Life Raft for the Grasslands

Can you imagine drowning on dry land? It happens. On the grasslands, the difference between breathing and drowning is so slight. For instance, at a height of 860 metres, after a day of rain on top of a foot of snow, the world comes alive:

Water Coming to Life on Stone

A day before, these plants were just thin, hard scrapings on the rock, like those to the left.

Some parts of the earth are old. This, too:

Dry Land Tide Pool

So briefly as the winter snows flow away, the world’s ancient seas are alive in the grasslands. The darned stuff looks like coral.

This is a world of surfaces, a whole ocean spread out as thin as a sheet of paper, providing the skin between the earth and the air. It is a sea that appears and disappears with the seasons, like the tide, but even when it’s dry, it’s there. Here, too:

Island Refuge

Ancient soil crust migrating to a broken sagebrush trunk, to get out of the muck of grassland soil that has lost its skin of fungus and bacteria. From such islands, healthy soil may be born again.

To heck with carbon sequestration. Carbon has a role to play beyond sucking up the exhaust fumes of our cars. We should be throwing all the carbon we can out on the grass, to give these species some breathing room, so they can regroup and colonize their own tide flats again. Without them, the soil loses its water, because it’s exposed to the air. It needs to breathe. Either that, or we could do this:

A Wave of Carbon

This wall of grass was built to stabilize a slope so a series of building lots could be installed up top, but it has more important things to do.

A closer look reveals how this artificial slope is mining natural water flow processes in the grasslands to create new life:

Algae on its Machine-Woven Fibre Life Raft

Where the soil is broken, water leaks out into the air. This system allows the land to blossom into life at its exposed faces. You could grow New Zealand spinach or even a bit of water conserving lettuce on these things. 

More exciting yet, look what happens at the top of one of the steps of this wall…

New Skin for an Old Earth

The upper surfaces of these stepped walls have the newest algal growth on this dryland sea.

… and compare that to what happens on soil without a helping hand and running out of time:

Mosses Having a Hard Time Getting Established

This soil is one metre above the miracle of the retaining wall shown in the previous image. The soil crust here gets eroded away as quickly as it gets established … but then it is caught by the wall below and given a chance to farm the sun. Who said farms have to be horizontal? Hundreds of square miles of road cuts await us.

I love a good challenge. Tomorrow, I’m going to try to show how this soil crust relates to the mysteries of wine-making. Until then, the beauty of water:

A Drop of Water Falls

… and is caught. 


3 replies »

  1. I know! I keep getting astonished out there. Let’s see if I can make the links to the grapes. That would be a kind of full circle!


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