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!).

Friday, November 7, 2014

IAB blog: Simposio de Botanica Criptogamica. Porto, 2015

IAB blog: Simposio de Botanica Criptogamica. Porto, 2015: É com enorme prazer que anunciamos o XX Simpósio de Botânica Criptogâmica a decorrer pela primeira vez no Porto, nos dias 22 a 25 de Julho...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Biological Soil Crust Science Forum videos and transcripts available

Follow the link to download videos or transcripts. I can't bear to watch a video of myself, so i can't tell you if they're good or not….hope so. Also featured are Drs. Jayne Belnap, Janice Boettinger, Kim Anderson, and Fee Busby. This was an all day event in which panel members answered questions from the public about biocrusts in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The event was meant to summarize the state of knowledge about biocrusts specifically to inform the environmental impact statement for the upcoming grazing plan.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Forest-Rangeland Soil Ecology Lab: Biocrust at Hovenweep NM

A repost of Kyle Doherty's post over at the lab site...

Forest-Rangeland Soil Ecology Lab: Biocrust at Hovenweep NM: I traveled to Hovenweep National Monument today in search of cliff dwellings, but got distracted by the excellent crust communities there! ...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Biocrusts in the New York Times


A nice article by Henry Fountain about the findings of the Garcia-Pichel lab that soil crust microbes may migrate in response to climate change. Jayne Belnap is also interviewed about effects of changing precipitation patterns. That's Sergio Valasco Ayuso in the photo.

Friday, August 8, 2014

David Elliot blog

I just became aware of Dr. David Elliot's (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK) blog. There's a lot of nice content on his biocrust research in the Kalahari Desert (such as this), computer science, and degraded peatland ecology. I recommend having a look.

More on Kalahari crusts here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Biological soil crust science forum, August 6, Kanab, Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on their grazing plan. Previously there was a scoping period in which members of the public were invited to submit comments. A major theme in the comments was biocrusts. In response to this, the Monument is organizing a moderated public forum in which a panel will answer questions submitted by the general public. The event will be at the Kanab, Utah city library (9:00 am - 4:00 pm Mountain Standard Time), and will also be broadcast live online. I have agreed to join the panel, as have Jayne Belnap, Janis Boettinger, Fee Busby and Kim Anderson.

Official News Release
Lake Powell News Article (this link loads faster)
Watch Live online here

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Post-doc job announcement in Barger Lab, University of Colorado Boulder

Post-Doctoral Research Associate – University of Colorado Boulder – Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

A two-year post-doctoral research associate position will be available in Nichole Barger’s lab at the University of Colorado – Boulder. The successful candidate will work on a newly funded project to examine plant and soil responses to biological soil crust restoration. The post-doctoral research associate will oversee field research at Hill Air Force Base in the Great Basin and Jornada Experimental Range in the Chihuahuan Desert. This work will occur in close collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of scientists who specialize in soil microbiology (Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Arizona State University), soil ecology (Matthew Bowker, Northern Arizona University and Jayne Belnap USGS), ecosystem ecology (Sasha Reed, USG) and soil science (Mike Duniway, USGS).  We are seeking a highly motivated and energetic applicant with specialties in ecosystem ecology/biogeochemistry, plant ecology, or soil ecology. Expertise in aridland ecology is a plus.  The start date is flexible ranging from December 2014 through February 2015. If you are interested please send a brief letter of interest and a current CV to Nichole Barger at nichole.barger@colorado.edu.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Maestre Lab: Recently accepted articles from the lab

Recent biocrust work led by Raul Ochoa Hueso and Miguel Berdugo see below

Maestre Lab: Recently accepted articles from the lab: Three new papers from the lab have been accepted during the last weeks. They will be published online early during the next weeks/mont...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Biocrusts in El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

It's that time again…photo dumps from trips taken months ago! Last Spring I joined my graduate student Jesse, and two collaborators from the National Park Service on a trip to El Malpais in New Mexico.  Jesse is working on establishing an array of monitoring plots for "unique plant communities" which are important reservoirs of biodiversity in the National Park System. 

El Malpais is a National Monument built around a series of lava flows. One cool thing about it is that the lava flows left islands of pre-existing soils. Because much of the lava is a'a, its is very difficult to traverse. The Monument resource manager, David Hayes told us there were 2 kinds of people who work at the Monument: 1. those who have hurt themselves on the lava, 2. those that will hurt themselves on the lava. This works for cows too, so the islands or "kipukas" have experienced much less disturbance historically. So in addition to selecting unique plant communities to sample, I was very intrigued to see what the biocrusts looked like in the kipukas. I had envisioned some kind of sandy soils with grasslands or woodlands. Instead, the soils were derived of older basalt, and sure enough there were plenty of biocrusts. There are a ton of places, especially in the Great Basin and Colombia Basin where basalt soils support biocrusts. But for some reason, despite much looking, I have never seen biocrusts on basalt soils on the Colorado Plateau…until El Malpais. From that moment on, I was hopelessly fascinated to see more soils. In addition to lava of different ages, there are sedimentary rocks which develop into very different soils with very different communities. Very cool place.

Maybe the coolest thing I learned was from Jesse. A Navajo story recounts the monster killing exploits of the hero twins. One of the monsters they killed was walking giant. The lava flows are the blood of walking giant. 

Appears to be a Leptogium, anyone able to ID from the picture?

Collema tenax and a Placidium species growing together as they often do.

Collema coccophorum; note the slightly reddish disks are apothecia.

A Psora species, probably globifera.

The lava flows are riddled with lava tubes. When lava is flowing the exterior may begin to harden, while the center is still liquid and able to drain out leaving tubes.

Inside a tube!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Biodiversity & Conservation: Special issue on biocrusts out now!

Hi! It's me your prodigal blogger. It's been a long hiatus…but here's some news for you:

Biodiversity & Conservation Volume 23, Issue 7 (June 2014) is a special issue entitled "Biological soil crusts in a changing world", edited by Fernando Maestre, Leopoldo Sancho & Burkhard Budel. This issue was based on the Biocrust 2013 conference in Madrid. It features 14 invited contributions from the conference, including one from me & collaborators which was one of the funnest writing assignments I've taken on. A few of the papers are open access too.


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)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Syntrichia clone library

This is the beginnings of our new culture collection of Syntrichia, established by Kyle Doherty. Eventually, we'll have roughly 50 populations each for S. ruralis and S. caninervis growing from all over the Colorado Plateau.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Upcoming biocrust course targeted to federal employees


Please distribute to your networks.  

There is plenty of room available in the Biological Soil Crust course, to be held in Moab, Utah, March 25-27th.  Registration must be completed by Jan. 24th or we will be forced to cancel the course.  The course is taught by Jayne Belnap (USGS) and Roger Rosentreter (retired BLM ID State Botanist).  If budgets will allow, please sign up in DOI Learn (Course no. 1730-41).

If you have any questions, please contact me.  

Lori Young
Training Coordinator
Wildlife, Plant Conservation and IPM
BLM National Training Center
9828 N. 31st Avenue
Phoenix, AZ  85051
Visit my sharepoint site 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spray bacteria on the desert to halt its spread - environment - 02 January 2014 - New Scientist

Spray bacteria on the desert to halt its spread - environment - 02 January 2014 - New Scientist

This short article recently appeared in New Scientist. It's about the practice of using mass-cultured cyanobacteria to fix dunes in China, thus combatting desertification. I believe the cyanobacteria are temporally irrigated to establish them.