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Livestock exclosures established in response to the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act offer a chance to quantify reference conditions for biological soil crusts, which are largely unknown.

Researchers surveyed a portion of those sites in northern Nevada to observe the effects of passive restoration on biocrusts. Dominant plant communities included Wyoming big sagebrush and black sagebrush, and co-dominant winterfat and Wyoming big sagebrush. Abundance of fast-reproducing biocrusts, Oscillatoriales – an Order of cyanobacteria important in forming soil structure, and algae varied by plant community. Results also suggested that many species, particularly biocrusts that are fast reproducers, may not need to be reintroduced, as they are already present onsite. Influences of plant community and grazing were most apparent when accounting for reproductive rates of lichens and mosses based on establishment mechanisms. Overall findings suggest that restoration targets for biocrusts, like vascular plants, should be plant-community specific.

 

Condon, L.A., Pietrasiak, N., Rosentreter, R., Pyke, D.A., 2019, Passive restoration of biocrusts following 80 years of exclusion from grazing across the Great Basin: Restoration Ecology, https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13021

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