Glomalin and Conservation in Humboldt County The 1996 discovery of the soil glue glomalin is changing our understanding of the impact of elevated carbon dioxide, while giving important clues to forest health, watersheds, revegetation, wildfire and carbon sequestration. Here I share what I have found so others may read and draw their own conclusions, and relate it to my own experience, Humboldt County issues and stories from the news.

Friday, July 30, 2004

63. Mattole Stream Gauging 

63. Mattole Stream Gauging
Yesterday (July 29) I received a request to write for restoration of funding for one of two Mattole River gauging stations. One has been in place for decades and a second added in 2001. These gauges are useful in reflecting conditions in the valley as part of the Mattole River and Range Project. It was clear this was a budget item. I wrote a couple of e-mails and requested more info. When the more info came, it had a request for letters deadline two weeks earlier than when I got it. It was reported each gauge cost 17,500 dollars a year to operate, and that the Department of Water Resources had only agreed to pay for operations for one funding cycle. The Mattole Salmon Group recognizes the importance of monitoring to audit restoration efforts, and submitted a proposal to DFG, which was turned down last year. The state will only be able to fund three of seventeen stream flow monitors this fiscal year. It is possible to move up the priority list. At the end a date of July 14 was set as the budget would be settled.
A letter from Randy D. Klein, a hydrologist from Arcata,states, “I am writing to urge continued operation of the two stream flow stations on the Mattole River. The station on the lower Mattole near Petrolia (No. 11469000) has been operating continuously since 1951, thus it provides a long-term data set conducive to robust hydrologic analyses. The other station is located at Ettersburg (No. 11468900) and has only been operating since 2001, but is in a key location for hydrologic analyses in the basin.
As watershed restoration efforts progress in the Mattole, critical low flows have become recognized as a major factor limiting salmonid recovery. This conclusion is documented in the Northcoast Watershed Assessment Project’s (NCWAP) Mattole River Report, in which your agency participated. Moreover, state biologist believe that the low flow issue could limit the effectiveness of land conservation and habitat recovery work of the past two decades, which represents an large investment of public funds.”
Tasha McKee of Sanctuary Forest wrote, “In recent years low flow conditions have emerged as the most significant threat to salmonid survival in the Mattole. This conclusion is documented in the NCWAP Mattole River Report that also emphasizes the need for stream flow data to address the problem. On a recent tour local department of Fish and Game stated that lack of action addressing the low flow issue could overshadow all of the habitat recovery work of the past twenty years. This represents an investment of approximately 13 million dollars in public funds for land acquisition and restoration projects to restore the health of the river for salmonid recovery.”
Cathy Blier of California Resources Agency recommended several alternate agencies for funding. A stop gap measure may exist in local community service funds or outside grant sources.
Discussion: There is a lot to learn from this little campaign. First off, long term funding has got to be applied to long term ongoing projects, as opposed to implementation projects. Monitoring is critical, especially at the money we are talking. A twenty or thirty year sunsetted program tied to restoration spending would do much better for Ettersburg. Local resource groups need to have a central project timeline and targeted funding for the duration of each of the projects, so that all go forward in unison. perhaps in the form of endowments that go back to the funder at completion of a project.
A second question is what is available at the federal agencies? There are several mentions of this being a USGS installation or device. Perhaps that is their contribution. BLM also now has a large investment in the Mattole and a responsibility to the estuary. NOAA also has become involved in fisheries restoration, and climate, precipitation, and runoff data may interest them aside from fisheries. This data should relate to them. US Fish and Wildlife could also be of assistance.
But behind all of this is the question: Why is the Mattole drying up? Precipitation has been average or better the last few years.
One thing I read years ago said if 15% of a watershed is paved or roofed, the watershed was impacted. 25%, damaged. 40%, dysfunctional. Let us add all places without glomalin storage-clearcuts, roads, river bars, lawns, annual grass rangelands and fresh slides and debris flow surfaces, together with the glomalin impaired areas like lawns, brush, cropland, second growth and select cuts. We are talking about old growth here and its capacity to store water in the root zone as the 100% historical storage mark, and several years worth of precipitation feeding the river year round to maintain the original flow regime. How much of this original storage is left in the Mattole? We can go directly to the vegetation maps, and a little research would let us put numbers on these. Ten year old ceanothus stores ten percent of 150 year old Doug fir, for example. Then we would know to expect ten percent of the historic flow next year and it would be important to take measures to increase that level on a community wide basis.
We also have the problem of drainages being impacted so that swales become overloaded and fail. We also lose water soaking into the ground because water is kept on the surface and made to run off into a catchment as fast as possible. The surface water carries loads of sediment into the stream, as opposed to the stored water made to percolate through the system. This last problem means even the stream channels can no longer act as storage because sediment has filled the pools and scour has removed the shade. Lots of water is being lost to evaporation. We are in danger of becoming a high precipitation desert.
I am afraid restoration will not be able to return conditions without thorough understanding of glomalin storage and the need for large blocks of big trees managed and protected from fire by thinning and water retention. You can read more about this in my article No.3 “Our Shrinking Watersheds” at, April 29, 2004.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

62. Remove the Dams on the Klamath 

62. Remove the dams on the Klamath River
This article expresses the point of view of our Native cultures dependant on healthy rivers and fisheries. Our Native friends remind us we are all brothers in the Creators eyes and have obligations to each other as species and as people. They tell us it is time for something truly great, a once in a lifetime opportunity to reclaim part of our local heritage. Greater emphasis is being focused on restoring fisheries and river flows. The days of mass destruction are fading. Regional projects like the culvert replacement scheme, River and Range project, and dam removals all point toward a brighter future for salmon.
Remove the dams on the Klamath River Eureka Times-Standard Sunday, July 25, 2004 - My Word by Howard McConnell
The Yurok Tribe is the most populous Indian tribe in California. Our reservation stretches from the mouth of the Klamath River at the Pacific Ocean to 44 miles upriver. For many years, our people did not have a voice in public affairs. We were even denied citizenship, though we fought and died alongside our fellow Americans in wars overseas defending the rights and freedoms we ourselves did not yet have. When we speak out on issues concerning life on the Klamath River, we speak with conviction for all people and creatures living in or near the lands the Creator gave to us to cherish and protect forever. This is our sacred mission and the purpose given to us. This purpose is enshrined in our Tribal Constitution. We are speaking now. We call upon PacifiCorp and ScottishPower's shareholders to take a bold, historic step forward in the preservation of a great species on a great river, the Klamath River, and remove the dams. We believe that they are poised to do so and we call upon all of our friends on the North Coast of California to support them. Very few times in one's life is there an opportunity to realize something truly great. I believe such a time is now. Together, the Yurok people and all the people who love and cherish this earth can help renew the strength and vitality of the salmon of this river. The existence of dams, these weapons of mass destruction, harms the life cycles of our salmon brothers. That's right, I say "salmon brothers." It is our belief that before there were any people, we were all kindred spirits. Spirits became birds, mammals, reptiles or fish. No creatures are more or less important than the spirits who became people. Thus, we believe all creatures are related as brothers and come from the same Creator. It is hard for me to lift a fish out of the water that has been trapped in my net and not hear him call out to me for help. And with so few salmon in the river these days, it is always with great respect that he will be food for my family and my people. I thank him and the Creator for the sacrifice of his life so that we can eat. Lately, the heavy burden I feel as I lift up my nets is not the weight of the fish, but of the heavy sadness that so few of my salmon brothers return these days. Our people have noted the steady decline in the numbers of salmon returning each year. In the early 1900s, prior to the first dams being built, this once great river yielded hundreds of thousands of salmon and steelhead. More than a million came back to the river each year in their migration to their ancient spawning grounds upriver. Now, the return of salmon is measured in the tens of thousands. The salmon harvests on the river are so restricted we cannot meet the basic subsistence and commercial needs of our people. All North Coast sports and commercial fisheries have suffered along with us. Maybe I will quit catching fish for my family, I think, but this will not solve the problem. The threats to my salmon brothers must be removed. The water quality and streambed access for spawning salmon must be restored. The Yurok Tribe will protect our salmon brothers and we call upon all who love the earth and the river to join us, especially PacifiCorp and ScottishPower. Removal of these dams would be a historic step to restoring Klamath River fish populations. This is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can save our salmon. Let's not allow this moment to pass and be lost along with the salmon forever. Howard McConnell is chairman of the Yurok Tribe. He lives in Klamath.60.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

61. Sinking into summer: New guide looks at area's best swimmming spots  

61. Sinking into summer: New guide looks at area's best swimmming spots
 Another quick snapshot of area rivers. All of these rivers are more heavily impacted than the Trinity and Klamath Rivers. Pools in these rivers should be on the order of dozens per mile of stream. Much of the damage is from too much sediment in the system at a time, and will take some time to clear out. Understanding glomalin can drastically reduce the amount of sediment cut loose from the landscape, speeding the recovery toward better conditions.,1413,127~2896~2295365,00.html
Monday, July 26, 2004 - Andrew Bird
The Times-Standard
If the lazy, hazy days of summer conjure up images of a favorite swimming hole on the river, Albert Miller's new booklet might interest you.
Miller, 80, just published his third edition of his local swim handbook, titled: "Guide to Natural Swimming Holes in the Eel River Valley and Mad River Wilderness."
The 16-page booklet, 5.5 by 8.5 inches, is easy to roll up and carry as you search out local favorite swimming spots on the Van Duzen, Eel, South Fork of the Eel and Mad rivers and Bull Creek.
Miller managed to fit descriptions of 30 swimming holes in his slim volume, including photos and details on how to find each one.
The booklet right now is available in just a few locations. The price is $5 for a black and white version and $10 for the color edition.
Miller, who moved to Humboldt County from Palo Alto in 1997, started researching local swimming holes several years ago for the Senior News, a monthly newspaper published by the Humboldt Resource Center, for a series titled, "Vacations at Home."
As his volume of work grew, Miller started publishing it as a Web guide posted to
Miller said he's already at work researching more swimming holes for an expanded fourth edition, which he plans to publish in the spring of 2005.
The best time to swim in Humboldt rivers is June through October, Miller said.
Miller said he learns about swimming holes from friends.
For example, Miller's barber, a lifetime Humboldt County resident, has given him the location of at least 15 locations. He's only had time to research about half of them, Miller said.
While locating holes he's been told about, Miller says often he will meet locals swimming in those holes who tell him about others.
Miller, a former Hughes Aircraft Co. engineer, said readers who follow his directions precisely will have no trouble locating the holes, many of which are not well-marked.
Miller said he discovered Humboldt County in 1997 during a vacation.
"Almost immediately it cleared up my breathing problems," said Miller, who suffers from respiratory ailments.
Miller said he's been a swimmer his entire life, and is a former coach of the sport.
The booklet is available at: Sport and Cycle in Fortuna; in Rio Dell at E&J Liquor and Deli, CSS New and Used store, Humboldt Gables Motel and River's Edge RV Park; In Redcrest at the Redcrest Resort and Gift Shop and Eternal Tree House Gifts; in Weott at Mama Su's Place and in Arcata at Adventure's Edge.
To contact Miller, e-mail to:


60. Derby draws attention to the salmon-killing pikeminnow  

60. Derby draws attention to the salmon-killing pikeminnow
 Good information on a voracious introduced species in our already troubled rivers. Overfishing seems like a great idea for reducing the numbers. Recreational fishing opportunities are relatively rare here. It doesn’t say if anyone eats these fish but coming from Long Island I’m sure somebody thinks they’re delicious. By John Driscoll The Times-Standard,1413,127~2896~2295357,00.html#
Monday, July 26, 2004 - RIO DELL --
 Before Derrek Aneuby's little plastic boat is in the slack water of the Eel River, the pikeminnow can be seen thick above the gravel bottom.
Hundreds of 3- to 4-inch pikeminnows flash about in the shallows across the river from sandstone bluffs and the rusting rails of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.
"When they shine their bellies, that means they're squaws," the 18-year-old says.
Squawfish, often called pikeminnow these days. A Sacramento River native, the voracious predator of salmon and other river critters is one of the biggest problems facing the beaten-down Eel River.
Aneuby has registered in a derby meant to haul out as many pikeminnow as possible this summer. He's one of the leaders in his age class, and as of Friday he was probably the guy who'd turned in the most in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, where Friends of the Eel River and the Round Valley Indian Tribes have placed a bounty on pikeminnow for the fifth year.
Using a slight aluminum paddle, Aneuby pushes the boat across the river, over algae-covered rocks crisscrossed with the shadows of pikeminnow. In the holes Aneuby has been fishing for years, are the big pikeminnow, 14, maybe 16, inches long.
He threads a fake worm on a hook, and casts. Within seconds, the bite is on.
Pikeminnow get a lot bigger. They can reach 30 inches long; up to 7 or 8 pounds. These giant salmon eaters tend to congregate in the deepest holes of the river.
The California Department of Fish and Game has tried blasting them with dynamite cord, netting them and spearing them.
Trouble is, the fish is canny about danger. Or rather, it is adapted to avoid it. When big fish are stressed by a hook in the lip or from being herded into a net, they secrete a pheromone that scatters the others.
Longtime Fish and Game biologist Scott Downey remembers trying to net a bunch of big ones in a hole in the Eel. The first haul was good, the second one markedly decreased. That was the end of it. He couldn't catch any more.
This quality of the fish is apparent. The bite for Aneuby is hot, then stops. He drifts upstream with the wind, gets into another batch, and the bite turns off again.
Victim of its success
The pikeminnow is a member of the Cyprinid family, one of the world's most successful fish families. Reeking havoc when they aren't native to a watershed, a pikeminnow species in the Colorado River is endangered, and affects management of the dams on the river.
"When we found out they were in Lake Pillsbury," Downey said, "I was physically sick for a while."
It was in the early 1980s that Fish and Game learned pikeminnow was there. No one is certain how they got into the reservoir on the Eel, but some suspect a fisherman may have been using them for bait.
Pikeminnow eat insects like pincher bugs until they are about 4 to 5 inches long, about the maximum length of its twin at that age, the California roach. After that, Downey said, they switch to meat.
Adult lamprey, mice and frogs have been found in their bellies. One Downey saw speared had a 10-inch steelhead in its gullet. The big females leave the generally preferred slow-water spots to stalk salmon and steelhead in faster moving riffles and runs.
The unwieldy pikeminnow problem was a hot debate during the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's hearing on relicensing the Potter Valley Project. The Pacific Gas and Electric project produces only a smidgen of electricity, but it diverts billions of gallons to the Russian River each year, where many grape growers, towns and businesses of Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties find their water.
The project, along with floods, overfishing and land use problems -- and now the pikeminnow -- have decimated the once-famed salmon runs of the Eel River.
Two fisheries agencies squared off. The National Marine Fisheries Service insisted a cut in the diversions would be better for salmon, who need more habitat. Fish and Game, however, argued that more water would just mean more pikeminnow.
Earlier this year, FERC cut the diversion by 15 percent and ordered PG&E to spend $60,000 a year to suppress the pikeminnow.
Many salmon advocates have argued that's not nearly enough. But what is enough?
"There's no fantasy out there anymore of getting rid of them," Downey said.
Still, he and others think that by rounding up the big pikeminnow every year, they are preventing thousands of steelhead and from being eaten. Downey acknowledges that might not be easy to prove.
He also said that since pikeminnow don't seem to like to swim up tributaries where steelhead and coho salmon spawn, opportunities to improve habitat in those areas should be taken.
Save a salmon -- kill a pikeminnow
Ten salmon saved per day for every pikeminnow taken. That's the idea behind the pikeminnow derby.
"For every one that you get, you're making a dent," said Friends of the Eel River's Susan Thorington.
The group and the tribe are not only giving out prizes for the first, most, largest and smallest fish, but also for the location of pikeminnow hangouts.
With that kind of intelligence, Fish and Game can ambush pikeminnow in the low flows of fall and use nets to get the big numbers. (No, the biologists won't be eligible. The derby ends on Sept. 3.)
Aneuby, he just likes fishing. He didn't know there was a $100 cash prize for the most fish until he was told, but he suspects he's got a good chance at winning it. Last week, on the first day he was registered, he brought 61 fish into Grundman's Sporting Goods.
Despite spending a summer Tom Sawyer-like hauling in pikeminnow, Aneuby hopes the salmon and steelhead might someday rebound. The trend appears the opposite, he said. When he began fishing as a kid, the pikeminnow were there, but not like now.
"You could tell they were here," he said, "but they weren't swarming. I mean, 60 fish? Gimme a break."
While it's hard to know how big a difference dedicated squawfishermen like Aneuby are making, his operation could see a boost. The $20 boat he uses might just end up with a trolling motor if he can win the derby.
He caught 20 in about an hour Friday. What if he can get to other holes on the river?
It might be overfishing that works. 

Posted by: Rich McGuiness / 1:27 AM (1) comments

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

59. Trinity River Flows Restored 

59. Trinity River Flows Restored
The San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trinity River must be allocated for fish twenty years after Congress mandated restoration of the river and its salmon. Agricultural, power and urban users were upset as much as 9% of currently appropriated water would be sent down the Trinity system to the Klamath for fisheries habitat restoration. Judges sounded angry it had taken twenty years for the water to start flowing in sufficient quantities as ordered by Congress and another ten since Congress ordered larger fish producing flows. Major fish kills have occurred on the Klamath downstream from the Trinity in the last few years, water conditions have been shown to be the cause.
This is clearly a case of those who grabbed something being unwilling to part with enough of it to allow natural processes to occur. The Yuroks are not about to be compensated for their losses over a century. No account is made of loss of commercial or sports fishing revenue. The claim of vital energy production falls flat, generating 1% of the State’s need. Agriculture was not considered by federal law in the first place and so had no say in the case.
In general, it is time to wake up and smell the coffee for those who are comfortable with the way things are despite insults to our natural systems. Agriculture can greatly reduce its water needs by using drip irrigation, glomalin accruing no-till farming, and better on site retention. A lot more water is lost to evaporation because large bodies of still water in high summer have large evaporation rates. Underground storage and shaded rivers reduce this loss.
Dams have been shown to interfere with fish passage, change water temperatures and eventually fill in with sediment, creating more problems. Each dam seems to have its own special interest group afraid of its losses , even where the dam is illegal or the current use is not what the dam was chartered for.
Groups opposed to dams have been able to accumulate large amounts of data showing the problems with dams on rivers throughout the country and the world. It is time for new thinking on every aspect of precipitation capture and storage, particularly in built up areas with large amounts of water absorbing land roofed, paved and landscaped into net water users rather than producers.,1,1421464.story?coll=la-news-environment
Court OKs Trinity River Plan
The ruling upholds a federal order to increase flows to restore salmon habitat. It reduces supplies to farmers.
From Associated Press, July 14, 2004
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appellate court approved a congressional plan Tuesday to increase flows into the Trinity River to restore fish habitat, reducing water to California farmers and hydroelectric plants. Most of the water in the Trinity, which originates in Northern California's Trinity Alps and flows west into the Klamath River, has been diverted for decades to service a fast-growing state where much of the water is located far from where people live and farm.
In 1984, Congress mandated restoration of the 112-mile-long Trinity River to combat dwindling supplies of salmon, steelhead and other aquatic life. In 2000, after years of studies, the Department of the Interior approved a plan to increase Trinity water. The plan was backed by Indian tribes who use the waters for sustenance fishing, while farming and hydroelectric power interests opposed it. The Trinity is a major artery in the Central Valley Project's system of dams, tunnels, canals and reservoirs that supply 200 water districts serving 30 million people in the agricultural rich Central Valley. It churns turbines for nine power generating stations.
The plan approved Tuesday diverts as much as 9% of the water project's capacity, depending on rain and snow amounts. The utilities argued the Interior Department's plan would decrease water flows that eventually reach the Central Valley, and that the government did not study the impact it would have on the millions of water users downstream. A spokesman for 600 California agricultural customers said farmers would probably get less water under the plan.
"That's water that is all part of a flow regime that is an important part of this large, complex interconnected water system," said Tupper Hull of the Westlands Water District, a Fresno-based agricultural water supplier that challenged the plan. A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Jeff McCracken, said the government did not study what, if any, impact the plan would have on farming because the law did not require it. "It's a fairly significant yield of water out of the system," McCracken said. "If there were an endless supply, this wouldn't have gone to court."
Westlands is considering asking the San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling, Hull said. Hydroelectric utilities contended the government should further study the effect on energy production in light of California's energy crisis.
A three-judge 9th Circuit panel, however, was not persuaded, and reversed a lower court ruling that halted portions of the plan. The unanimous court said it was time to complete the "flow plan for the Trinity River." "Twenty years have passed since Congress passed the first major act calling for restoration of the Trinity River and rehabilitation of its fish populations, and almost another decade has elapsed since Congress set a minimum flow level for the river to force rehabilitative action," Judge Alfred Goodwin wrote.
Goodwin said less than 1% of California's energy production could be undermined. The Yurok Tribe, which straddles the Klamath in Humboldt and Del Norte counties downstream of the Trinity before it drains into the Pacific Ocean, celebrated the decision. The state's poorest tribe, which fishes the river for a subsistence living, was hit hard in 2002 when thousands of salmon died because of low flows. "The fish that use the Klamath also spawn in the Trinity. So a healthy Trinity River is important to a healthy Klamath River," the tribe's attorney, Scott Williams, said.
In the 1800s, Williams said, the 5,000-member tribe gave up thousands of acres in exchange for a promise its fishing would be protected. "It's been decimated by decades of dams, logging and diversions," said Williams, adding that the decision is a move "toward repairing that broken promise."
The plan calls for diverting 368,900 acre-feet of water to 815,200 acre-feet a year, depending on precipitation. Flows would be released from the Trinity Dam at different rates throughout the year to mimic natural flows. An acre-foot of water is enough to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot, and contains 325,821 gallons, enough to supply one or two families for a year. The California Farm Bureau did not immediately comment on the decision.
Posted by: Rich McGuiness / 11:03 AM (1) comments

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

58 Creating Wilderness 

Wilderness areas in Northern California may be increased by as much as 300,000 acres as a scheduled committee hearing on the proposal gets under way July 21 before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Most of the land would add to existing wilderness areas. Our old foes, off-roaders and mountain bikers, are upset as usual at exclusion. They constantly ignore their impact on forest floors and drainages. There is some money for inholder acquisition on Federal lands. We can see line by l9ine discussions occurring on specific roads. We cannot see the reasoning behind wilderness areas needing to be “untrammeled by man”. Much existing wilderness is recovering lands left alone after overexploitation. People are everywhere. There is no vegetated place left without human impact. The twenty-first century definition of wilderness will need to add recovered lands as wilderness, while recreational users and commercial users will have to partner up on land use issues that negatively impact local environments, using production areas for multiple human uses like in Maine’s back country, where operating timberlands are closed but reopened for public recreation when a logging cycle is finished in that area.
Mountain bikers need to know bikes cause serious disruption to the mechanisms that prevent erosion, fungal networks of glomalin producing hyphae. They then can reasonably discuss options for the benefit of the ecosystem first and personal human pleasure in agreement with those basic principles of forest health.
Several years ago I asked BLM ntpo looking at condors being reintroduced to King Range. I thought there was pretty much land available for them. I learned condors from Big Sur could fly here as part of an average day. More and more problems were pointed out between people and condors. This area, in fact, is not that large to a condor, and the people have many problems with condors. Several were shot just last year.
Humans and humans reacting to threats to their economies are the major cause of conflict. Unlimited human growth will continue to press species and landscapes across the globe. Creating wilderness hedges the bet for future generations.,1674,127%257E2896%257E2269473,00.html
Wilderness bill will go to key U.S. Senate committee Tuesday, July 13, 2004 -
John Driscoll
The Times-Standard
A bill that would mark 300,000 acres of public land in Northern California as wilderness will get a hearing before a Senate committee this month.
Wilderness advocates say they're enthusiastic about the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing July 21. They say the bill enjoys broad support, and that the legislation will protect vital and beautiful areas from logging, mining and off-road vehicle use.
But there is dissent, not surprisingly, from four wheelers and some mountain bikers. They claim the bill would close some key recreational roads, despite staunch insistence otherwise from proponents.
The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act in most case adds acreage to existing wilderness areas. There is some language to provide money to acquire inholdings on federal land.
One of several wilderness bills slogging through the Legislature, this one deals with areas in Rep. Mike Thompson's 1st Congressional District.
They include additions to the Siskiyou, Trinity and Yolla Bolly wildernesses, an area called Mad River Buttes south of Titlow Hill, and a 42,000-acre area in the King Range National Conservation Area.
Josh Buswell-Charkow of the California Wilderness Coalition said some of the areas face threats from illegal off-road vehicle use and logging.
Buswell-Charkow said his group went to great lengths to make sure no legal roads are closed through a wilderness designation. Motorized vehicles and mountain bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas. Hikers and horseback riders are.
Don Amador of the Blue Ribbon Coalition in Idaho hotly disputes that. He said that part of the Smith-Etter Road in the King Range would be closed, and that some spur roads used by hunters in Six Rivers National Forest would also be shut off.
He also said some of the areas don't fit the "untrammeled by man" description lined out in the 1964 Wilderness Act. Amador showed photos of radio towers, old asphalt roads and logging in the proposed wildernesses.
"They're trying to create a wilderness for the 20th century that in no way resembles the provision of the 1964 act," Amador said.
Thompson emphatically said that no legal roads will be closed in his bill.
"These are exceptional properties and they deserve the enhanced status of wilderness," the St. Helena Democrat said.
The bill also allows the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to use any means necessary to fight fires in the areas.
The bill contains appropriations of $1.25 million for three years for restoration and $23 million a year for law enforcement, acquiring inholdings, fire fighting and tourism development.
For some, there is inner conflict over the bill. Justin Brown, co-owner of Revolution Bicycle Repair in Arcata said he is generally concerned about losing areas to ride. He said that the closer one gets to the San Francisco Bay area, the fewer options exist for backcountry riding.
But, Brown said, he's not opposed to wilderness designation if it stops commercial uses of the areas.
"I love to mountain bike and I would love access to that land to ride on," Brown said. "But I don't want to see that area logged over."
Posted by: Rich McGuiness / 1:04 PM (0) comments

57. Rolling Back the Rules on Roads and Condors 

57. Rolling Back the Rules on Roads and Condors Two important articles today demonstrate the problems conservationists deal with on a regular basis. These problems go beyond individual sites or rules and are much more related to the old development versus nature debates. Unfortunately, the developers have won so many times conservationists are often content with whatever mitigation operators are willing to throw them. When the mitigations are challenged by development or industry, the original zeal is often gone and huge sums of taxpayer money have gone to subvert those protections. In the first article, no mention is made of the now well documented destruction of forests and streams as a result of road building, which inspired the rule in the first place. Forest road building the traditional way has had major negative impacts on fisheries.
Nowhere in the article or the many road workshops I have attended is there anything like the erosion control measures on building sites back East demonstrated in Erosion Control magazine. Storm water is filtered, silt fencing surrounds all impact sites, landscape material and coir rolls protect stream banks from muddy runoff, products that bind soil particles, allow infiltration of road surfaces are coming online. These practices may be too expensive for profitable operation but they surely will evolve into more environmentally and developer friendly methods. But at this point, they want to be able to work as cheaply and quickly as possible. Because whatever rules have been put n place are inadequate or stop development entirely, results are uneven and no agreement has been reached.
In the second article we revisit old friends HCP and “careful what you wish for” on one of the largest subdivisions in California in an area where condors have been released. Habitat Conservation Plans supercede state regulations allowing some impacts to ESA listed species if the work improves or expands critical habitat, often improved as mitigation for development. Usually you get a protected percentage of a locale with some modification related to the local issue for the species benefit.
It is amazing how words can change meaning in their use. Condors are describes in a negative way as large, far-ranging, curious, needing large areas of undeveloped country and sometimes attracted to housing areas. All the effort to find habitat, capture the birds, breed them, find suitable habitat for reintroduction at thirty million bucks seems like a bargain for seventeen years of effort, but developers will claim they have lost more than that in mitigations and restrictions. They have been planning for ten years too.
As always in development cases, the money and lasting power of corporations is used to continually revisit a subject until the opposition fails. This is story of the ban on off-shore oil drilling in California., port development, water sales out of the area and a host of other issues. As the level of awareness rises, we can expect more battles to take place. While the exact issues and outcomes will vary, the results will be more or less impaired natural systems slowly recovering from massive damages in the name of human progress.
Witness the problems generated by damming rivers as one example we are all aware of. Does this mean we can remove old and less than useful dams? No. We can’t even prevent them from getting renewal permits on a fifty year basis. Are they impacting ESA listed species? Absolutely. When the chartered reason for their existence is questioned the claim of public need and grand fathered uses overwhelms obvious common sense. What weighs the difference? Perceived loss of doing things the way folks are used to with the cash flowing in the usual swales.
Cash is like rainfall in an unstable but recently roaded area. When it pours, all the old drainages are overwhelmed. Old lines of usual activity are blurred and new wealth generated, adding voices to the development side and further drowning out criticism. The new voices attack defenders of natural systems as costing them money and opportunity. The defenders say the natural world will eventually prevail- it always does. It is up to us to learn to live inside these sustainable natural systems, or nature will replace us with species that can and will do just that.
Humans are not the only species degrading pre-existing communities. Over and over, alien species are setting up shop in natural areas threatening to forever change species makeup and populations of large numbers of plants and animals. IN nearly every case, we have a less valuable invader without local enemies grabbing up habitat at amazing rates and impacting other ecosystem residents. There may be some convergence of biological operation at work. For example, shellfish that filter feed are a necessity for cleaning waters in bays and harbors. Native species, small and uneconomical, were the natural species. In some areas, East Coast oysters, which grow larger and have better market appeal, replaced them. The natives were over fished initially and then not favored, thus declining in importance to the health of the ecosystem. Now the exotic zebra mussel has arrived and has had a tremendous impact. They are crowding out regular inhabitants, grow on anything in the water, damaging boats, sluice gates, filter screens at power plants and breeding grounds of other species.
Nature will always fill a vacuum. The one constant in the world is change. Human activity always degrades natural systems. Humans will eventually go back to living in the landscape and its natural laws. In the meantime, we have become the third largest biomass of any individual species, impacting every natural system on earth.,0,6775857.story?coll=la-news-environment New Forest Rules May Pave Way for Roads
Bush plan would sweep aside Clinton policy that protected 58.5 million acres of federal land.
By Bettina Boxall, LA Times Staff Writer, July 13, 2004
The Bush administration proposed new forest rules Monday that could lead to logging, mining and oil and gas development in remote country that had been protected under a policy issued in the waning days of the Clinton presidency.
The regulations would replace a January 2001 rule that banned road building and timber cutting on 58.5 million acres of roadless terrain in national forests with a policy giving state governors a say in the backcountry's management. Most of the land is in 12 Western states, including 4 million acres in California.
Hailed by conservationists, the road prohibition was quickly challenged in a series of lawsuits filed by states and various interest groups that complained it was creating de facto wilderness areas, usurping congressional authority. Early court decisions were conflicting, with two federal district judges ruling against the Clinton road ban and a federal appeals court upholding it.
The Bush administration proposal, announced in Boise, Idaho, by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, would give governors considerable input on the future of roadless areas. States could petition the federal government if they wanted to maintain road-building bans on all or part of the affected forestland. They also could ask federal officials to open the land to road construction, whether for logging, gas or oil development or off-road vehicle use. The decision on any petition would be made by the Agriculture secretary.
Mark E. Rey, the Agriculture undersecretary who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, said the proposed regulations were an attempt to resolve a 40-year fight over roadless areas, which make up about 30% of the country's national forests. Broad, sweeping policies, such as that issued by Clinton, haven't worked, nor have attempts to settle the issue on a forest-by-forest basis, Rey said.
"We hope that this is a middle way or a third way involving the governors to do two things," Rey said. "One is to bring good site-specific information and scientific data, and to bring to bear enough political closure to get people to agree."
He predicted the new rule's result would not be that different from the Clinton policy. "Are we going to be seeing a significant modification of the Clinton roadless rules? I don't think so," Rey said.
Among those applauding the new policy were the chairman of the House Resources Committee, Republican U.S. Rep. Richard W. Pombo of Tracy, who sees it as a welcome departure from the Clinton rule.
"This proposal embraces the fact that local people are the best stewards of our forests," Pombo said. "It injects common sense and local control into Clinton's 11th-hour, mindless edict. Forest management decisions should be made at the state level by people who know individual forest conditions best, not by bureaucrats surrounded by concrete in Washington. Today's decision will be praised by Americans throughout the West, where 90% of these roadless areas occur."
Michael Mortimer, chairman of the Society of American Foresters policy committee, said his organization was generally pleased with the new approach. "We think it takes into account the regional difference in states and gives land managers more flexibility," he said.
The Bush proposal was criticized by groups as diverse as Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Outdoor Industry Assn., a trade group for manufacturers and retailers of outdoors equipment and clothing.
"This 'opt in' approach to roadless management provides no guarantees of real, long-term protections for roadless areas," said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the outdoor association. "The future of recreation destinations essential to the health of the outdoor recreation industry is at stake."
Without networks of roads, or the logging or mining that can go with it, the roadless forests are prized by conservationists as places of quiet and natural beauty where hikers or hunters can escape in solitude.
Doug Honnold, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice, who has defended the roadless rule in some of the nine lawsuits filed against it, said the proposed regulations opened the door to industrial development in the backcountry.
"The state governors can request more logging and more road building and more oil and gas development and more hard-rock mines than we've ever had before in these areas," Honnold said. "If your goal is to maximize the amount of corporate development of our national forests, this is a great plan. If your goal is to protect clean drinking water and wildlife, it's an awful plan."
Although about a fifth of California's national forestlands have no roads, the proposed regulations will probably have a greater effect in other Western states. That is because of the slightly more than 4 million roadless acres in the state, only about 400,000 are considered suitable for timber production, according to Matt Mathes, a Forest Service spokesman in California.
"We have been staying out of our roadless areas for quite some time in California, and we have no plans to build roads in roadless areas in California," Mathes said. "There is nothing on the books for the foreseeable future."
A spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he welcomed the chance to be involved but had to review the proposal. "The governor agrees it's important for states to be a part of this process," said spokeswoman Ashley Snee.
Pointing out that most of the potential oil and gas fields in the Los Padres National Forest in Central and Southern California lie within roadless areas, Sara Barth, California director of the Wilderness Society, predicted the new policy would open up remote areas in the state.
"Roads are the access point for all kinds of development that winds up harming the forests," she said.
Giving state governors so much potential sway in the management of federal forests represents a dramatic departure from past practice, said Sean Hecht, executive director of the UCLA Environmental Law Center.
The government will take comments on the proposal for the next 60 days before issuing a final

Developer Wants to Ease Condor Rules
Tejon Ranch asks to be shielded from penalties if birds are hurt during building of homes.
By Daryl Kelley, LA Times Staff Writer, July 13, 2004
The Tejon Ranch Co. has applied for a federal permit to protect developers if they accidentally harm or kill the endangered California condor by building three projects on the vast ranch north of Los Angeles.
Tejon Ranch is seeking an "incidental take" permit, which would allow the developer to "harm, harass, trap, shoot or kill" North America's largest bird during or after planned construction of a 23,000-home residential project, a 1,450-acre warehouse park and a mountain resort community along Interstate 5 in the Tehachapi Mountains.
Ranch officials and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are set to jointly explain the proposal at a public meeting in Frazier Park today. The permit process could be complete by late this year, officials said.
"The misconception is that this permit would allow for the killing of the bird," said biologist Rick Farris, a division chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura. "What this permit does is allow them to conduct their lawful activities and assure that what they're doing is not going to cause the extinction of the species."
If the notoriously curious and sometimes destructive condors are drawn to the new developments near their Tejon habitat, ranch officials and the wildlife service have crafted plans to deal with them, Farris said. They include having a biologist on the ranch to frighten away the birds if they land on houses or swoop into backyards to swallow debris.
But environmental groups and local residents — notified of the proposal in a June 25 posting in the Federal Register — are rallying to oppose the permit. "Giving a permit to harass, harm or kill California condors really goes against all the work being done to turn around the fate of that species," said Kerri Camalo of Defenders of Wildlife, a national group. "It seems an affront to the people who have spent so much time and taxpayers' money to keep this species from becoming extinct," she said. "Now we'd allow the few condors alive in the wild to be taken in the name of development."
Ninety-nine of the rare condors live in the wild, including 49 in California, after a 25-year, $35-million effort to save the bird from extinction. An additional 149 are in captivity.
"Actually, I'm a little concerned about this," said Jesse Grantham, interim coordinator of the government's condor recovery program. "This is sort of a collision between wildlife and humans," he said. "How do we deal with an animal that can cover great distances and needs significant space to survive? The condor is a flagship species, and the flags are flying everywhere."
The 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch — a prized wildlife habitat that stretches 40 miles from north to south and 21 miles across — is a favorite feeding and resting spot for California condors. Indeed, the last condor taken into captivity, in 1987, in an effort to save the species was captured at Tejon Ranch. The birds now migrate from as far away as Big Sur and from nests in the mountains above Fillmore to hang out along wind-swept ridgelines at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. They love to soar with the afternoon zephyrs, experts say.
But just a few miles from those ridgelines, the Tejon Ranch resort community is planned. Authorities fear it would attract the big birds because of its high elevation in the mountains that make up the ranch's rugged backbone. Tejon Ranch general counsel Dennis Mullins said Monday that the company had worked with federal officials for more than 10 years to come up with ways to assure that condors and the development can safely coexist.
"We're going to do good things for the condor," Mullins said. "We asked in 1992, when the condors were being reintroduced to the wild, how Tejon Ranch could help the condor recovery program without impairing its property rights."
Federal officials and the development firm came up with a set of guidelines for where and how dwellings can be built, and a series of options on how to deal with condor problems if they develop. Tejon Ranch has agreed with recommendations to ban buildings along ridgelines, because they would attract the birds. Strict limits would also be placed on height for the same reason. And the design of backyards would be altered so they won't lure the big birds.
"But there is the potential that condors will start hanging around the houses; they've done it in the past," said Farris of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "When they do that we have to change their behavior. That may even involve removing them from the wild and putting them back in captivity. Although it wouldn't necessarily kill them, we're saying they would be ecologically dead in terms of their ability to contribute to the population."
This afternoon's meetings — at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Cuddy Hall in Frazier Park — are the first public parts of an environmental review process that Farris said he began in 1998, and will lead to the release this fall of two related analyses on the effect of development on Tejon Ranch.
The "incidental take" permit is a required part of a so-called habitat conservation plan being prepared jointly by Tejon Ranch and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal Endangered Species Act requires an evaluation of a project if the development site is important as a habitat of an endangered species. Because of its size, location and variety of wildlife, many experts consider Tejon Ranch as perhaps the most environmentally important undeveloped stretch of land in California. Ranch owners offered last year to sell 100,000 acres to an environmental trust, a proposal that is still pending. "We have a responsibility to process this [application] to the best of our ability," Farris said. "At a later time, we'll make a decision on whether this is something we should be doing, or not."
Posted by: Rich McGuiness / 12:16 PM (0) comments

56. Smoke Chemical Shown to Increase Germination 

56. Smoke Chemical Shown to Increase Germination
Science continues to improve our understanding of natural phenomena and give us tools for manipulating natural processes. This is particularly interesting in helping hard to regenerate native plants for restoration and natural landscaping. The article seems to imply this is an easily manufactured product we may see in the stores soon.,1,6814912.story?coll=la-news-environment
Smoke Chemical Shown to Increase Germination
By Eric D. Tytell
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 10, 2004

Plant biologists, who have long known that a compound in smoke causes many seeds to sprout, have now isolated the specific chemical — a finding that could help boost crop yields and preserve rare plants.
The study, published Friday in the journal Science, describes the structure and synthesis of a compound called a butenolide, a component of smoke.
Scientists at the University of Western Australia tested the chemical on seeds from lettuce, tobacco and 14 wild plants. They showed that it dramatically increased the number of seeds that sprouted.
The chemical could help biologists cultivate endangered plants that require fire to sprout — without resorting to actual fires. It could also make farming more cost-effective because the compound increases the germination rate for many crops, even if they do not require fire.
"There's potentially a whole new way that everyone — from the botanist to the vegetable grower — could get a benefit," said Kingsley W. Dixon, science director at Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Perth, Australia, and a coauthor of the study.
Biologists think many seeds evolved to respond to fire, which might signal the availability of more space and light to grow. Some seeds, like those from sequoias, almost never sprout without this signal.
"The real power of this discovery is going to be in the management of wild lands," Dixon said.
Seeds from species like lettuce are also sensitive to fires and germinate about twice as often when watered with even low concentrations of the chemical, the researchers found.

Posted by: Rich McGuiness / 12:31 AM (0) comments

Monday, July 12, 2004

55. Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils 

These are the findings of a twenty-three year study by Rodale Press (Organic Gardening)of carbon and nitrogen storage in soils. The article includes farming, forestry, numbers, glomalin, sequestration, water and is just chock full of good stuff.

Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils

Paul Hepperly, The New Farm® Research Manager
The Rodale Institute®

Executive Summary

Organic farming may be one of the most powerful tools in the fight against global warming. Findings from The Rodale Institute’s 23-year Farming Systems Trial® (FST) comparing organic and conventional cropping systems show organic/regenerative agriculture systems reduce carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gases-positioning organic farming as a major player in efforts to slow climate change from runaway greenhouse gases increases.

Besides being a significant underutilized carbon sink, organic systems use about one third less fossil fuel energy than that used in the conventional corn/soybean cropping systems. According to studies of the FST in collaboration with Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell University, this translates to less greenhouse gases emissions as farmers shift to organic production. The ability of organic agriculture to be both a significant carbon sink and to be less dependent on fossil fuel inputs has long-term implications for global agriculture and its role in air quality policies and programs.

Since 1981, data from the Farming Systems Trial has revealed that soil under organic agriculture management can accumulate about 1,000 pounds of carbon per acre foot of soil each year. This accumulation is equal to about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre taken from the air and sequestered into soil organic matter. When multiplied over the 160 million acres of corn and soybeans grown nationally, a potential for 580 billion pounds of excess carbon dioxide per year can be sequestered when farmers transition to organic grain systems.

It is believed that agricultural soil has a significant potential to capture and retain or sequester carbon dioxide. The 1995 Kyoto Protocol references this potential without emphasizing its capacity nor the importance of organic agriculture management for this purpose. Since then, researchers have moved forward strongly with investigations to support agriculture’s real potential to sequester carbon. The Rodale Institute® findings have taken this one step further by measuring carbon content and studying the positive impacts of carbon sequestration in organically-farmed soils.

The Rodale Institute’s 23-year findings show that organic grain production systems increase soil carbon 15 to 28%. Moreover, soil nitrogen in the organic systems increased 8 to 15%. The conventional system showed no significant increases in either soil carbon or nitrogen in the same time period. Soil carbon and nitrogen are major determinants of soil productivity.

Why does the soil carbon level increase in organic systems but not in conventional systems when crop biomass is so similar? We believe the answer lies in the different decay rates of soil organic matter under different management systems. In the conventional system the application of soluble nitrogen fertilizers stimulates more rapid and complete decay of organic matter sending carbon into the atmosphere instead of retaining it in the soil as the organic systems do.

Additionally, soil microbial activity, specifically the work of mychorrhiza fungi, plays an important role in helping conserve and slow down the decay of organic matter. Collaborative studies in our Farming Systems Trial® with the United States Department of Agriculture Research Service (ARS) researchers, led by Dr. David Douds, show that mychorriza fungi are more prevalent in the FST organic systems. These fungi work to conserve organic matter by aggregating organic matter with clay and minerals. In soil aggregates, carbon is more resistant to degradation than in free form and therefore more likely to be conserved. Support for this work comes from United States Department of Agriculture researchers at the Sustainable Agriculture Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Their findings demonstrate that mychorrizal fungi produce a potent glue-like substance called glomalin that is crucial for maximizing soil aggregation. We believe that glomalin is an important component for carbon soil retention and encourage increased investigation of this mechanism in carbon sequestration.

Increasing soil organic matter for the soil’s carbon bank is a principle goal of organic agriculture. Organic agriculture relies on the carbon bank and stimulated soil microbial communities to increase soil fertility, improve plant health, and support competitive crop yields. This approach utilizes the natural carbon cycle to reduce the use of purchased synthetic inputs, increase energy resource efficiency, improve economic returns for farmers, and reduce toxic effects of fertilizers and pesticides on human health and the environment.

US Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, puts it this way, “The technologies and practices that reduce greenhouse gases emissions and increase carbon sequestration also address conservation objectives, such as improving water and air quality and enhancing wildlife habitat. This is good for the environment and good for agriculture.”

Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils

Background, Findings, and The Next Steps

An analysis of gases trapped within glacier ice shows that 18,000 years ago, during the last ice age, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide were 60% lower than those found in the atmosphere today. This low concentration of carbon dioxide was associated with a 4° C (about 10° F) drop in average temperature. Presently, global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are 25% higher than in the late 1800’s. If emissions continue at current levels, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may double or even quadruple within the next 100- 300 years.

In 1938, G. Callendar published findings suggesting that the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gases, would likely increase world temperatures. Since 1958, continuous carbon dioxide measurements on Mount Mauna Loa in Hawaii confirm that carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere at a rate of about 1.3 parts per million (ppm) per year. Atmospheric scientists believe that although several other gases contribute to the greenhouse effect in the Earth’s atmosphere, carbon dioxide is responsible for over 80% of potential warming. NASA scientist James Hansen tracked temperature changes in relation to past carbon dioxide levels and he correlated the 25% increase in carbon dioxide over the last 100 years with a 0.7° C warming of the atmosphere. A number of models have predicted that at current rates of carbon dioxide emission, the Earth will warm 2.5° C in the next 100 years at current rates of carbon dioxide emission.

According to climatic change models, agriculture could be seriously affected by global warming. It is estimated that 20% of potential food crop production is lost each year due to unfavorable weather patterns (drought, flood, severe heat and cold, strong storms, etc.). The deterioration of weather patterns in North America could have devastating effects on world supplies of basic food grains such as wheat and corn. Climate change modelers predict that higher temperatures will generate more extreme weather events, such as severe droughts and torrential rains. A shift of 1 to 2° C in summer temperatures at pollination season can cause a loss of pollen viability, resulting in male sterility of many plant species such as oats and tomatoes.

As global temperatures rise, the glaciers and polar icecaps will melt, leading to major island- and coastal-flooding. About 50% of the United States population lives within 50 miles of a coastline. As coastlines move inland, uncontrolled carbon dioxide levels will directly affect coastal dwellers. If greenhouse gases continue to increase in the next several hundred years, the rise of global temperature is estimated at 7° C, or almost 15° F, and the sea level would rise over 2 meters, or in excess of 6 feet.

Soil Organic Matter-Key to Sequestration

Normal seasonal carbon dioxide fluctuations in the atmosphere demonstrate that plant growth governs major amounts of carbon dioxide, enough to change atmospheric concentration by up to 10 ppm. By increasing plant production, we can reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels are minimized in summer when vegetation is lush, and maximized in winter when plants die or go dormant. The fluctuation of carbon dioxide from season to season (about 10 ppm) is about 7 times greater than the yearly average increase in atmospheric carbon from fossil fuel burning and deforestation (1.3 ppm). Plants serve as sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Carbon stored in vegetation, soil, or the ocean, which is not readily released as carbon dioxide, is said to be sequestered. To balance the global carbon budget, we need to increase carbon sequestration and reduce carbon emissions. While carbon can cycle in and out of soil or biomass material, there are methods for building up what are called soil “humic” substances (also known as organic matter) that can remain as stable carbon compounds for thousands of years.

Before forests and grasslands were converted to field agriculture, soil organic matter generally composed 6 to 10% of the soil mass, well over the 1 to 3% levels typical of today’s agricultural field systems. The conversion of natural grasslands and forests around the globe works to elevate atmospheric carbon dioxide levels significantly. Building soil organic matter by better nurturing our forest and agricultural lands can capture this excess atmospheric carbon dioxide, and preserve more natural landscapes.

Agricultural and forest carbon sequestration will reduce the dangers that carbon dioxide currently presents to our atmosphere and world climatic patterns. These benefits will complement energy conservation and emission control efforts. Improved energy use is important because if all fossil fuel reserves were used in the next several hundred years, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase 4 to 8 times present levels (currently the atmosphere holds 750 Gigatons of carbon, while known fossil fuel energy reserves hold 5,000 Gigatons of carbon.). Soil organic carbon, even at its present depleted level (1,580 Gigatons of carbon[C]), is still estimated to be almost double the quantity of all the carbon currently found in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (800 Gigatons C), and about three times the amount found in all living organisms on the planet (500 Gigatons C).

Soil, agriculture, and forests are essential natural resources for sequestering runaway greenhouse gases helping to derail drastic climate changes. The amount of carbon in forests (610 Gigatons) is about 85% of the amount in the atmosphere. The 1998 Resources For the Future Climate Issue Brief #12 states, “Although it is well known that the world’s tropical forests are declining, it is less widely recognized that the world’s temperate and boreal forests have been expanding, albeit modestly…Nevertheless, overall, the size of the global forest carbon stock appears to be declining, thereby generating a net carbon source.”

The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial® Findings

Agriculture is, and always will be, a major tool in carbon sequestration. The Rodale Institute’s 23 year Farming Systems Trial® research provides real world experience and the starting point for understanding the potential for agriculture to reduce greenhouse gases. The FST® is the longest running agronomic experiment designed to compare organic and conventional farming methods and production systems.

Since 1981, The Rodale Institute® has continuously monitored soil carbon and nitrogen in its Farming Systems Trial® (FST). Carbon and nitrogen monitoring is just one component of a comprehensive battery of soil quality, economic and energy data that The Rodale Institute researchers gathered over the 23-year lifespan of the FST®. Researchers at The Rodale Institute believe that soil carbon and nitrogen findings are especially significant and dramatic. In the organic systems, soil carbon increased 15-28%, demonstrating the ability of the organic systems to sequester significant quantities of atmospheric carbon. Specifically, the FST organic manure system showed an average increase of soil carbon of about 1000 lbs per acre-foot of soil per year, or about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre-ft per year sequestered. When multiplied over the 160 million acres of corn and soybeans that are produced nationally, a potential of an increase of 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year would be sequestered by farmers switching from conventional chemically based farming systems to organic grain farming methods.

Additionally, in the organic systems, soil carbon has increased 15 to 28%. Over the 23 year lifespan of the FST, the conventional system showed no significant increases in either soil carbon or nitrogen. This demonstrates that organic farming methods increase stored carbon and retain other nutrients because organic soils hold these nutrients in place for uptake by plants. In the process, reduce nitrate and other nutrient runoff into streams and water aquifers. These findings can be beneficial to all farmers by helping them to increase crop yields while decreasing energy, fuel and irrigation costs.

We believe this is the longest scientifically replicated study that has been continuously monitored for soil quality including carbon and nitrogen levels. Certainly study is a first in terms of its duration and comparison of the carbon sink potential of organic and conventional agriculture soils. This study gives us a baseline for developing an ambitious scale of work to replicate and then accelerate the carbon sequestration potential of organic farming methodologies.

In addition to capturing more carbon as soil organic matter, organic agricultural production methods also emit less greenhouse gases through more efficient use of fuels. Energy analysis of The FST by Dr. David Pimentel from Cornell University show that organic systems use only 63% of the energy input used by the conventional corn and soybean production system. In all systems, yields of corn and soybean were not different, except in drought years, when organic systems yielded 25 to 75% more than the conventional system. The organic yield advantage in drought years is specifically related to the ability of higher-carbon organic soils to capture and deliver more water to crop plants. Dr. David Pimentel’s findings show that the biggest energetic input, by far, in the conventional corn and soybean system is nitrogen fertilizer for corn, followed by herbicides for both corn and soybean production.

Organic farming also makes economic sense. In addition to reducing input costs, economic analysis by Dr. James Hanson of the University of Maryland has shown that organic systems in the FST are competitive in returns with conventional corn and soybean farming, even without organic price premiums. Real world organic price premiums allow farmers to take advantage of certified organic production systems to achieve economically viable returns without massive governmental subsidies.

How can low input organic systems be competitive in productivity with a high input chemically based conventional system? USDA scientist, David Douds, in collaboration with scientists at The Rodale Institute®, has shown that in the organically managed systems, the biological support system of mycorrhiza fungi is much more robust and the fungi are more prevalent, active, and diverse. Synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides inhibit mycorrhizae. In organic production systems, increased mycorrhiza fungal activity allows plants to increase their access to soil resources, thereby stimulating plants to increase their nutrient uptake, water absorption, and their ability to suppress certain plant pathogens.

The process and ability of mycorrhiza to sequester carbon has perhaps an even greater significance. Mycorrhiza fungi produce a novel glue-like substance called glomalin. Glomalin stimulates increased aggregation of soil particles. Soil particle aggregation results in an increased ability for soil to retain carbon. The role of mycorrhiza and glomalin in soil carbon retention requires further investigation. Other biological mechanisms that will result in a greater ability of soil to sequester carbon naturally and to improve soil properties require further investigation as well.

Benefits Beyond Carbon Sequestration

The presence of sequestered carbon in The Rodale Institute’s FST® organic field trials is an indicator of healthy soil because healthy soil is abundant in carbonaceous matter, in particular the organic material humus. It is humus that enables healthy soils to retain water during periods of drought; as well as retaining mobile nutrients found in soils such as phosphates and nitrates, that would otherwise be lost as runoff to streams and aquifers.

These trials are illustrative of both economic benefit as well as environmental protection working hand in hand. The economic benefits are realized by farmers and landowners who see reduced costs for fertilizer, energy fuels and irrigation, and increased crop yields at the same time. It is also economically beneficial to the agricultural business economy, and an environmental benefit to all of us, that specific soil management and tillage practices can help to sequester or retain carbon in the soil--carbon that would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere as a component of greenhouse gases.

In summary, organic farming can reduce the output of carbon dioxide by 37-50%, reduce costs for the farmer, and increase our planet’s ability to positively absorb and utilize greenhouse gases. These methods maximize benefits for the individual farmer as well as for society as a whole. It is a winning strategy with multiple benefits and virtually no risk. These proven approaches mitigate current environmental damages and promote a cleaner and safer world for future generations.

The Next Steps

In recent months, staff from The Rodale Institute® met with officials of the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection. Together, we are working on a Statement of Cooperation that will provide a platform for future research and education on how organic farming can provide significant economic and environmental benefits. With 22 years of data from the FST® field trials in place, we will explore ways to promulgate and systematize the knowledge that has been gathered. In recent years, other researchers around the world have also begun to investigate and document the potential for soil carbon and nutrient sequestration. It is important to move forward quickly to lead the research in this field.

First, we propose to review the current body of scientific literature to determine if there are ways to accelerate the formation of organic material in soil, and to determine if it is possible to predict the rate of carbon and nutrient sequestration. Additionally, we would like to determine if there may be important opportunities for sequestration in manufactured soils with expanded applications on abandoned mine and conservation program lands.

Second, we propose the development of protocols whereby landowners could adopt organic soil management practices and quantify sequestration potential. Ultimately, this could enable landowners to participate in carbon and nutrient trading markets, which would provide a financial incentive to adopt organic soil management practices.

Third, we propose to expand the knowledge base on soil carbon sinks through communication and collaboration with other scientific, educational, research and agricultural institutions.

This is emerging as a new field from the perspective of many in the agricultural and soil management communities. While the data from the field trials is a matter of record, much needs to be done before we know how to transfer this knowledge for use in broader markets and applications. Nonetheless, what has been demonstrated is significant and shows promise in helping to reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases while promoting greater use of organic agriculture.


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Puget, P., and L. Drinkwater. 2001. Short term dynamics of root and shoot-derived carbon for a leguminous green manure. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 65:771-779.

Rillig, M., and S. F. Wright. 2002. The role of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and glomalin in soil aggregation. Plant and Soil 234:325-333.

Rillig, M., S. F. Wright, K. Nichols, W. Schen, and M. Torn. 2001. Large contribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to carbon pools in tropical forest soils. Plant and Soil 233:167-177.

Sanchez, P., M. P. Gichuru, and L. B. Katz. 1982. Organic matter in major soils of the tropical and temperate regions. Proc. Int. Soc. Soil Sci. Cong. 1:99-114.

Sedjo, Roger A. Brent Sohngen and Pamela Jagger. 1998. RFF Climate Issue Brief #12

Stevenson, F. 1982. Humus Chemistry: Genesis, Composition, and Reactions. Wiley Interscience, New York. 583.

Stevenson, F. 1985. Cycles of Soil Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Micronutrients. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 380 p.

Wander, M., S. Traina, B. Stinner, and S. Peters. 1994. Organic and conventional management effects on biologically active soil organic matter pools. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 58: 1130-1139.

Wright, S. F., and R. Anderson. 2000. Aggregate stability and glomalin in alternative crop rotation for the Central Plants. Biology and Fertility of Soil 31:249-253.

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54. Glomalin, the Unsung Hero of Carbon Storage 

Another glomalin source article in my collection to share. This one relates Kristi Nichols, Sara Wright and and E.Kudjo Dzantor, both USDA soil scientists working at ARS, quantifying glomalin rates and carbon storage. Rough numbers of 1-100 mg/g give us some theoretical numbers to look for when we begin measuring our own storage sites. I have written several scientists requesting information relating glomalin to forests. Only Sara Wright has responded, only saying she wished she could work in the redwoods.
Glomalin, the Unsung Hero of Carbon Storage
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Don Comis, (301) 504-1625,
September 6, 2002

Glomalin, a recently discovered major component of soil organic matter,
stores about a third of the world's soil carbon, offsetting industrial
pollution. This is according to a recent collaborative study by scientists
with the Agricultural Research Service and the University of Maryland
(U-MD) at College Park. The study was partially funded by the U.S.
Department of Energy.

The study was done by Kristine A. Nichols, a U-MD soil science Ph.D.
candidate and technician at ARS' Sustainable Agricultural Systems
Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., along with colleagues Sara F. Wright and E.
Kudjo Dzantor. Wright, an ARS soil scientist, discovered glomalin in 1996,
and Dzantor is a U-MD soil scientist.

Glomalin is a sticky protein produced by root-dwelling fungi and sloughed
into soil as roots grow. By gluing soil particles and organic matter
together, it stabilizes soil and keeps carbon from escaping into the
atmosphere. In an earlier study, Wright found that glomalin serves as a
corrective to global warming because it increases with carbon dioxide

Nichols and colleagues detected large amounts of glomalin in soils from
four states, showing it to be a major part of organic matter. The glomalin
weighed 2 to 24 times as much as humic acid, which was previously thought
to store the most carbon. But Nichols found that humic acid only stored 8
percent of total soil carbon compared to glomalin's 27 percent.

Wright has found glomalin in soils from around the world, ranging in
weight from less than 1 milligram per gram (mg/g) of sample to more than
100 mg/g. She found the highest levels in Hawaiian and Japanese soils,
indicating that some soils might be able to store large amounts of carbon
in glomalin with a turnover rate of 7 to 42 years. She is on a team
investigating underground carbon storage in tropical forests, thought to
be major carbon reservoirs.

For more on glomalin, see the September 2002 issue of Agricultural
Research magazine, online at:

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research
Posted by: Rich McGuiness / 2:54 PM (0) comments

Sunday, July 11, 2004

53. Fungal-Mediated Plant Coexistence  

This summary of articles relating elevated CO2 to increased biodiversity from CO2 Science magazine. Elevated CO2 and local plants and fungi are often enough to give native plants competitive edges in the long run. We have now shown the need for fungi in forests, the product glomalin they produce, the need for large old trees and the carbon exudates they produce, the qualities of soil glue, examples of glomalin destruction, forest practices for maximizing carbon storage at reduced risk of fire, and the critical role of this activity in restoring severely impacted watersheds.
53. Fungal-Mediated Plant Coexistence
Volume 6, Number 53: 31 December 2003
In a recent review of this intriguing concept, Hart et al. (2003) say "coexistence is a biological riddle, because the tendency towards competitive exclusion should favor a monoculture." Monocultures, however, are rare in nature; and Hart et al. note that several scientists (Janos, 1980; Hetrick et al., 1989; Allen and Allen, 1990; Hetrick et al., 1994) have suggested that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) - a common group of symbiotic soil fungi - may be "important agents promoting plant coexistence," which concept forms the basis of their review. Hart et al. begin by differentiating between two types of studies of AMF effects on plant coexistence. Coarse-scale studies are defined as those that compare the outcome of plant competition with AMF presence or absence, which they say should be "relevant to the outcome of plant interactions mainly in early successional ecosystems," where AMF "are either absent or are in low abundance and patchily distributed." Fine-scale studies, on the other hand, are defined as those that compare the outcome of plant competition when all experimental treatments contain AMF and the manipulations "involve the composition and diversity of AMF, and the ways in which they interact with plants and their soil environment." These experiments, they say, "are more relevant to later-successional situations, in which AMF are more abundant and less patchy, and the roots of most plants come into contact with them."Concentrating primarily on the latter category of experiments, Hart et al. note that "higher AMF diversity could lead to higher plant coexistence simply by increasing the probability of individual plant species associating with a compatible and effective AMF partner." In addition, they point out that shared mycelial networks "might promote plant species coexistence by equalizing the distribution of soil resources among competitively dominant and subdominant host species," noting that "soil nutrients and plant-derived carbon might flow through the network from dominant to subordinate host plants, because of a concentration gradient created initially when the dominant plant takes up more nutrients than does a subordinate plant." The former of these phenomena - the plant-to-plant transfer of nutrients - has been observed by Malcova et al. (1999) under laboratory conditions and by Walter et al. (1996) in the field. Likewise, the second phenomenon - the plant-to-plant transfer of carbon - has been observed by Grime et al. (1987), Graves et al. (1997) and Robinson and Fitter (1999).In concluding their review, Hart et al. say "our understanding of fine-scale factors is just starting to develop," and in this regard we note that many experiments conducted in recent years have added elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 to the mix of experimental variables considered within this context.Several such studies are described in our Subject Index under the heading Biodiversity (Fungi), where it may be seen, as noted in the review of Hart et al., that (1) the presence of soil fungi helps to maintain, and sometimes even increase, the biodiversity of various ecosystems, and (2) elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 help these fungi to better perform this important function. Also, under the Subject Index heading of Fungi, one can read how these principles operate in Grasses, Herbaceous Plants and Woody Plants, and how they help to enhance Carbon Sequestration.It is also interesting, in this regard, to go back to the book of Idso (1989) -- Carbon Dioxide and Global Change: Earth in Transition -- and read what he wrote about the subject nearly a decade and a half ago:"Considerable evidence may be mustered to support [an] optimistic view of the effects of atmospheric CO2 enrichment on species diversity. Looking to the past, for example, several studies of Tertiary floras have demonstrated that many montane taxa of that period regularly grew among mixed conifers and broadleaf shclerophylls (Axelrod, 1944a, 1944b, 1956, 1976, 1987), whereas today these forest zones are separated from each other by fully 1,000 m in elevation and 10-20 km or more in distance (Axelrod, 1988). Indeed, during this many-million-year period, when the CO2 content of the atmosphere was generally much greater than it is today (Volk, 1987), all three forest zones merged to form a 'super' ecosystem, which, in the words of Axelrod (1988), "was much richer than any that exists today." Even under current conditions, in fact, modern forestry experiments have demonstrated that trees planted in mixtures sometimes grow better than they do in single-species plantings (Brown and Harrison, 1983; Carlyle and Malcolm, 1986a; Carlyle and Malcolm, 1986b; Chapman et al., 1988)."One mechanism by which this type of mutualism may be fostered has to do with the stimulation of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which are ubiquitous in most terrestrial ecosystems (Gerdemann, 1968; Read et al., 1976) and the most prevalent of all soil fungi (Gerdemann and Nicolson, 1963). These unseen inhabitants of the soil provide a number of benefits to the plants they 'service.' They increase the absorption of water and nutrients by the plant, protect the plant from soil-borne diseases, and reduce the incidence of nematode infection of roots (Ingham, 1988). And as Johnson and McGraw (1988) have noted, 'their vigor may be expected to reflect the vigor of their hosts,' which with CO2 enrichment would be expected to increase. Consequently, whereas community ecology paradigms of the past, based largely on data pertaining to above-ground interactions, have tended to stress relatively short food chains with competition and antagonism as major organizing forces in community development, Edwards and Stinner (1988) note that, today, 'ecologists studying biotic interactions in soil systems generally have observed complex food webs, a great diversity of organisms, and a wide range of symbiotic interactions.' Indeed, many endomycorrhizae (Chiariello et al., 1982), as well as certain ectomycorrhizae (Reid and Woods, 1969; Read et al., 1985), have even been demonstrated to actively transfer nutrients between individual plants of both the same and different species. In fact, seedlings of some plants will not grow at all unless they interact with the mycorrhizae of an adjacent host plant (Warcup, 1988), while in other situations, both seed germination and initial plant growth rates are greatly stimulated by the presence of such fungi (Clements and Ellyyard, 1979; Masuhara and Katsuya, 1989). As a result, Moore (1988) contends that mutualism is common below ground and that it 'can have profound effects on the structure and activity of soil microbial communities, the decomposition of organic matter, and ultimately plant growth'."Yes, as the saying goes, "everything old is new again." It's been shown over and over that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and atmospheric CO2 enrichment make a truly dynamic duo when it comes to getting plants to "cooperate" in both maintaining and enhancing ecosystem biodiversity.Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso
ReferencesAllen, E.B. and Allen, M.F. 1990. The mediation of competition by mycorrhizae in successional and patchy environments. In: Grace, J.B. and Tilman, D. (Eds.). Perspectives in Plant Competition. Academic Press, New York, NY, pp. 367-389. Axelrod, D.I. 1944a. The Oakdale flora (California). Carnegie Institute of Washington Publication 553:147-166.Axelrod, D.I. 1944b. The Sonoma flora (California). Carnegie Institute of Washington Publication 553: 167-200.Axelrod, D.I. 1956. Mio-Pliocene floras from west-central Nevada. University of California Publications in Geological Science 33: 1-316.Axelrod, D.I. 1976. Evolution of the Santa Lucia fir (Abies bracteata) ecosystem. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 63: 24-41.Axelrod, D.I. 1987. The Late Oligocene Creed flora, Colorado. University of California Publications in Geological Science 130: 1-235.Axelrod, D.I. 1988. An interpretation of high montane conifers in western Tertiary floras. Paleobiology 14: 301-306.Brown, A.F.H. and Harrison, A.F. 1983. Effects of tree mixtures on earthworm populations and nitrogen and phosphorus status in Norway Spruce (Picea abies) stands. In: Lebrum, P.H., Andrea, H.M., De Medts, A., Gregoire-Wibo, C. and Wauthy, G. (Eds.). New Trends in Soil Biology. Proceedings of the VIII International Colloquium on Soil Zoology. Louvain-la-Neure, Belgium, pp. 101-108.Carlyle, J.C. and Malcolm, D.C. 1986a. Nitrogen availability beneath pure spruce and mixed larch + spruce stands growing on a deep peat. I. Net mineralization measured by field and laboratory incubations. Plant and Soil 93: 95-113.Carlyle, J.C. and Malcolm, D.C. 1986b. Nitrogen availability beneath pure spruce and mixed larch + spruce stands growing on a deep peat. II. A comparison of N availability as measured by plant uptake and long-term laboratory incubations. Plant and Soil 93: 115-122.Chapman, K., Whittaker, J.B. and Heal, O.W. 1988. Metabolic and faunal activity in litters of tree mixtures compared with pure stands. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 24: 33-40.Chiariello, N., Hickman, J.C. and Mooney, H.A. 1982. Endomycorrhizal role for interspecific transfer of phosphorus in a community of annual plants. Science 217: 941-943.Clements, M.A. and Ellyyard, R.K. 1979. The symbiotic germination of Australian terrestrial orchids. American Orchid Society Bulletin 48: 810-816.Edwards, C.A. and Stinner, B.R. 1988. Interactions between soil-inhabiting invertebrates and microorganisms in relation to plant growth and ecosystem processes: An introduction. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 24: 1-3.Gerdemann, J.W. 1968. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae and plant growth. Annual Review of Phytopathology 6: 397-418.Gerdemann, J.W. and Nicolson, T.H. 1963. Spores of mycorrhizal Endogone species extracted from soil by wet sieving and decanting. Transactions of the British Mycological Society 46: 235-244.Graves, J.D. et al. 1997. Intraspecific transfer of carbon between plants linked by a common mycorrhizal network. Plant and Soil 192: 153-159.Grime, J.P. et al. 1987. Floristic diversity in a model system using experimental microcosms. Nature 328: 420-422.Hart, M.M., Reader, R.J. and Klironomos, J.N. 2003. Plant coexistence mediated by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution 18: 418-423.Hetrick, B.A.D. et al. 1989. Relationship between mycorrhizal dependence and competitive ability of two tall grass prairie grasses. Canadian Journal of Botany 67: 2608-2615.Hetrick, B.A.D. et al. 1994. Effects of mycorrhizae, phosphorus availability, and plant density on yield relationships among competing tall grass prairie grasses. Canadian Journal of Botany 72: 168-176.Idso, S.B. 1989. Carbon Dioxide and Global Change: Earth in Transition. IBR Press, Tempe, AZ.Ingham, R.E. 1988. Interactions between nematodes and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 24: 169-182.Janos, D.P. 1980. Mycorrhizae influence tropical succession. Biotropica 12: 56-64.Johnson, N.C. and McGraw, A.-C. 1988. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae in taconite tailings. II. Effects of reclamation practices. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 21: 143-152.Malcova, R. et al. 1999. Influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and simulated acid rain on the growth and coexistence of the grasses Calamagrostis villosa and Deschampsia flexuosa. Plant and Soil 207: 45-57.Masuhara, G. and Katsuya, K. 1989. Effects of mycorrhizal fungi on seed germination and early growth of three Japanese terrestrial orchids. Scientia Horticulturae 37: 331-337.Moore, J.C. 1988. The influence of microarthropods on symbiotic and non-symbiotic mutualism in detrital-based below-ground food webs. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 24: 147-159.Read, D.J., Francis, R. and Finlay, R.D. 1985. Mycorrhizal mycelia and nutrient cycling in plant communities. In: Fitter, A.H., Atkinson, D., Read, D.J. and Usher, M.B. (Eds.). British Ecological Society Special Publication 4: Ecological Interactions in Soil, pp. 193-217.Read, D.J., Koucheki, H.K. and Hodgson, T. 1976. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae in natural ecosystems. I. The occurrence of infection. New Phytologist 77: 641-653.Reid, C.P.P. and Woods, F.W. 1969. Translocation of 14C-labelled compounds in mycorrhizae and its implications in interplant nutrient cycling. Ecology 50: 179-187.Robinson, D. and Fitter, A. 1999. The magnitude and control of carbon transfer between plants linked by a common mycorrhizal network. Journal of Experimental Botany 50: 9-13.Volk, T. 1987. Feedbacks between weathering and atmospheric CO2 over the last 100 million years. American Journal of Science 287: 763-779.Walter, L.E.F. et al. 1996. Interspecific nutrient transfer in a tall grass prairie plant community. American Journal of Botany 83: 180-184.Warcup, J.H. 1988. Mycorrhizal associations and seedling development in Australian Lobelioideae (Campanulaceae). Australian Journal of Botany 36: 461-472.

31 December 2003
Copyright © 2004. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (
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52. Old Growth Needed for Sequestration  

52. Old Growth Needed for Sequestration Another article showing the slowly emerging realization of forest system mechanics. The original article appeared in the NY Times, and the response I saved from a newsgroup posting. They, again, haven’t made the glomalin connection yet. But if ever a reason was needed for saving big trees, here you go. Also, they are unaware of CO2 loss from soil disturbance.
> Do we see the writing on the wall yet ??? -Sam J.
> New York Times
> September 22, 2000
> Planting New Forests Can't Match Saving Old Ones in Cutting Greenhouse Gases, Study Finds> By ANDREW C. REVKIN
> A new study has cast doubts on an important element of a proposed treaty to fight global warming: the planting of new forests in an effort to sop up carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas.
> The research concludes that old, wild forests are far better than plantations of young trees at ridding the air of carbon dioxide, which is released when coal, oil and other fossil fuels are burned.
> The United States and other countries with large land masses want to use forest plantations to meet the goals of the proposed treaty. The study's authors say that any treaty also needs to protect old forests and that, so far there is no sign that such protections are being considered.
> Without such protections, the scientists conclude, some countries could be tempted to cut down old forests now and then plant new trees on the deforested land later, getting credit for reducing carbon dioxide when they have actually made matters worse.
> The analysis, published in the journal Science today, was done by Dr. Ernst-Detlef Schulze, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, and two other scientists at the institute.
> Several climate and forestry experts familiar with the work said the study provided an important new argument for protecting old-growth woods. And they say the study provides a reminder that the main goal should be to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the source, smokestacks and tailpipes.
> In old forests, huge amounts of carbon taken from the air are locked away not only in the tree trunks and branches, but also deep in the soil, where the carbon can stay for many centuries, said Kevin R. Gurney, a research scientist at Colorado State University. When such a forest is cut, he said, almost all of that stored carbon is eventually returned to the air in the form of carbon dioxide.
> "It took a huge amount of time to get that carbon sequestered in those soils," he said, "so if you release it, even if you plant again, it'll take equally long to get it back."
> Negotiators are to meet in November to settle on methods for staving off a predicted warming that could disrupt ecosystems, harm agriculture and cause sea levels to rise, eroding coasts.
> The negotiations are taking place under the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement that was signed by more than 100 countries in 1997 but has not yet been ratified. It sets goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2008 but includes few details on how to achieve them. The United States, Canada, Russia and other countries have been pressing to achieve as much as half their greenhouse gas reductions not at the source but by using "sinks" like forests to remove carbon dioxide.
> In the last round of talks, which ended last week in Lyon, France, some countries were still seeking treaty language that could allow some new planting to occur on land that was recently cleared of old forest and get credit for greenhouse-gas reductions, said Mr. Gurney, who attended the talks as an observer.
> David B. Sandalow, an assistant secretary of state who was the chief American delegate in Lyon, said that the treaty drafts so far could theoretically allow such a practice but that the United States was seeking to prevent this.
> "We're committed to protecting old growth and finding ways to address this issue," Mr. Sandalow said. The German study, together with other similar research, has produced a picture of mature forests that differs sharply from long-held notions in forestry, Dr. Schulze said. He said aging forests were long perceived to be in a state of decay that releases as much carbon dioxide as it captures.
> But it turns out that the soils in undisturbed tropical rain forests, Siberian woods and some German national parks contain enormous amounts of carbon derived from fallen leaves, twigs and buried roots that can bind to soil particles and remain for 1,000 years or more. When such forests are cut, the trees' roots decay and soil is disrupted, releasing the carbon dioxide.
>Centuries would have to pass until newly planted trees built up such a reservoir underground. New forests are fine as long as they are planted on land that was previously vacant, Dr. Schulze said, adding, "but there has to be a focus on preserving the old growth."
Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company
While the article is correct, it is somewhat misleading. The carbon locked up underneath the soil is actually *given* by the tree to the mycorrhizal fungi associated with the tree. This carbon is invested in
producing fungal fruiting structures and (in some cases) increasing the volume of soil where these fungi are located. Fungi can extend literally hundreds, if not thousands of feet away from the host tree roots. They
are fine enough to penetrate tiny cracks and crevices in rock, and may extend downward to the water table, thus becoming an important adjunct to the long-term survival of a tree.
However, these fungi often have considerable die-out each year. Fortunately, the fungi produce such prodigious quantities of spores (an"average sized" Rhizopogon may contain 20 million spores, for example)
that over time the rhizosphere expands a little each year.
Much of the effective bulk of carbon considered to be a carbon sink is stored within the tree cell walls itself. Recent research by Chris Maser, J. Trappe and others suggests that a 4-foot diameter Douglas fir of approximately 300-years-age would take at least that long to degrade. Thus, for every 1 year of increased age, it walls away that much more carbon.
Wood degredation is typically by fungi also, but includes soil organisms, fungi, and insects in a complex ecosystem itself.
It is also true that cutting larger trees into lumber for long-term house construction material similarly walls-away carbon from the environment, provided that the home is well-constructed and designed to last for at least 80 years. The problem with home construction is that it takes larger-diameter wood (4' diameter) and converts it into smaller-diameter wood (2x4's), which then tend to degrade much faster than the original larger sized wood.
So you see, both sizes of trees are important, both as carbon-sinks for the future and as timber for today. The public _must_ be aware, however, that trees are growing organisms. Eventually they die. And somewhere between clearcutting and no cutting there is probably a nice annual harvest rate which does not seriously impact either forest health or forest ecology.
Of course, if foresters aren't growing fungi it's hard to see how they can claim to be growing trees, since mycorrhizal fungi are so important to tree health and growth.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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