Silica Stories pp 135-156 | Cite as

Silica, Be Dammed!

  • Christina De La RochaEmail author
  • Daniel J. Conley


It took us about 180,000 years but finally we did it. We hit Earth’s carrying capacity for hunters and gatherers. That happened more or less 10,000 years ago and in order to keep going forth and multiplying, humanity had to learn how to farm. Talk about a multidisciplinary endeavor. There were plants and animals to be bred, tools to be designed, materials to be discovered, and a whole lot of biology, chemistry, hydrology, geology, meteorology, ecology, and biogeochemistry to be mastered. We’re still working on it (and have added mechanization, transportation, refrigeration, genetic engineering, electronics, and information technology, among other things, to the list). Needless to say, our early stabs at farming were nowhere near as fruitful and reliable nor as intensive and destructive as the farming we do today. But as we slogged through the millennia, growing ever better at farming, ever more of us could be fed. So our numbers kept increasing. Do you see the vicious circle? As long as the human population keeps growing, so must the production of food through farming so that at least some chunk of the population that there has been enough food to produce doesn’t then starve to death. For a long time, much of the getting better at farming meant increasing our control over the landscape and in no small part this was through damming. It also meant increasingly disrupting the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus in our quest to keep cropland fertilized and productive. Both of these activities have had profound effects on the silica cycle.


Biogenic Silica Hydraulic Load Diatom Frustule Siliceous Sponge Laurentian Great Lake 
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Further Reading

  1. Conley DJ, Stålnacke P, Pitkänen H, Wilander A (2000) The transport and retention of dissolved silicate by rivers in Sweden and Finland. Limnol Oceanogr 45:1850–1853Google Scholar
  2. Humborg C, Conley DJ, Rahm L, Wulff F, Cociasu A, Ittekkot V (2000) Silicon retention in river basins: far-reaching effects on biogeochemistry and aquatic food webs in coastal marine environments. Ambio 29:45–50Google Scholar
  3. Maavara T, Dürr H, Van Cappellen P (2014) Worldwide retention of nutrient silicon by river damming: from sparse data set to global estimate. Global Biogeochem Cycles 28:842–855Google Scholar
  4. Schelske CL, Stoermer EF, Conley DJ, Robbins JA, Glover RM (1983) Early eutrophication in the lower Great Lakes: new evidence from biogenic silica in sediments. Science 222:320–322Google Scholar
  5. Syvitski JPM, Vörösmarty CJ, Kettner AJ, Green P (2005) Impact of humans on the flux of terrestrial sediment to the global coastal ocean. Science 308:376–380Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyLund UniversityLundSweden

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