USGS Spectroscopy Lab

Cryptobiotic Soils

Cryptobiotic soils, also called cryptogammic soils, cryptogammic crusts or microbiotic soils, primarily consist of cyanobacteria, along with lichens, mosses, fungi, and bacteria. These soils or crusts are vital to the desert ecosystem. On the Colorado Plateau, thay may make up 70-80 percent of the living ground cover in some areas. The crusts are living autotrophic organisms.

Cryptobiotic soils occur in arid and semi-arid regions throughout the world. We have even seen them around the Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

The image here shows well-devloped cryptobiotic soils in Arches National Park. Ray Kokaly, USGS is in the background. Photo by Roger Clark (public domain image).

More detailed image of Cryptobiotic soils, 332 K GIF.


Vegetation and Cryptobiotic Soils Mapping in Arid Regions

Phone, email and regular mail addresses of spectroscopy lab personnel for further information.

U.S. Geological Survey, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior
This page URL=
This page is maintained by: Dr. Roger N. Clark
Last modified Sept. 1, 1999.