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Published July 22, 2013, 09:59 AM

Water, water everywhere

The human body is composed of roughly 70 percent water. The Earth also is composed of 70 percent water. Thinking more deeply into this, these two systems have much more in common than their water component.

By: Kristine Larson, Agweek

The human body is composed of roughly 70 percent water. The Earth also is composed of 70 percent water. Thinking more deeply into this, these two systems have much more in common than their water component.

I was recently looking at a map of the Turtle River in North Dakota and couldn’t help but notice how similar its appearance was to the veins and arteries running through our own bodies.

Rivers and streams transport the Earth’s water for all organisms to survive. Our veins and arteries do much of the same thing for us. They carry the essential nutrients to different organs throughout our bodies.

These two systems rely on filtering systems to keep them clean and healthy. Our bodies have several organs that filter toxins from its system, but the kidneys and liver are most known for that role. Too many toxins can leave these organs struggling to function or not functioning at all.

This holds true for our waterways. The grasses and trees along riparian areas are the filtering system.

They absorb excess nutrients and filter sediments, keeping the water clean. Just like our own bodies, this filtering system has a maximum capacity and once that is reached, nutrients and sediments can no longer be filtered. The result is that they end up in the water.

One can think of excess nutrients in our waterways as high cholesterol in our blood stream. It results in algae blooms that “clot” the rivers, resulting in loss of habitat, recreational use and an overall loss of function.

There are ways to maintain a functioning system. Just like we watch what we put into our own bodies, we can watch what we put on our fields. Blood tests help us determine our own nutrient levels.

The same can be done on a landscape level. Chemical and biological soil tests can help one gain a better understanding of the nutrient levels that are already in the soils. This could help save money and resources.

Fertilizers and pesticides can be thought of as prescribed medications, however, if we build back the soil to a diverse, healthy state, we may not need the full dosage, and we eventually may not need it at all.

Our bodies are filled with micro-organisms that allow us to extract the necessary vitamins and minerals we need to operate.

They feed off of the food we put into our bodies. Without them, we develop deficiencies that could be detrimental to our health. This is no different for our soils.

The micro-organisms need to be fed a balanced diet to digest and recycle the nutrients. Crop rotations are a great way to feed the soil by providing different root systems and nutrient storage and use.

Our skin acts as armor for us, shielding us from harmful elements. A no-till system allows organic matter to protect the soil from these same dangers.

Scientists have just scratched the surface of what is really going on in the soil. The more they research, though, the more they continue to find the links between all natural systems, including ourselves. Maintaining these natural systems in all species and the land will provide a bright, happy and healthy future for all.

Editor’s note: Larson is the watershed coordinator for the Grand Forks County (N.D.) Soil Conservation District.

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