JOHN R. FOSTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JOHN R. FOSTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The clumpy, patchwork nature of this subalpine slope at 6,000 ft. Washington's Mt. Rainier National Park is due to cryptobiotic soil. These living soil crusts are communities of lichens, mosses, liverworts, fungi, and some species of algae. Though most commonly associated with desert regions, they are also found in subalpine terrain such as this slope in Washington's Mt. Rainier National Park. It is crucial to the ecology where its found but is extremely fragile.
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