The Desert’s Fragile Skin Can’t Take Much More Heat

“When you trample it, you’re resetting a clock that’s been going for a long time back to zero,” says Finger-Higgens, whose latest findings on biocrust degradation were published last month in PNAS. “And so now the system has to repair itself.”

To keep her plots devoid of damage, Finger-Higgins prefers to keep quiet about the exact location of her research site. But what should be immaculate desert crust with white fungi peeping through, she says, is not as healthy as expected. Something is amiss—and not just on the Colorado Plateau (which bleeds into four US states: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico),

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