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1. Desertification negatively impacts a large proportion of the global human population and > 30% of the terrestrial land surface. Better methods are needed to detect areas that are at risk of desertification and to ameliorate desertified areas. Biological soil crusts are an important soil lichen-moss-microbial community that can be used toward these goals, as (i) bioindicators of desertification damage and (ii) promoters of soil stability and fertility. 2. We identified environmental factors that correlate with soil crust occurrence on the landscape and might be manipulated to assist recovery of soil crusts in degraded areas. We conducted three studies on the Colorado Plateau, USA, to investigate the hypotheses...