The re-naturalization of the Isar river in Munich (I)
The Bavarian river Isar originally got its name from its proverbially raging currents.
But it had been drastically tamed at the beginning of the 20th century by means of a newly
constructed cement riverbed. At the same all those heavily polluted city creeks were
banned under thick layers of cement as well.
But, due to an emerging "green" policy the Munich city public authorities
recently decided to reverse the water hide-and-seek. As a consequence some of the creeks
were brought back to daylight and the river Isar was re-engineered
to a state that was considered as "more natural": it was decorated with
gravel islands and its formerly linear shores were softened into a romantically meandering,
variable scenery strongly reminding of Germany's 19th century romanticism.
As always in politics there were some pros and some cons to discuss. Some people were
interested in an increasing beverage consumption alongside the river, others were
afraid of additional noise, and of course the costs of the embellishment were subject to controversial
discussion. We are far from being able to present a politically correct, final judgement here.
Instead we would like to introduce a fictitious character here,
commenting the changes from the perspective of a Munich tardigrade:
"Just call me, Max from the Maximilian Bridge. Please find enclosed my portrait,
so that you will be better able to figure out my benevolent character. The gossips colunms use this
presentation tool, so why not do the same in my, much more serious case?
Tardigrade portrait (genus Echiniscus).
In contrast to scanning electron microscopy (SEM) photomicrographs, classical light microscopy
is well able to provide a tardigrade face with natural transparency including the eyes.
How terribly sad are all those "blind" grey SEM images!
Body width ca. 0.1 mm.
I am really proud of my exclusive habitat within the center of such a big city.
You see, I am living close to Maximilianstrasse which is mentioned as a "Must see" even in the most modest
Image foreground: Typical tardigrade biotope
under the Munich Maximiliansbrücke (Maximilian's bridge).
The bridge is linking the center of the city (Center-West) to the historical regions of
Haidhausen and Bogenhausen (East).
The whole area around German Museum, Lukas Church, Müller Public Bath, Pranner Island etc.
makes up a fascinating urban scenario. It is a paradise for cyclists, pedestrians,
romantics - and tardigrades.
Naturally all of us tardigrade individuals in reality do have no names at all (as the readers
of the Water Bear web base are quite aware, we are basically loners).
My ancestors stem from the Bavarian mountains south of Munich. Generations ago my grandmother
was caught within in a terrible flood. Her only chance to survival consisted in clinging to a small
loose twig. After a long, constantly wet and terribly dangerous journey on the river Isar she finally
landed just below Maximilansbrücke. There she chemo-sensored a nice environment
with lots of moss cushions and lots of sun. You know, the sun is important for us tardigrades to get
rid of unpleasant bacteria and funghi. Furthermore we need calcium which is amply provided
by the crumbling cement all around here. Thh calcium is very important in order to build up our splendid stylets.
Of course, over the years many tardigrade immigrants from diverse mountain regions came along this route.
As a consequence we were able to achieve a tremendous genetic diversity and cultural complexity,
a fact which forged a very special tardigrade population here.
In the beginning it was not easy for my grand-parents as they had to deal with hoards
of carnivorous Milnesium tardigrades (Milnesium tardigradum).
The carnivore tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum ,
so to speak the Tyrannosaurus rex of the Isar tardigrade habitat.
Body length ca. 0.5 mm.
In the meantime we have got accustomed to the local situation in Munich.
We do avoid encounters with hungry Milnesium tardigrades. Also the (most endangered)
small brothers ands sisters among us understand this problem. As a rule there is plenty of time
to seek safe distance when you feel that a Milnesium tardigrade is approaching.
Apart from those problems we are thoroughly enjoying the pleasures of a sound ethno-mix
within the Isar riverbed. One serious problem are the remains of the Munich barbecue
festivities alongside the river and the cigarette stubs of those many smokers.
Just have a look at what those nasty man smokers are doing to our environment:
A cigarette stub as seen in a small cavity
(tardigrade home) on a bridge balustrade in front of the German (technical) Museum.
© Text, images and video clips by
Martin Mach (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of
the German language monthly magazine
Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.