What is Your Web of Life?

You can’t escape the web of life

Maintaining and protecting your web results in a bounty for all. Photo by Cherie Ude. Previously published in Interpretative Guide to Western Northwest Weather Forecasts.

(See Natural Resources, the environment and eco-systems)

If you could separate yourself, you’d destroy your connections to life itself. The Web of Life confirms that, contrary to what we might think, humans are not self-sufficient.

For instance, if you eat, you’re dependent on microbes that maintain soil health. You’re dependent on insects that pollinate crops. These microbes and insects are dependent on clean water and soil.

In other words, if you want breakfast, you need a healthy habitat. Such an environment is good for crops and one in which birds, lizards, and amphibians thrive. These, in turn, help manage insects (both those that pollinate and those that don’t). The entire system maintains clean water and air.

Food Chain or Web of Life?

Perhaps you think of this as the “food chain,” but that is limited and no longer useful for understanding our connections and dependency on the environment. A food chain refers to who eats whom in the wild. A web illustrates where all creatures find what they need to survive in order to be part of that food chain (Food chains & food webs).

Humans have sometimes tried to manage without considering the Web of Life. For instance, in the past, some farmers tried raising crops by plowing without regard to soil damage and by saturating the water, plants, and soil with poisons to kill insects. In turn, they’ve harvested dust bowls, abiotic crop diseases, and residual poisons that have negative effects on people and animals through contaminated food and water. WWF–Sustainable Agriculture

Who Needs Plants?

Perhaps you think you’d get along fine without plants. However, if you eat animals, those animals depend on plants for food. Even wild carnivores, such as lions, get their meat from herds of animals that graze on plants.

So if you eat, you depend on biodiversity and a healthy environment.

In other words, biodiversity is crucial to successful life on Earth. Humans can’t, on their own, create conditions to raise enough plants to feed all the animals and people on Earth. Each living thing has a role in sustaining life. The more this is maintained, the more you’ll have to eat. This is the web of life.

Breathe a Little Light

The sun brings power to plants. Plants pass that power on to all life. Photo by Marian Blue

Taking a step back, plants need more than water. They need the power of sunlight for their complicated process of photosynthesis (6CO2 + 6H2O + Light energy → C6H12O6 (sugar) + 6O2) (Smithsonian Science Education Center-What is Photosynthesis?). In this process, plants breathe, and what they exhale is the oxygen you need to inhale.

If something interferes with the balance and quality of sunlight, the entire system begins to fall apart. That’s why horrible clouds of pollution can kill people (Great Smog of London–Britannica).

Every breath you take is thanks to plants.

So your very life itself–breath, water and nutrition–depends plants.

You depend on an environment in which plants can remain healthy. This is the Web of Life.

Habitat, Ecosystem, & Biomes

You’ll often hear people refer to environment, ecosystem, habitats, and biomes as though the terms are interchangeable. They aren’t. (Wilderness Classroom–Understanding Habitats, Ecosystems and Biomes)


A habitat is where something is native, where it can grow and thrive naturally without over-populating the area. Habitat consists of what you need in the way of food, temperature, humidity, and space. In one sense, your home is your habitat (where you can find food, water, safety, and shelter). (For more on conserving water, see Share the Joys of Water )


An ecosystem is the neighborhood, functioning as a whole. In one sense, your habitat is sustained by connections to water and sewer systems, by trash collectors, by power lines, and more. In the wild, an ecosystem is sustained by water and food supplies. Often these are maintained through plants, both as food and filters to maintain fresh water. Those things encourage animals to move in. In turn, predators move in.


A Biome is a large geographical area. I live in the Pacific Northwest which is a moist temperate coniferous forest biome. It includes some high and low elevations (sea level to 14,000 feet). We have beaches, lakes, and rivers along with a number of different ecosystems for each. Habitats support everything from vast fungi networks to grizzly bears and cougars.

Pacific Northwest Biome

Many kinds of fungi love snags. Critters love fungi. Photo from Interpretative Guide to Western Northwest Weather Forecasts.

The Web of Life in the Pacific Northwest depends on basic plants and fungi. Fungi operate largely unseen, but they play a major role in breaking down organic material in the forest, which, in turn, provides nutrients for growing things.

Many creatures eat fungi as well. Plants, from tiny mosses to giant old growth trees, are all part of the underground root system that provides healthy habitat for microbes, bugs, arachnids, slugs and more. These, in turn, provide a smorgasbord for frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, and birds.

This is also excellent habitat for small mammals such as squirrels that thrive on tree cones. Here, too, you find raccoons that enjoy meals of small mammals and fish and other water-bound life on beaches. Beavers build dams and create small lakes that provide bountiful habitat for fish and birds. Salmon that come to spawn provide meals for bears, otters, and eagles. Salmon spawning, in turn, is vital to a host of whales, dolphins, otters and more that live in the ocean biome west of the Pacific Northwest.

This extensive biome Web of Life thrives, as always, from plants. For more, check out Web of Life–Nature North West.

Another Web of Your Life

During Covid, many people discovered how important their social webs are. They depend on other people for recreation, social networks, income, package delivery, manufacturing (clothes, kitchen appliances, cars and more), growing food…the list is extensive. What we sometimes forget is that, in the Web of Life, connections only to people will eventually lead to a dead end.

Everything is connected. We need to protect all the biodiversity and health on our planet, which includes ourselves, our families, our friends, and even things we can’t see.

Protect and maintain your Web of Life for yourself, your family, your Earth. (6 Ways to Preserve Biodiversity)

Marian Blue is pleased to announce her publication of her prose poem, “Wild Spaces Without and Within” in the current issue (Spring/Autumn 2021) of Snowy Egret. This outstanding magazine celebrates the “abundance and beauty of nature and examine(s) the variety of ways, both positive and negative, through which human beings interact with the landscape and living things.” It’s an honor to have material included.


Share the Joys of Water! Conserve, Don’t Hoard!

The joys of water fill my life!

A golden eagle has a bath, something birds need to get rid of parasites, to stay healthy. Photo by Marian Blue

Hot showers after a sweaty day. Swimming. Cleaning and washing dishes. Tossing clothes into a washer. Flushing waste away. Irrigating a garden of brilliant flowers or fresh veggies. And, of course, those long, refreshing drinks of clear and cold water right from the tap.


Water makes my life easier, more productive, healthier, and pleasant. Water symbolizes my status in the world: I am privileged.

No water joy? Is Water Shortage a Real Problem?

According to the U.S. Water Alliance, about two million people in the U.S. lack access to clean, abundant water. Meanwhile, most of us have what appears to be an unlimited supply. This idea is obviously deceptive if two million people lack that access. In addition, water supplies are dwindling. Pollution is growing. Worldwide, a water crisis is growing.

Imagine if you suddenly became one of those in the US, or the millions around the world, who lack safe water. Think in terms of small losses first.

Reduce taps in your home by half. You might have to carry water from one room to another and maybe shower with the kitchen sink sprayer.

Now imagine that your water supply is restricted to a few hours a day and that the water isn’t safe. Indoor plumbing doesn’t exist.

Santiago, DR residents getting water in 2020 as Covid intensified challenges for everyone. Photo from from Dominican Today

When I lived in the Dominican Republic, our home drew water from our cistern. The cistern had a slow, dripping water supply into it for one or two hours a day, so it wasn’t always full. The water itself was an opaque green and had abundant life in it, including bugs and frogs, which often came through the tap. The water was fine for baths and cleaning the floor and could, in a pinch, be used for cooking or drinking if boiled first. We usually had bottled water delivered for those purposes.

Again, I was privileged. Most people in the Dominican Republic had no running water in their homes and when they hauled in water, they had to boil it; they lacked funds to buy bottled water. Today, decades later, one million people die each year because of water issues (see Fighting the Water Crisis in the Dominican Republic).

What Would You Do?

With such lack in mind and continuing with our hypothetical situation, mentally shut off all water to your house. You have to go to the city water supply building to get needed water, which is rationed. Not only do you have to schedule time to get water, you have to plan ahead for its use.

Gray water is reused sparingly. House plants are a luxury, as is that absurd habit of swishing out a clean glass with water and then dumping it.

When water availability drops, every creature suffers. Keeping water resources clean is essential to life. Photo by Cherie Ude.

Lawns and ornamental plants may have to exist on rainwater. Even providing a drink for wildlife might be difficult.

You probably won’t face this extreme shortage in your lifetime (not in the U.S.), but rationing is already a fact of life for many U.S. towns and cities where water was abundant a decade or two ago.

We have a well on Whidbey Island. That well has a meter on it, as do most wells. When the time comes for rationing, the meter will be put to use.

Hoarding Isn’t Conserving

Humans too often try to prepare for disaster rather than take steps to prevent disaster. For instance, we skip conservation and try hoarding. We build dams, drill wells, install pumps with huge water systems. We sequester, purify, and seal water off from natural areas and other creatures. In the process, we often foul the environment and create more problems.

An example of short-sighted and expensive hoarding is Glen Canyon Dam. Built in my lifetime, the desert flooded…a human-engineered, desert sea. I prowled the area as it filled. Today, water levels are at the lowest since it filled; drought plagues the southwest. The dam is going to have to be re-engineered to preserve the biological integrity of the river.

Learning to build and live compatibility with other creatures and their environments would increase human success. Compare people with beavers.

Water Joy Nature’s Way

Beavers build dams, too, but those dams nourish the environment, allowing plants and animals to thrive, salmon to otters to plants. Their dams slow waterflow in ways that prevent erosion and create wetlands, cooling water reservoirs. See Environmental Benefits of Beavers .

Wildfires are becoming increasingly common, from Florida to California and Canada to Mexico. Preserving the natural environment will help fight climate change droughts, thereby reducing fires.                                    Photo by Cherie Ude

Beavers are also being heralded as firefighters (National Association of Science Writers) . We could learn a lot from beavers. Unfortunately, many people fight against their very existence. As people learn more about the benefits of having beavers in our environment, they’re making a comeback, and we’re all benefiting. (National Geographic)

Meanwhile, many human dams are being removed or re-engineered like the Glen Canyon Dam. Why? Because they plug up systems, drown wetlands and other habitat, block animal use, and otherwise artificially convert the landscape (American Rivers).

Too often, we act without thinking beyond our immediate needs. Small culverts are installed under roadways, blocking fish from continuing to use the stream. Highways are put into areas without considering how they block wildlife from accessing water resources; as a result, wildlife try to cross highways and loss of human and animal life ensues (we blame the animals, not ourselves). Examples abound.

Water is Life

The need for water influences human and animal migrations, relationships, and survival. Using water without thinking ultimately shortens water availability for all life, including our grandchildren. To continue the joy of abundant, life-giving water, consider your life within the cycle of water resources.

To live successfully, sustainably, means conservation (for other conservation ideas, check out Plant a Tree and The Nature of Pets).

Conservation is NOT hoarding. Remember that every drop of water you drink, flush, spray on plants, or use to clean has circled the globe. After being part of an ocean, a river, or an animal, it returns to you. Some of our wells pull up water that has been in aquifers since dinosaurs took long drinks.

Water molecules are estimated to be 4.6 billion years old. The water cycle doesn’t make water; it recycles it: USGS–Follow a Drip Through the Water Cycle

Water is, indeed, a treasure. Something we need and want in our lives for cleanliness, recreation, and life itself. Share your joy: conserve.

Shore Stewards have great ways to conserve water