A neogen plant used in terraforming, paraterraforming, or habitat creation.
The Canopy Plant is neogen terraforming plant with bionano capabilities developed as an alternative to the Yggdrasil Bush. The plant's growth follows this basic outline:
- Hardened seedpods are dropped from planetary orbit. They may be decelerated by parachute or by balloon cushion depending on the atmosphere of the target body.
- Pods penetrate the surface or burrow down to their optimal depth.
- Each seedpod begins to extend a root system through ground and a solar energy collecting canopy bud to the surface.
- The plant extends its canopy, utilizing material mined from the air and ground. It sends up to three fast growing runners that are separated from one another by approximately 120 degrees. When they reach a preset distance they set down new root systems. The canopy membrane grows out from the taproot and the edges of the runners. As it grows it is initially anchored to the ground by temporary rootlets.
- New root systems produce their own canopy buds and send out own runners until they begin to link up in a roughly hexagonal network according to local terrain.
- The canopy continues to grow from the vertices and runner edges until it covers an entire hexagon. The air pressure beneath canopy rises as atmosphere is processed, causing the canopy dome to inflate. Curtain membranes grow between canopy and runner, sealing each hexagonal cell from the others. Tailored biota and bionano are then introduced into the cells to further prepare the developing biome.
- As ceiling height increases the curtain walls may be detached, creating ever-greater continuous space beneath the canopy. The canopy remains anchored to the surface by the original stems.
- Atmospheric processing and terraforming may continue in the air outside of the canopy domes till the desired composition and pressure are achieved. Air pressure under the canopy may then be equalized with that outside, and the cell canopies rent to expose the cell interiors. The plant's biomass can then be recycled into the new environment. This can be done progressively if adjoining cells remain sealed off by the curtain walls and are kept under higher pressure.
The speed of Canopy Plant growth is dependent upon insolation and the composition of the regolith and atmosphere from which the plant draws material. Once the runner network is in place, needed feedstock may be transported through it to where it will be most useful. Sunlight can be augmented by orbital mirrors or magnifying solettas and required nutrients and volatiles may be imported if they are deficient in the native environment, unless slower growth or more limited coverage is not an issue to those in charge of the project. Under optimal conditions the area covered by canopy can double every six weeks and an Earth sized planet can be covered in as little as five years from an initial planting of 10,000 uniformly spaced seedpods.
The Canopy Plant is well suited for the terraforming of most Gaian, Arean and early Cytherean planets, with little or no additional technological input.
The advantage that the Canopy Plant has over the Yggdrasil Bush is that it can cover a given area more quickly and its growth is more easily directed or altered by the supervisory team. Also, terraforming occurs progressively as more cells are covered by canopy, so that the terraformers need not wait for the entire worldhouse infrastructure to be in place. Finally, less potential biomass is bound up in the plant itself, and clearing it out when the terraforming process is nearing or at completion is far easier. On the other hand, the Yggdrasil Bush can tolerate a much greater range of initial environmental conditions, and it is more adaptable and requires less outside supervision due to the greater processing power invested in each Yggdrasil trunk. Also a Yggdrasil Bush is much sturdier and more reliable if a worldhouse is the desired final outcome.
Tech Level: Biotech 8, Nanotech 5