Many parts of the Colorado Plateau are covered with distinctive soil crusts. Scientists are learning more about how they aid ecosystems—especially by providing good places for plants to grow.
Soil crusts rely on tiny organisms called cyanobacteria that are good at colonizing bare soil. In cold regions, frost heaving can give a dark, pinnacled appearance to soil covered with cyanobacteria. And that complicated micro-topography is key to what comes next.
Every month this fall, KNAU has been taking you to places on the Colorado Plateau. They may be places you know, they may be places you've only heard of. It's a series we call Land Lines and today we're visiting Monument Valley. People come from all over the world to see this valley, one of the most evocative landscapes in the southwest. But at least one rock feature doesn't quite fit the mold of the mesas and buttes. In today's Land Lines, Rose Houk and Michael Collier explore the origins of El Capitan.