Quirks & Quarks

Coastal clamshells

Human clam consumption resulting in thicker coastal B.C. trees
Clamshells feed the growth of these trees (W McInnes and Hakai Institute)

Whenever we talk about our ecological footprint, it's usually a bad news story about some terrible thing humans have done to the environment. Well, not this time. For at least six thousand years until only a couple of hundred years ago, early inhabitants of the Pacific coast ate a lot of clams. And they'd leave the empty shells in big piles called middens. As it turns out, Dr. Andrew Trant from the University of Waterloo has discovered that these middens are leading to the trees growing in their midst to be fuller, taller, and healthier than their other forest neighbours.

The middens on the west coast are "cultural deposits" filled with clamshells, fish bones, and other discarded artifacts from people living on these sites over thousands of years. What they left behind in piles that are often 20-feet deep has resulted in dark, fertile soil filled with really small clamshell fragments. (A Trant)

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