View Full Version : Off the Beaten Path information about cryptogamic soils

04-14-2008, 09:48 AM
I tend to be pretty conservative about embracing facts relayed in emails, but I thought I would post this for discussion. I received it from Off the Beaten Path Maps, who have very good maps and GPS data you can download for a fee.

Statements about the Desert Environment
Fact or Fiction
By Monte Wells
This article will address two things; first, we will cover several common statements that are made by environmental groups and federal agencies concerning the desert environment. Second, I will demonstrate how the public is being misguided when it comes to environmental issues, not only by environmental groups, but by agencies that are suppose to work for the public and protect the publics interest. I will attempt to shed new light on the issue and present factual data to support my conclusions. All I ask is that you take the time to think outside the box and look at the entire picture before drawing your own conclusions.

The following are two common environmental statements:

DESERT ECOSYSTEMS: The desert landscape is what people typically think of when they envision canyon country. The region is characterized by extreme temperatures (from below zero to 115 F +) and small amounts of precipitation. Because of the harsh climate, plants grow very slowly; sometimes a three foot tree can be hundreds of years old. Slower growing times means that it often takes many years for impacted areas to recover.
CRYPTOBIOTIC SOILS: Nowhere is the slow recovery time more evident than in the life cycle of cryptobiotic soils. This plant community also known as microbiotic crust or cryptogamic soil represents algae, cynobacteria, mosses, lichen, fungi and bacteria living together in a symbiotic relationship. Although it may look like dirty sand “cryptos” form an essential component to the desert ecosystem. They hold precious water in the soil, prevent erosion and release nitrogen into the nutrient poor soil. Cryptos grow slowly, so slowly that an errant footstep or tread mark can take many decades to grow back. When in an area without marked trails always travel across rock or sandy washes to avoid the crust. Are these statements fact or fiction? The following is our analysis of the above statements.
(Statement) Slow recovery time of the Desert Ecosystem:The following photos show a campsite that we used for 18 months under a special use permit until someone vandalized it by burning down the Teepee. You will notice in the first photo that there is no cryptogamic soil anywhere and the vegetation minimal.

Photo 1
Photo number two was taken 8 years later of the same area. You will notice mature cryptogamic soil all over the area. The vegetation is back and the yucca plants have grown quite a bit. This amount of growth and recovery took place during several years of drought.
Photo 2http://www.otbpmaps.com/images/pages/general/8_Years_later.jpg

This photo clearly drives the issue home even further and was taken at the same time as the above photo. Notice all the Cryptos and vegetation growth.
Photo 3http://www.otbpmaps.com/images/pages/general/Good_Growth.jpg

The below photo was taken in 2008 of the same area. Notice the decline and size reduction of the cryptos due to drought. Can you spot the ATV track in the photo?

(Statement) Cryptogamic soil prevents erosion: The desert of southern Utah has been created and shaped by erosion. The erosion process shaped the deserts into what we see today as it will continue to in the future. This is evident every winter and every rain storm. I have seen heavy rains totally destroy cryptogamic soil in a short time, which leads me to believe that cryptogamic soil does very little to protect from erosion. However, it does play a role in the germination of plant seeds.
Despite its role in germination of plant seeds, one must remember that cryptogamic soil is only found in certain types of soil and certain elevations within the desert environment. This alone dispels the claim that this soil is the glue that holds the desert together.
Conclusion: The above photos clearly demonstrate that it doesn’t take cryptogamic soil that long to recover from heavy use. It takes even less time to recover from foot steps and single tire tracks. The above tire track in the photo demonstrates this fact very clearly, and that even during drought stricken year’s crypto recovers far better than the environmental groups would want you to know about.
It is clear that the environmental movement has not presented all the facts about the desert ecosystem and the cryptogamic soil. Most of what is being presented to the public by these groups and the National Park Service is not accurate. The original two statements are FICTION and are not supported by facts.
For the full article please visit our New Fact or Fiction (http://www.otbpmaps.com/page.php?p=40) page on our website or download a PDF of the full article after joining our New Member Site.
Check out our NEW MEMBER SITE (http://www.otbpmaps.com/login.php) where we have downloadable GPX files for most of the ATV, Jeep, and hiking trail maps that we have produced. These GPX files correspond with our custom waterproof maps (http://www.otbpmaps.com/page.php?p=13) and they contain the tracks, waypoints, accesses, water sources, archaeological sites, and points of interest that are associated with these trails. Once you load the GPX file in to your GPS and you have one of our maps you are ready to hit the ground running. Become a Mountain Man Member TODAY (http://www.otbpmaps.com/login.php) to have access to our trail data.

Uncle Ben
04-14-2008, 10:02 AM
Interesting read! We have been beaten into submission so hard to believe that Crypto soil is so fragile is is hard to believe it recovers this quick! Also, how ironic that that one photo frame ends up with atv tracks! I'm guessing it is just off a main road.

04-14-2008, 12:16 PM
Although it did take eight years to get to the point in the second photo. Pretty well established by that time though. Hardly a generation.

Kinda like leaving orange peels in tundra. They can last a good long time, they don't degrade rapidly at all. But eventually...

04-14-2008, 04:47 PM
VERY good read...I remember last year at CM07...Both :Princess:'s were extremely careful about the cyptobiotic soil to the point where they started insisting on "leading" us off the trail to a suitable potty break spot :thumb:

I think I'll let them continue with the thinking though that it is extremely fragile and have the "lead" the way :)

04-17-2008, 08:42 AM
Is some advocating off trail travel? Bill? btw I like the new sig line.

04-17-2008, 09:01 AM
Nope, nobody here would do that.
With folks who are anti-access falling back on "arguments from science" to silence any desire for motorized recreation though, it would be important to establish what qualifies as science.

Yeah, gotta pick up those sig lines where I can!