A researcher studying how desert soils can help combat climate change will visit Utah State University this week.
Many people think of the Utah desert as devoid of life. But deserts are complex ecosystems full of plants, animals, and other less visible microbial fauna that play major roles in the ecosystem.
“My research program focuses on plants and soils and how they interact and how they fit into the total ecosystem. Most of my past projects have looked at the effects of a particular global change factor: things like invasive species, nitrogen pollution, and of course climate change.”
Dr. Anthony Darrouzet-Nardi, a plant and soil researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas-El Paso, will be visiting Utah State University on April 20th and 21st to present two seminars on his research. Dr. Darrouzet-Nardi compares desert and tundra soils, with particular attention to the role played by fungi in nutrient cycling.
“The project I’m most excited about right now is a new project that we’re starting up to take a look at the way that carbon and nitrogen and other elements are cycling through desert soils. The thing that we’re focusing most specifically on is the role of subterranean fungi in shuttling these materials around between the different components of the desert ecosystem.”
Fungi are one of the members of the microbial communities known as biological soil crusts, which form on the soil surface in many deserts. Hikers are warned not to “bust the crust”, which can take centuries to form and plays important roles in stabilizing erosion, trapping dust, and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.