Desert Crust

desert crust

[¦dez·ərt ¦krəst]
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Desert Crust


a dense, surface soil and ground formation consisting of loose material, such as coarse gravel, sandstone, and loam, cemented by calcium carbonate, gypsum, or silica. A distinction is thus made between calcareous, gypsum, and silica desert crusts.

The thickness of desert crusts ranges from several dozen centimeters to several meters. Desert crust is formed in arid regions as a result of the rise of salts from groundwater, the washing in of salts during soil formation, and the wind transfer of salts. Crusts, as dense formations, were formed either on the surface of soil-ground layers or at deeper levels that emerged on the surface as a result of erosion processes. Some desert crusts were formed in regions now occupied by deserts at a time when the region had a moister steppe climate.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Desert crust morphology and its relations to microbiotic succession at Mt.
Lu YZ, Yang PG (2004) The effects of desert crust on the character of soil water.
El-Baz reports that today "sand continues to accumulate on dunes, which also continue to move down-wind." In fact, the effects of physical disruption of the desert can be a lot longer lasting than that: tracks from World War II tanks are still visible in some areas of the North African desert, and one study in Arizona suggested that desert crusts might take a thousand years to fully recover from the movements of heavy vehicles.
Analysis of the area affected by the Gulf War already has shown an increase in sandstorms and dune formation, and one study suggests that desert crusts might take thousands of years to recover fully from the movement of heavy vehicles.
The disturbance of desert crusts by vehicular activity results in erosion and the movement of particulate matter, sometimes far beyond its source area.