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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

73. Two New Developments About Glomalin 

73. Two New Developments About GlomalinThis week saw the release of studies showing the increased root growth under elevated Carbon dioxide. The fine root mass increase is the part of the system that produces the glomalin but it is not all part of the living matter. I think they are on the right track here but measuring the glomalin would have given definitive answers, as well as showing even greater sequestration abilities. The time period is also too short but look at what can be learned in next to no time! We are amassing our evidence.
My second piece of news is a response from Patty Berg saying the proposal to use conservation easements for glomalin production zones will be looked at by staff and added to the New Ideas calendar for next session in Sacramento. The governor may be able to condense agencies effectively if growing large trees for sequestration prevents sediment and provides habitat and recreation as he helps landowners into carbon markets.See my May 14 2004 article 13: Carbon Credits: CO2 As a Resource in this blog.
Lots of related articles have been in the news recently. Science News reported a large study in the Great Basin about the replacement of sage with cheat grass, an annual, on over three million acres. From here I bet it is not mycorhizzial while the sage is. It increases flash flood and fire danger and provides much less forage nutrition.

Elevated CO2 Enhances the Potential for Carbon Storage in the Soils of Periodically-Burned Oak-Palmetto Ecosystems Volume 7, Number 34: 25 August 2004

Scientists have long pondered the location of the globe's missing carbon, i.e., the portion of the carbon that annually exits the atmosphere in the form of CO2 and goes somewhere as yet unidentified. In fact, this mysterious repository of much of the carbon derived from the CO2 that is emitted to the air by mankind's burning of fossil fuels has become the Holy Grail of scientists concerned about the ultimate fate of anthropogenic CO2 emissions; and their quest to determine the location of this large cache of carbon has been conducted with the same intensity as that which the Knights of the Roundtable displayed in their relentless search for the object of their desire. It is highly significant, therefore, that the results of an important real-world study suggest that much of the elusive carbon may be hiding just below the surface of the soil that supports earth's forests, placed there by a plant physiological process that is significantly stimulated by the historical and still-ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content.
In describing the rationale for their investigation of this phenomenon, Dilustro et al. (2002) note that soils store approximately three times more carbon than plants, but that almost all of that carbon is transferred to the soil through plants. They also note that plant root responses to elevated CO2 have been largely overlooked in this regard; and they thus conclude that some of the carbon that is missing from current global carbon cycle models may well be sequestered belowground. Thus intrigued by the possibility that enhanced carbon transfer to soils via plants responding to the aerial fertilization effect of atmospheric CO2 enrichment may account for much of the carbon that exits the atmosphere each year, the scientists designed an experiment to provide some potential answers to this important question.

On a small barrier island in the northern part of the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, the group of scientists erected sixteen open-top chambers around clumps of evergreen scrub oaks and associated saw palmetto shrubs that exhibit yearly nutrient cycles similar to those of many forests. Half of the chambers were maintained at the CO2 concentration of the ambient air, while the other half - starting on 15 May 1996 - were continuously maintained at CO2 concentrations approximately 350 ppm above ambient. In addition, in the soils of each of the sixteen chambers, the scientists inserted two minirhizotron tubes to a depth of 101 cm, through which they viewed the growth and development of the ecosystem's fine-roots at 3-month intervals, from March 1996 to December 1997, via tiny video camera systems. The ecosystem they studied is fire-adapted and maintained with natural fire cycles of 10- to 15-year intervals, being burned most recently in February 1996, just prior to the start of the Dilustro et al. experiment.

So what was learned? In the words of the scientists, "our hypothesis that elevated atmospheric CO2 would increase fine-root density, productivity, mortality and turnover was demonstrated." Indeed, by the end of the 21-month study period, the fine-root length density of the resprouting trees and shrubs in the ambient-air chambers had attained a mean of 7.53 mm cm-2 in the top 101 cm of soil, while that of the resprouting plants in the CO2-enriched chambers had attained a mean of 21.36 mm cm-2, indicative of a CO2-induced increase of 184% in this important root property. Concomitantly, there was also a 55% increase in ecosystem aboveground biomass; and all this happened, as the scientists describe it, "despite water and nutrient limited conditions."

What is the significance of these findings? Dilustro et al. say "the increased rates of fine root growth coupled with no change in decomposition rate suggest a potential increased rate of carbon input into the soil." Furthermore, their detailed fine-root data for June of 1997 indicate a mean CO2-induced increase in fine-root length density of approximately 75% in the top three-fourths of the soil profile, but an increase on the order of 125% in the bottom quarter. Hence, there are strong indications the bottom layer of soil was being supplied with a greater proportion of extra carbon than were the upper soil layers; and just like buried treasure, buried carbon is likely to remain undisturbed for a longer period of time the deeper it is placed in the ground.

The work of Dilustro et al. thus points to the real possibility that the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content is indeed increasing the rate at which carbon is being removed from the atmosphere and sequestered in the soils of earth's forests, and that it is thereby providing an increasing natural brake upon the rate at which the air's CO2 content would otherwise be rising, which in turn provides an increasing brake upon the potential for CO2-induced global warming.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Dilustro, J.J., Day, F.P., Drake, B.G. and Hinkle, C.R. 2002. Abundance, production and mortality of fine roots under elevated atmospheric CO2 in an oak-scrub ecosystem. Environmental and Experimental Botany 48: 149-159.

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Copyright © 2004. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

Sunday, August 22, 2004

72. Why Planning isn’t Working 

72, Why Planning isn’t Working
As I noted when I started this blog, this is an important time in Humboldt County as many twenty year and longer plans were nearing completion. This summer there have been articles about Andrea Tuttle, Robert Manne and the developers Kramer and Johnson. Calpine came and went. The Mattole has seen no letup in logging regardless of how intently impacted residents fight; indeed there seem to be more harvest plans afoot again. The governor is scrapping the state natural resource agencies in favor of a more streamlined approach. The federal government is also loosening the regulatory strings. Basically, the environmental defenders have run out of strength because they have no solutions and the economy keeps the pressure on full time. We have created a jobless society, especially if we discount public service employees. Fifty percent public employment is fairly common in rural areas but is not a healthy economy. It gives large private employers extra clout when there is only a couple of them. But employees are very expensive, so they must defend their investments.
Not that there isn’t work that needs doing. Streams to restore, fuel loads to manage, etc, etc. We have impacted our environment in many ways and are only tackling a small part of it. Like the developers say, the regulatory process is extremely arcane and unreliable. I have been trying to get funding to repair a damaged creek in Southern Humboldt since 1989. People who started in the eighties say the day of fixing your own stream were over way back when. This year is not the first time I was approved and then not approved. Each try takes several years of agencies, interest groups, landowner and neighborhood critiquing an attempt to fix something. By the time the project is finally underway we are in danger of having our site inventories become outdated. They are afraid we are going to damage a destroyed creek. At least these jobs are not exportable.
We currently live in a regulatory environment caused by reaction to mismanagement of natural processes we were negligent about. The developers complaint about air and water quality boards misses the point that people care about the environment, and that the underlying causes of these problems are not understood. The same can be said about logging near streams, farm practices, construction site rules and almost every other land management issue of the day. The day of knowledge of glomalin has come, however, and a new reckoning can begin to emerge.
Glomalin is a fungal produced soil glue discovered in 1996 by U.S.D.A. Sustainable Agriculture Systems scientists. Their work has gone on to field crops, where this knowledge has radically altered tillage practices in less than ten years. Glomalin is so big I have devoted my blog (time) to it. When I see a sedimented stream, I see glomalin destruction and sediment movement as a result. When I see dust, I know bare soil without fungal glue is nearby, probably the road I am driving on. When I add deranged hydrology and mass wasting as a result of roads and development, I know land management practices unraveled thousands of years of acclimatization and forest system development. Insect weakened forest fires show a double dose-too little water and the bugs thrive because the trees can’t make enough sap. That also lowers fuel moisture. So do openings in the forest. The forest cover will regrow but the water table and soil moisture structure is ignored. Fire threat will remain. When I see stubble in a winter farm field I know the man is onto something.
Humboldt County can emerge as a leader in developing an understanding of glomalin and how it impacts land use. Work site restrictions on sediment, dust and wastewater are much more stringent in the East, and technologies to deal with these now illegal activities fills catalogs and adds cost to how business is done. I see little from here. The technologies are simply to prevent knowable consequences caused by regular activities. The problem is that glomalin is so fundamental it is hard to believe it has been overlooked for so long. Same with logging. Understanding glomalin precludes clear cuts. There are consequences that can be predicted and quantified. Dust remains dust until it is absorbed into the ground as soil again or reaches mobile water as sediment. So no amount of buffer feet will keep dust cut loose on a hillside out of a creek. Roads are not seen as a perpetual problem. It can be delayed but the regulation is flawed, open to abuse, and in the end ineffectual anyway.
The Humboldt County Plan should develop the city areas until the research is in on how to get along with glomalin. Developed areas are what they are, and people need development. We don’t need mindless destruction of natural resources as a consequence of ignorance,

Thursday, August 19, 2004

71. Mercury Retrograde 

71. Mercury Retrograde
Several events this week show how accurate astrology can sometimes seem to be. Mercury, planet of communication is appearing in the sky to backtrack, and this should set conditions on their head through missed communication, misunderstandings and so on. In the regulatory environment of natural resources, with many different interests and parties at work, it can seem like a Tower of Babel.
The first case is Mattole Restoration Councils Good Roads Clean Creeks program, ready to be implemented in the Middle Mattole being held up after several years preparation work, by yet another regulatory agency, CDF. Since the program is funded by DFG and Regional Water Quality Control Board and approved by the Coastal Commission, and involves neither timber nor fire, we have to wonder about the motives here, especially as it comes to light after the governors promise to abolish many boards and commissions. It looks like next year many of these agencies may not even exist. Hopefully MRC can work the issue out and do the work next year. Road based sediment is the single largest pollutant in the region and the effort to tackle it must be allowed to proceed. I have been trying to get funding for creek improvement since 1989. Meanwhile protesters may wind up with no place to turn except the courts for any issue of concern, sure to create a legal logjam until people tire and give up.
Meanwhile, up on the Klamath, low flows and warm water currently fill important stretches of the river. Several dead steelhead were found this week, and they showed one of the diseases identified in the large kill of two years ago. Regulators are trying to guess when to release water down the river to save the returning salmon spawners, who haven’t arrived yet. Like timing the stock market, it will always be a crap shoot until overall conditions improve, like temperature and restoring full scale glomalin production in the lower watershed so it won’t be so dependant on upstream water.
If we don’t take the Klamath as an example to learn from, we indeed will face the conditions reported in studies of Californias climate in twenty years. Desertification is well underway. Only the Northcoast is around normal for rainfall, the rest of the state is in a six year drought. However, our ability to store that water in the ground is being reduced by forest practices that interfere with infiltration and storage years after the job is done. So far it is not possible to purposefully change weather patterns, but it is possible to affect and control what precipitation is falling. Failure to do so will guarantee our rivers will struggle for the foreseeable future.
So once again we see science has brought us new discoveries that can improve old problems but threatens the established way of doing things. CDF, Board of Reclamation and the governor have all stepped in to make things ecologically worse in order to “protect” harmful practices.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

70. Cold Spring Rough for Butterflies, Gypsy Moths 

70. Cold Spring Rough for Butterflies, Gypsy Moths
I kind of felt like Jay Leno when I saw these two articles today. Coming from Long Island I read about the gypsy moths because I have been aware of the problem. I am also following climate change and landscape responses so it was interesting to see a problem issue improved by climate. I thought the fact that the caterpillars were blown and washed out of the trees was more important than the temperature. So it seemed weird the next article, in the same paper but as far away from the story site as I am, and only eleven minutes apart, concerned more butterfly population declines in the neighboring state, where prairie grasses rather than forest predominate. Both groups feel it was just a miserable spring and the objects of their attention will return in force.
An interesting thought concerning glomalin production in forests suffering defoliation comes to mind. The rhizosphere must be shrinking with less available photosynthetic products. This could lead to wholesale decline in forested regions affected by gypsy moths, and weakening that often precedes other infections and diseases.
Spreading information is the scientific method at work as discovery is added to discovery and we change our original view of the subject with better understanding and clearer ideas. Sometimes it seems like too many people are focused too narrowly and bigger picture implications are overlooked. Sometimes it is more profitable to not know stuff and opposition is raised to discredit it. Good science prevails in the long run as the next discovery often ends the argument as the knowledge spreads. We are also reminded again that foreign invaders that run amok often eventually find they are not as well adapted as originally feared.
Excerpts and links:
Groups: Ill. Butterfly Population FallingBy Associated Press
August 17, 2004, 8:39 AM EDT,0,239657.story?coll=sns-ap-science-headlines
Many experts said a hot and dry early spring, followed by a couple of rainy months and a cold summer probably have contributed to the problem….
Peterson said he has seen about 35 different species of butterflies this summer -- the same as last year -- but he has noticed a large decline in the total number of insects.
"Some just seem to be not as abundant," Peterson said Monday.
Cool Weather Killed Gypsy Moths in Wis.
By Associated Press
August 17, 2004, 8:50 AM EDT,0,1733242,print.story?coll=sns-ap-science-headlines Wisconsin's annual battle against a leaf-eating insect got some help from this spring's nasty weather, which resulted in a huge decline in tree defoliation, The cool, wet spring was "downright deadly" for the gypsy moth, killing tens of millions of the caterpillars before they went on a munching binge in late June and July. Recent aerial surveys over much of eastern Wisconsin where the infestation is the worst spotted only 20 acres of moderate defoliation …In 2003, the surveys determined 65,000 acres of wooded areas were defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars, …
Nasty May weather, with its driving winds and rain, repeatedly knocked newly hatched caterpillars from trees and shrubs to the ground, where they died, …
Severe outbreaks of the insect run in cycles, usually happening once every 10 years and lasting for one to three years because of favorable weather, Diss said.
… the cooler, wet conditions last spring also created just about perfect conditions for the diseases that killed caterpillars. The good fortune likely means thousands of fewer acres will need to be sprayed for the insects next year, saving considerable money, Cleereman said.
"It breaks the cycle," he said. "The population builds to a peak and crashes. But this is a temporary respite. They are here and they are here forever."
No defoliation occurred in southeast Wisconsin again this year even though there were threatening populations of the insect going into spring, in part because local officials sprayed in critical areas, Diss said.
The moths, which are native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and favor a diet of oak leaves, were accidentally introduced to the United States in 1869. They spread to the Midwest after destroying large areas of forest in the Northeast.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

69. 540 AD 

Several recent reports concerning global warming and climate change show the problem is less immutable than forecast. Some of these studies concur that major changes are in the works and that there may be catastrophic consequences if action is not taken. However, the knowledge and/or technology currently exists to make immediate impacts in many of the problem areas. They also tell us some predictions are based on faulty science. And sometimes events are so extreme all conjecture is pointless.
Greenhouse gases are said to be the major cause of global warming. Carbon dioxide, ozone, methane are large components. Carbon dioxide levels are not at any historic high level although they are higher relatively since we started measuring for it. Ice cores, sediments, tree rings and plant material remains all show fluctuations over time in CO2 levels. These are directly relatable to known wobbles in earths climate like the Roman and Medieval warm period, the European Dark Ages and Little Ice Age, each of which were reflected in society at the time. They also seem related to solar oscillation on a millennial basis, completely conflicting the comet theory. The ability to connect climate and history is one of the great benefits of global warming research. “As more and more scientists dig into all parts of the planet to study its climatic history, they unearth more and more evidence for the global reality of the [likely] solar-forced millennial-scale climatic oscillation that has alternately brought us long intervals of relative warmth and coolness, such as the Roman Warm Period, the Dark Ages Cold Period, the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age and, most recently, the Modern Warm Period.”
After the Roman pullout from Britain, groups of Germanic peoples crossed the channel and settled western Britain. Once thought conquering invaders, these people are now thought to be a relatively small population with enough military power to preserve their customs, even impose them, on a foreign land and gain political ascendancy. British fighters were forced west and north.
In approximately 500AD British fighters defeated the Saxons at Baden Hill, and restored British suzerainty over the island. According to legend and history, this was an unprecedented time of peace and plenty for the British people, and is attributed to one of several potential King Arthurs.
In 540 AD something happened somewhere in the world to change all this. A year with no summer caused crop failure throughout Europe. Many different lines of investigation point to cooling probably from atmospheric pollution from volcanism, although this cause is not settled and recently a comet proposal has gained backing. Regardless, the effect of several years of reduced crops led to famine and chaos around the world. Political instability caused great human movement on the German plain and new waves of settlers headed to England. These settlers carved England into smaller and smaller kingdoms until military operations reconsolidated them. Native British were forced to Scotland and Wales, with many recrossing the channel to Brittany, where they awaited an opportunity to return to Britain.
Seen with the eyes of the world gone mad it is not surprising the European Dark Ages are a result. If hunger is dire, all else is moot. The Saxons consolidated their power over the natives and amongst themselves and ruled Britain until 1066 when the British people in Brittany saw their opportunity. Many other peoples were on the move around 540, and one can read of many kingdoms and cultures going through upheaval at this time. The strange effects were recorded by observers from Rome to China who noted that the sun went dark for more than a year and all the crops failed.
" ‘The Sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the Moon, during this whole year, and it seemed very much like the Sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear," wrote Procopius of Greece in 536 A.D.’ Said another source, the Roman writer Cassiodorus: ‘We have had a winter without storms, spring without mildness, summer without heat. Whence can we hope for mild weather, when the months that once ripened the crops have been deadly sick under the northern blasts? ... Out of all the elements, we find these two opposed to us: perpetual frost and unnatural drought.’
These Norman people were the native British, falsely identified as Viking raiders descendants, who would have left too small a population to raise an army. The continental British had taken the trappings of their new home, and used the language of state at the time. While the British army fought Norse invaders in the North, Norman forces landed in the South. Defeating the Norse, the army raced south to face the new threat. The English did an outstanding job with untrained but battle tested levees at Hastings, fighting an enemy superior in every battlefield category. When all else failed though, the Normans resorted to ruse to break the English (Saxon) shield wall. They turned and ran. The undisciplined English broke ranks to chase them. William then released his heavy cavalry, the armored troops of the day, and rode down the lightly armed English and winning the day for the native British expatriates. A hundred and fifty years of consolidation took place with powerful Norman rule causing resentment and anger among the Saxon peoples, resulting in the Magna Carta and the establishment of the Pale in Ireland, England’s oldest claim on Irish soil.
This little tale covering five hundred years shows the power of random events on political stability. Palynological (ancient pollen) studies in Ireland show a cycle of human depopulation and reversion of crop lands to pasture and eventually forests starting at this time, and drought in the Eastern Mediterranean. Miller said that further confirmation of this unnatural climatic period comes from tree-ring data in several parts of the world. Ancient trees such as the 4,000-year-old bristle cone pines in California show that the years around 540 A.D. were those of the least growth in four millennia.”
The 540 AD event is well known as a climatological occurrence. Its exact cause is unclear. Several large volcanoes might explain it, and this year a comet impact from a relatively small comet was shown to at least be a realistic possibility. The Justinian plague, first reported bubonic plague outbreak in Europe occurred at this time. It is possible a starving population let an endemic disease become a plague in a starving population. We shudder to think of the chaos a similar event would have. One would like to think we could use our technology to offset the problems using greenhouses and light to grow food. Unfortunately, these technologies could only help a percentage of the people in industrialized nations. Large masses of starving people would begin moving and armed forces would be needed to protect dwindling resources. Favoritism would have to be displayed and would lead to more instability and fighting. Powerful nations would be able to maintain security initially but not in all other countries. Small countries would then ally themselves and a new reconsolidation would begin. All of this glosses over the millions of deaths and stark misery of ecology out of balance, along with a stagnation or decline of intellectual development, or making it worse with catastrophic weapons.
In response to this, it seems humans have discovered how they are harming our stability. Technology and information exists that can offset the new man-made threats if we act hastily enough. Predictions of conditions allowed to foment are stark, but preventable, as is use of catastrophic weapons. At some point we can expect an ecological shift and the political consequences that will follow, but we do not have to create these.

Clues to European Dark Ages found in Nemea, Greece, by UC Berkeley professor
Geoscience at the BA: What gave the Earth a nasty turn in 540? September 8, 2000
Discovery Programme (Palynological studies in Ireland)
Global Volcanism Program
A New Temperature History from the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Friday, August 13, 2004

Time to wake up and smell the sediment  

In the former Soviet Union, polluting companies discharging into streams and river was a huge problem. The answer was new rules forcing discharge upstream of their intake point, so they would be the first to suffer the consequences of easy, illegal behavior. As far as sediment is concerned, both sides are under-informed and using observation and anecdote to explain away what we now know about glomalin. I have proposed many times big trees are needed for water retention in the root zone, flood protection, production of rain forming aerosols, shade and landscape stability but especially for reducing greenhouse gases by natural carbon sequestration. My blog is full of sources concerning increased CO2 and accelerated growth above and below ground, and the need for regional leaders to help market our carbon storage capacity. It would seem to me a natural path of a large corporation to try to get paid for holding mature working lands. As for making a difference in the market place, its like a buffalo hunter killing until someone invents synthetic winter coats to replace the buffalo robes. The ecosystem is never figured in, only money from competing interests has any sway. And it happens all the time.
As for the courts, they seem to be in position to be sure business gets done. It is no accident there are pictures of logging operations on the courthouse, or that judges are afraid of losing their jobs if they rule a certain way. That is corruption.
A better remedy for this situation is pounding on the doors and halls of science and government to get them to acknowledge that glomalin, now well known in crop lands, is the single most neglected aspect of forest systems, the binder of silt particles and retainer of soil moisture, and the cause of erosion and sediment in streams. Then we can write rules that reflect new science and allow a regulated rate of cut in consolidation with whatever other new practices come to the fore. It doesn’t matter how good the scientist is if the science is no longer up to date.
Eureka Times-Standard
Time to wake up and smell the sediment
Friday, August 13, 2004 -
My Word by Jeny Card
I read with amusement the Times-Standard's disapproval of and advice to forest activists. The timing was nice, given the article you published the day before about the forest "service," who was found guilty of exaggerating damage done by wildfires in order to facilitate logging in Spotted Owl habitat. Then there was the editorial you published two days before by Sal Steinberg about the locals being shut out of participation in public meetings so that government and industry will not have to hear of damage suffered by residents due to a reckless rate of logging. During one such meeting, activists got advice from PL's lead "scientist," Jeff Barrett, who said "As environmental activists, if you want to make a difference in the world, go figure out how to convince the market place to reward us for leaving trees on the ground longer." To hell with owls, water quality and stable hillsides; it's all about the market! At least Mr. Barrett acknowledges his true motivations for destroying natural systems on which all life forms depend.
The T-S also counsels forest activists to try legal action as a "last resort." Are we there yet? Government agencies entrusted to protect and restore the public trust have documented over 300 violations of conservation laws by Pacific Lumber in the last five years, adding to the 300 they racked up between 1994-1997, yet their fraudulently obtained rate of cut continues while wildlife and water quality sustain more and more damage. EPIC won a case against Maxxam's bogus SYP and permits that allowed harm to endangered species, only to have the court offer no remedy while thousands of acres of critical habitat were sacrificed for Charles Hurwitz's pocket book. The case took over four years due to CDF dragging their feet on handing over pertinent documents, delaying long enough for Maxxam to get the cut out. What do you think the threat of recidivism is on this one? Once you've hoodwinked the courts and government into doing your bidding for you, to the tune of millions of dollars, any transgression of the law becomes simply a cost of doing business.
If it is still unclear to the Times-Standard that the courts have become a tool of repression and harassment wielded by Maxxam, it's time to wake up and smell the sediment. Like the public trust agencies, the courts have failed the people, and have become instruments for corporations like Maxxam to quash public dissent over government agencies inappropriate relations with corporate timber.
Jeny Card (better known as Remedy) is a speaker, writer, film maker and forest activist, currently fighting a SLAPP (Strategic Law Suit Against Public Participation) suit filed by Pacific Lumber in Humboldt County Superior Court. She lives in Freshwater.

Hikers help spread sudden oak death 

After writing comments on plans for HRSP, Headwaters, and King Range I came to the realization we need biological safe zones free from regular human activity. Recreation is overstated in many areas and a threat to natural systems. The same thinking that led to unlimited take in the past is now unlimited usage for recreation. This calls for a rewriting of the rules for uses for public lands. In the past I was primarily concerned with surface erosion and exotic plants although Port Orford cedar blight has been known for at least a decade. I suspect a new generation of hiking shoes could be developed that prevent spread of the disease. My problems with the physical damage from bikes and horses remain in steep areas of mobile soil. Remember, disturbing the soil destroys glomalin further weakening the soil structure and unleashing silt as sediment and dust until that soil is reincorporated into the living soil system.
The strength of fire as a disease retardant has to be looked at closely because fire is now seen as an essential management tool. If control burns to reduce fuel load threats can be focused on disease prone areas we may have a tool for accommodating this pest, and it may be relegated to the known pathogens without fear of mass die-off. Either way will cause some erosion. The Mattole has a busy fire history since 1950 and it may help to look for problems in older unburnt areas.
Hikers help spread sudden oak death
10:29 10 August 04 news serviceResearchers have confirmed suspicions that trail users such as hikers and mountain bikers are helping to spread a disease that is devastating Californian forests.
The researchers found the pathogen causing sudden oak death was prevalent along trails through otherwise uninfected forests, but almost absent in soil samples taken two metres away from the trail.
They also found that the disease was more widespread in parks heavily used for hiking, mountain biking and horse riding than in less-visited areas. Previous work has shown that people can carry the pathogen on their shoes, but this is the first study to provide evidence of the consequences.
"Humans are moving the pathogen around, and the result seems to be higher levels of the disease," says J Hall Cushman, a biologist at Sonoma State University in California. He presented the data, collected over the last two years, at the Ecological Society of America conference in Portland, Oregon last week.
Difficult questions
Sudden oak death, caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytopthora ramorum, is sweeping through forests in coastal California. It has also been detected in the UK and several other European countries.
The pathogen kills some oak species, and causes a non-fatal leaf disease in many other plants such as rhododendrons and California bay. Researchers suspect the disease is also spread by water and by other animals.
Cushman says the results pose difficult questions for land managers in California,
where outdoor recreation is hugely popular. If managers do nothing, they may be criticised for not preventing the spread the disease.
Restricting trail access during wet seasons, when the pathogen is most active, would probably be most effective, but would also be unpopular and hard to enforce.
Another possible control method is to ensure visitors clean their shoes and bike tires before and after visits. The National Park Service plans to test this method this winter.

Wild fires
The need for action was highlighted by another study presented at the same conference. This predicted that in heavily infected areas the disease will kill up to up to 69% of a dominant native tree species, coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), within five years.
A dramatic protective measure against the disease was revealed in a third study presented at the conference – wildfires. "We almost never see infections in areas that burned" since 1950, says Max Moritz of the University of California, Berkeley.
Periodic wildfires are natural occurrences, but managers have historically suppressed them. Researchers are now working to discover why fires should have such a long-lasting effect.
The news that people and fire affect the spread of sudden oak death matches the experience of Patrick Robards, a ranger at China Camp State Park. The park is a notorious hotspot for sudden oak death that gets 300,000 visitors a year.
Robards conducted controlled burns as part of the park management regime, but stopped in 1999 due to lack of funds. He estimates that in burned areas fewer than 5% of oaks show signs of the disease - in areas that did not burn, up to 90% of oaks are dying or already dead.
Mike Faden, Portland

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

66. Golden Eagles 

This letter appeared in the Times-Standard Sunday. I did not see the letter it refers to. I have seen golden eagles in Petrolia and Bridgeville. From above Bridgeville one can see how much land has been cut and habitat destroyed. The eagles might be concentrated by activity elsewhere in the counties forests into what has been a quiet area until a couple of years ago. Or maybe there is that much new open habitat to occupy.
One other thought: Do golden eagles use the same sites for multiple seasons? The article reads like they would be able to cut the area after the breeding season was over, removing nesting habitat potentially reused like osprey nests. My Ecological Inventory Manual says golden eagles in Humboldt are rare permanent hunters of rabbits and rodents on rolling open hills that prefer large trees to build large platform nests on. Reads like they prefer open country but need big trees to breed. The manual also quotes California Forest Practice Rules 919.3, 939.3, 959.3 which seem to give year round protection to the nest tree, perch trees, screen trees and replacement recruits, while allowing thinning control and select cuts in the buffer zones in the off (non-critical) season.
Its good there are more eagles than we thought. Each designated nest tree and its buffer zone is preserving a block of glomalin rich soil and a vast array of mycorrhizia for restoration and recolonization of neighboring disturbed blocks. Lets keep it that way until glomalin becomes part of Forest Practices and economic incentive to grow and maintain big trees becomes reality.
Eureka Times-Standard
Setting the record straight on golden eagles
Sunday, August 08, 2004 -
My Word by Sal Chinnici and Dan Dill
Recently, some rather misguided statements have been published concerning surveys and nest protection measures for golden eagles in Humboldt County. In particular, we wanted to respond to a recent letter concerning golden eagle surveys conducted by Palco, in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). In fact, it sounds as if certain "performers" might want to add a second or third act to their play about eagles to tell the whole story!
As background information, until Palco and CDFG began cooperating on golden eagle surveys three years ago, only two nests of this magnificent species were known in Humboldt County. About that time, a fledgling eaglet was found on the ground near a Palco Timber Harvesting Plan (THP) site. All logging activity was stopped. Concerned loggers carried the eaglet to safety. A search was conducted for the nest, which was then found in a tree near the THP. The eaglet was examined by a raptor expert and found to be healthy, and Palco biologists climbed the nest tree and placed the eaglet back in the nest. We began monitoring the nest from a distance, and found that the eaglet once again tried to leave the nest, even though there was no logging activity in the area. We also observed that the eaglet was protected and fed on the ground by its parents. The juvenile eagle was later seen healthy, flying, and eating on its own.
Since that time, Palco and CDFG have developed a survey protocol for golden eagles that has resulted in Palco's wildlife biologists conducting over 2,250 hours of surveys, while physically searching 23,000 acres of our forests for nests, and visually observing about 86,000 acres of forest and prairie for sign of golden eagles. What have been the results of these surveys? Palco biologists have located 12 additional nests on or near our lands, with five of them in the Mattole watershed alone, thereby increasing the total number of Humboldt County nests by a factor of six. All of the nests are reported to adjacent landowners and to the state's wildlife database.
Through the CDFG/Palco consultation for protection of golden eagle nests, during the breeding season of this species (Jan. 15 to Sept. 1), no logging operations can occur within one-half mile of occupied nests, or within one mile of nests if helicopter yarding is proposed, until the eagles are finished nesting. Our nest monitoring has revealed that, over the last two years, seven occupied nests have fledged seven young golden eagles.
In summary, the truth is that Palco and CDFG have cooperated in an unprecedented effort to find and protect the nests of golden eagles on managed forestlands. We are proud to say that we have greatly increased the number of known nests, and are contributing to the scientific knowledge of the golden eagle. Dedicated bird-watchers in the Mattole Valley have an excellent opportunity to view this magnificent species soaring above the ridge-top prairies of the watershed, as has our dedicated wildlife staff.
Sal Chinnici, a wildlife biologist at Palco for 13 years, lives in Fortuna. Dan Dill, also a wildlife biologist at Palco for nine years, lives in Scotia.

Turning Genetically Engineered Trees Into Toxic Avengers 

August 3, 2004
A thorough laypersons reading on fungi and genetic engineering leads me to think these guys are way off base, and where are my tax dollars going? Well, he is on the right track but there is no mention of fungi, which has an entire industry of bioremediation developing and another for carbon sequestration. Fungi would be absorbing the mercury for the tree. A good mycorrhizal match would work very well. As for the carbon, he is merely counting the wood and not the exudates, fungal hyphae or glomalin.
On the genetic engineering side, one thing I’ve read said much genetic manipulation involves only “throwing binary switches” rather than insertion of new material. For example, one switch controls whether the meristem is the main focus of growth as in conifers, or ever dividing branch ends like most hardwoods. One possible exception was American chestnut, which grew to enormous heights compared to its cousins. They were also looking for the “switch” to turn off furrowing of the bark in spring as trees reach maturity, as it was learned this was the entry point for the fungus to attack the trees.
Turning Genetically Engineered Trees Into Toxic Avengers
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Last summer, on the site of 35 former hat factories where toxic mercury was once used to cure pelts, city officials in Danbury, Conn., deployed a futuristic weapon: 160 Eastern cottonwoods.
Dr. Richard Meagher, a professor of genetics at the University of Georgia, genetically engineered the trees to extract mercury from the soil, store it without being harmed, convert it to a less toxic form of mercury and release it into the air.
It was one of two dozen proposals Dr. Meagher has submitted to various agencies over two decades for engineering trees to soak up chemicals from contaminated soil. For years, no one would pay him to try. "I got called a charlatan," he said. "People didn't believe a plant could do this."
He will begin to assess the experiment's success this fall. But his is not the only such experiment with trees.
In laboratories around the country, researchers are using detailed knowledge of tree genes and recombinant DNA technology to alter the genetic workings of forest trees, hoping to tweak their reproductive cycles, growth rate and chemical makeup, to change their ability to store carbon, resist disease and absorb toxins.
The research is controversial. Environmentalists and others say that because of the large distances tree pollen can travel, altered genes will migrate to natural populations, leading to damage to ecosystems and other unforeseen consequences.
Dr. Jim Diamond, a retired pediatrician who is chairman of the Sierra Club's national genetic engineering committee, sees trees as a bastion of the natural world.
"It's quite possible the stands of trees that are left will be domesticated new varieties of trees and the natural varieties will cease to exist," he said. "Where do you draw the line?"
Dr. Meagher's toxic-avenger trees are intended to remove heavy metals from contaminated soils in places where other forms of cleanup are prohibitively expensive. Because mercury is an element, it cannot be broken down into harmless substances; the Danbury trees release the diluted mercury into the atmosphere, where it dissipates and falls back to earth after a few years.
This has opened Dr. Meagher to the charge that he is engaged in a shell game, simply moving toxins from one place to another. He does not disagree, but says the risk of human exposure will be lower if the chemicals are not concentrated in certain areas. In time, he says, such trees may be deployed in places like Bangladesh and India, where mercury- and arsenic-laden drinking water has created a growing health crisis.
"I really believe we're on the way to doing something great, and 20 years from now this is how these things will be taken care of," he said.
Tree geneticists are acutely aware that public acceptance will depend at least partly on whether altered trees can be made sterile or their reproductive capacity tightly controlled.
Dr. Steven Strauss, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University, directs the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative, a group working on strategies for gene containment, including control of flowering cycles and sterility. He is also exploring ways to link desirable traits to traits that make a tree unlikely to spread.
"If you take a gene for herbicide resistance that you don't want to spread, and you link it to a gene that makes a tree shorter and fatter, that's a tree that's not going to be very invasive," he said.
Not everyone is convinced that these containment strategies will work.
"Any number of molecular geneticists will tell you, 'Oh, these things are not a problem, we've got various ways of making sure the genes won't function outside of their intended plants,' " said Dr. Yan Linhart, a biologist at the University of Colorado who studies the ecology and evolution of forest trees. "But just as confident as they are, you will find any number of ecologists and evolutionary biologists like myself who believe in the Missouri motto, 'Show me.' "
Dr. Strauss and his colleagues view genetic engineering as a way to ease the pressure for logging in wild forests. If they can engineer trees in a plantation setting that grow faster and possess other desirable commercial traits, they say, then the industry will have less incentive to go after old-growth trees.
"It is possible," said Dr. Ron Sederoff, a professor of forestry at North Carolina State University, "that we could engineer trees that are so much better for specific purposes that you wouldn't want to cut down a natural tree."
Among the goals is the creation of trees that produce less lignin - a substance similar to plastic that makes wood fibers stiff - so they can be turned into paper and lumber using fewer chemicals. Lignin production is important to trees in the wild, contributing to the strength of their trunks, but less so on a plantation, where trees will be harvested every few years. Researchers have discovered a link between low lignin and faster growth, which could make the engineered trees desirable for plantation foresters.
Still, this has not satisfied critics.
"Perhaps part of growing faster is that it won't put all this effort into useless pine cones," said Dr. Diamond of the Sierra Club, "so there's no sustenance for the chipmunks. What if the tree in your backyard turns out to be a low-lignin tree but just happens to fall on your house or your car in a moderate wind? There are all kinds of risks besides just my aesthetic problem with remaking nature."
Dr. Strauss is also trying to use genetic engineering to address climate change. He wants to create trees that would store more carbon in their root systems - "sequestering" it from the atmosphere, thereby cutting atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas. In a project sponsored by the Department of Energy, Dr. Strauss and colleagues at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are modifying tree architecture and cell wall chemistry to increase the amount of carbon stored below ground.
Much of the research relies on basic tree genetics - made easier by the sequencing of the poplar tree genome, a major effort in forest biotechnology whose results are to be made public this month. Scientists can now study classes of genes that affect absorption of sugars and carbohydrates, which in turn can change the chemical processes that affect the rates at which trees rot and release stored carbon.
"In the U.S., there are about 40 million acres of excess, surplus or idle agricultural land," said Jerry Tuskan, a researcher at Oak Ridge, who led the effort to sequence the poplar genome. "If we could economically capture those and deploy fast-growing trees bred and created for carbon sequestration over a 10-year period, we could reach 25 percent of the Kyoto prescription for the U.S." The Kyoto treaty, never signed by the United States, calls for reductions in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
The aboveground portion of the trees would be harvested every 10 years and used for ethanol, which Dr. Tuskan believes would offset the use of petroleum and, by extension, carbon dioxide emissions.
In another forest biotechnology project that has been making strides, researchers are using genetic engineering to produce a disease-resistant strain of American chestnut, a tree that once dominated Eastern forests but was decimated by the mid-20th century by a fungus introduced from Asia. The American chestnut project has proved among the least controversial, in part because the tree's demise was caused by human intervention.
Elsewhere, researchers are using forest biotechnology to quicken the pace of traditional breeding experiments. At the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forest Resources, Dr. Jeffrey Dean monitors individual genes to learn how they react to changes like the addition of fertilizer or the presence of a fungus.
Dr. Dean said he had spent the past several years "philosophizing" about the genetic engineering of trees, weighing the pros and cons. "We probably don't want to be thinking about genetic engineering as a magic bullet or cure-all," he said. "There will be times where we may want the magic bullets, but they have to be applied in specific ecological contexts."
Said Dr. Linhart of the University of Colorado: "One always needs to put into the equation biological caution and common sense. It's a case-by-case basis. One has to not make sweeping judgments that say this particular type of activity is all good or all bad."

64. Klamath fish died from dearth of water  

Somehow it just keeps getting more worrisome. Over nad over restoration efforts are hampered by ongoing economic concerns regardless of the impacts on other people or priorities. The Klamath, Eel Van Duzen and Mattole all need intelligent management that can rise above the need to make a buck. Buffer zones cannot defend against all the sediment cut loose in areas just above riparian zones, especially if the area has been roaded.
64. Klamath fish died from dearth of water
By John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Saturday, July 31, 2004 -
Fish and Game report says water the only tool to prevent repeat of 2002 event
Far more salmon may have died in the Klamath River two years ago than was previously thought, and paltry river flows are at the heart of the tragedy.
The California Department of Fish and Game released its final report on the 2002 fish kill Friday. Water flows are the only tool available to agencies to prevent outbreaks of deadly fish diseases, the report reads.
As many as 68,000 chinook salmon died in September 2002, according to the 183-page report, dwarfing earlier estimates of 34,000 fish. Low flows packed an above average run of fish into the lower river, allowing the diseases ich and columnaris to spread rapidly. The fish may also have been impeded by riffles too shallow to swim over, or may have lacked a cue to push upstream, the report reads.
The event stung communities on the lower Klamath, and sharply affected fishing on the river and its principal tributary the Trinity River. Commercial and sport fishermen worry quotas next year may be curtailed or eliminated if the returning offspring of the 2002 fish kill are too few.
Providing more water from the Klamath and the Trinity can improve temperatures, fish passage and migration cues, and break up dense concentrations of fish, reducing disease transmission, Fish and Game said.
"We're talking about flows from both sides," said Steve Turek, senior environmental scientist for Fish and Game.
State and federal agencies, tribes and others have begun meeting to discuss how to prevent a repeat of the 2002 fish kill this year. Some water beyond the base Klamath River flows planned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is available to send down the river, and Reclamation is buying water from Central Valley contractors to be available to send down the Trinity.
What criteria would trigger the increased flows is being worked out by the agencies.
The Fish and Game report recommends that Klamath flows at Orleans and Trinity flows at Hoopa combined should be 2,200 cfs in September. The report also recommends figuring out whether low flows physically block salmon from migrating, what temperatures salmon can tolerate and implementing a flow study called Hardy Phase II.
Irrigators on the central Oregon and California border have railed against the preliminary findings in the Hardy report, which calls for much higher flows on the lower river. They have held that releasing warm water from upstream reservoirs on the Klamath would only harm fish.
In a letter last year to Oregon and California officials and U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Dan Keppen of the Klamath Water Users Association -- which represents irrigators in Reclamation's 220,000 acre project -- said hot water and a large run of fish probably sparked the disease outbreak.
But Turek said water released from the Klamath's lowermost dam, Iron Gate, in September is generally cooler than the river's estuary. He also said that salmon seem to tolerate high temperatures in the middle reaches of the Klamath.
"We're not seeing massive fish kills in those areas," Turek said.
But salmon can't handle being bunched together when a disease is present, he said.
The state report echoes many of the conclusions of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report released last year, but is more staunch in pushing for higher flows. The draft state report was peer review by state and federal biologists, and fisheries experts from Humboldt State and Oregon State universities.
Still, some biologist have concerns about boosting flows in September, especially from only the Trinity, which is cleaner and colder than the Klamath. The worry is that salmon may be stimulated to migrate early by higher flows, only to get trapped in a shallow, hot, middle Klamath River. In the long term, some are concerned that Klamath fish may begin to stray up the Trinity, changing the face of the runs in the watershed.
Yurok Tribe Chairman Howard McConnell said he believes federal agencies are beginning to listen to the tribe, which warned of a fish kill in 2002. But he believes the biologists are concerned about reprisals from high levels in the Bush administration, which has strongly backed upstream farmers.
And he doubts there will be a change.
"We don't see them changing until we go through court," McConnell said. "We're just going to have to do that process."
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said the fish kill's effects on commercial salmon catches from Washington to San Francisco are likely to be dire.
"The sad part of the equation is that the Bush administration is still showing that they don't care about the downstream communities," Thompson said.

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