It’s always amazing this time of year when the desert comes alive with color and blooms. An environment so many people think of as ‘dead’ just isn’t. There are tons of plants waiting for their perfect time to bloom and when they do, it’s quite a sight – quite a contrast of color.
Some of the living things get overlooked, however, in the desert. There is very special cryptobiotic soil that doesn’t get much recognition. You may have seen signs, “Don’t Bust the Crust.” This soil or crust is what those signs are talking about. Cryptobiotic soil is essentially a ground cover found in the desert that contains millions of living organisms like lichens, mosses, microfungi, bacteria and green algae. It helps with water retention by absorbing up to 10 times its volume and helping soil fertility by slowly draining that water into the soil below. Cryptobiotic soil acts as a slow-release sponge, in other words.
This very important protector of the desert is also incredibly fragile. If stepped on by humans or run over by vehicles, it can take up to 250 years to recover and begin protecting the delicate ecosystem once again. So, moral of the story is stay on trails. Whether on foot or in a vehicle, choose clear-cut, designated trails to help keep a healthy desert ecosystem intact.
Reference: Don’t Bust the Crust by Margaret Stewart