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Biological soil crust (BSC) communities (composed of lichens, bryophytes, and cyanobacteria) may be more dynamic on short-time scales than previously thought, requiring new and informative short-term monitoring techniques. We used repeat digital photography and image analysis, which revealed a change in area of a dominant BSC lichen, Collema tenax. The data generated correlated well with gross photosynthesis (r=0.57) and carotenoid content (r=0.53), two variables that would be expected to be positively related to lichen area. We also extracted fatty acids from lichen samples and identified useful phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) indicators for the Collema mycobiont (20:1, 15:0, 23:0), and the Collema photobiont (18:3?3)....