Cryptobiotic Soil Crust – Utah’s Valued Ground Cover

Cryptobiotic soil is a lumpy, dark-brown crust comprised of a living community of fungi, lichen, cyanobacteria, and moss. Cryptobiotic soil is very important to desert wildlife and plant communities because it prevents both water and wind erosion by absorbing moisture and binding together loose soil particles. In addition, it enriches the soil with carbon and nitrogen that help plants like the Great Plains Yucca to grow. Cryptobiotic soil is very fragile and, thus, easily destroyed by foot prints, bicycle tracks, and car tread marks. Most importantly, it can take up to 200 years for it to regenerate and, therefore, it is difficult to replace trampled cryptobiotic soil. Thus, please be mindful of cryptobiotic soil and do your best to hike and bike on durable surfaces such as rocks and existing trails. The following pictures were taken at Pothole Point Trail in Canyonlands National Park.

The last set of pictures were taken on Cave Spring Trail in Canyonlands National Park.


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