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Fledgling ecosystem at Chicken Creek lets scientists observe how soil, flora and fauna develop
Date:12/6/2010

How do ecosystems develop? No one really knows, yet. There is however one project, unique in the world, seeking to answer this question. In a former open-pit coal mining area in Brandenburg, Germany, a surface of six hectares was partitioned off and then left to its own resources. Scientists from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), in collaboration with researchers from other institutions, are studying the development of soil, flora, and fauna there. With this research they aim to establish the factors that have a particularly strong influence on developing ecosystems.

Young ecosystems are rare. They can be found, for instance, when ice from thawing glaciers releases the pristine debris it transports -- as is currently the case with the Damma Glacier in the Swiss Alps. In general, though, we are surrounded by age-old ecosystems that have developed over millions of years and whose interactions and structures are well established. Such systems are, for instance, rain forests, deserts, or seas. Scientists do not know much yet about how these systems develop. The geochemical and biological processes that occur during development are for the most part well understood. It is not yet clear, though, how and when they occur and what influences them. In order to unveil nature's secrets, scientists from TUM are participating in an international interdisciplinary project.

To this end, BTU Cottbus constructed a special research area, unique in the world. It is located in a former open-pit coal mining region south of Cottbus and bears the name of a creek that used to flow through there: Huehnerwasser, or Chicken Creek. Regional sediment originating from the ice age was re-deposited, graded, and fenced off over an area larger than six football fields. A protective layer of clay was laid out at a depth of several meters to capture percolating rainwater and direct it toward an artificial spring flowing into a pond. No fertilizer was used, not a singl
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Contact: Jana Bodicky
bodicky@zv.tum.de
49-816-171-5403
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert  

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