Bunch Grass: the Beavers of the Grasslands

Look at the wonder that is bunchgrass. In this country in which snow falls and soon evaporates into the air, the amount of water a plant can keep from either flowing away in the sun or evaporating in the dry air is crucial. The bunchgrass in the image below, taken today on Turtle Mountain, is preventing both evaporation and flow. Effectively, on a forty-degree slope it is holding water in place and changing the seasons. Have a look. This is technology that we can develop further and put to extensive use.p1430045

See that? The grass has two aspects: uphill stalks that climb up to the sun, and downhill ones that follow gravity to the earth. The sun that catches in the grass lying on the snow…p1430079

… melts the snow to water …

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… ever further and further back. It soaks through the snow on the downhill side of the grass …

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… ready to be captured there by the extensive root system of the plant and delivered back, uphill, to its core under the lifting power of the sun.

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Effectively, each bunchgrass pumps water up hill to a distance of the length of its stalks, in a process that uses cool weather melting to store water and the drying effects of the sun to keep water from following gravity to the valley floor. Water only flows downhill here in any volume when the grass is broken. It’s no different with beavers.

 

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