The Green Planet: Water Worlds Episode two of The Green Planet series – Key stories

Key stories

Marimo – Lake Akan, Japan

(This has never been filmed in such detail before)

In the spring, lumps of algae drop out of the melting ice. These are rolled about in the waves at the edge of the lake and each gradually turns into a spherical shape – a marimo. In these shallow waters they are in danger of being eaten by swans.

Once ball-shaped, they are carried on water currents deeper into the lake, where they settle on the lake bed. The currents have carried them to an exact depth where they will be safe from swans and other herbivores, yet still shallow enough that they can use the sunlight to photosynthesize.

Giant Water Lily – Pantanal, Brazil

The football sized flower of the giant water lily Victoria sp, of the Brazilian Pantanal wetland, turns pink after it has been pollinated.

The football sized flower of the giant water lily Victoria , of the Brazilian Pantanal wetland, turns pink after it has been pollinated.

(Never been filmed in such detail before)

When this region floods in the wet season a battle for light begins. Seeds that have lain dormant in the dry mud germinate and the growing plants race for the water surface to get their place in the sun. Only once this battle is over and the winners have covered the water surface, does a giant emerge from the depths. The Giant Water Lily sends up a bud covered in vicious spikes. When it reaches the surface it sweeps in circles to spear, stab and drive the other plants out of its way. Then it settles in the centre and unfurls its giant leaf – a metre or more across.

Any plant that drifts back as the giant leaf unfurls is speared by the huge spines on the under surface of the growing leaf and drowned. The end result is a water surface covered by only one plant: the Giant Water Lily.

The River Of Life – Brazil

Plants cover every surface of a river tributary in Brazil. The water is remarkably clear and warm. These are absolutely perfect conditions for water plants. The moment the sun comes out these plants begin to photosynthesise at an extraordinary rate. As a result, pure oxygen bubbles from them. The bubbles fill the water and burst at the surface. Nowhere else in the world can you see the process of oxygen being created and sent into our atmosphere as clearly as here.

Bladderwort – Venezuela

On the top of vertical-sided mountains called tepuis, nutrients are washed away by almost constant rain, making it difficult for plants to survive. The Bladderwort has come up with a novel way of feeding itself: it grows long stems called stolons. They feel about for the little ponds of water that form at the bases of the leaves of bromeliads. Small insects make a home in these miniature pools. When the insects die their remains, full of valuable nutrients, are absorbed by bromeliad.

But the bladderwort is a thief. When the stolon detects water it grows down into it. Once underwater, small ‘bladders’ sprout along the stolon. These are actually traps with hairs at the entrance. Within each bladder is a vacuum – if a tiny creature touches one of these hairs the bladder springs open, the creature is sucked inside and the entrance snaps shut again. The bladderwort can then digest the insect and absorb the nutrients.

Rainbow river – Colombia

This river is also called ‘The most beautiful river in the world’. Its waters are filled with plants, each kind one brilliant colour of the rainbow. Each of these plants lives at a slightly different depth in the river, and each has its own chemicals and pigments to absorb the exact wavelengths of light that it needs for photosynthesis. The light it doesn’t need is reflected, giving each plant its own brilliant, rainbow colour.

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