Colours of Autumn, the vital symphony revisited
Elias Hakalehto, PhD, Adj. Prof.
CEO, Finnoflag Oy
Vice President, International Society of Environmental Indicators
Lifetime Fellow Member, International Society of Development and Sustainability (Japan)
(Published on the 6th of October 2022)
The wide variety of beauty around us is expressed in trees and in other plant leaves. It is also a reminder of the nearly universal dependence of life on sunlight. Basically, some bacteria only can make primary production without light. The cosmic source of energy is keeping up the natural balances on our planet, and of its ecosystems.
Namely, in Autumn, when light more scarcely falls upon us and frost bites our cheeks, it is the time for deciduous trees to collect the precious chlorophyll molecules back to their trunks and branches. This recollection takes place before the trees get rid of the old leaves, which for some time flame in the colourful exhibition or symphony of colours, resulting from this elimination.
In many parts of the world, the flamboyant season is the reminder of photosynthesis. The green powerhouse molecules are spared and stored for the next Spring, and for the new leaves to emerge. Their metabolic activity will then bind again the solar energy into chemical form. It will once again recharge the cellular batteries in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) and other energy storage compounds. This energy and molecular building blocks will eventually also sustain the ecological food chains.
The energy that streams into and within the forest trees and other green plants will maintain rich fauna and microbial life, especially in the rhizosphere, around the roots. That makes the soil a living wonder. It can cultivate new plants. The principle of ecology is fulfilled as the energy flows and the matter is circulating.
Fossil compounds, such as coal, oil and natural gas, are accumulated old organic matter that has been left out of the system and stored by the seismic and other forces. It has been preserved from the past when plants and algae were burned, pyrolyzed and pressurized in the geological upheavals. Using this compressed energy reserve, modern man has liberated vast chemical energies for his industries, communities and traffic. At the same time, the global ecosystem has been compromised.
During normal ecological cycles, the soil and water microbes take care of the degradation of the decaying plants, animals, and other microflora. If the human industries are supposed to work alike, they have to adapt similar activities as the microbial strains. Therefore, in my company Finnoflag Oy, we have registered the trademark "Industry Like Nature".
The most recent attempt to get that concept alive is the Tampere Hiedanranta project in Finland. There we wanted to return the 1.5 M tons of environmentally deposited cellulosic waste from the lake bottom, into industrial circulation, thus avoiding the environmental consequences. The sedimented biomass could have been converted into valuable chemicals, energy gases and organic soil improvement. They would have become raw materials that bind Carbon in a feasible and sustainable way. Such as mannitol as a pharmaceutical excipient for future tablets and pills.
The past industrial side streams of the lake bottom represent the old-time photosynthetic activity. They could have produced some age-old sunshine and happiness on the shores of Lake Näsijärvi, and other lakes and rivers and seasides. The organic soil improvement as fortified by the microbial processes could return the growing potential globally to the spoilt, overused or eroded lands. With the help of microbes.
In the North, the tree leaves detach from the trees usually just before snow covers the terrains. The chlorophyll remain in the dedicuous trees, and other colours get their shift to shine. How the deprivation of something so vital can make the residues so extremely beautiful?
Many chromogenic substances of this fascinating symphony of colours also make a contribution to our health. Like the lycopene of tomatoes, the carotenoids of carrots and many other plants, anthocyanins of bilberries, they are the instruments of this orchestra.
The royal fishes, salmons, get the pink colour of their flesh from astaxanthin, which comes from the food the fish eats in the oceans. Some algal species contain this rich antioxidant, which is in the food chains transferred to some crustaceans and shellfish. Astaxanthin makes the colour of prawns and shrimps. This health-promoting compound is biotechnologically produced in many desert pools, where this precious molecule becomes harvestible for health supplements.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most common xanthophylls in many green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli and peas. They occur in the eggs, too. In plants, their occurrence together with chlorophylls tells specifically about the presence of Nitrogen. Consequently, the soil rich in Nitrogen is favoured by some such plants as nettle.
Flavonoids are important contributors of health. One of their powerful representatives is quercetin, which also gives its unique shift to the oakwood. It occurs in many plants, and can help in avoiding chronic inflammation of the adipose and other tissues, one of the typical miseries of modern times. Together with many other substances it protects our heart in incredibly many ways. For example, the vitamin B12 (cobalamin) has its unique pinkish or reddish colour thanks to the molecules chelated by Cobalt metal atoms. In the same way is the chlorophyll a chelate of Magnesium, and the heme of blood a chelate of Iron.
If the metals occur in too high concentrations in our body system, such antioxidants as resveratrol or quinolines could remove the excesses of Iron or Copper, or such heavy metals as Cadmium, Lead or Arsene. These metals, as well as accumulated Aluminium have are potential contributors in such neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer's. On the other hand, metallic Selenium could be a protector of the neural tissues in right concentrations. In Finland, a pioneer in antioxidant treatment and products is Dr. Kaarlo Jaakkola, who established Antioxidant Clinics and Biomed Oy.
In the human body system, bile substances are a beautiful example of one form of recollection, which takes place in the human body system. They are produced in the liver and stored in our gallbladder. Eventually, they are liberated into the duodenum in the upper end of the small intestine. Their interplay with the microbiome is described e.g. in the article "Growth and gaseous emissions of pure and mixed small intestinal bacterial cultures: Effects of bile and vancomycin" in Pathophysiology Journal 2010 Feb;17(1):45-53, by Elias Hakalehto, Markus Hell, Christa Bernhofer, Anneli Heitto, Jouni Pesola, Tarmo Humppi and Heikki Paakkanen.
In the intestines microbes and bile take part in forming a delicate balance. They constitute one cornerstone of our defences, and contribute to nutrient uptake. In fact, the bile substance gives the recognizable colour to chyme, the liquid in our small bowel, which is formed by the foods under digestion. There 80% of our metabolic energies are derived from. The bile acids are then recollected in the end of the 6-8 meters long small intestine to be restored and reused by the liver.
If the natural circulation of substances, many of which also make our planet so colorful, is intentionally, or as a result of greediness, destroyed, this will mean the unavoidable log out call for life. On the contrary, the opposite activities could have turned out to be so vital, and still could make their effect. Human impact on his or her planet could also become life-saving. It is up to us. Therefore, "industry like(s) Nature".