Understanding the Ecological Importance of Biocrusts and Grazing Prescriptions that Minimize their Disturbance

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Biocrusts develop on the surface of soils, comprised of a community of cyanobacteria, mosses, and lichens, and they are commonly found across natural areas in the arid and semi-arid Western U.S.

Biocrusts help maintain the integrity of soils, plants, reduce erosion, and increase post-fire resilience and may have enormous ecosystem benefits, but there are many knowledge gaps. USGS researchers are partnering with the BLM on a new study to determine how sediment type and hydrology affect the vulnerability of biocrusts to disturbance by grazing. Results from this study may inform grazing prescriptions for various locations and seasons to promote conservation of biocrusts for their ecological benefits.