I'm trying to build a semi-plausible world where there is native flora and fauna, but the world is subtly not quite right for human habitation. I thought that having significant amounts of copper in the water would allow for stunning visuals like this:

enter image description here

I'd imagine the trees would evolve to be slightly metallic or petrified, and the fauna would be able to filtrate the copper out of the water to survive. However there's just so much copper in the water and atmosphere (dissolved in the humidity) that it's too expensive for a high tech (but not post-scarcity) society to terraform properly.

Basically I want a world where people can move around but not fully settle. Does this premise pass the versimilitude test?

  • $\begingroup$ Honestly given the value of copper to our society for electronics, and its extreme concentration extracting would probably be easy. Like panning for gold. Also copper elements are heavier than air and water, and would probably sink over time. In no time at all the colonist from earth would strip mine your planet. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Nov 12 '16 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ @cybernard Mind if I turn that comment into an answer $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 12 '16 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra go for it. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Nov 12 '16 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ I wondered why the copper in the image you posted would be orange, rather than green/blue, since oxidized copper turns greenish blue. Anyway, I searched Google for that image and it may not actually be showing copper--here is my search: bit.ly/2fJWjKZ It may just be a photo used to depict extremely polluted environments. $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Nov 12 '16 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ This is the color of oxidized copper: google.com/… $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Nov 12 '16 at 4:27

Copper is actually essential to biology, and in arthropods it is used to move oxygen in the blood, just like iron is in vertebrates. Once the native life started making oxygen in large amounts a lot of the copper is going to turn solid just like iron did on the early earth. You just won't have any in the atmosphere because copper is heavy and will get left behind during evaporation, it's the same reason we don't have iron in the air on our iron rich world.

So the native life would not be all that different than you expect on an earth like planet, the most notable difference is things would bleed blue instead red. so you life should have fewer reds and oranges, and more greens and blues.

As for humans the biggest problems will be copper toxicity so they will need to drink filtered water and eat crops grown in isolation, probably filtered hydroponics. Recycling water might be easier and absolutely no eating the native life. Good news is you don't have to worry about biomagnification, so they can have livestock as long as it eats the hydroponics too. Zinc supplements will be necessary since copper impedes zinc uptake. The biggest thing will be absolutely no aquaculture, fish and algae are far more vulnerable than mammals.

so yeah it's perfect for your premise, any settlement will have to be entirely self-contained, and food production will be expensive, so no real incentive to colonize other than to mine copper and study the life on the planet.

  • $\begingroup$ Couldn't we just sift all the copper out of the soil to a depth of around 4ft(the depth of the deeps roots +1 or 2 ft for good measure), and then our plants would grow just fine. Farmers used to have to sift stones and etc to make land plantable, same concept? $\endgroup$ – cybernard Nov 12 '16 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ This study characterizes poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM) dendrimers of various generations and terminal functional groups for removal of copper(II) in a sandy soil. Effects of dendrimer dose, generation number, pH, terminal functional groups, and ionic strength on the removal efficiency were investigated through a series of column tests. Over 90% of copper initially sorbed in the soil was removed by use of ∼66 bed volumes of 0.10% (w/w) of a generation 4.5 dendrimer with carboxylate terminal groups at pH 6.0. On the basis of equal equivalent dose, dendrimers of lower generation removed more copper. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Nov 12 '16 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ above is a quotation from pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es040380e I don't know what any of that means, but I know 90% copper removal would be awesome. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Nov 12 '16 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ One of the main symptoms of excessive copper exposure appears to be Alzheimer's disease. sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022510X98000926 and alzinfo.org/articles/copper-play-role-alzheimers-disease and ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4030141 $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 12 '16 at 8:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.