Mojave River Valley Museum
Joshua Tree National Park >
The desert is often thought of as lifeless or sterile. It is far from it.
Even the desert soil is full of organisms, a living crust composed of
microscopic plants that require the Sun's light for
photosynthesis. The crust, called cryptobiotic, meaning "hidden life," resists wind
and water erosion.
It slows and absorbs water runoff, and provides essential nutrients to
Hidden within the
are cyanobacteria (blue-green algae),
lichens, mosses, green algae, fungi, and bacteria. The cyanobacteria
are the dominent plants. When wet, thier sticky filaments grow through the soil,
binding rock and soil particles, thus forming a rigid but fragile
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