Biological soil crusts, a community of cyanobacteria, lichens, mosses, and fungi, are an essential part of dryland ecosystems. They are critical in the stabilization of soils, protecting them from wind and water erosion. Similarly, these soil surface communities also stabilized soils on early Earth, allowing vascular plants to establish. They contribute nitrogen and carbon to otherwise relatively infertile dryland soils, and have a strong influence on hydrologic cycles. Their presence can also influence vascular plant establishment and nutrition.