How biological soil crusts became recognized as a functional unit: a selective history

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It is surprising that despite the world-wide distribution and general importance of biological soil crusts (biocrusts), scientific recognition and functional analysis of these communities is a relatively young field of science. In this chapter, we sketch the historical lines that led to the recognition of biocrusts as a community with important ecosystem functions. The idea of biocrusts as a functional ecological community has come from two main scientific branches: botany and soil science. For centuries, botanists have long recognized that multiple organisms colonize the soil surface in the open and often dry areas occurring between vascular plants. Much later, after the initial taxonomic and phyto-sociological descriptions were made, soil scientists and agronomists observed that these surface organisms interacted with soils in ways that changed the soil structure. In the 1970’s, research on these communities as ecological units that played an important functional role in drylands began in earnest, and these studies have continued to this day. Here, we trace the history of these studies from the distant past until 1990, when biocrusts became well-known to scientists and the public.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title How biological soil crusts became recognized as a functional unit: a selective history
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-30214-0_2
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Springer International Publishing
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 19 p.
First page 15
Last page 33
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