Outdoor Recreation Aids Invasive Plants

By Garry Rogers

Outdoor Recreation Aids Plant Invasions

Tracks on the Agua Fria River BanksOutdoor recreation does far more than simply transport invasive plants.  It disturbs soils and vegetation and takes the lives of animals.  Leopold commented on the most violent type of recreation:

“The disquieting thing is the trophy hunter who never grows up. … To enjoy he must invade, possess, appropriate.  Hence the wilderness that he cannot personally see has no value to him.  Hence the universal assumption that an unused hinterland is rendering no service to society” (Leopold 1949:  176). Continue reading

Desert Habitat: Soil Microorganisms

By Garry Rogers

The Role of Soil Microorganisms in Desert Ecosystems

There would be no life on the land if there was no soil.

“When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral, you are, godlike, cutting through an entire world. You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet’s surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence” (Wilson, 2010).

Biological Soil Crusts

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Biological Soil Crust (Brown stipplescale) growing in a rocky area in the Great Basin Desert.

In sunny desert environments, various species of algae, cyanobacteria, microfungi, lichens, and bryophytes form thin crusts over the surface of the ground.  The crusts protect the soil from erosion, enrich its composition, and enhance plant growth.  The crusts are among the most important components of desert ecosystems.

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are quite fragile.  If they are damaged, soils lose moisture and nutrients and become susceptible to erosion and invasion by alien plants.  BSCs are susceptible to considerable damage by livestock (e.g., Brotherson et al. 1983). Recovery of BSCs at some sites can occur within 20 years (Anderson et al. 1982), but most studies have concluded that longer periods are required (e.g., Jeffries and Klopatec 1987), and that full recovery can require centuries (Belnap 1993). Continue reading

Favorite Books: Plant Strategies by Grime

Plant Strategies, Vegetation Processes, and Ecosystem PropertiesPlant Strategies, Vegetation Processes, and Ecosystem Properties by J. Philip Grime

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scientists are sometimes able to synthesize existing knowledge in ways that provide useful insight. Grime did this with the first edition of this book published in 1979. The present edition retains and extends the fundamental ideas. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about natural landscapes and wants to get a glimpse of the processes at work.

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