Don't Bust the Crust Activity 1


Biological soil crusts are alive. They live on top of the sand and consist of cyanobacteria ("cyano" means blue-green), fungi, algae, lichens, mosses and other tiny organisms.

These crusts stick to the sand and prevent it from blowing and washing away; they absorb water; and they provide food to the plants. Basically, without biological soil crusts, there would not be many plants in the park.

Crusts are damaged when we walk on them. When they are older, the crusts can look dark and bumpy, but when they are young, they just look like sand until you put them under a microscope.

Since walking on the crust kills it, we can help protect it by walking on trails, on rocks and in washes (places where the water collects when it rains). Crusts don't live on bare rock and every time it rains heavily, the crust in the drainages gets washed downstream.

There are 3 activities in this game. Choose one of the photos below to hike into the park without damaging these biological soil crusts and advance to the next activity.

Is this okay to walk on?

NPS Photo by Neal Herbert

Is this okay to walk on?

Photo from USGS Canyonlands Research Station

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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