Fungal Presence in Biological Soil Crust - Naomi Lopez

Published: April 6, 2017
Lopez shows off a sample of biological soil crust.

As a descendent of Mexican ranchers from the Chihuahuan desert, I wanted to learn more about desert ecosystems and the role that desertification will play in a warming climate. Upon perusing the EBIO website for potential research opportunities, I found Nichole Barger’s lab which specializes in desert ecosystems and more specifically the role and restoration of Biological Soil Crust. After working as a laboratory assistant for two Barger lab experiments, I had the desire to conduct my own research.

I am interested in looking at the relatively unknown presence of fungus in Biological Soil Crusts (BSC). As a researcher in the Barger lab I am working alongside a federally funded project called SERDP (Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program), which brings together BSC scientists from all parts of the country to learn what practices are most conducive to BSC restoration. Thus far there is little information in how the fungal loop plays a role in BSC ecosystems. But it is thought that fungus help with nutrient cycling and sequestration of deep soil nutrients. Fungal communities are fascinating because of their versatility and adaptability. Because there has been little research conducted on the role of non-lichenized fungus in BSC, this experiment gives segue for future experiments and questions in the field of mycology within the BSC ecosystem.