The “Physical Landscape” of Jericho refers to the backdrop upon which all cultural and ecological activities take place. While the bedrock provides the topography and structure upon which everything else sits, the surficial geology provides the material from which soils are made. Soils then dictate many ecological patterns, while an area’s hydrology acts not only as a transportation system, depositing materials from one place in another, but also greatly influences the locations of plant and animal habitats. Together, all layers of the physical landscape interact to produce the patterns of vegetation, wildlife, and even human activities that we have seen throughout history and that continue today.
The physical landscape story begins with the deposition of sea-bottom sediments that would eventually form the rocks we see today at the surface. The next tale follows the uplift of the Green Mountains and the tectonic collision that caused a small fault line to form in the town’s bedrock. This event also shaped the area’s topography into roughly the form we see today, with lower valleys to the west and higher hills to the east. The story then skips ahead to the region’s glacial history that left debris and plenty of water in its path. Sediments deposited from this rush of water and subsequent lakes and streams formed the basis on which soils would develop, and these would eventually influence ecological and cultural activities.
The story continues today, for the physical landscape is in no way “finished” in its creation process. As with all geologic events, time passes on a nearly imperceptible scale—but change happens nonetheless. And although it may seem impossible for human activity to alter events of the physical landscape, we do. We may not have the ability to persuade tectonic plates to move, but erosion happens every day. Every tree we plant adds new roots to the soil, causes nutrients to run through a new cycle. Every square of sidewalk we pave locks those nutrients underground. We have become part of the physical landscape, and it is up to us to shape our backdrop in a manner appropriate to our place within it.
You can find additional information about Jericho’s landscape on the community-run website “A Field Guide to Jericho,” http://jerichofieldguide.wikispaces.com. Follow links to “Maps and Geography” and “Naturalist Field Guide” for information about the physical landscape.