by Larisa White of California, U.S.A.
I just returned from a week-long cruise to Alaska. It was amazing to spend time in a place where the Living Earth was so blatantly ALIVE — changing land, with geological contours reshaping themselves before your very eyes; changing waters with 20+ foot tidal swings, and flowing ice rivers crashing into the sea; changing skies with dancing mists and clouds and rain. Cruising – in a single day – revealed a complete, 200-year ecological succession story along the length of Glacier Bay. It began with the bare rock, recently exposed by receding glaciers. The next step was the arrival of mosses & lichens, which clung to the bare rock and began to crumble it into soil. Then, there were the first few pioneer herb plants and low-growing shrubs. Then, the first few trees to establish, followed by a young forest, and at last, a majestic stand of old-growth rainforest, swirling in mist. WOW!!! A sampling of images, for your enjoyment:
A tidal glacier, calving:
A receding glacier (note the river of ice, which no longer reaches the sea):
Pioneer mosses and lichens on bare rock:
Hills covered in low herbs; a field of saplings on lower ground:
A full-blown temperate rain-forest: