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Secrets of Biological Soil Crusts Uncovered
June 14, 2013 — They lie dormant for years, but at the first sign of favorable conditions they awaken. This sounds like the tagline for a science fiction movie, but it describes the amazing life-cycles of microbial organisms that form the biological soil crusts (BSCs) of Earth’s deserts. Now a research team with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has reported a unique molecular-level analysis of a BSC cyanobacterium responding to the wetting and drying of its environment. The results hold implications for land management, improved climate change models, and a better understanding of carbon cycling in soil microbial communities and how changes in global temperatures impact Earth’s deserts.