Vulcan (planet)/Ecology

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There is little question that the ecology of Vulcan has made its own contribution to shaping the character of its people. Today the landscape of Vulcan is mostly harsh and forbidding, filled with arid deserts and stark plains of black obsidian and gray flint and cinder still populated by active volcanoes, fumaroles, and geysers. Water is scarce in most areas, and the flora and fauna occupying these regions have adapted to survive in these difficult conditions. So, too, have the people of Vulcan been tempered by the fires of Vulcan's forge, developing a hardiness and inner strength that have enabled them to master their environment and create a thriving and vital economy, much as they have succeeded in mastering the emotional passions and violence that for centuries during the Age of Antiquity threatened to tear them apart.

How these changes occurred has been a continuing debate between Vulcan and other Federation scientists ever since the Federation was allowed to help explore Vulcan's past. Fossil evidence found on the planet indicates that at one time nearly eighty percent of the planet was covered with water. The first lifeforms emerged from the oceans and came onto land that instead of barren desert was lush tropical forest. With food and water being plentiful, many different types of creatures were able to thrive on the planet.

Then things suddenly and dramatically changed. Federation scientists believe a series of solar flares exploded from 40 Eridani A. These flares ripped off the upper layers of the atmosphere, and volatilized much of the ocean. Without the protection of the ionosphere, and with water newly scarce, many of the plants and creatures of Vulcan began to die off. Within a geological eyeblink the forests were gone, the oceans had become barren rock, and the atmosphere heated as it thinned.

Vulcan astronomers agree with certain points made by their Federation counterparts, but dispute that solar flares alone were responsible for the changes that happened. They reason that 40 Eridani A, although a relatively energetic orange-red dwarf, has historically never shown the level of activity that the other scientists believe happened. Many Vulcan astronomers therefore theorize that a small but fast-moving rogue planet struck 40 Eridani A as it passed through the system. Because Vulcan was close to the sun when this happened, the planet not only got hit with the large flares, but also with actual stellar material ripped from the star by the planet's impact. In the perturbations, the orbits of the planets were drawn closer to the star, and gravitational stresses may even have broken up one planet into the Vulcan systems asteroid belt. Using this model, the Vulcans not only account for the flares, but also the change in temperature and the tectonic shifting that has made so much of Vulcan geologically unstable.

Vulcan geologists, on the other hand, maintain that internal tectonic activity on Vulcan is energetic enough to explain the changes in Vulcan's atmosphere and climate by itself. They posit that an extremely violent period of volcanism and subduction (possibly following a cometary or meteoritic impact) altered the atmospheric chemistry of Vulcan enough to allow 40 Eridani A to disintegrate the atmosphere. These geologists point to similar periods in Earth's evolution, when its atmosphere changed from methane to nitrogen-oxygen, or when the ozone layer almost broke down in the early 21st century, as evidence that atmospheric changes created by ground conditions can alter planetary climate dramatically.

Some theorists argue that solar activity could easily have disrupted Vulcan's already weak and inconstant magnetic field, and perhaps even caused a radical shifting of Vulcan's axial tilt. Such a shift, if timed with a period of solar flares and tectonic instability, could have ripped away much of Vulcan's atmosphere, leaving the planet to bake itself dry over the following centuries. Still more radical scholars hold that a cataclysmic war among the proto-Vulcan species (either native or seeded by the Preservers) not only flung Vulcan into barbarism but actually devastated the planetary ecology and geology, turning a lush paradise into a desert with horrific doomsday weapons that focused the planet's tectonic energy or that psionically collimated beams of Vulcan's sunlight into mighty death rays. Although fragmentary Vulcan legends can be matched up to these theories, most scientists reject them as unlikely in the extreme, none more firmly than the Vulcans themselves.

There are still isolated areas on the planet's face which retain the visage of Vulcan's primordial years, when the planet teemed with life. These areas, primarily concentrated in the fertile crescents bordering the planet's great seas, the Voroth and the Thanor, contain vestiges of old growth forest carefully shepherded from harvesting and set aside by the Vulcan Council as wilderness preserves. Here, conservators carefully nurture the many species of flowering plants, grasses, animals, and fish, keeping them from extinction. On a smaller yet wider scale, most Vulcans of means maintain personal gardens at their private residences, either in small outdoor plots irrigated by underground springs, or enclosed solaria with intricate closed-loop climate control systems that recycle every millimeter of water and gram of nutrient that can be recovered. Finally, cities like ShirKahr and Vulcana Regar have set aside parcels of land for public gardens which are popular sites for meditation, as well as tourist sites for off world visitors.

In these ways, Vulcan maintains its own magnificent diversity, the message of IDIC which it has carried outward to the worlds of the UFP. This same regard for diversity and tradition prevents the occasional proposal for weather control or terraforming to restore Vulcan's original ecology from gaining wide acceptance.

The majority of this information has been taken from The Way of Kolinahr Sourcebook, with modifications from other sources.