Articles | Volume 16, issue 6
Research article
19 Mar 2019
Research article |  | 19 Mar 2019

The origin and role of biological rock crusts in rocky desert weathering

Nimrod Wieler, Hanan Ginat, Osnat Gillor, and Roey Angel

Related authors

Microbial and geo-archaeological records reveal the growth rate, origin and composition of desert rock surface communities
Nimrod Wieler, Tali Erickson Gini, Osnat Gillor, and Roey Angel
Biogeosciences, 18, 3331–3342,,, 2021
Short summary

Related subject area

Biogeochemistry: Environmental Microbiology
A multi-phase biogeochemical model for mitigating earthquake-induced liquefaction via microbially induced desaturation and calcium carbonate precipitation
Caitlyn A. Hall, Andre van Turnhout, Edward Kavazanjian Jr., Leon A. van Paassen, and Bruce Rittmann
Biogeosciences, 20, 2903–2917,,, 2023
Short summary
Differentiation of cognate bacterial communities in thermokarst landscapes: implications for ecological consequences of permafrost degradation
Ze Ren, Shudan Ye, Hongxuan Li, Xilei Huang, and Luyao Chen
Biogeosciences Discuss.,,, 2023
Revised manuscript accepted for BG
Short summary
Phosphorus regulates ectomycorrhizal fungi biomass production in a Norway spruce forest
Juan Pablo Almeida, Lorenzo Menichetti, Alf Ekblad, Nicholas P. Rosenstock, and Håkan Wallander
Biogeosciences, 20, 1443–1458,,, 2023
Short summary
Reallocation of elemental content and macromolecules in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to acclimate to climate change
Yong Zhang, Yong Zhang, Shuai Ma, Hanbing Chen, Jiabing Li, Zhengke Li, Kui Xu, Ruiping Huang, Hong Zhang, Yonghe Han, and Jun Sun
Biogeosciences, 20, 1299–1312,,, 2023
Short summary
Abrasion of sedimentary rocks as a source of hydrogen peroxide and nutrients to subglacial ecosystems
Beatriz Gill-Olivas, Jon Telling, Mark Skidmore, and Martyn Tranter
Biogeosciences, 20, 929–943,,, 2023
Short summary

Cited articles

Adams, J. B., Palmer, F., and Staley, J. T.: Rock weathering in deserts: Mobilization and concentration of ferric iron by microorganisms, Geomicrobiol. J., 10, 99–114,, 1992. 
Alonso-Zarza, A. M. and Wright, V. P.: Chapter 5 Calcretes, in Developments in Sedimentology, vol. 61, 225–267, Elsevier, 2010. 
Alonso-Zarza, A. M., Bustamante, L., Huerta, P., Rodríguez-Berriguete, Á., and Huertas, M. J.: Chabazite and dolomite formation in a dolocrete profile: An example of a complex alkaline paragenesis in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Sediment. Geol., 337, 1–11,, 2016. 
Amit, R., Harrison, J. B. J., Enzel, Y., and Porat, N.: Soils as a tool for estimating ages of Quaternary fault scarps in a hyperarid environment – the southern Arava valley, the Dead Sea Rift, Israel, CATENA, 28, 21–45,, 1996. 
Amit, R., Enzel, Y., Grodek, T., Crouvi, O., Porat, N., and Ayalon, A.: The role of rare rainstorms in the formation of calcic soil horizons on alluvial surfaces in extreme deserts, Quat. Res., 74, 177–187,, 2010. 
Short summary
In stony deserts, when rocks are exposed to atmospheric conditions, they undergo weathering. The cavernous (honeycomb) weathering pattern is one of the most common, but it is still unclear exactly how it is formed. We show that microorganisms, which differ from the surrounding soil and dust, form biological crusts on exposed rock surfaces. These microbes secrete polymeric substances that mitigate weathering by reducing evaporation rates and, consequently, salt transport rates through the rock.
Final-revised paper