Q: I say the desert is just sand and dirt and rocks and desert plants, but my husband claims he read somewhere that it is really covered with a hard crust that you can fall through. What’s he talking about?
A: You people. When you go hiking, don’t you ever stop and look around at stuff? Like the ground?
OK, in many areas the desert is covered with a thin layer of rocks or stuff, and it’s easy to get your car stuck when the wheels break through that shell and spin in the sand underneath.
But what I think your husband is talking about is the desert’s cryptobiotic crust, which is common in desert areas.
The cryptobiotic crust is made up of soil particles bound together by organic materials like bacteria, really tiny fungi, algae, mosses and lichens and things of that nature. It is very important and very delicate stuff, which is why you’re supposed to stay on the trails when you hike and not just go gallivanting off where you feel like going.
The cryptobiotic crust reduces erosion, helps hold water in the soil and also fixes nitrogen and carbon out of the atmosphere and adds them to the soil.
So keep your eyes open, stay on the trail and don’t thrash so much