Cryptobiotic Soil Crusts


Look at the picture. Can you see pieces of black, bumpy dirt?

This is called cryptobiotic soil.


What is it?

This dirt is alive. It is made of many tiny living things.

They are like a rug covering the ground. Water makes the soil crust swell and move. The ground gets bumpy.

They were here before dinosaurs. They helped make Earth's air.

Why is it important?

Cryptobiotic soil crusts are important. They help keep the soil firm. They stop wind and water from moving the dirt. They also help feed and water the soil.

What are the dangers?

It is easy to harm cryptobiotic crusts. A footprint can kill the soil. The bike trail in the picture hurts the ground.

Crusts need sunlight to live. They die if they are buried.

It takes a long time for the crust to grow. It can take hundreds of years.

What can I do?

A footprint can turn crust to dust.

Look for cryptobiotic soil. Stay on trails and bike paths. Save nature.

More Information

Note: All photographs taken with a digital camera in Arizona and Utah.
Developed by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 04/02.