Posted in Quotes, Reading List

Tropical Waters are Deserts of the Ocean

“Tropical waters tend to be low in nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, which are crucial to most forms of life. This has to do with what’s called the thermal structure of the water column, and it’s why tropical waters are often so beautifully clear. As a consequence, the seas in the tropics should be barren—the aqueous equivalents of deserts. Reefs are thus not just underwater rain forests; they are rain forests in a marine Sahara.”

“The first person to be perplexed by this incongruity was Darwin, and it has since become known as “Darwin’s paradox.” [The paradox] has never been entirely resolved, but one key to the puzzle seems to be recycling. Reefs—or, really, reef creatures—have developed a fantastically efficient system by which nutrients are passed from one class of organisms to another, as a giant bazaar. Corals are the main players in this complex system of exchange, and, at the same time, they provide the platform that makes the trading possible. Without them, there’s just more watery desert.” —The Sixth Extinction

Water and Sand Dune Ecology

“The surface of the sand was moist and pockmarked from raindrops, but showed no other sign of the rainstorm just past. This was, indeed, a vivid object lesson in the absorbing capacities of sand dunes. Sand dunes are less arid than they appear; in fact, they are among the moistest of desert habitats. Like a sponge, dunes soak up every drop of rain that falls on them. No water runs off dunes, and since the top several inches of dry sand insulate moist sand beneath, little water evaporates. Even during hot, rainless summers, when the air temperature is 100F and the sand surface is 140F, the sand is cool and moist just six to twelve inches below the surface.” —Dune Country

Posted in Quotes, Reading List

Caring Deeply

“One of the downsides (or is it an upside?) of dragonfly monitoring is you begin to care—deeply—about things you may not have thought about before. A wetland is converted to a shopping center. The new parking lot that makes it easier to shop comes with a price in nature. Instead of celebrating a new coffee place, you wonder which dragonflies—and what associated plants and insects and members of the aquatic community—have vanished to make way for it. You see a meandering creek turn into a tightly channeled stream and you think of the effects on the underlying substrate, the bottom of the waterway.” —Cindy Crosby, Chasing Dragonflies

“Though people in the Kunene Region had often told Owen-Smith that they saw no value in wildlife, it turned out that they saw many values. Like Aldo Leopold, they believed that it was possible to appreciate a species for its own sake and make intelligent use of it, too.”

—Michelle Nijhuis, Beloved Beasts

Intelligent Use

Posted in Memories of Green, Reading List

Chasing Dragonflies

Chasing Dragonflies: A Natural, Cultural, and Personal History by Cindy Crosby, is an engaging, beautifully illustrated introduction to these remarkable insects. As warm as it is informative, this book will interest gardeners, readers of literary nonfiction, and those intrigued by transformation, whether in nature or our personal lives. (Original watercolors by Peggy Macnamara)

Dragonfly: Flame Skimmer, Libellula saturata
Dragonfly: Flame Skimmer*
Damselflies: Common Blue, Enallagma cyathigerum
Damselflies: Common Blue*

*Coachella Valley Preserve, Southern California

“After learning about the dragonfly’s life cycle, I found that I never look at a pond or a stream or a river—or even a puddle—in the same way. Dragonfly populations of various species are directly linked to how a stream flows, or to the substrate in the bottom of a pond, or to the disturbance of a watershed. Drill a well? Your dragonfly populations may change. Channel a stream? Ditto. When water quality and availability change, our dragonfly populations and species compositions may change as well. Sure—dragonflies as an order of insects are tough. They are long-term survivors. But development, pollution, and climate change may have an impact on them over time.” —Cindy Crosby

I’ve been following Cindy’s blog, Tuesdays in the Tallgrass: Exploring exterior and interior landscapes through the tallgrass prairie, for a year or more. Each week she posts photos, quotes, and reflections from her prairie walks in northeastern Illinois that renew our spirits through her thoughtful meditations.