Great Basin Naturalist


Spatial heterogeneity in visually similar sites under Utah juniper canopy in Colorado National Monument was examined. Sample sites were arranged in a transect 24 m long, such that distances between samples were 0.013 m, 0.03 m, 1.0 m, 12 m, and 24 m. Twenty-five taxa of algae were observed, mostly belonging to Cyanophyta. Algal density varied by more than an order of magnitude within the 46 samples examined. The coefficients of variation for each distance class were very similar, demonstrating that algal patchiness can be as significant on a scale less than 0.013 m as it is on a scale of 24 m. Goodall's random pairing analysis of spatial pattern supported this conclusion by indicating that the minimal area for sampling soil algal crust populations at this site was equal to or less than 0.013 m. Because of the microscale heterogeneity in algal communities in this study, we recommend that future researchers take composite samples if they wish to quantify algae of microbiotic crusts.