Intact interpaces between shrubs are a feature of shrubsteppe that has been spared the disturbance of livestock grazing. Soil crusts have evolved along with plant communities to resist non-native seed germination and provide for the space between plants that slows fire and provides unfettered escape for wildlife from predators. Dense islands of intact foliage provide wildlife cover and food.
The effectiveness of living soils at resisting the spread of exotics is dependent upon intact soil crusts and the symbiotic relationships between the living soils and plants. Both plants and soils must be conserved to keep this system functioning to provide for vigorous wildlife communities and to sustainably mitigate catasrophic fire when possible. Shrubs and grasses contribute to these living soils by pumping carbohyrates into the soil and/or providing cover from the dehydrating sun and wind. In return, soil crusts metabolize trace nutrients into soluble forms that plants can utilize, expand the root range, and serve as a living mulch keeping moisture within the soil longer.
When native plants are heavily grazed, livestock break up the soils and soil crusts. Depressed photosythesis resulting from abusive livestock utilization of foliage deprives living soils the sugars that they rely upon from plants. In turn, plants are less vigorous lacking micronutrients and moisture. The denuded microclimates heat up and dry earlier in the season. In addition, the vast carbon sink within the shrubsteppe soil is less efficient at fixing carbon from the atmosphere into the soil as living soils decrease in number.
Living Soils & Interspaces
- Provides the best habitat for the landscape to host
vigorous and diverse wildlife giving animals clear escape from predators and islands of cover to hide.
- Slows fire by preventing cheatgrass ~ breaking the contiguity of fuels, maintaining plant moisture longer into the season, and keeping the climate cooler.
- Provides a natural carbon sink as carbon is fixed into the soil and in vigorous plant communities.