Passive restoration of vegetation and biological soil crusts following 80 years of exclusion from grazing across the Great Basin

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Restoration targets for biological soil crusts are largely unknown. We surveyed seven 80‐year‐old grazing exclosures across northern Nevada for biocrusts to quantify reference conditions at relatively undisturbed sites. Exclosures were associated with the following plant communities: Wyoming big sagebrush, black sagebrush, and areas co‐dominated by winterfat and Wyoming big sagebrush. Cover of biocrusts and shrubs were generally higher than other plant groups at these sites, regardless of being inside or outside of the exclosures, suggesting these groups make up most of the native flora across the region. Important in forming soil structure, cyanobacteria of the order Oscillatoriales were less abundant and diverse in black sagebrush communities. Grazing had a negative effect on the abundance of Oscillatoriales but not the number of algal taxa, including cyanobacteria.

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