Sunday, August 10, 2008

Natural Grace

Did you know that Alder fertilizes forest soils by taking nitrogen out of the air and then 'fixing' it into the soil?  That Sea Otters have half-million hairs per square inch of skin?  Mosquitoes are attracted to us by the carbon dioxide we exhale as well as skin oils, lactic & folic acids, body heat, and lotions.  Were you aware that the years biggest tides are always near the summer and winter solstice?

These are some of the many factoids that you can find in William Dietrich's book Natural Grace:  The Charm, Wonder, & Lessons of Pacific Northwest Animals and Plants.  The author presents a series of short reflections of the floral and fauna of our region.  Not only does he write about Northwest icons such as the Geoduck and Orca, but species that are taken for granted such as the Jellyfish are also given the limelight.

It would be tempting to look at this book just as series of articles, but I think in this case the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.  Dietrich is trying to illustrate that we could learn something from the animals that populate the region.  That by their existence in our backyard is telling us something.  We could find it encouraging that the Sea Otter's numbers are rebounding.  Then again, the decline of predators at the top of the food chain like the Orca could be a canary in our coal mine.  It is important to note that there are hundreds of species out there that work in concert.  If you remove one, it could have great repercussions on the ecosystem.  There are messages everywhere, we just need to pay attention.

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