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Biological Soil Crusts: Characteristics and Distribution

  • J. Belnap
  • B. Büdel
  • O. L. Lange
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 150)

Abstract

Biological soil crusts result from an intimate association between soil particles and cyanobacteria, algae, microfungi, lichens, and bryophytes (in different proportions) which live within, or immediately on top of, the uppermost millimeters of soil. Soil particles are aggregated through the presence and activity of these biota, and the resultant living crust covers the surface of the ground as a coherent layer (Fig. 1.1). This definition does not include communities where soil particles are not aggregated by these organisms (e.g., cyanobacterial/algal horizons in littoral sand and mudflats), where organisms are not in close contact with the soil surface (e.g., thick moss-lichen mats growing on top of decaying organic material, as in boreal regions), nor where the majority of the biomass is above the soil surface (e.g., large club-moss mats found in North American grasslands or dense stands of fruticose lichens, such as Niebla and Teloschistes species from the coastal fog deserts of California and of Namibia, respectively). However, the boundaries between the latter communities and biological soil crusts are fluid. In a similar fashion, there is no strict dividing line between the cyanobacterial, green algal, and fungal species that occur in soil-crust communities, yet are also found in a multitude of additional habitats (e.g., intertidal mats, tree trunks and leaves, rock faces).

Fig. 1.1.

Schematic block diagram of a biological soil crust with typical colonizers. Thickness of the layer about 3 mm, organisms not drawn to scale. (Illustration Renate Klein-Rödder)

Keywords

Soil Crust Biological Soil Crust Sonoran Desert Crust Lichen Fruticose Lichen 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Belnap
  • B. Büdel
  • O. L. Lange

There are no affiliations available

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