To discover or rediscover Tuesday August 4 at 9:10 p.m. on France 2, the second part of the documentary series “A perfect planet”: “From the sun to volcanoes” told by François Morel.
The sun and volcanoes are two primitive forces that accompanied the birth of our planet. Two essential forces at the origin of all life on Earth. The sun is the essential source of energy and heat for all forms of life. And volcanoes nourish the soil and constantly create new land.
At the foot of the Ol Doinyo Lengaï volcano, in Tanzania, hides Lake Natron, one of the most corrosive on the planet. No form of life seems possible there. Yet the lesser flamingos of East Africa have made it their refuge. Once a year, the center of the lake is completely dried up. The chicks are born there far from terrestrial predators. Very quickly, the thirst will push them to reach the sources of fresh water, on the edges of the lake. But the crossing promises to be difficult and they will face one of the greatest challenges of their lives. Unity is strength and, to escape the marabouts, they gather in huge groups.
In the Pacific Ocean, the islands of the Galápagos archipelago were born from volcanic eruptions. Fernandina is the youngest of them. Its volcano is as active as it is unpredictable. Despite the danger, a female iguana filled with eggs has the courage to venture there. Because she knows that the volcano will bring her a unique benefit: the ashes of the deep crater will keep her eggs warm until they hatch.
Volcanic islands represent only a small part of the landmass, but they are home to almost a fifth of the planet’s species. The finches were probably stranded on Wolf Island in the Galápagos during a storm. To survive, they can’t make do with seeds, flower nectar, and insects, so they’ve come up with a drastic strategy… they’ve become vampires and feed on the blood of Grant’s lunatics!
The richness of volcanoes is essential to many species. The sun’s rays are just as essential to life.
In the northern hemisphere, sunshine fluctuates throughout the year. Thus on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic, six months of darkness follow six months of light. Muskoxen are prime targets for arctic wolves. But the Moon barely shines on their hunting ground and the wolves rarely have the advantage. With the return of spring and summer, life for predators will soon be sweeter.
In North America, spring light awakens an animal with almost supernatural powers. Since the beginning of winter, the wood frog has been totally frozen. But as soon as the sun begins to shine again, his blood thaws and flows through his veins again, and his heart starts beating again. It’s a cryogenic frog!
At the end of winter, in the volcanic peninsula of Kamchatka, in Russia, the water which springs from geysers accelerates the growth of green and tender grass. For brown bears just emerging from hibernation, this is a welcome but frugal meal. Kurile Lake offers them much more substantial food. In its waters enriched by volcanic ash, salmon come to spawn by the millions. Brown bears will take advantage of this abundance and regain strength for the months to come.
In the heart of the Sahara, the sun’s rays are so intense that life there seems impossible. Some, however, dare to brave these extreme conditions and turn them to their advantage. Thus the silver ants wait until the heat is at its peak to come out of their shelter. They then have no more competition, and go in search of insects that have succumbed to the crushing heat. But it is a dangerous game. They only have five minutes to find something to eat before the sun kills them.
Many regions could one day resemble the Sahara. Until now, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has supported life on Earth. Now we release 60 times more carbon dioxide each year than all the volcanoes on the planet combined. This excess leads to a climatic disorder unprecedented in the history of humanity.
However, there is still time. If we managed to reduce our impact on the climate, our Earth could restore its natural balance and become a perfect planet again.