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DIVISION II

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Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 663 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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DIVISION II.—EPIGENE OR SUPERFICIAL ACTION It is on the surface of the globe, and by the operation of agents working there, that at present the chief amount of visible geo- logical change is effected. In considering this branch of inquiry, we are not involved in a preliminary difficulty regarding the very nature of the agencies as is the case in the investigation of plutonic action. On the contrary, the surface agents are carrying on their work under our very eyes. We can watch it in all its stages, measure its progress, and mark in many ways how accurately it represents similar changes which, for long ages previously, must have been effected by the same means. But in the systematic treatment of this subject we encounter a difficulty of another kind; We discover thatwhile the operations to be discussed are numerous and readily observable, they are so interwoven into one great network that any separation of them under different subdivisions is sure to be more or less artificial and to convey an erroneous impression. While, therefore, under the unavoidable necessity of making use of such a classification of subjects, we must always bear in mind that it is employed merely for convenience, and that in nature superficial geological action must be continually viewed as a whole, since the work of each agent has constant reference to that of the others,, and is not properly intelligible unless that connexion be kept in view. The movements of The air; the evaporation from land and sea; the fall of rain, hail and snow; the flow of rivers and glaciers; the tides, currents and waves of the ocean; the growth and decay of organized existence, alike on land and in the depths of the sea;-in short, the whole circle of movement, which is continually in progress upon the surface of our planet, are the subjects now to be examined. It is desirable to adopt some general term to embrace the whole of this range of inquiry. For this end the word epigene (Gr. iris upon) has been suggested as a convenient term, and antithetical to hypogene (Gr. fnro, under), or subterranean action. A simple arrangement of this part of Geological Dynamics is in three sections: A. Air.—The influence of the atmosphere in destroying and forming rocks. B. Water.—The geological functions of the circulation of water through the air and between sea and land, and the action of the sea. C. Life.—The part taken by plants and animals in preserving, destroying or reproducing geological formations. The words destructive, reproductive and conservative, employed in describing the operations of the epigene agents, do not necessarily imply that anything useful to man is destroyed, reproduced or preserved. On the contrary, the destructive action of the atmosphere may turn barren rock into rich soil, while its reproductive effects sometimes turn rich land into barren desert. Again, the conservative influence of vegetation has sometimes for centuries retained as barren morass what might otherwise have become rich meadow or luxuriant wood-land. The terms, therefore, are used in a strictly geological sense, to denote the removal and re-deposition of material, and its agency in preserving what lies beneath it. (A) The Air. As a geological agent, the air brings about changes partly by its component gases and partly by its movements. Its destructive action is both chemical and mechanical. The chemical changes are probably mainly, if not entirely, due to the moisture of the air, and particularly to the gases, vapours and organic matter which the moisture contains. Dry air seems to have little or no appreciable influence in promoting these reactions. As the changes in question are similar to those much more abundantly brought about by rain they are described in the following section under the division on rain. Among the more recognizable mechanical changes effected in the atmosphere, one of considerable importance is to be seen in the result of great and rapid changes of temperature. Heat expands rocks, while cold contracts them. In countries with a great annual range of temperature, considerable difficulty is sometimes experienced in selecting building materials liable to be little affected by the alternate expansion and contraction, which prevents the joints of masonry from remaining close and tight. In dry tropical climates, where the days are intensely hot and the nights extremely cold, the rapid nocturnal contraction produces a strain so great as to rival frost in its influence upon the surface of exposed rocks, disintegrating them into sand, or causing them to crack or peel off in skins or irregular pieces. Dr Livingstone found in Africa (12° S. lat., 34° E. long.) that surfaces of rock which during the day were heated up to 137° Fahr., cooled so rapidly by. radiation at night that, unable to sustain the strain of contraction, they split and threw off sharp angular fragments from a few ounces to loo or 200 lb in weight. In temperate regions this action, though much less pronounced, still makes itself felt. In these climates, however, and still more in high latitudes, somewhat similar results are brought about by frost. By its motion in wind the air drives loose sand over rocks, and in course of time abrades and smoothes them. " Desert polish " is the name given to the characteristic lustrous surface thus imparted. Holes are said to be drilled in window glass at Cape Cod by the same agency. Cavities are now and then hollowed out of rocks by the gyration in them of little fragments of stone or grains of sand kept in motion by the wind. Hurricanes form important geological agents upon land in uprooting trees, and thus sometimes impeding the drainage of a country and giving rise to the formation of peat mosses. The reproductive action of the air arises partly from the effect of the chemical and mechanical disintegration involved in the process of " weathering," and partly from the transporting power of wind and of aerial currents. The layer of soil, which covers so much of the surface of the land, is the result of the decay of the underlying rocks, mingled with mineral matter blown over the ground by wind, or washed thither by rain, and with the mouldering remains of plants and animals. The extent to which fine dust may be transported over the surface of the land can hardly be realized in countries clothed with a covering of vegetation, though even there, in dry weather during spring, clouds of dust may often be seen blown away by wind from bare ploughed fields. Intercepted by the leaves of plants and washed down to their roots by rain, this dust goes to increase the soil below. In arid climates, where dust clouds are dense and frequent, enormous quantities of fine mineral particles are thus borne along and accumulated. The remarkable deposit of " Loess," which is sometimes more than 15oo ft. thick and covers extensive areas in China and other countries, is regarded as due to the drifting of dust by wind. Again the dunes of sand so abundant along the inner side of sandy sea-beaches in many different parts of the world are attributable to the same action. (B) Water. In treating of the epigene action of water in geological processes it will be convenient to deal first with its operations in traversing the land, and then with those which it performs in the sea. The circulation of water from land to sea and again from sea -to land constitutes the fundamental cause of most of the daily changes by which the surface of the land is affected. 1.. Rain.—Rain effects two kinds of changes upon the surface of the land. It acts chemically upon soils and stones, and sinking underground continues a great series of similar reactions there. It acts mechanically, by washing away loose materials, and thus powerfully affecting the contours of the land. Its chemical action depends mainly upon the nature and proportion of the substances which, in descending to the earth, it abstracts from the atmosphere. Rain always absorbs a little air, which, in addition to its nitrogen and oxygen, contains carbonic acid, and in minute proportions, sodium chloride, sulphuric acid and other ingredients, especially inorganic dust, organic particles and living germs. Probably the most generally efficient of these constituents are oxygen, carbonic acid and organic matter. Armed with these reagents, rain effects a chemical decomposition of the rocks on which it falls, and through which it sinks underground. The principal changes thus produced are as follows: (a) Oxidation.—Owing to the prominence of oxygen in rain-water, and its readiness to unite with any substance which can contain more of it, a thin oxidized pellicle is formed on the surface of many rocks on which rain falls, and this oxidized layer if not at once washed off, sinks deeper until a crust is formed over the stone. A familiar illustration of this action is afforded by the rust, or oxide, which forms on iron when exposed to moisture, though this iron may be kept long bright if allowed to remain screened from moist air and rain. (b) Deoxidation.—Organic matter having an affinity for more oxygen decomposes peroxides by depriving them of some part of their share of that element and reducing them to protoxides. These changes are especially noticeable among the iron oxides so abundantly diffused among rocks. Hence rain-water, in sinking through soil and obtaining such organic matter, becomes thereby a reducing agent. (c) Solution.—This may take place either by the simple action of the water, as in the solution of rock-salt, or by the influence of the carbonic acid present in the rain. (d) Formation of Carbonates.—A familiar example of the action of carbonic acid in rain is to be seen in the corrosion of exposed marble slabs. The carbonic acid dissolves some of the lime, which, as a bicarbonate, is held in solution in the carbonated water, but is deposited again when the water loses its carbonic acid or evaporates. It is not merely carbonates, however, which are liable to this kind of destruction. Even silicates of lime, potash and soda, combinations existing abundantly as constituents of rocks, are attacked; their silica is liberated, and their alkalis or alkaline earths, becoming carbonates, are removed in solution. (e) Hydration.—Some minerals, containing little or no water, and therefore called anhydrous, when exposed to the action of the atmosphere, absorb water, or become hydrous, and are then usually more prone to further change. Hence the rocks of which they form part become disintegrated. Besides the reactions here enumerated, a considerable amount of decay may be observed as the result of the presence of sulphuric and nitric acid in the air, especially in that of large towns and manufacturing districts, where much coal is consumed. Metallic surfaces, as well as various kinds of stone, are there corroded, while the mortar of walls may often be observed to be slowly swelling out and dropping off, owing to the conversion of the lime into sulphate. Great injury is likewise done from a similar cause to marble monuments in exposed graveyards. The general result of the disintegrating action of the air and of rain, including also that of plants and animals, to be noticed in the sequel, is denoted by the term " weathering." The amount of decay depends partly on conditions of climate, especially the range of temperature, the abundance of moisture, height above the sea and exposure to prevalent winds. Many rocks liable to be saturated with rain and rapidly dried under a warm sun are apt to disintegrate at the surface with comparative rapidity. The nature and progress of the weathering are mainly governed by the composition and texture of the rocks exposed to it. Rocks composed of particles liable to little chemical change from the influence of moisture are best fitted to resist weathering, provided they possess sufficient cohesion to withstand the mechanical processes of disintegration. Siliceous sandstones are excellent examples of this permanence. Consisting wholly or mainly of the durable mineral quartz, they are sometimes able so to withstand decay that buildings made of them still retain, after the lapse of centuries, the chisel-marks of the builders. Some rocks, which yield with comparative rapidity to the chemical attacks of moisture, may show little or no mark of disintegration on their surface. This is particularly the case with certain calcareous rocks. Limestone when pure is wholly soluble in acidulated water. Rain falling on such a rock removes some of it in solution, and will continue to do so until the whole is dissolved away. But where a limestone is full of impurities, a weathered crust of more or less insoluble particles remains after the solution of the calcareous part of the stone. Hence the relative purity of limestones may be roughly determined by examining their weathered surfaces, where, if they contain much sand, the grains will be seen projecting from the calcareous matrix, and where, should the rock be very ferruginous, the yellow hydrous peroxide, or ochre, will be found as a powdery crust. In limestones containing abundant encrinites, shells, or other organic remains, the weathered surface commonly presents the fossils standing out in relief. The crystalline arrangement of the lime in the organic structures enables them to resist disintegration better than the general mechanically aggregated matrix of the rock. An experienced fossil collector will always search well such weathered surfaces, for he often finds there, delicately picked out by the weather, minute and frail fossils which are wholly invisible on a freshly broken surface of the stone. Many rocks weather with a thick crust, or even decay inwards for many feet or yards. Basalt, for example, often shows a yellowish-brown ferruginous layer on its surface, formed by the conversion of its felspar into kaolin, and the removal of its calcium silicate as carbonate, by the hydration of its olivine and augite and their conversion into serpentine, or some other hydrous magnesian silicate, and by the conversion of its magnetite into limonite. Granite sometimes shows in a most remarkable way the distance to which weathering can reach. It may occasionally be dug into for a depth of 20 or 30 ft., the quartz crystals and veins retaining their original positions, while the felspar is completely kaolinized. It is to the endlessly varied effects of weathering that the abundant fantastic shapes assumed by crags and other rocky masses are due. Most varieties of rock have their own characteristic modes of weathering, whereby they may be recognized even from a distance. To some of these features reference will be made in Part VIII. The mechanical action of rain, which is intimately bound up with its chemical action, consists in washing off the fine superficial particles of rocks which have been corroded and loosened by the process of weathering, and in thus laying open fresh portions to the same influences of decay. The detritus so removed is partly carried down into the soil which is therebyenriched, partly held in suspension in the little runnels into which the rain-drops gather as they begin to flow over the land, partly pushed downwards along the surface of sloping ground. A good deal of it finds its way into the nearest brooks and rivers, which are consequently made muddy by heavy rain. It is natural that a casual consideration of the subject should lead to an impression that, though the general result of the fall of rain upon a land-surface must lead to some amount of disintegration and lowering of that surface, the process must be so slow and slight as hardly to be considered of much importance among geological operations. But further attention will show such an impression to be singularly erroneous. It loses sight of the fact that a change which may be hardly appreciable within a human lifetime, or even within the comparatively brief span of geological time embraced in the compass of human history, may nevertheless become gigantic in its results in the course of immensely protracted periods. An instructive lesson in the erosive action of rain may be found in the pitted and channelled surface of ground lying under the drip of the eaves of a cottage. The fragments of stone and pebbles of gravel that form part of the soil can there be seen sticking out of the ground, because being hard they resist the impetus of the falling drops, protecting for a time the earth beneath them, while that which surrounded and covered them is washed away. From this familiar illustration the observer may advance through every stage in the disappearance of material which once covered the surface, until he comes to examples where once continuous and thick sheets of solid rock have been reduced to a few fragments or have been entirely removed. Since the whole land surface over which rain falls is exposed to this waste, the superficial covering of decayed rock or soil, as Hutton insisted, is constantly, though imperceptibly, travel-ling outward and downward to the sea. In this process of transport rain is an important carrying agent, while at the same time it serves to connect the work of the other disintegrating forces, and to make it conducive to the general degradation of the land. Though this decay is general and constant, it is obviously not uniform. In some places where, from the nature of the rock, from the flatness of the ground, or from other causes, rain works 'under great difficulties, the rate of waste may be extremely slow. In other places it may be rapid enough to be appreciable from year to year. A survey of this department of geological activity shows how unequal wasting by rain, combined with the operations of brooks and rivers, has produced the details of the present relief of the land, those tracts where the destruction has been greatest forming hollows and valleys, others, where it has been less, rising into ridges and hills (Part VIII.). Rain-action is not merely destructive, but is accompanied with reproductive effects, chief of which is the formation of soil. In favourable situations it has gathered together accumulations of loam and earth from neighbouring higher ground, such as the " brick-earth," " head," and " rain-wash " of the south of England—earthy deposits, sometimes full of angular stones, derived from the subaerial waste of the rocks of the neighbourhood. 2. Underground Water.—Of the rain which falls upon the land one portion flows off into brooks and rivers by which the water is conducted back to the ocean; the larger part, however, sinks into the ground and disappears. It is this latter part which has now to be considered. Over and above the proportion of the rainfall, which is absorbed by living vegetation and by the soil, there is a` continual filtering down of the water from the surface into the rocks that lie below, where it partly lodges in pores and interstices, and partly finds its way into subterranean joints and fissures, in which it performs an underground circulation, and ultimately issues once more at the surface in the form of springs (q.v.). In the course of this circulation the water performs an important geological task. Not. only carrying down with it the substances which the rain has abstracted from the air, but obtaining more acids and organic matter from the soil, it is enabled to effect chemical changes in therocks underneath, and especially to dissolve limestone and other calcareous formations. So considerable is the extent of this solution in some places that the springs which come to the surface, and begin there to evaporate and lose some of their carbonic acid, contain more dissolved lime than they can hold. They consequently deposit it in the form of calcareous tuff or sinter (q.v.). Other subterranean waters issue with a large proportion of iron-salts in solution which form deposits of ochre. The various mineral springs so largely made use of for the mitigation or cure of diseases owe their properties to the various salts which they have dissolved out of rocks underground. As the result of prolonged subterranean solution in limestone districts, passages and caves (q.v.), sometimes of great width and length, are formed. When these lie near the surface their roofs sometimes fall in and engulf brooks and rivers, which then flow for some way underground until the tunnels conduct them back again to daylight on some lower ground. Besides its chemical activity water exerts among subterranean rocks a mechanical influence which leads to important changes in the topography of the surface. In removing the mineral matter, either in solution or as fine sediment, it sometimes loosens the support of overlying masses of rock which may ultimately give way on sloping ground, and rush down the declivities in the form of landslips. These destructive effects are specially frequent on the sides of valleys in mountainous countries and on lines of sea-cliff. 3. Brooks and Rivers.—As geological agents the running waters on the face of the land play an important part in epigene changes. Like rain and springs they have both a chemical and a mechanical action. The latter receives most attention, as it undoubtedly is the more important; but the former ought not to be omitted in any survey of the general waste of the earth's surface. The water of rivers must possess the powers of a chemical solvent like rain and springs, though its actual work in this respect can be less easily measured, seeing that river water is directly derived from rain and springs, and necessarily contains in solution mineral sub-stances supplied to it by them and not by its own operation. Nevertheless, it is sometimes easy to prove that streams dissolve chemically the rocks of their channels. Thus, in limestone districts the base of the cliffs of river ravines may be found eaten away into tunnels, arches, and overhanging projections, presenting in their smooth surfaces a great contrast to the angular jointed faces of the same rock, where now exposed to the influence only of the weather on the higher parts of the cliff. The mechanical action of rivers consists (a) in transporting mud, sand, gravel and blocks of stone from higher to lower levels; (b) in using these loose materials to widen and deepen their channels by erosion; (c) in depositing their load of detritus wherever possible and thus to make new geological formations. (a) Transporting Power.—River-water is distinguished from that of springs by being less transparent, because it contains more or less mineral matter in suspension, derived mainly from what is washed down by rain, or carried in by brooks, but partly also from the abrasion of the water-channels by the erosive action of the rivers themselves. The progress of this burden of detritus may be instructively followed from the mountain-tributaries of a river down to the mouth of the main stream. In the high grounds the water-courses may be observed to be choked with large fragments of rock disengaged from the cliffs and crags on either side. Traced downwards the blocks are seen to become gradually smaller and more rounded. They are ground against each other, and upon the rocky sides and bottom of the channel, getting more and more reduced as they descend, and at the same time abrading the rocks over or against which they are driven. Hence a great deal of debris is produced, and is swept along by the onward and downward movement of the water. The finer portions, such as mud and fine sand, are carried in suspension, and impart the characteristic turbidity to river-water; the coarser sand and gravel are driven along the river-bottom. The proportion of suspended mineral matter has been ascertained with more or less precision for a number of rivers. As an illustrative example of a river draining a vast area with different climates, forms of surface and geological structure the Mississippi may be cited. The average proportion of sediment in its water was ascertained by Humphreys and Abbot to be any by weight or rglipy by volume. These engineers found that, in addition to this suspended material, coarse detritus is constantly being pushed forward along the bed of the river into the Gulf of Mexico, to an amount which they estimated at about 750,000,000 cubic ft. of sand, earth and gravel; they concluded that the Mississippi carries into the gulf every year an amount of mechanically transported sediment sufficient to make a prism one square mile in area and 268 ft. in height. (b) Excavating Power.—It is by means of the sand, gravel and stones which they drive against the sides and bottoms of their channels that streams have hollowed out the beds in which they flow. Not only is the coarse detritus reduced in size by the friction of the stones against each other, but, at the same time, these materials abrade the rocks against which they are driven by the current. Where, owing to the shape of the bottom of the channel, the stones are caught in eddies, and are kept whirling round there, they become more and more worn down themselves, and at the same time scour out basin-shaped cavities, or " pot-holes," in the solid rock below. The uneven bed of a swiftly flowing stream may in this way be honeycombed with such eroded basins which coalesce and thus appreciably lower the surface of the bed. The steeper the channel, other conditions being equal, the more rapid will be the erosion. Geological structure also affects the character and rate of the excavation. Where the rocks are so arranged as to favour the formation and persistence of a waterfall, a long chasm may be hollowed out like that of the Niagara below the falls, where a hard thick bed of nearly flat limestone lies on softer and more easily eroded shales. The latter are scooped out from underneath the limestone, which from time to time breaks off in large masses and the waterfall gradually retreats up stream, while the ravine is proportionately lengthened. To the excavating power of rivers the origin of the valley systems of the dry land must be mainly assigned (see Part VIII. ). (c) Reproductive Power.—So. long as a stream flows over a steep declivity its velocity suffices to keep the sediment in suspension, but when from any cause, such as a diminution of slope, the velocity is checked, the transporting power is lessened and the sediment begins to fall to the bottom and to remain there. Hence various river-formed or " alluvial " deposits are laid down. These some-times cover considerable spaces at the foot of mountains. The floors of valleys are strewn with detritus, and their level may thereby be sensibly raised. In floods the ground inundated on either side of a stream intercepts some part of the detritus, which is then spread over the flood-plain and gradually heightens it. At the same time the stream continues to erode the channel, and ultimately is unable to reach the old flood-plain. It consequently forms a new plain at a lower level, and thus, by degrees, it comes to be flanked on either side by a series of successive terraces or platforms, each of which marks one of its former levels. Where a river enters a large body of water its current is checked. Some of its sediment is consequently dropped, and by slow accumulation forms a delta (q.v.). On land, every lake in mountain districts furnishes instances of this kind of alluvium. But the most important deltas are those formed in the sea at the mouths of the larger rivers of the globe. Off many coast-lines the detritus washed from the land gathers into bars, which enclose long strips of water more or less completely separated from the sea outside and. known as lagoons. A chain of such lagoon-barriers stretches for hundreds of miles round the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern shores of the United States. 4. Lakes.—These sheets of water, considered as a whole, do not belong to the normal system of drainage on the land whereby valleys are excavated. On the contrary they are exceptional to it; for the constant tendency of running water is to fill them up, or to drain them by wearing down the barriers that contain them at their outflow. Some of them are referable to movements of the terrestrial crust whereby depressions arise on the surface of the land, as has been noted after earthquakes. Others have arisen from solution such as that of rock-salt or of limestone, the removal of which by underground water causes a subsidence-of the ground above. A third type of lake-basin occurs in regions that are now or have once been subject to the erosive action of glaciers (see under next sub-division, Terrestrial Ice). Many small lakes or tarns have been caused by the deposit of debris across a valley as by landslips or moraines. Considered from a geological point of view, lakes perform an important function in regulating the drainage of the ground below their outfall and diminishing the destructive effects of floods, in filtering the water received from their affluent streams, and in providing undisturbed areas of deposit in which thick and extensive lacustrine formations may be accumulated. In the inland basins of some dry climates the lakes are salt, owing to excess of evaporation, and their bottoms become the sites of chemical deposits, particularly of chlorides of sodium and magnesium, and calcium sulphate and carbonate. 5. Terrestrial Ice.—Each of the forms assumed by frozen water has its own characteristic action in geological processes. Frost has a powerful influence in breaking up damp soils and surfaces of stone in the pores or cracks of which moisture has lodged. The water in freezing expands, and in so doing pushes asunder the component particles of soil or stone, or widens the space between the walls of joints or crevices. When the ice melts the loosened grains remain apart ready to be washed away by rain or blown off by wind, while by the widening of joints large blocks of rock are detached from the faces of cliffs. Where rivers or lakes are frozen over the ice exerts a marked pressure on their banks; and when it breaks up large sheets of it are driven ashore, pushing up quantities of gravel and stones above the level of the water. The piling up of the disrupted ice against obstructions in rivers ponds back the water, and often leads to destructive floods when the ice barriers break. Where the ice has formed round boulders in shallow water, or at the bottom (" anchor-ice "), it may lift these up when the frost gives way,' and may transport them for some distance. Ice formed in the atmosphere, and descending to the ground in the form of hail, often causes great destruction to vegetation and not infrequently to animal life. Where the frozen moisture reaches the earth as snow, it serves to protect rock, soil and vegetation from the effects of frost; but on sloping ground it is apt to give rise to destructive avalanches or landslips, while indirectly, by its rapid melting, it may cause serious floods in rivers. But the most striking geological work performed by terrestrial ice is that achieved by glaciers (q.v.) 'and ice-sheets. These vast masses of moving ice, when they descend from mountains where the steeper rocks are clear of snow, receive on their surface the debris detached by frost from the declivities above, and bear these materials to lower levels or to the sea. Enormous quantities of rock-rubbish are thus transported in the Alps and other high mountain ranges. When the ice retreats the boulders carried by it are dropped where it melts, and left there as memorials of the former extension of the glaciers. Evidence of this nature proves the much wider extent of the Alpine ice at a comparatively recent geological date. It can also be shown that detritus from Scandinavia has been ice-borne to the south-east of England and far into the heart of Europe. The ice, by means of grains of sand and pieces of stone which it drags along, scores, scratches and polishes the surfaces of rock underneath it, and, in this way, produces the abundant fine sediment that gives the characteristic milky appearance to the rivers that issue from the lower ends of glaciers. By such long-continued attrition the rocks are worn down, portions of them of softer nature, or where the ice acts with especial vigour, are hollowed out into cavities which, on 'the disappearance of the ice, may be filled with water and become tarns or lakes. Rocks over which land-ice has passed are marked' by a peculiar smooth, flowing outline, which forms a contrast to the more rugged surface produced by ordinary weathering. They are covered with groovings, which range from the finest striae left by sharp grains of sand to deep ruts ground out by blocks of stone, The trend of these markings shows the direction in which the ice flowed. By their evidence the position and movement of former glaciers in countries from which the ice has entirely vanished may be clearly determined (see GLACIAL PERIOD). 6. The Sea.—The physical features of the sea are discussed in separate articles (see OCEAN AND OCEANOGRAPHY). The sea must be regarded as the great regulator of temperature and climate over the globe, and as thus exerting a profound influence on the distribution of plant and animal life. Its distinctly geological work is partly erosive and partly reproductive. As an eroding agent it must to some extent effect chemical decompositions in the rocks and sediments over which it spreads; but these changes have not yet been satisfactorily studied. Undoubtedly, its chief destructive power is of a mechanical kind, and arises from the action of its waves in beating upon shore-cliffs. By the alternate . compression and expansion of the air in crevices of the rocks on which heavy breakers fall, and by the hydraulic pressure which these masses of sea-water exert on the walls of the fissures into which they rush, large masses of rock are loosened and detached, and caves and tunnels are drilled along the base of sea-cliffs. Probably still more efficacious are the blows of the loose shingle, which, caught up and hurled forward by the waves, falls with great force upon the shore rocks, battering them as with a kind of artillery until they are worn away. The smooth surfaces of the rocks within reach of the waves contrasted with their angular forms above that limit bear witness to the amount of waste, while the rounded forms of the boulders and shingle show that they too are being continually reduced in size. Thus the sea, by its action on the coasts, produces much sediment, which is swept away by its waves and currents and strewn over its floor. Besides this material, it is constantly receiving the fine silt and sand carried down by rivers. As the floor of the ocean is thus the final receptacle for the waste of the land, it becomes the chief era on the surface of the globe for the accumulation of new stratified formations. And such has been one of its great functions since the beginning of geological time, as is proved by the rocks that form the visible part of the earth's crust, and consist in great part of marine deposits. Chemical precipitates take place more especially in enclosed parts of the sea, where concentration of the water by evaporation can take place, and where layers of sodium chloride, calcium sulphate and carbonate, and other salts are laid down. But the chief marine accumulations are of detrital origin. Near the land and for a variable distance extending sometimes to 200 or 300 m. from shore the deposits consist chiefly of sediments derived from the waste of the land, the finer silts being transported farthest from their source. At greater depths and distances the ocean floor receives a slow deposit of exceedingly fine clay, which is believed to be derived from the decomposition of pumice and volcanic dust from insular or sub-marine volcanoes. Wide tracts of the bottom are covered with various forms of ooze derived from the accumulation of the remains of minute organisms. (C) Life. Among the agents by which geological changes are carried on upon the surface of the globe living organisms must be enumerated. Both plants and animals co-operate with the inorganic agents in promoting the degradation of the land. In some cases, on the other hand, they protect rocks from decay, while, by the accumulation of their remains, they give rise to extensive formations both upon the land and in the sea. Their operations may hence be described as alike destructive, conservative and reproductive. Under this heading also the influence of Mali as a geological agent deserves notice. (a) Plants.—Vegetation promotes the disintegration of rocks and soil in the following ways: (t) By keeping the surfaces of stone moist, and thus promoting both mechanical and chemical dissolution, as is especially shown by liverworts, mosses and other moisture-loving plants. (2) By producing through their decay carbonic and other acids, which, together with decaying organic matter taken up by passing moisture, become potent in effecting the chemical decomposition of rocks and in promoting the disintegration of soils. (3) By inserting their roots or branches between joints of rock, which are thereby loosened, so that large slices may be eventually wedged off. (4) By attracting rain, as thick woods, forests and peat-mosses do, and thus accelerating the general waste of a country by running water. (5) By promoting the decay of diseased and dead plants and animals, as when fungi overspread a damp rotting tree or the carcase of a dead animal. That plants also exert a conservative influence on the surface of the land is shown in various ways. (I) The formation of a stratum of turf protects the soil and rocks underneath from being rapidly disintegrated and washed away by atmospheric action. (2) Many plants, even without forming a layer of turf, serve by their roots or branches to protect the loose sand or soil on which they grow from being removed by wind. The common sand-carex and other arenaceous plants bind the loose sand-dunes of our coasts, and give them a permanence, which would at once be destroyed were the sand laid bare again to storms. The growth of shrubs and brushwood along the course of a stream not only keeps the alluvial banks from being so easily undermined and removed as would otherwise be the case, but serves to arrest the sediment in floods, filtering the water and thereby adding to the height of the flood plain. (3) Some marine plants, like the calcareous nullipores, afford protection to shore rocks by covering them with a hard incrustation. The tangles and smaller Fuci which grow abundantly on the littoral zone break the force of the waves or diminish the effects of ground swell. (4) Forests and brushwood protect the soil, especially on slopes, from being washed away by rain or ploughed up by avalanches. Plants contribute by the aggregation of their remains to the formation of stratified deposits. Some marine algae which secrete carbonate of lime not only encrust rocks but give rise to sheets of submarine limestone. An analogous part is played in fresh-water lakes by various lime-secreting plants, such as Churn. Long-continued growth of vegetation has, in some regions, produced thick accumulations of a dark loam, as in the black cotton soil (regur) of India, and the black earth (tchernozoni) of Russia. Peat-mosses are formed in temperate and arctic climates by the growth of marsh-loving plants, sometimes to a thickness of 40 or 50 ft. In tropical regions the mangrove swamps on low moist shores form a dense jungle, sometimes 20 M. broad, which protects these shores from the sea until, by the arrest of sediment and the constant contribution of decayed vegetation, the spongy ground is at last turned into firm soil. Some plants (diatoms) can abstract silica and build it into their framework, so that their remains form a siliceous deposit or ooze which covers spaces of the deep sea-floor estimated at more than ten millions of square miles in extent. (b) Animals.—These exert a destructive influence in the following ways: (1) By seriously affecting the composition and arrangement of the vegetable soil. Worms bring up the lower portions of the soil to the surface, and while thus promoting its fertility increase its liability to be washed away by rain. Burrowing animals, by throwing up the soil and subsoil, expose these to be dried and blowh' away by the wind. At the same time their subterranean passages serve to drain off the superficial water and to injure the stability of the surface of the ground above them. In Britain the mole and rabbit are familiar examples. (2) By interfering with or even diverting the flow of streams. Thus beaver-dams check the current of water-courses, intercept floating materials, and sometimes turn streams into new channels. The embankments of the Mississippi are sometimes weakened to such an extent by the burrowings of the cray-fish as to give way and allow the river to inundate the surrounding country. Similar results have happened in Europe from subterranean operations of rats. (3) Some molluscs, bore into stone or wood and by the number of contiguous perforations greatly weaken the material. (4) Many animals exercise a ruinously destructive influence upon vegetation. Of the numerous plagues of this kind the locust, phylloxera and Colorado beetle may be cited. The most important geological function performed by animals is the formation of new deposits out of their remains. It is chiefly by the lower grades of the animal kingdom that this work is accomplished, especially by molluscs, corals and foraminifera. Shell-banks are formed abundantly in such comparatively shallow and enclosed basins as that of the North Sea, and on a much more extensive scale on the floor of the \Vest Indian seas. By the coral polyps thick masses of limestones have been built up in the warmer seas of the globe (see CORAL REEFS). The floor of the Atlantic and other oceans is covered with a fine calcareous ooze derived mainly from the remains of foraminifera, while in other regions the bottom shows a siliceous ooze formed almost entirely of radiolaria. Vertebrate animals give rise to phosphatic deposits formed sometimes of their excrement, as in guano and coprolites, sometimes of an accumulation of their bones. (c) Man.--No survey of the geological workings of plant and animal life upon the surface of the globe can he complete which does not take account of the influence of man—an influence of enormous and increasing consequence in physical geography, for man has introduced, as it were, an element of antagonism to nature. His interference shows itself in his relations to climate, where he hasaffected the meteorological conditions of different countries: (r) By removing forests, and laying bare to the sun and winds areas which were previously kept cool and damp under trees, or which, lying on the lee side, were protected from tempests. It is supposed that the wholesale destruction of the woodlands formerly existing in countries bordering the Mediterranean has been in part the cause of the present desiccation of these districts. (2) By drainage, whereby the discharged rainfall is rapidly removed, and the evaporation is lessened, with a consequent diminution of rainfall and some increase in the general temperature of a country. (3) By the other processes of, agriculture, such as the transformation of moor and bog into cultivated land, and the clothing of bare hillsides with green crops or plantations of coniferous and hardwood trees. Still more obvious are the results of human interference with the flow of watery (I) By increasing or diminishing the rainfall man directly affects the volume of rivers. (2) By his drainage operations he makes the rain to run off more rapidly than before, and thereby increases the magnitude of floods and of the destruction caused by them. (3) By wells, bores, mines, or other subterranean works he interferes with the underground waters, and consequently with the discharge of springs. (4) By embanking rivers he confines them to narrow channels, sometimes increasing their scour, and enabling them to carry their sediment further seaward, sometimes causing them to deposit it over the plains and raise their level. (5) By his engineering operations for water-supply he abstracts water from its natural basins and depletes the streams. In many ways man alters the aspect of a country: (I) By changing forest into bare mountain, or clothing bare mountains with forest. (2) By promoting the growth or causing the removal of peat-mosses. (3) By heedlessly uncovering sand-dunes, and thereby setting in motion a process, of destruction which may convert hundreds of acres of fertile land into waste sand, or by prudently planting the dunes with-sand-loving vegetation and thus arresting their landward progress. (4) By so guiding the course of rivers as to make them aid him in reclaiming waste land, and bringing it under cultivation. (5) By piers and bulwarks, whereby the ravages of the sea are stayed, or by the thoughtless removal from the beach of stones which the waves had themselves thrown up, and which would-have served for a time to protect the land. (6) By forming new deposits either designedly or incidentally. The roads, bridges, canals, railways, tunnels, villages and towns with which man has covered the surface of the land will in many cases form a permanent record of his presence. Under his hand the whole surface of civilized countries is very slowly covered with a stratum, either formed wholly by him or due in great measure to his operations and containing many relics of his presence. The soil of ancient towns has been increased to a depth of many feet by their successive destructions and renovations. Perhaps the most subtle of human influences are to be seen in the distribution of plant and animal life upon the globe. Some•of man's doings in this domain are indeed plain enough, such as the extirpation of wild animals, the diminution or destruction of some forms of vegetation, the introduction of plants and animals useful to himself, and especially the enormous predominance given by him to the cereals and to the spread of sheep and cattle. But no such extensive disturbance of the normal conditions of the distribution of life can take place without carrying with it many secondary effects, and setting in motion a wide cycle of change and of reaction in the animal and vegetable kindgoms. For example, the incessant warfare waged by man against birds and beasts of prey in districts given up to the chase leads sometimes to unforeseen results. The weak game is allowed to live, which would otherwise be killed off and give more room for the healthy remainder. Other animals which feed perhaps on the same materials as the game are by the same cause permitted to live unchecked, and thereby to act as a further hindrance to the spread of the protected species. But the indirect results of man's interference with the regime of plants and animals still require much prolonged observation.
End of Article: DIVISION II
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