Monday, September 21, 2015

Growing biocrust and putting it into the field!

I'm excited to share with you some photos of the amazing biocrust grown by the Bowker lab over the summer!

Here are some photos of the absolutely beautiful crust grown at the NAU greenhouse from inoculum collected in Bandelier National Monument.  We grew the crust for five months giving it plenty of water and comfortable growing conditions.  In July we harvested the grown crust and distributed the "bulked" (greenhouse grown) inoculum into experimental field plots in Bandelier National Monument.  In the below picture, you can see where biocrust has been scraped from the soil surface and collected to use for field inoculum.

The idea behind the project that Matt, myself, and our USGS colleagues developed is to see if the addition of biocrust, in combination with other restoration techniques, can help stabilize the actively eroding soils of Bandelier National Monument.  

Pictures like the one above show the incredible ability of cyanboacterial filaments to hold onto soil particles and thereby aggregate the soil surface together.   In the picture below you see the underside of a large chunk of biocrust.  We gently scraped off soil particles clinging to the underside of the crust, and exposed all the cyanobacterial filaments.  Pretty cool! 
We are interested to see if biocrust's ability to aggregate the soil surface, provide soil nutrients, and increase soil water retention may help to get Bandelier out of its cycle of erosion. In October we will go back to Bandelier to see if the field inoculum has grown.  Stay tuned for an update on the progress in late fall!

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