An army of small plants protects the Great Wall of China from weather damage

An army of small plants protects the Great Wall of China from weather damage

The iconic Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is eroding due to the rain and wind.

But an organic shield has assembled to protect it.

Scientists have known about this shield, called biocrusts, for a while, but it was previously unclear how effective the material was at preserving the Great Wall.

Made up of lichen, bacteria, fungi, moss, and other small plants, biocrusts can form on virtually any mineral surface exposed to the elements, creating a coating that can be several centimeters deep.

A recent survey spanning the Great Wall found that biocrusts cloak a staggering 67 per cent of the studied sections.

And they aren't just passive residents; biocrusts actively enhance the Great Wall's mechanical stability and diminish the threat of erosion.

Compared to unprotected parts, biocrust-covered sections show remarkable improvements, including reduced porosity, increased strength, and enhanced resistance to various environmental factors.

Some experts believe biocrusts can harm a structure, and while the plants may be responsible for some of the damage observed on the Great Wall, the recent survey suggests the benefits outweigh any risks.

This research underscores the pivotal role of biocrusts as natural guardians, and understanding the relationship between them and the Great Wall will help secure its longevity.

Header image: File photo courtesy of Canva Pro.