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White Sands National Monument Other Life Forms

Biological soil crusts, composed primarily of cyanobacteria, algae, lichens and mosses, can completely cover plant interspaces in undisturbed areas, and constitute 70 percent or more of the living ground cover. These soil crusts can be the dominant source of nitrogen for vascular plants. They fix carbon at a high rate and are critical for soil stability and aggregate formation, which is important in carbon storage. They also absorb significant amounts of methane gas. In areas where precipitation is low and soils have low fertility, native plants often rely on intact biological soil crusts to provide increased water and nutrient flow to the broadly scattered vegetation. Thus, there are many ways in which biological soil crusts influence biogeochemical cycles and the structure and productivity of the vascular plant community.

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Maine ocean islands provide the only nesting sites for Atlantic puffins in the United States. Eastern Egg Rock in the midcoast region, Seal Island and Matinicus Rock at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, and Machias Seal Island and Petit Manan Island off the downeast coast provide habitat for more than 4,000 puffins each summer.

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