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Country diary: venerable beech hosts a swarm of microscopic life

Mini-ponds have formed in the surface roots of an ancient tree and provide an environment for minute organisms to thriveThe beech that stands at the end of the stepping stones across Waskerley beck is an elephantine presence, dwarfing surrounding trees. The scarred grey bark of its bole has the colour and texture of pachyderm skin. Its moss-covered surface roots seem to be melting into the earth under the massive burden they support. Over decades they have grown and coalesced, creating hollows between them that retain water, fed by rivulets of rainwater trickling down the trunk.There is a name for these mini-ponds that form on the surface of plants and are habitats for small aquatic organisms: phytotelmata, which translates from the Greek root as "plant ponds". The best studied are those contained by leaf bases of urn plants or bromeliads that live on branches in rainforest tree canopies. They are breeding sites for frogs, dragonflies and even land crabs. Continue reading...
Zdroj: The Guardian

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