Friday, March 03, 2006

New Orleans Plant Life: A Robust System

I thought this was a neat story. The emergent behavior from the dynamics of how plants work is fascinating. This suggests mechanisms for how plant life recovers from lots of disasters (for example, forest fires). It's a pretty robust system.

(summary: the idea is that the additional sunlight and area has tossed the plant life into "reproductive overdrive" where they're growing and blooming much faster and earlier than usual. They're repopulating as quickly as possible)

'A Studio in the Woods' Offers Hope for New Orleans
Last August, as Hurricane Katrina headed for New Orleans, the Carmichaels packed up some of their favorite artwork and secured the wood-frame house they had built by hand. When they returned home 41 days later they found a tangle of downed trees. Among the mess was a magnolia tree blooming at the wrong time of the year.

Botanist David Baker takes care of the grounds. He also studies hurricane ecology, and so he knew that the mangolia and other trees showing unexpected signs of life were doing exactly what they needed to do.

Trees that were healthy went into reproductive overdrive, sprouting leaves and spring-time buds in the fall. It's nature's way of creating a rush of seeds so that new trees will eventually replace those damaged by the storm.

Gone from the Carmichaels' woods is a canopy of gigantic water oaks, pecan trees and hackberries. Fallen limbs are everywhere. But amazing things are happening as a result. Decades-old trees that were stunted because they never saw much sun are now growing like crazy.

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