Reproduction and dispersal of biological soil crust organisms
Biological soil crusts (BSCs) consist of a diverse and highly integrated community of organisms that effectively colonize and collectively stabilize soil surfaces. BSCs vary in terms of soil chemistry and texture as well as the environmental parameters that combine to support unique combinations of organisms – including cyanobacteria dominated, lichen-dominated, and bryophyte-dominated crusts. The various BSC organismal groups demonstrate several common characteristics including – desiccation and extreme temperature tolerance, production of various soil binding chemistries, a near exclusive dependency on asexual reproduction, a pattern of aerial dispersal over impressive distances, and a universal vulnerability to a wide range of human-related perturbations. With this publication, we provide literature-based insights as to how each organismal group contributes to the formation and maintenance of the structural and functional attributes of BSCs, how they reproduce, and how they are dispersed. We also emphasize the importance of effective application of molecular and microenvironment sampling and assessment tools in order to provide cogent and essential answers that will allow scientists and land managers to better understand and manage the biodiversity and functional relationships of soil crust communities.