique line of research which makes me curious about the native knowledge of biocrusts on North America.