Biological soil crusts, or biocrusts, contain communities of microorganisms—including fungi, bacteria, and archaea—that dwell together within the uppermost millimeters of soil in arid lands. These microbes can exist for extended periods in a desiccated, dormant state, becoming metabolically active when it rains. Understanding how biocrust microbial communities adapt to their harsh environments could help shed light on the roles of soil microbes in the global carbon cycle. Berkeley Lab scientists led by Trent Northen’s group in Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) found that specific compounds are transformed by and strongly associated with specific bacteria in native biological soil crust. The researchers reported their findings in a paper published January 2 in Nature Communications.