Cyanobacteria in the Soil

A biocrust. Image credit:

A biocrust. Image credit:

     While it may be common to hear about cyanobacterial blooms in lakes and ponds this summer, what you might not hear about is the presence and role of cyanobacteria in our soil. Specifically, in soil known as biocrusts (or biological crusts) that can be found dotting the high-desert landscape of places like northern New Mexico (where it appears like a brownish mold spread between bunch grass).

     Integral in sustaining life in the southwest, these biocrusts are composed of thousands of species of bacteria and fungi; which species decompose organic matter, release carbon dioxide into the air (and fix it into the soil) and contribute to the nutrition in the soil. They also keep water in the soil, while simultaneously stabilizing and tempering erosion. 

     And check out this new research on biocrusts and their role in desert environments from a multidisciplinary team of biologists, geneticists and computational scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, alongside scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service.

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