Biological Soil Crusts as an Organizing Principle in Drylands

  • Jayne BelnapEmail author
  • Bettina Weber
  • Burkhard Büdel
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 226)


Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) have been present on Earth’s terrestrial surfaces for billions of years. They are a critical part of ecosystem processes in dryland regions, as they cover most of the soil surface and thus mediate almost all inputs and outputs from soils in these areas. There are many intriguing, but understudied, roles these communities may play in drylands. These include their function in nutrient capture and transformation, influence on the movement and distribution of nutrients and water within dryland soils, ability to structure vascular plant communities, role in creating biodiversity hotspots, and the possibility that they can be used as indicators of soil health. There are still many fascinating aspects of these communities that need study, and we hope that this chapter will facilitate such efforts.


Vascular Plant Biological Soil Crust Critical Zone Moss Species Colorado Plateau 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



JB thanks the US Geological Survey’s Ecosystems program for support. BW gratefully acknowledges support by the Max Planck Society (Nobel Laureate Fellowship) and the German Research Foundation (projects WE2393/2-1 and WE2393/2-2). BB acknowledges grants (BU666/11 to 19) by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US government.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveySouthwest Biological Science CenterMoabUSA
  2. 2.Multiphase Chemistry DepartmentMax Planck Institute for ChemistryMainzGermany
  3. 3.Plant Ecology and Systematics, Department of BiologyUniversity of KaiserslauternKaiserslauternGermany

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