Biological Soil Crusts as Soil Stabilizers

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


Soil erosion is of particular concern in dryland regions, as the sparse cover of vascular plants results in large interspaces unprotected from the erosive forces of wind and water. Thus, most of these soil surfaces are stabilized by physical or biological soil crusts. However, as drylands are extensively used by humans and their animals, these crusts are often disturbed, compromising their stabilizing abilities. As a result, approximately 17.5 % of the global terrestrial lands are currently being degraded by wind and water erosion. All components of biocrusts stabilize soils, including green algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, lichens, and bryophytes, and as the biomass of these organisms increases, so does soil stability. In addition, as lichens and bryophytes live atop the soil surface, they provide added protection from raindrop impact that cyanobacteria and fungi, living within the soil, cannot. Much research is still needed to determine the relative ability of individual species and suites of species to stabilize soils. We also need a better understanding of why some individuals or combinations of species are better than others, especially as these organisms become more frequently used in restoration efforts.


Soil Erosion Wind Erosion Water Erosion Trichoderma Harzianum Biological Soil Crust 
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 USGS Ecosystems and Climate and Land Use Change programs for funding. 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 Survey, Canyonlands Research StationSouthwest Biological Science CenterMoabUSA
  2. 2.Plant Ecology and Systematics, Department of BiologyUniversity of KaiserslauternKaiserslauternGermany

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