It is expected that all hikers will learn to recognize and avoid stepping on or trampling microbiotic soil formations, called "crusts."
Scattered throughout the desert topsoil is a dry, old-looking, lumpy blackish crust. That crust is actually a living web of bacteria, moss, lichen, fungus and liverworts. Microbiotic crust retards erosion, stores water, fertilizes soil, and provides seed-beds for all plants from wildflowers to trees.
Microbiotic crusts occur in deserts worldwide. The morphology may be different and the species composition also varies by soil type and region. There are several major players in the formation of microbiotic crusts: cyanobacteria, diatoms and fungi. The ecological importance of crusts are many: soil fertility and nitrification, soil retention, seedling establishment and moisture retention. When the crusts are disturbed through trampling or fire, they may require decades or more to recover.
Archaeological Site Guide
The Coconino National Forest contains some of the nation's most important archaeological resources. The ruins and rock art sites that you encounter on hikes may represent all that remains of long-ago occupations by prehistoric, protohistoric, and historic cultures.
We are all stewards of our area's archaeological treasures. They are a fragile, and non-renewable resource.
All hikers must be aware of the following guidelines to help minimize impacts:
- Walls are fragile. Avoid climbing, sitting, or standing on walls.
- Picking up or moving rocks compromises these sites.
- Removing artifacts, or piling them up, destroys the story they can tell.
- Adding anything (e.g., "offerings") to a site destroys the dating potential of the underlying soils or other cultural deposits.
- Refrain from touching the rock art, as it may do irreparable damage.
- Absolutely no eating, fires, candles, smudging, or smoking in sites.
The USFS Archaeological Site Guidelines can be found here.