Natural Features & Ecosystems

Biological soil crust
Biological soil crust

NPS Photo by Neal Herbert


At Natural Bridges, visitors can see the remarkable effects of millions of years of erosion on a landscape of sedimentary rock. While the bridges themselves may be the area's most outstanding natural features, there are many others. Two in particluar intrigue both scientists and visitors: biological soil crust and potholes.

Biological soil crust is a living groundcover that forms the foundation of plant life throughout canyon country. This community of bacteria, lichens and mosses retains moisture, prevents erosion and makes critical nutrients available to plants.

Ephemeral pools (potholes) are naturally occurring basins in sandstone that collect rainwater and wind-blown sediment. These potholes harbor organisms that are able to survive long periods of dehydration, and also serve as a breeding ground for many high desert amphibians and insects.

Both of these communities are very vulnerable to human impacts.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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