Boundary Layer

Boundary Layer

Exploring the Genius Between Worlds

Book - 2016
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In atmospheric science, a boundary layer is the band of air nearest the ground. In the Pacific Northwest, the boundary layer teems with lichens, mosses, ferns, fungi, and diminutive plants. It’s an alternate, overlooked universe whose denizens author Kem Luther calls the stegnon, the terrestrial equivalent of oceanic plankton.
 
In Boundary Layer, Luther takes a voyage of discovery through the stegnon, exploring the life forms that thrive there and introducing readers to the scientists who study them. With a keen ear for conversation and an eye for salient detail, the author brings a host of characters to life, people as unique and intriguing as the species inhabiting thestegnon. 
 
A pair of park employees on a windswept beach shows how the violent clash of sea and land creates a sandy home for some of the world’s most endangered plants, including the almost-extinct pink sand-verbena. An expert on mosses, as ingenuous as the plants he loves, leads the author up a mountain and into a sphagnum bog.  A husband and wife team, exiled by brutal repression in the wake of the Prague Spring, introduce European plant sociology to North America.  A scientist, while revolutionizing the study of lichens, hides himself, hermitlike, inside one of the largest park reserves in the American West.
 
An exhilarating mix of natural history, botanical exploration, and philosophical speculation,Boundary Layer guides readers, in the end, into the author’s own landscape of metaphor. It will be welcomed by naturalists, botanists, outdoor adventurers, and anyone who savors good storytelling. Luther translates into luminous prose what boundary regions have to say, not only about the in-between places of nature, but also about the conceptual borderlands that lie between species and ecosystems, culture and nature, science and the humanities.

In atmospheric science, a boundary layer is where the ground comes into contact with the air. In the Pacific Northwest, this boundary layer teems with lichens, mosses, ferns, fungi, and diminutive plants. It’s a universe in miniature, an unexplored territory that author Kem Luther calls the stegnon, the terrestrial equivalent of oceanic plankton. In Boundary Layer, Luther takes a voyage of discovery through the stegnon, exploring the life forms that thrive there and introducing readers to the scientists who study them.


Book News
Luther presents this simultaneously scientific and personal dive into the groundcover ecology of the Pacific Northwest. He uses throughout the book the metaphor of the "boundary layer": a region where two unlike things come together and create a thin transition zone where different rules must be used to account for its high responsiveness and mediation between the two sides. In the first chapter he outlines the history of the term and various places in which it appears in science. Then, he tells his own story of studying mosses, a boundary layer between soil and forest and a great reservoir of water and minerals for the ecosystem; mycorrhizal fungi, a conduit of soil nitrogen into plants and network connector between local plants; and lichens, the paradigmatic symbiotic organisms. He weaves through this a parallel story of beginning to see boundary layers not just between objects but between concepts, such as biogeoclimatic zones, species and ecosystem, European and North American ecological mindsets, nature and culture, and finally and most fundamentally for him, science and humanities. Annotation ©2016 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

Publisher: Corvallis : Oregon State University Press, c2016
ISBN: 9780870718441
Branch Call Number: 578.09 LUT
Characteristics: xii, 186 p. :,ill. ;,23 cm.

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