# How to colonize this planet?

About 39 light years away is a lush, biodiverse planet, called Leena. It is the fourth planet from a yellow star. The planet is a prime target for human colonization, as probe bots have discovered that the planet has oxygen, large amounts of liquid water, and its gravity was only 1.5 times earth gravity. So they build 3 ships, and the population sent to the planet is 50,000 people. They also sent livestock animals like cows, chickens and pigs, and crops like potatoes and cabbage. They also brought pet animals, like cats and dogs.

There are many problems with colonizing this planet, however.

Problem 1: The surface of the planet is covered in a thick layer of trees and shrubs that block the sun out on the surface. It must be cleared if they want to grow food on the planet.

Problem 2: There are plants, called eco-titans, that will eat any human or animals who stray too close. If killed, these animals will release their spores, which will make more Ecotitans they need to deal with.

So, do you have any solutions for these problems?

• Kill it with fire before it spreads spores. Mar 21 '18 at 20:44
• Problem 1: Clear it. Problem 2: kill them? Mar 21 '18 at 20:48
• Can we have more details about the eco-titans? Right now @A.C.A.C. seems to have the solution pretty succinctly. What other complications are there? Mar 21 '18 at 20:51
• Do the spores immediately pop into giant man eating "ecotitans"? If not, implement @A.C.A.C.'s solution and then start weeding. If so, try to learn from the break in conservation of energy to power your star ships. Mar 21 '18 at 21:10
• Please do not tell people to visit your other question without providing a link to it (ideally in the body of this question). Make it easy for other members, not hard. Mar 21 '18 at 21:12

Assuming those onboard are smart enough to have gathered information concerning the planet’s chemical and biological make-up to confirm that habitation thereupon is not essentially different from habitation on Earth beside the two aforementioned problems:

Solution 1: Drop chunks of scrap metal large enough to survive atmospheric entry, but not large enough to destroy entire biomes, and allow the impact to wipe out large areas of the forest; preferably calculating the trajectory so that the projectile lands on an island surrounded by river or narrow ocean gulfs so as to avoid excessive destruction. Once the burning is over, drop landing crafts in the treeless craters and harvest sunlight as necessary.

Solution 2: Stay within the craters formed in solution 1, if necessary, fence-off the perimeter and regularly burn away recovering vegetation; prohibit colonists and animals from straying beyond the boundary, and expand by first burning the vegetation in a patch of land that is the target of the expansion. As to the hippie scientists who would wonder into the woods against regulation, we can only wish them luck.

• Nuke em from orbit. Its the only way to be sure. Mar 22 '18 at 0:47
• If anyone wants to read more about this, Orson Scott Card wrote a book series involving this style of catastrophic colonization. I wasn't an enormous fan of the book - you can get the whole colonization story by reading the first few paragraphs of each chapter, focusing on the character named Ram: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathfinder_(novel) Mar 22 '18 at 15:02
• Somewhere, on a planet far far away, some species is looking at Earth and trying to figure out the best way to solve this problem as well... Mar 22 '18 at 15:18
• really any form of mechanized removal also works, Spores are not going to effect a robotic bulldozer.
– John
Feb 23 '19 at 13:47

The two problems can be simplified to:

Problem 1: The surface of the planet is covered in a thick layer of trees and shrubs.

Problem 2: There are plants that we don't like.

I never thought that I would propose a solution to a serious based question taking a page from Pokémon, but here goes. When faced with plant, use fire or bugs.

Introduce bugs into their ecossystem and watch the havoc. In fact, when biologists speak of alien invasion, they often refer exactly to this: non-native species damaging an ecossystem beyond repair. The advantage with this approach is that all you have to do is taking the bugs there, and they will do the job on their own accord. You just sit and wait.

Fire, on the other hand, may be more energy consuming. But it solves things fast, and it is beautiful. I am not a pyromaniac.

And if your eco-titan spores happen to be immune to fire and too though for bugs to eat, you can always carpet-bomb the whole planet. Cover it in smoke a la Matrix, wait for a few months in orbit until the smoke disperses, then settle down. The whole planet will probably be stinking of rot when you touchdown, but hey, you can't make an omelet without leaving some corpses.

• Don’t forget, the planet is considered worth colonizing, because it has oxygen. That’s not an invariant property, it’s the result of the plants. When you carpet-bomb the whole planet or destroy all plants by whatever method, it’s your duty to create a new ecosystem for an entire planet… Mar 22 '18 at 7:39
• "I am not a pyromaniac." but why not? :P youtu.be/p42OC4K-COw?t=1m7s Mar 22 '18 at 11:01
• @Holger I like your comment and I have upvoted it. I think that our planet went through that at least once, though, with the dinosaurs, and here we are. Mar 22 '18 at 11:04
• @Renan 36 million years later.... Mar 22 '18 at 17:28

The first problem you will face is: is anything there edible? You might have to burn a patch and then seed it with Earth based bacteria and fungi to get anything to grow there.

If we can't eat them, they can't eat us.

The big question is whether the ecotitans get any nutrition out of eating us. Not that it matters if you are being eaten but it determines if you can eat them back. Maybe the spore's sprout is edible. In that case, cut one down and farm it. If it isn't edible, find a weed killer specific to its biology and grow your own crops. That's what we do in modern farming anyway.

• "Can't eat" does not mean "can't maul/chew/crush/dissolve/disembowel" ';..;' !
– PTwr
Mar 22 '18 at 10:21
• I don't think the unability to digest something implies that this unability is reciprocal. The aliens could digest their local fauna by breaking molecules into more basic parts than our digestive systems can. Many carnivorous plants can digest a common fly, but no common fly can digest plant cellulose.
– Oxy
Mar 22 '18 at 11:50
• @PTwr, hence the second sentence of the next paragraph. In many cases, the distinction is moot. Mar 22 '18 at 16:25
• @Oxy, the main question is whether the sugar and protein molecules are biologically compatible. We make fake sugar specifically so we can't digest it. There is nothing about that fake sugar that prevents life on another world from picking it as the basis of metabolism instead of ours. Mar 22 '18 at 16:28

You are essentially trying to fight an entire ecosystem, which seems a bit ridiculous when you have the ability to travel between the stars: it might be much easier to simply terraform another handy planet and plant your own ecosystem there without interference, or create orbital colonies which you can control in virtually every aspect (including spinning to create the exact gravitational pull you desire).

However, if you insist on landing and settling the planet, you would need to understand the ecology. The "eco-titans" seem to be the top predators in the local eco system, so studying the entire food and energy chains will determine what they eat, how much they need to eat and so on. Disrupting the food chain will be highly effective, since as the apex predator, they probably need a particular diet. Imagine arriving on Earth during the Cretaceous period. The T-Rex hanging around the landing site is going to need some rather large creatures to eat, so disrupting the habitat to drive away the local Hadrosaurids will compel the T-rex to follow them (it isn't going to stick around to eat tiny chicken sized dinosaurs). The Eco Titan isn't going to have that option, being a plant, so it will eventually wither and die once deprived of food.

Other answers have given you clues as to who to do this, devastate an area using kinetic energy projectiles, burn away the food plants with fire or introduce an invasive species which catastrophically transforms the ecology (think rabbits in Australia or Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes).

Start Colonizing with the sea. The sea can be used to harvest aquatic organisms which could be used for food. The humans could build underwater colonies like the one in Subnautica.

And yes if you have the tech to space travel, then trying to destroy a species will be a child's play. You must also remember that humans are pros at destroying and killing other species.

• It's kinda inferrence. but Nature tends to produce variant solutions to variant problems. If you want to colonise the sea I would strongly recommend checking for mega-flora/mega-fauna there that might be a hazard! If a giant meat eating plant exists on land it almost certainly has a cousin in the sea, and with the buoyancy and general supportive nature of the oceans it's very likely bigger than its terrestrial (leenial?) counterpart. The biggest problem with an oceanic colony is the lack of accessible mineral and material resources. On land you can dig, in the ocean..much more effort. Mar 22 '18 at 9:57

Settle an island in the ocean. Clear out local forest, plant a terrestrial biome.

• This sounds like the start of a good answer, but we discourage one-line answers here. Perhaps you could expand this into a paragraph or two to explain your idea more fully. Mar 22 '18 at 1:13

Answering question one involves looking at question two at the same time.

1. To grow food you need to clear area to plant food
2. There are plants called eco-titans that will attack us
3. We discovered (I assume someone killed one) if we kill the eco-titans they release seeds that grow more eco-titans

I think then the question becomes:

1. Is there a way to safely kill the eco-titans and not create more?
2. What is the impact of killing the eco-titans? Of killing too many?

My solution would involve clearing patches that don't have eco-titians so we can try growing food. I would then train everyone in the identification of eco-titians and the danger of getting too close and the danger of killing eco-titians telling them, "You are now warned... proceed with caution and at your own risk."

We already have this problem here - they are called predatory animals. Lions, tigers and bears... oh my! And everyone knows where dangerous predatory animals are, yet they still find ways to get themselves killed or kill the animals. We have to learn to live with danger knowing to stay at the top of the food chain we need to use our brains.

A Cautionary Tale

I'm sure we would find a way to control the eco-titans the same way we control predatory animals, but we can't whole-sale slaughter them. If I remember correctly, farmers in Australia killed predators that were killing their livestock (dingos or whatever) and the next year the rat population exploded because the predators they killed the year before weren't there to kept the rats in check.

• Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! Mar 22 '18 at 16:07
• It seems to me that if too many spores are released that the increase in titan population would decimate their food supply and they would end up going extinct on their own. Mar 22 '18 at 17:14

There is something important to remember about humans.

We are not at the top of the food chain because we are terribly durable or strong or agile. We don't have natural camouflage or natural weapons or anything else like that.

Humans are at the top of the food chain because we are smart.

# Foliage

Humans are really good at deforestation. I mean...we're kind of too good at it. And you're dealing with space age humans. Herbicides, fire, heavy logging equipment, bringing your spaceship into a low hover over the trees and flattening them with rocket-wash, and so on.

If you want a simple solution, start your colonization near the ocean. Assuming this planet's geology is anything like Earth's, then land near the ocean is saturated with a high water table. This makes the ground less 'sturdy' meaning massive plants won't be able to stay upright long enough to become massive. The ground just isn't solid enough to handle their size.

So, by starting near the coast, we're starting with shorter plants. From here, we move on to standard Slash and Burn tactics. Cut down the trees and burn them. Whether you cut them down with axes, saws, lasers, rocketwash, sonic cannons, or whatever futuristic method of destruction your space-age colonists have--doesn't matter. Knock stuff down, set it on fire. This purges the area of plantlife, insect life, and is a good first step towards the ecological reset you need to perform in order to get Earth crops to grow in alien soil. Once you have your foothold, you can spread inland, carving a fiery path through the foliage.

Or, heck...there are no settlements down there that you care about. Start some forest fires. Sit back, watch em burn. Toast Marshmallows. Humanity has a long, proud tradition of clearing land with fire. No reason to stop just because we moved to a new planet.

# Eco-Titans

Humans are really good at dealing with natural threats. We basically have two responses to things that are able to hurt us.

1. Kill them first. When a tiger attacks a village, humanity doesn't huddle in their homes and be thankful they weren't taken. They get/make weapons and go kill the tiger. If the weapons don't work as well as we'd hope, we innovate until we make ones that work better. Humanity has historically driven species of predator to extinction because they messed with us.
2. Make Friends with them. Once upon a time, there was a pack hunting animal that was a tremendous threat to humanity. We abducted their young, trained them into hunting partners, then (many, many years later) had sufficiently screwed with them via breeding that we made Poodles and chihuahuas.

So, for Option 1. Kill mature Eco Titans in the area. As they have 'muscles' that consistently contract, they are going to operate at a higher temperature than surrounding plantlife. Finding them won't be all that hard. As you mentioned in your prior question--it takes them 500 years to reach maturity. In the most recent 500 year span, humanity went from "Wow, it is possible to sail all the way around the world" to "We are making plans to go live on another planet soon" and from "Muskets sure are nifty!" to "We can sink entire islands with a single bomb."

Sure, killing an adult Eco Titan makes more Eco Titans. But it makes baby Eco Titans that won't be full-grown for 5 centuries. Sounds like a fair trade to me. And hey, in that time, I'm sure humanity can figure out how to detect and destroy their spores. As mentioned, we're really good at killing stuff.

A few options that already exist...

A modern Thermobaric Bomb detonates at a flash up to 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit, a full blown Forest Fire peaks at merely 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit. The blast of a Thermobaric weapon is enough to instantly reduce any plant matter caught in the immediate fireball to ash. And, of course, set fire to just about anything nearby.

Orbital kinetic bombardment (as well as nuclear and thermonuclear weapons) can release enough energy to reduce all matter caught in the immediate strike to plasma, by emitting sufficient energy to shred the atomic bonds of the molecules, ripping off all the electrons and flinging the atomic nuclei apart. They'll largely put themselves back together eventually, but certainly not in the same configuration they started in. I don't care how sturdy your plant's spores are, being shredded at the atomic level destroys anything.

Chemical Warfare can let you destroy these things in myriad ways, possibly including ones that don't trigger a release of spores. You kill an Eco Titan normally, then contain one of the immature ones that results from it. Then you experiment on the sucker, taking samples from its materials and so on, until you find a chemical cocktail that harms them. Then you just deploy that as a weapon, and continue to refine it while you go.

Option 2 is the 'make friends' or at least 'make it useful' option.

If you know where an Eco Titan is (they're immobile) then they can be useful. Depending on how exactly they catch their prey, you can avoid that--either by keeping your distance, not falling in the hole, whatever. Put up warning signs, caution tape, so on. If it emits some scent that lures people in--heyo hazmat suits and 'minimum safe distance' markers. If it has a 'hole' that prey would normally fall into, then seal it off. It's a plant--it can't reach up there and pull off the steel platform you just mounted to its orfice.

Now, how can we make it useful?

1. Bio-waste recycling. Eco Titans eat biological materials...dump organic trash into their mouths. They get fed, we get rid of some trash.
2. Useful materials. If (as was suggested in the answers to your other question) they produce something desirable as 'bait,' then once an Eco Titan is made safe, we can harvest that something. If you can't physically approach it for some reason--well...humanity did invent drones for this sort of thing.
3. Study. These things are huge and sound fascinating. Let the egg-heads poke and prod. If nothing else, they can figure out what makes these things tick, so we can figure out how to kill them better the next time we need to clear space for a village.

The surface of the planet is covered in a thick layer of trees and shrubs that block the sun out on the surface. It must be cleared if they want to grow food on the planet.

If there's anything that humans are good at, it's deforestation on colossal scale. The hard part is getting humans to not deforest a region.

Worst-case, assuming this super-forest is supernaturally tough and resistant to all known herbicides and fire, just drop your spaceship on them. Atmospheric re-entry heat and pressure should be more than sufficient to clear space.

There are plants, called eco-titans, that will eat any human or animals who stray to close. If killed, these animals will release their spores, which will make more Ecotitans they need to deal with.

Kill them. Then kill the baby eco-titans. Kill them until they're so rare that the only people who go out to kill them are dentists from a different continent. Hey, it worked for lions.

The real question is how humans will take trophies after the kill. Do you use the stomach lining as a rug? Do you mount a spore on your wall? Maybe the eco-titans have cool-looking reproductive organs to cut off and gift as a romantic gesture (wait, isn't that roses?)

Gentlemen! Demonstrate your true love and devotion by proposing to the love of your life with a 2-ton eco-titan blossom! Available now from the DeBeers affiliate, DeFlores.

"I heard that Bill proposed to Jane with a yellow eco-titan blossom." "Ugh, at least tell me it was over 2 tons." "Not even 1.5" "What does she see in that man?"

I wanted to create this as a comment, because I don't really consider it an answer so much as a counter-question, but I just signed up for an account for this, and don't have enough rep. As it is, I will attempt to provide an answer in addition to my counter-question.

• Welcome to WorldBuilding Josh! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! Mar 23 '18 at 13:59

Problem 1: seems easy enough for our species - just clear it - manually / with explosives or some less nice methods like some sort of chemical/biological agents (but the can pollute the ecosystem for a long time).

Problem 2: now, that is interesting one - how are they killing people / animals? How many of them are there on the surface (if they are the apex predator, there can't be that many of them, seems they would not have enough to eat and would died out)? The most common strategies for apex predators on Earth are to have limited amount of offspring, since having hundreds of offsprings in near vicinity would - again - deplete source of food rather quick, so maybe the amount of spores they release is limited and since they are probably rather large it shouldn't be that difficult to collect spores afterwards.

On the other hand, titans might have some crucial ecosystem-balancing role to play, so exterminating them totally might not be the best idea.

Now, with that preamble, some solutions to the problem:

• kill titans, let them release spores, kill titans in early growth stage (should be smaller and much less harmful)
• focus on detection and prevention system for colonists
• use drones/robots to search surface for all titans, mark it and make it a no-go zone
• when killing a titan spread some sort of net over the area where it is, so that any released spores will be caught

Closing note: it would help to know more about the plants - their size, reproductive cycle, growth cycle, morphology, how do they hunt, etc. Usually, once you have detailed description of a problem, answer or answers or at least ideas how to deal / limit it became obvious.

• Welcome to WorldBuilding Marek! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! Mar 23 '18 at 13:59

Sense and avoid

For areas where you'd prefer to preserve the local ecosystem.

Have robot scouts map out any area for eco-titans before humans will roam there, and continue to map them out periodically at a period shorter than the time it takes for new eco-titans to grow.

Upload the maps to each person's wearable computer. Have the computer guide the person around the danger. Gently at first, rudely if they're getting too close.

Assumptions:

• Eco-titans are immobile
• New eco-titans take a reasonable amount of time to grow from being recognizable to being dangerous.
• Robot scouts can reliably spot all eco-titans in an area.
• Wearable computers are reliable.

As an alternative to all of the "deforestation" variants -- burn, bomb, clearcut -- the settlers could embrace the vegetation. Tall, dense trees would make great treehouses. Harvesting lumber from the undergrowth would be akin to mining, while treehouse structures, vertical farming on cables or vines suspended between trees (perhaps akin to living bridges) would form the basic infrastructure of the colony. If the extremely dense vegetation can be manipulated while living, or cut and turned to building materials, farms and communities could be built above the canopy. Going down to the surface would be like a mining operation, in the dark, extracting valuable materials to be hauled back to the 'surface' on top of the canopy.

Since the predators are fixed then the initial colony could try to avoid them when landing. Send probes down to surface locations, and wherever the probe survives is a good spot to build. Depending on the details, you could encase them before killing to trap the spores (wrap in a plastic bag), or kill the spores in the air, or if the spores are slow growing, kill the spores as they root near the colony and let them spread outside the colony. Interestingly, this would lead to a ring of them immediately around the colony, kind of a wall to keep anything else out and keep colonists in. Once the eco-titans become dense enough around the colony that they can't be effectively removed, the colony stops growing and a new colony location is found and populated from the air, again growing outward and removing eco-titans until the eco-titan ring wall gets too dense.

• The ecotitans can’t movr Mar 22 '18 at 20:58

## Location, location, location

As opportunistic but immobile ambush predators, ecotitans are less a concern than whatever mobile predators roam the land. Therefore your colonists should be looking for a naturally defensible location to establish their home. A smallish island or plateau would be ideal, as the water or cliffs would keep out a fair share of predators and fences can deal with the rest.

## Burn it with fire

Once the colony location has been decided, landing craft will use their jets to sterilize the area (from shore to shore or cliff to cliff) with fire. This will deal with whatever ecotitans might be hidden on the island or plateau, and the spores will either burn or can be ignored until trying to take root. Given a day or two to burn out and cool off, landing can begin in earnest.

Fences and walls at the perimeter will stop most predators that might cross or emerge from the water or scale the cliffs. Electrified, if necessary. The scorched ground is also prepared for planting Earth crops, while colonists should be trained to identify and eliminate native plants as they sprout.

For additional security, burning a radius beyond the inner fence/wall would make crossing or descending to undertake exploration a bit easier. Secondary fences might be erected.

## Equilibrium

While the non-destructive suggestions in other answers are noble, for your colonists this is a choice between success and failure. Only once they've established themselves should they try finding a happy balance with the native flora and fauna, incorporating compatible plants and animals once properly studied. Ecotitans will need to be understood before they can be dealt with, but that is a luxury for after the colony is established and basic needs are met.

A lot of people have mentioned fire.

There are three downsides to using fire heavily to clear ground.

1. It's not very good for the soil
2. It could trigger new growth in many species
3. It's a major waste of natural resources

A little orbital bombardment to clear a landing space isn't that bad an idea, but from that point on you should get down to harvesting these trees as building material. You're going to need a lot of accommodation for your colonists, you'll need paddocks for animals, you'll need fences just in case there's anything nasty out in the woods. And you were just going to burn all that forest?

### Let me introduce you to the Ponsse SkorpionKing

This beast turns trees into logs with the push of a button. Given sufficient technology to travel between the stars and the knowledge that you're heading for a heavily wooded planet I'd expect something along these lines that could turn an eco-titan into a pile of planks in a couple of minutes to be in the inventory.

Clearing forest on an industrial scale is something we excel at as a species. I don't expect that to change just because some of the flora is a bit hostile.

Solutions to step 1:

• Use genetic modification to create edible (plant-based and animal based) parasites that live in the trees.
• Cut the trees down. We've been doing it for millennia now and are pretty good at it.
• Burn it.
• Put poison in the ground. Depending on your goal make the poison something that stays there or moves around.
• Use a species of your own. The Acorn tree uses the mycelia in the ground to transport poisons and kill of nearby plants, making the ground barren and giving the Acorn tree little competition for food and light sources in the area. Use a similar method to create larger and larger open areas with a ring of acorn-like trees at the edge to keep taking more and more land. You are colonizing, so you've got some time and by seeding these all over the planet you can pre-terraform the local area.

Solutions to step 2:

• If you don't like a predator like a Tiger in your backyard, you can try to kill it or scare it away. But we are talking about a tree. Use spectography or just careful exploration to find the trees, put up warning signs and fences so people don't accidentally get killed. These trees have a purpose in the ecosystem, don't root them all out.
• If the tree really needs to go and can send off spores before being burned completely, put a large plastic dome over it to catch any spores, then cut, chip, poison or burn it.
• Or don't worry about the spores at all. It takes a while before they grow big enough to be dangerous, if they are outside your territory it's hardly a problem and if they are inside you root them out.

Last option: genetically Engineer an ant-species for your purposes. From invading and eating any ecotitan spores they find to accumulating poison in trees that grow too big and start stealing light, they can invade the planet and be nigh impossible to root out.

I like the idea of clearing a landing site. However instead of clearing a blast radius from impact or nuclear bomb, I'd find a nice island away from the mainlands and level the ecosystem there.

Then we would land our colony, get it started and then send missions to the mainland(s) to learn more about our new home.

Humans are good at one thing, that is adapting to new environments. We do that adapting with our technologies. Clothing was an early technology which opened the door to us moving further north. Sticks and stone made into crude weapons was the technology that made it far easier to bring down meat. As humans spread into new ecosystems humans learned how to live there, then manage the environment by exploiting what we could and learning how to master that ecosystem.

Look at how people lived before the great industrial revolution. People adapted to where they lived, used the materials to build unique homes designed to shelter from specific climates, make clothing geared for that environment. They learned which plants to eat and which plants to not even touch and which plants to make alcohol from, or to smoke, or to eat or to rub into that nasty wound one got tangling with X potential dinner.

This is what your colonists will need to do. They will need to adapt to the world, learn how to use it, exploit it and bend it slightly to their will while they adapt to this new world.

There is going to be no way to really win the war against this ecology. It's not Earth.

An entire planet will not have a uniform ecosystem. Colonize grasslands and other unforested areas. Mountains, Polar regions. Islands.

Why so much destruction in other answers?

I would use well-constructed stilts, taking care not to block too much sunlight.

You could descend as needed to procure useful materials.

• How do you grow crops? Mar 28 '18 at 3:56

Do like americans in Vietnam, napalm the surface and then colonize it.

So first you get enough napalm to burn 100km2.

Then you build your city and factories to build more napalm.

You are now able to burn all the planet.

• Hi and welcome on Worldbuilding. We usally do not like 1-line answers. You could try fleshing it up. For example, how do you bring all that napalm to that other planet, and is that the most effective way to work on it? Feb 22 '19 at 14:33