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Livestock grazing, a widespread land use in semi-arid systems, is often placed in opposition to the perpetuation of biological soil crusts (“biocrusts”: lichens, mosses, and algal crusts including cyanobacteria) that live on the soil surface and provide ecosystem functions. The composition of biocrusts and vascular plants varies with climate, soils, and disturbance. In general, ruderal mosses and light algal crusts make up greater proportions of biocrusts in the presence of disturbance, although morphogroups of biocrusts respond differently to various disturbances. It is unknown if there are scenarios under which grazing can occur and ruderal components of biocrust could be maintained. We examine the hypothesis that soil surface texture-moisture interactions influence the ability of biocrusts to withstand trampling, reasoning that finer-textured soils are firmer (therefore serving as a better substrate for biocrusts) when dry and that coarser-textured are firmer when wet. We test these relationships within Birds of Prey, National Conservation Area (Boise, Idaho, USA). Results demonstrate two associations of biocrusts, dependent on season of grazing: one dominated by light algal crusts and lichens that frequently occurs with wet season grazing, and a second dominated by tall mosses and cup lichens that frequently occurs with dry season grazing. High cover of the invasive annual grass, Bromus tectorum (L.) was observed on sites with coarse-textured soils, and high sand content, that are grazed at relatively high intensities, creating unstable surfaces, and likely putting biocrusts at greater susceptibility to trampling. Results suggest that livestock management that accounts for soil texture and moisture could be used to maintain cover of ruderal biocrusts on fine-textured soils, that are grazed in the dry season, at low intensity. We discuss our findings in the context of managing for species of interest. Our findings are timely as varying the season of grazing is increasingly discussed as a means of favoring desirable native perennial grasses. Although ruderal morphogroups of biocrusts are not interpreted as having equivalent ecosystem functions compared to intact biocrusts, their contributions to soil stability, fertility, hydrology, and weed abatement could increase if they were more intentionally targeted by management.

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