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Permaculture Patterns: Dendritic- division that facilitates movement and exchange

Douglas Crouch
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Back to the Patterns chapter and a part in the presentation of this favorite lesson of mine where the hook seems to be. Dendritic and all of its universal observation and application. This article bridges the gap of social, environmental and economic. quote from the ast line: It is through pattern application that we can solve so many of the worlds problems as natures workings can guide us towards abundance.

With its fanning structure both in an upward and downward motion, the dendritic pattern shows an orderly pattern of division that facilitates movement and exchange. The upward motion can be thought of and seen both in trees and river systems where they capture energy from the cyclical processes that nature employs for energy transference. In trees the trunk flairs out into an orderly fashion utilizing main branches, smaller branches and down to its feathery twigs and leaves at the top. These all help to ignite the spectacular alchemical process known as photosynthesis, which drives nutrient and energy exchange with the roots and trunk of the tree below. The trunk stores the sunlight in a stable carbon form giving it a chance for centuries long existence while the leaves and roots are quite dynamic in the trees usage and disposal strategy for prolonged survival. As the energy is created through photosynthesis, it is exchanged with the roots who symbiotically associate with microbiology to obtain minerals and nutrients. This “partnership” helps to give the tree organism the needed elements (Calcium, Nitrogen,…) to build molecular chains as to finish the process of creating building blocks for growth and existance. The roots fan out dendritically and also into finer projections as to facilitate as much dynamic interchange with this soil biology. These edge enhancing roots create a durable anchor for the tree. This creates a stable and abundant environment so that the pulsating forces of wind, humidity, and temperature are moderated in the overall organism. This combination and reflection of the core model gives so many yields to nature and humanity. Through this dendritic pattern we can learn so much about how materials can be moved and how nature facilitates exchange that creates a fractal with other patterns such as the sinuous pattern and its employment of the run, riffle pool, sequence.

Dendritic Pattern with Water and its Soil Building Ways

Just as trees utilize this pattern so does water in the greater watershed development and its fulfillment of the full hydrological cycle and natural hydrology. Its’ collection point or inception starts at the highlands and combines with other cyclical process such as the carbon cycle which builds organic matter and weathering processes which create sand, silts, and clays. As water falls in watersheds, the highlands landscape picks up the water and these associated materials and funnels them through the dendritic pattern into its small capillaries and down into its veins for this exchange. As it does this, ordering of streams can be seen, which is pictured in the slide above in the picture above left. In the highlands, first order streams are created and as they cascade downward they confluence and build second order streams. When two second order streams come together a third order stream is built. This sequence combines to form the the trunk or main river as it gets to the lowlands. An example is the river I grew up on and is one of the great rivers of North America called the Ohio. Its inception is in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania known as the three rivers city. There two forth order rivers combine (Allegheny and Monongahela) in a confluence and form the Ohio , which then snakes down through the midwest and south eventually hitting the Mississippi at the once famous and now small town of New Madrid (flattened in the prophecized earthquake in late 1811 by Tecumseh).

The Mississippi River, like the image of the Nile River Delta in the first slide picture above right, eventually fans out and once created a delta. This delta no longer exists because of anti-pattern hydrology where channels and levy’s where created to contain the river so agriculture could be expanded in the flood plains and transport be facilitated. This delta at one time facilitated the building of coastline and edge habitat through deposition of dislodged materials in the estuary and made an extremely productive ecosystem that a very unique culture of Europeans thrived upon after the conquest of the Natives who once inhabited the area. They are the Creole people of French and Spanish descent and the culture is eroding just as the coastline. Also the trunk, the Mississipi River, when given the chance to flow naturally was flooding on occasion thus creating fantastic soils through huge pool formation and fluvial deposition that was an inundation on normally dry land. This was helping to also cleanse the water and with these two filtering mechanisms removed by water engineers, flooding on epic proportions occurs from time to time as well as toxic pollution. Now a vast quantity of pollution from agriculture and industry runs off unfiltered through the mouth of the Mississippi out to sea where it forms the Gulf Dead Zone. The core model reflection of the highlands was removed as the delta was wiped out thus creating huge amounts of entropy.

The Nile once did this yearly renewal of soils through seasonal flooding, which helped to build one of the most sophisticated societies we have ever known. In a vast basin in Africa, the Blue Nile is formed in the highlands of Volcanic based soils which through erosion brings mineral rich silts. The White Nile is formed out of Lake Victoria and all of its small tributaries and the flows North through a rich wetland (Sudd Marshes in Southern Sudan), which brought the organic matter from these edge enriched ecosystems. They would combine to form the Nile that we know and would flow in a sinuous pattern within the dendritic pattern which linked directly to the building of soils, an agrarian society, and a culture that was seemingly connected to energies from above that we cant seem to access anymore in the West.
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