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Sandhills Mirage

web posted November 6, 2015

LIFE DOWN SOUTH- Things are not always what they seem. An aerial photo of Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge reveals a raging dust storm. But, no, itís morning fog.

And from what cometh this silica-rich land? As Ice Age glaciers melted and reformed, the sea rolled in and out. Throughout Earthís history, climate change has been a constant. Sandy ridges survive from a coastline formed some 20 million years ago during the Miocene. Had you lived in the Sandhills then you might have lived on the beach. We know this because fossils of sea creatures say itís so.

Here in arid, barren sands live future fossils: the rare and endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, pixie moss, pine barrens treefrogs, and competition aplenty as the refuge supports 190 bird species, 42 mammal species, 25 amphibian species, and too many plant species to count.

And up above? Clouds form easily. Research suggests thunderstorms occur more often in the Sandhills than other provinces. The drier sandy soil bakes beneath a sun of the subtropics and heat ascends. As moisture-heavy winds blow in from the Gulf of Mexico, thunderstorms form. A foggy dream or electric-blue bolts making glass from sand? Denizens of this dry world donít complain. Both sustain them.






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