Sunday, November 16, 2008

19 Mile Brook, on the trail to Carter Dome, October 2008

There are a few ways to look at the natural history of the mountains in the context of water. One is to look at the natural history of the water itself by looking at the biotic and abiotic content of the water. Water exists in all three physical states in the forest, as liquid, vapor (clouds), and solid (ice). It is found in a variety of 'container', in very fast flowing, high mountain streams, slower moving streams and rivers at the bottom of low altitude valleys, in marshes, bogs, beaver ponds, small, low altitude lakes and in high altitude 'alpine lakes'. In each of those there will a considerable amount of biota, or living organisms. Most of these are invertebrates, including microscopic populations of insects and unicellular animals like volvox and euglenas associated with green algae. There are bacteria some as large at the Giardia cysts that make it necessary to filter or treat mountain water before drinking it. White mountain stream water contains a lot of what is called Particulate Organic Matter (POM) which is vegetable in nature including small fragments of duff (part of the forest soil) fungi and and fungi spores. None of the items listed, with the exception of Giardia pose a threat to humans. More will be said about Giardia in a later entry. In the macro organism group we have crustaceans like crawfish, insect larvae like helgramite and mosquito larvae. There are dozens of species of fish including small mouth bass and brook trout. 'Brookies' are indigenous to the eastern US but are rarely found in wild strains. Most are now introduced, or hatchery bred. Brook Trout are used as a measuring tool for assessing the over-all health of streams and brooks in a studied area. Logging disturbs macro and micro biota in streams and rivers based on research I conducted in New Hampshire several years ago. One aspect is an enormous increase in the number of species and the total biomass of microscopic insects in the water.

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