Cattle have had a profound effect on desert scrub communities, including the depletion of native grasses, introduction of nonnative plants, destruction of cryptobiotic
crusts, and compaction of soils.
I've seen four-wheelers grind their way up desert rock formations near Moab, Utah, where century-old cryptobiotic
crust, made up of soil lichens, green algae, bacteria, and mosses, is as easily damaged and difficult to restore as alpine tundra.
196) A crucial component of the desert ecosystem is the cryptobiotic
crust made up of mosses, fungi, and lichens.
Crowe (1974) discusses several types of latent states among tardi grades including anhydrobiosis, the cryptobiotic
state induced by desiccation, the state that most limno-terrestrial tardigrades must survive.
These rock particles, together with the moisture-retaining lichens, form a cryptobiotic
mat, the first thin layer of soil that desert plants need to grow.
soil crust, the collection of cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses that holds the loose, sandy soft in place, is invisible to the naked eye until it reaches maturity, when it resembles crushed Oreo cookies.
Off-trail driving and related recreational activities disturb the fragile cryptobiotic
soils that hold the desert ecosystem together, creating serious erosion problems.
We continue on the trail, as Davies points out buffaloberry getting ready to bloom and clumps of fragile cryptobiotic
soil, a building block for desert plants.
The desert surface surrounding the course includes delicate cryptobiotic
crust, which can take decades to recover from trampling feet.
And over there--indicating the dark, almost burned-looking ground--is cryptobiotic
soil, or literally, "hidden life.