Southwest Biological Science Center

Multimedia

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Photo of mature, dark-colored biocrust
September 29, 2016

Dark-colored mature biocrust

On the Colorado Plateau, mature biocrusts are bumpy and dark-colored due to the presence of lichens, mosses, and high densities of cyanobacteria and other organisms. These organisms perform critical functions, such as fertilizing soils and increasing soil stability, therefore reducing dust.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes

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Photo of USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examining instrumentation to measure photosynthetic rates of biocrusts.
September 29, 2016

USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examines instruments to measure biocrust

USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examines instrumentation to measure photosynthetic rates of biocrusts.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight, according to a new USGS study

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Photo of biocrust outdoor testing plots.
September 26, 2016

Biocrust outdoor testing plots.

USGS scientists created outdoor testing plots where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time. Researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun.

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Photo of biocrusts providing soil stability in the desert
September 26, 2016

Biocrusts provide soil stability and prevent erosion

Biocrusts provide soil stability and prevent erosion. Soil is the foundation where plants live; if soil is not stable, native plants can have difficulty growing.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color

...
Photo of outdoor testing plots where biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time.
September 26, 2016

Biocrust outdoor testing plots

USGS scientists created outdoor testing plots where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time. Researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun.

...
Photo of Biocrust outdoor testing plots
September 26, 2016

Biocrust outdoor testing plots

USGS scientists created outdoor testing plots where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time. Researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun.

...
Photo of USGS scientist Sasha Reed studying outdoor biocrust testing sites
September 26, 2016

USGS scientist Sasha Reed studys outdoor biocrust testing sites

USGS scientist Sasha Reed studies sites where different climate conditions are being mimicked to determine effect on biocrusts.

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight,

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A few tiny leaves on a branch
August 24, 2016

New tamarisk leaves re-grow after tamarisk leaf beetle defoliation

Tamarisk leaves regrow following defoliation by the biological control agent, tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda spp.).

Dead and living trees near a river
August 22, 2016

Defoliated nonnative tamarisk with native cottonwood trees

Nonnative tamarisk can form mixed stands with native trees, such as cottonwoods, and other nonnative trees, such as Russian olive. 

A mostly dead bush with one living branch
August 22, 2016

Tamarisk re-grows new leaves after tamarisk leaf beetle defoliation

Tamarisk can re-grow new leaves after being defoliated by the biocontrol agent tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda spp.).

mostly dead bush re-sprouting after fire
August 22, 2016

Nonnative tamarisk is fire resistant

Nonnative tamarisk is resistant to wildfire, in part due to its abilty to resprout from the its roots.

Sonoran desert spring wildflower display.
March 31, 2016

Sonoran Desert Wildflowers and Invasive Species

Ecosystems are changing at a rapid pace. It can be difficult to determine if a landscape is in need of restoration. In this photo of the spring wildflower bloom in the Sonoran desert, an invasive annual grass, Bromus rubens (red brome), is pervasive. Land managers have to make decisions about when, where, and how to intervene in a system. Does this grass pose a threat to

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