Center Develops Flexible ERC Team Tests Methods for Mitigating Soil Degradation and Erosion Using Bacteria

Achievement date: 


The Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at Arizona State University (ASU), developed methods for cultivating cyanobacteria to inoculate and restore the degraded soil crust cover of semi-arid and arid lands. Cyanobacteria live in water and are photosynthetic.




Degraded soil crust cover produces erosion and particulates known as fugitive dust, which lower air quality and present a significant health risk to local populations. The Center tested new methods for sustainably cultivating cyanobacteria and inoculating the soil to restore degraded soil crust cover and mitigate the dust.




Fugitive dust is comprised of small particulate matter that is suspended in the air, primarily from soil that has been disturbed by wind or other activities. The small particulates can be easily inhaled, causing respiratory illness, lung damage, and even premature death to individuals whose health may be compromised. Conventional methods for fugitive dust control, including the application of water, are either ineffective in arid climates, very expensive, or limited to short-term stabilization.


CBBG researchers developed and tested methods for sustainably cultivating cyanobacteria using a transportable nursery facility, and inoculated the soil with a new fog-irrigated soil substrate (FISS) methodology. The methods developed by the CBBG team show promise for long-term, scalable soil-stabilization measures that offer significant mitigation of erosion and fugitive dust.