There is generally greater production and species diversity where two ecosystems meet.
For example, where a grassland or a forest meets a body of water such as a river or the edge of a lake, the two ecosystems benefit from each other. A stream benefits from the adjacent forest due to shading as well as nutrients and the bordering forest plants have a more constant source of water.
I had the opportunity to study this phenomenon while kayaking in a Chilcotin lake last week. These edge ecosystems have been widely studied and are described as the littoral zone or (near shore) which is defined as the part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore and has a rarely flooded high water mark with littoral zones. which are permanently submerged. A steep drop into the body of water usually has little diversity, while a gradual drop often has a wide variety of aquatic plants. In my case, the willows were on the edge, providing shade for adjacent water-tolerant shrubs, grasses, sedges and rushes.
As water depth increases, floating plants like yellow water lilies and urinary warts are still rooted to the bottom, but can better withstand a fluctuating water table.
The outer edge contained long, slender plants that barely reached the surface and often required anglers to snag lures on them if they got too close. As I moved slowly through the floating plants I could see a wide variety of small fish in schools of hundreds taking refuge from the larger fish, loons and kingfishers. As expected, the greatest number and variety came from insects which included diving beetles, water striders, dragonflies and damselflies. Since returning home, I have consulted a few references to better identify many plants and animals that I did not know. A book by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent titled “Biodiversity” describes how we have lost much of the planet’s diversity through urban sprawl as well as poor logging and farming practices. The 1996 publication lists some successes, but unfortunately the last two decades of population increase have resulted in many other losses, especially in tropical areas. The author describes some special areas of Costa Rica where she was inspired to finish writing her book. Although I would eventually like to visit some of the tropical areas again, there are many special areas in British Columbia like the one I tried to describe above. Trying to capture the essence of those special experiences in words is not easy but I think Toko-pa Turner did a good job in his book Belonging.
“Like an idyllic valley cradled on all sides by mountains that protect it from influence and encroachment, there is a place in each of us that is in a continual dance of belonging. All tree species and birds, insects, frogs, fungi and soil are necessary ingredients for this exquisite blend of chaotic integrity. Likewise, there is a place within us where everything should be allowed to flourish at its own pace. and in its own way. Nature’s way is to accept everything as it is. Whether it’s fruit or flowers, compost or storms, everything has something to contribute to the whole.
I can relate to the chaotic side of nature as my idyllic experience of the lake is suddenly cut short when a storm quickly arrives with wind, rain, lightning and hail for good measure.
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