The term biological soil crust (or biocrust) encompasses the diverse community of moss, algae, lichens, and cyanobacteria living within the top inch of soil. Biocrusts form in all terrestrial ecotypes, but people often overlook them in favor of larger species. Biocrusts stabilize the soil by aggregation, reducing erosion. They increase soil fertility by enhancing nutrient cycling. A healthy biocrust increases infiltration and plays a role in succession towards a diverse and functioning ecosystem. They are especially important in arid and semi-arid ecosystems.
Towards the goal of restoring land to healthy ecosystem function, we consider all facets of the land, not just the vascular plants that may inhabit it. Unaided, biocrusts may take from decades to a century to reestablish after degradation. We would like to determine the most effective and practical methods to restore biological soil crusts.
Research and updates found here include projects on moss, lichens, and biocrust as we delve into this charismatic and important part of the ecosystem.
Plant phenology, the timing of plant biological events, affects the ecological community from microbe to megafauna. An understanding of plant phenology is essential for effective restoration and management. We collect species level phenology to explore patterns of phenology and the role it plays in a landscape where non-native species threaten the integrity of ecosystem function. Weekly from March to November we document plant phenological stages of emergent, budding, flowering, fruiting, mature seed, senescent, and fall growth for species at 30 phenology sites across the property. Preliminary results of this long term monitoring project confirm native and non-native species have disparate phenological patterns. To see the 2013 Phenology Report click here. To see Rebecca Durham's presentation on COMPARATIVE PHENOLOGY OF WESTERN RANGELAND PLANTS click here.
Rebecca Durham's field note shows seedlings that sprout from warming soil.
11-13-14 Field Note
02-18-15 Phenology Field Note