Thursday, December 3, 2009

Flood Log

I found this short section of tree trunk on the floodplain near the creek. It was deposited here during a flood last January and given the frequency of flood events, will be carried away this year or next. Transient bits of debris such as this can develop their own little ecosystems full of special life forms.

Some life is carried along with the small log. This fungi, along with the mosses, lichens and even the slug, could have made the log their home at some point far upstream. Now in a new location, they continue to prosper.

A small bedstraw grows from the end of the log. When the log continues its journey down stream, the bedstraw will go with it and possibly found a colony of bedstraw in a new location. Riding the floodwaters is one way that organisms colonize new areas. Land managers have to be aware of conditions upstream and vigilantly inspect the floodplains for the arrival of possible invasive species.

Beneath the log are tunnels and chambers created by a colony of Lemon Scented Ants. The darker patches in the lower part of the picture are remnants of leaves that were covered by the log. I was really hoping to find a salamander under here, but that’s not likely to happen when ants have taken control.

The ants seem to have moved out of the log and down into the soil. If this is typical behavior, then they probably didn’t come from upstream and will be left in the soil when the log departs.

The creek makes a big S meander (no snickering please) at this point and the flood water jumps out and rushes overland in the direction I’m facing. Depending on the degree of flooding, the log’s next resting place could be one hundred to several thousand feet downstream. If it doesn’t go too far, I might be able to find it and see how that bedstraw survived the journey.

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