Friday, 6 March 2009

biomes and a brave new world of weeds

I learned a new word today - biome.

Your defines biome as ‘any of several major life zones of interrelated plants and animals determined by the climate, as deciduous forest or desert’.

Our favorite walking spot, Darebin Parklands in Melbourne, is suffering terribly in the drought that has gripped southern Australia, and huge areas of the previously lush grassland are barren cracked expanses of dirt. But the weeds are surviving - for instance, resilient little fennel plants. (If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you will see a little patch of green in the bottom right corner.)

Our local paper, Heidelberg and Diamond Valley Weekly, had an article this week that gave me a fresh perspective on weeds. It seems that the Sydney Botanic Gardens Trust has recently issued a report suggesting that climate change may result in a world dominated by the plants we call weeds.

Wondering why they should say this, I checked out a few sites on the Net and found the reason is that most plants are very specific in their requirements for surival, so as biomes change, plants will die out. But the ones that are not so choosy will live on.

Maybe we should get used to a world of fennel. After all, it’s quite tasty cooked up with a fresh piece of fish.

My Etymology places the first use of the word biome in the twentieth century, with Merriam Webster specifying 1916, though I haven’t been able to discover the actual source of this first usage.