Do Storm Clouds Have a Silver Lining?

Storm Ecology LightMusic; Ambience: Thunder JM: Tropical storms and hurricanes wreak havoc on virtually anything manmade, not to mention the loss of life. But I’ve always wondered whether there’s an up side to storms nature’s way of flushing out an ecosystem. The answer, it turns out, isn’t always so simple. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.SF: So any time there are high flow events bringing water and sediments from the tributaries and over the dam, it causes several fairly dramatic changes. JM: Stuart Findlay is an Aquatic Ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. We caught up with him assessing the impact of a major storm on the Hudson River. SF: The sediments that are brought into the river decrease the penetration of light into the water. So any plants that are living on the bottom will get less light than they would normally. The plants in the river are limited by how much light they get. It turns out they have plenty of nutrients which is the sort of the fertilizer that makes them grow. But what they’re lacking is sufficient light to be as productive as they could. The productivity of these plants is actually a source of food for a whole variety of different organisms from very tiny crustacean creatures to insects, ultimately, to fish. So if the plants can’t be productive, then that source of food is cut off. And the other thing that happens during some of these events, the really big events, is the plants that are living in the river actually get uprooted and carried away. So not only would they have a tough time growing because of lack of light, but they might actually be physically disrupted and carried off somewhere else and that’s the end of the line for them, for most of them when that happens. JM: We’ll hear more on the ecology of storms in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.

Do Storm Clouds Have a Silver Lining?

The un-seeen effects of storms on the ecosystem.
Air Date:10/06/2020
Scientist:
Transcript:

Storm Ecology LightMusic; Ambience: Thunder JM: Tropical storms and hurricanes wreak havoc on virtually anything manmade, not to mention the loss of life. But I've always wondered whether there's an up side to storms nature's way of flushing out an ecosystem. The answer, it turns out, isn't always so simple. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.SF: So any time there are high flow events bringing water and sediments from the tributaries and over the dam, it causes several fairly dramatic changes. JM: Stuart Findlay is an Aquatic Ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. We caught up with him assessing the impact of a major storm on the Hudson River. SF: The sediments that are brought into the river decrease the penetration of light into the water. So any plants that are living on the bottom will get less light than they would normally. The plants in the river are limited by how much light they get. It turns out they have plenty of nutrients which is the sort of the fertilizer that makes them grow. But what they're lacking is sufficient light to be as productive as they could. The productivity of these plants is actually a source of food for a whole variety of different organisms from very tiny crustacean creatures to insects, ultimately, to fish. So if the plants can't be productive, then that source of food is cut off. And the other thing that happens during some of these events, the really big events, is the plants that are living in the river actually get uprooted and carried away. So not only would they have a tough time growing because of lack of light, but they might actually be physically disrupted and carried off somewhere else and that's the end of the line for them, for most of them when that happens. JM: We'll hear more on the ecology of storms in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.