A Small, Good Thing.

-Jennifer Shier

No, I’m not talking Raymond Carver, though I have a deep respect for his work.  I’m tired of hearing about what’s happened to the Gulf of Mexico.  I feel so bleak and hopeless about it.  I want to focus on something good: the resilience of nature, or Gaia or whatever you want to call it.  I’d like to think it’s a force stronger than one might imagine.  Today’s media is so full of gloom and doom, but I found this little story, a small, good thing: a little plant that was thought to be extinct for 60 years is making a comeback. 

 

The Anogramma ascensionis fern is native to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean.  It’s commonly known as the parsley fern.  As part of a conservation project for Brittan’s overseas territories, Phil Lamden and Stedson Stroud found the little fern.  It’s now being propagated under the best possible conditions at the London Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. 

Ascention Island is covered in black lava flows.  It’s not a very hospitable place for plants. “Only ten plant species are known to be truly ‘endemic’ – found nowhere else in the world.”

Anogramma ascensionis was wiped out mainly by goats and other non-indigenous animals and plants brought to the island over the years by European explorers and settlers.  For me, the big thing about this little plant is that someone was watching out for it.  It fills my heart with joy that there are people out there working towards righting human wrongs and restoring balance to scrambled ecosystems.

Closer to home, we’ve heard that after 30 years the terrain around Mount Saint Helens has a positive story to tell.  The eruption blew away the side of a mountain, flattened a forest and shot ash into the stratosphere that coated the globe.  After the blast, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created to document and study the volcanic life cycle.

As well as annihilating the entire ecosystem, it killed 57 people, but the silver lining is what scientists have learned about volcanic life cycles.   They have been continually surprised at timeline and the major players in its rehabilitation.

Frog and amphibian populations are often among the first to take a dive when ecosystems disrupted or polluted.  In this case, frogs were among the first to thrive.  “In 1983, [only three years after the blast], out in the still-lifeless pumice field, scientists found a single live tree frog in a tiny patch of moss at the edge of a steam vent.”  That is a small, good thing if ever there was one.

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