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