Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Sue Miller; Steve Warren; Larry St. Clair
    Date: 2017
    Source: Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 23. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 10 p.
    Publication Series: Science Bulletins and Newsletters
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (5.0 MB)


    Biological soil crusts are a complex of microscopic organisms growing on the soil surface in many arid and semi-arid ecosystems. These crusts perform the important role of stabilizing soil and reducing or eliminating water and wind erosion. One of the largest threats to biological soil crusts in the arid and semi-arid areas of the western United States is mechanical disturbance from vehicle traffic and grazing. The spread of the annual invasive cheatgrass has increased the fuel load in areas that previously would not carry a fire, posing a potentially widespread and new threat to this resource.

    Recovery times for biological soil crusts are highly variable, and depend largely on the timing of disturbance and amount of moisture, with moisture hastening recolonization of crust organisms. Attempts to artificially restore biological soil crusts have been largely unsuccessful. However, crust organisms are airborne over short and long distances, and crusts can recover on their own when undisturbed and given time to reestablish.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Miller, Sue; Warren, Steve; St. Clair, Larry. 2017. Don’t bust the biological soil crust: Preserving and restoring an important desert resource. Science You Can Use Bulletin, Issue 23. Fort Collins, CO: Rocky Mountain Research Station. 10 p.


    biological soil crust, semi-arid ecosystems, arid ecosystems, grazing, off-road vehicles, restoration

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page