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, November 10, 2004

89. Palco Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel 

Palco announced new logging plans last week and caused a lawsuit to be filed by the reliable Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), as well as concern from Humboldt Redwoods State Park officials. The plans are unusual in several ways. A hundred year management plan and a fistful of THP’s were approved, apparently without public review or comment. Part of the planning involves clear cutting 35-year-old Douglas fir stands in the Van Duzen, already hard hit by Palco. We can be sure the ground will destabilize after that. The other aspect drawing fire is the clearcutting of old growth timber on the boundary with Humboldt Redwoods State Park 65 acres on steep ground well within the viewscape so highly prized in the State Parks General Plan.
I have informed PL of the role of glomalin if forests. Their only response seems to have been to pull their ads claiming to have the science right, and a need to hurry liquidation even more. They may or may not be studying on their own. It behooves anyone claiming sustainability to be familiar with this critical function of forestlands. Clear cutting 35-year old Douglas fir is driven by the bottom line, the activity of tree farmers rather than foresters. This makes the whole point of certification moot.
State Park officials spent their political capital in the region allowing the arrest of Mattole protesters on State Park lands, and in claiming scattered parcels purchased by Save the Redwoods League adjoining the Park but outside its watershed, rather than giving the entire package to BLM with Gilham Butte and the majority of the scattered parcels for management; and road building in the Park. In the long run the differences are minimal as Parks protects lands, and the purchased lands have conservation easement restrictions against logging, but they managed to anger most everyone in the process. Park officials hoping to “save” the big trees sound like the nineties cry that created the Headwaters Reserve, which gives the company money without assuring any jobs for employees. The HCP and SYP were supposed to protect the rest of Palco’s lands from industrial devastation. And so we know next time we have to preserve the forests functionality.
Saving several thousand acres allows a part of a watershed to operate naturally. Thinning keeps the watershed functioning and fungi spreading and aggregating the soil particles into porous topsoil. Clear cutting stops glomalin production, aggregation of particles into soil, hyphae growth binding the soil laterally, water absorption in rain events and loss of “combs” for summer fog.
Twenty years of liquidation cutting has left little alternatives for the company. They are tree farmers. Paycheck hungry workers continue to destroy the forests and streams and their children’s legacy in the natural world. The damage to our natural resources will continue into the future as water levels and soil moisture drop, more CO2 is released from disturbed ground into the atmosphere contributing to elevated CO2 rather than reducing it.. Much of the problem will be blamed on global warming due to emissions even as large swaths of landscape dry out eventually causing disease, insect and fire problems and eventually desertification.
Douglas fir grows in very dense stands when it regenerates itself and often there are more than a thousand poles per acre at that age. This assures a dense network of fungi conditioning soil to hold water. Most plans for public lands that are restricted against logging include thinning in Douglas fir stands. By age eighty stand characteristics are determined and there is a fine crop of poles beyond the target number of mature trees: about ten to the acre. Management schemes that allow fungi to continue to thrive in an elevated growth environment (warming, CO2, reduced competition from thinning) can restore the ability to function as a forest delivering water year round to our streams while storing carbon in the ground and removing it from the atmosphere. This is where sustainable actually means exactly what it says.
PL's plans to cut little trees litigated,,127%7E2896%7E%7Efilter%7E11_06_2004,00.htmlBy John Driscoll The Times-Standard Saturday, November 06, 2004 -
The Pacific Lumber Co.'s chief nemesis has sued the timber company not just for cutting big old trees, but for logging very young trees -- evidence, the environmental group says, that Palco is over cutting its land.
The Environmental Protection Information Center on Thursday filed suit in Humboldt County Superior Court, claiming a slate of timber plans and a 100-year management plan were approved by the state without public notice or environmental review.
The plans are filed for the Van Duzen watershed, heavily logged in recent years. Most of them call for logging trees as young as 35 years, while others aim to log old-growth redwoods next to Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
In the past five years, Palco has logged more than a quarter of its 24,000 acres in the watershed. The plans it has submitted are to log on another 2,500 acres.
Palco refused to comment for this report, and state officials did not return the Times-Standard's phone calls.
The suit claims the California Department of Forestry and Palco breached the state Forest Practices Act and Environmental Quality Act.
"They're so desperate now they're going out and clearcutting 35-year-old trees," said Cynthia Elkins of EPIC. "They've clearly logged too much, too fast."
Most timber companies don't begin cutting stands until they are 50 years or older, with some exceptions. The California Board of Forestry, however, approved of Palco's program to cut younger trees.
EPIC also sued Palco in federal district court in San Francisco this week, claiming federal agencies should have reexamined Palco's Habitat Conservation Plan after a slew of state and federal violations, and since new information on protected marbled murrelets and salmon now exists.
The environmental group also says those violations show Palco's advertising campaign -- which touts the company as operating sustainably -- is bunk.
Palco is certified with Sustainable Forestry International, an industry led group that heralds an intensive review program. Nearly all major timber companies on the West Coast are also listed as sustainable under SFI's terms.
Environmentalists say SFI's program doesn't come close to promoting the standards of more strict sustainable labels.
Park grapples with PL over logging plan,1413,127~2896~2515884,00.html#
By John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Friday, November 05, 2004 -
Parks officials are voicing strong opposition to the state and the Pacific Lumber Co. over plans to log big trees up to the border of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
The Southern Humboldt County park has lodged complaints with the California Department of Forestry, which has assured that Palco's plan will get another look.
As it stands, Palco is looking to log 65 acres on a steep slope next to U.S. Highway 101 south of Bear Creek. The logging of both giant redwoods left from historic logging and other trees would abut the largest unbroken stand of old-growth redwood in the world, and the park is concerned it would drastically alter the view coming into the park.
"This one is right in our face," said park landscape architect and planner Roger Goddard. "It's going to be a real impact ecologically and visually."
The plan does not call for a true clearcut, but Goddard said the appearance is likely to be similar, and would add to the scene of heavy logging in the area. Goddard's recommendation was to find a way to leave the remaining old trees and reformat the plan.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has also weighed in with concerns about water quality from the proposed winter operations.
Called for a comment, Palco said only that it is working with the agencies on the plan.
Ron Pape, division chief of forest practices for CDF, said he's not sure the operation will be as visible as the park may think. He added that Palco will leave some big trees and other trees in a 200-foot buffer zone up from the road.
But Pape said CDF will be taking another look at the plan on the ground.
"This is nowhere close to being a done deal," Pape said. "We've got a way to go on that one."
Goddard said the park may issue a half dozen "non-concurrences," or complaints to CDF each year.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

90. Forest Primary Production Stored Underground 

90. Forest Primary Production Stored Underground
I have been slightly behind in weekly updates from CO2 Science magazine but this article expresses our view completely, except they don’t use the term glomalin, they say long lived pools of organic matter. The really important part here is the description of organics making more room in the soil, and the depth of carbon depositing, and the method of using minirhizotrons to document subsurface changes. These are the critical issues for water storage
Humboldt County is missing out on a lot of research opportunities that will benefit everyone involved in forest issues.
Effects of Elevated CO2 on Mature Sweetgum Trees: Much More Than Meets the Eye
Volume 7, Number 45: 10 November 2004

The Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park in Roane County, Tennessee, USA is home to one of the world's premier forest FACE experiments. The origins of this experiment stretch back to 1988, when one-year-old bare-rooted sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L.) seedlings were planted in the ground to create the forest. Eight years later, five 25-m-diameter FACE rings were constructed so as to enclose about 90 trees each. A year later, when pretreatment measurements were made, the trees were about l2 m tall with an average diameter of 11 cm. At this point, the trees were in a linear growth phase and the canopy was no longer expanding, while a year later in April of 1998, exposure to elevated CO2 was begun in two of the plots and has continued each year thereafter throughout the growing season (April to November).
Over the last four years of the study (years 3-6), the atmospheric CO2 concentrations of the ambient and CO2-enriched plots have averaged 391 ppm and 544 ppm (39% more than ambient), respectively. During this period, the net primary production of the CO2-enriched plots has averaged 22% more than that of the ambient plots; but there has been no discernible "bulking up" of the trees. So where has the extra biomass attributable to the extra CO2 been going? Norby et al. (2004) believe they have found the answer.
Back in July of 1997, the Oak Ridge scientists had installed five minirhizotron tubes in each FACE plot. These transparent tubes extend to a depth of 60 cm below the soil surface and are inclined at a 60-degree angle from the vertical. Each is equipped with a video recorder that collects images biweekly throughout the growing season; and these data have been digitized and used to calculate a number of different root parameters on the same biweekly basis. So what's been learned?
Norby et al. report that "the CO2 effect on annual [root] production was highly significant, with production 2.2-fold higher in CO2-enriched plots from 2000-2003." They also found that "CO2 enrichment significantly increased peak-standing root crop by altering allocation such that the potential for root occupancy of the soil volume was increased," noting that "this response was manifested especially in the deeper distribution of roots in the soil profile." In particular, they write that the peak-standing root crop exhibited "3-fold more length at 30-45 cm and 4-fold more at 45-60 cm," which is truly amazing considering the enhancement of the air's CO2 concentration employed in this study was only 39%.
The Oak Ridge investigators also determined that the mass of fine roots produced in a given year accounted for 11-34% of forest net primary production; and they say that this "preferential allocation to fine roots should significantly reduce the potential for additional C [carbon] sequestration in trees in elevated CO2," which has indeed proven to be the case in their study. "However," as they continue, "sequestration of some of that C in the forest remains a possibility," for "as fine roots die, their C enters the soil system where there is the potential for movement into long-lived organic matter pools." Indeed, they go on to say that "soil analysis indicates that there is increased accumulation of new C in CO2-enriched plots, particularly in microaggregate fractions that facilitate movement of C into pools with long residence times." And they say that "it may become especially important that the greatest increases in root production in elevated CO2 occur in deeper soil, where sequestration into longer-lived pools may be more likely."
Norby et al. further note that "the CO2-induced increase in fine-root standing crop in summer could also be an important mechanism for conferring increased resistance to late-season droughts," and that "the stimulation of root growth in deeper soil could be particularly important in buffering trees against seasonal droughts." This being the case, the huge allocation of net primary production that the CO2-enriched trees send belowground and distribute to greater depths may yet enable them to sequester more biomass in their aboveground woody tissues, if it helps them to continue to be able to produce biomass during droughty periods that could possibly bring the net productivity of trees growing in ambient air to a screeching halt.
It will be interesting to see if this scenario develops in some of the drier years to come, which is another reason for continuing such studies as this one for as long as it is humanly (and financially) possible. There is simply no other way to acquire the important knowledge that these long-term real-world studies generate.
Norby, R.J., Ledford, J., Reilly, C.D., Miller, N.E. and O'Neill, E.G. 2004. Fine-root production dominates response of a deciduous forest to atmospheric CO2 enrichment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101: 9689-9693.
Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso
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Copyright © 2004. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

Monday, November 08, 2004

88. Succession, Renewal, Biodiversity and Glomalin 

88. Succession, Renewal, Biodiversity and Glomalin
Little material available discusses old growth forests as ongoing operations in the prime of their operational capacity. It has been far more profitablre to believe trees are either growing or failing without regard to how they are the driving force in forests. If forests were in decline that needed our attention they wouldn’t have survived hundreds of millions of years. It is our picture of what a healthy forest is that needs changing.
Several articles recently pointed this out to me. The first is the first forest based glomalin study I am aware of, done in Chile. As in a most of these studies, I feel the researcher is fumbling around the edges of the iss8ue. We will take the evidence presented and interpret it according to our own perspective as outlined earlier in this blog.
In the Chilean study, glomalin in the top several inches of soil around trees was measured. Glomalin was shown to be older at the trunk and younger as samples came from further away. One interpretation would be that glomalin is associated with new growth, and most production is in the topsoil, and that the glomalin in an area is associated with a single above ground species and few fungal species. This is the snapshot approach of studying dynamic systems and people can claim it is good science. If we look at the system in a particular area over a period of time we see the dynamics much more clearly.
Mycorhizzial fungi are widespread in forests. Some are specific to tree hosts and some are universal. While some are well known, many fruit below ground in the form of truffles, false truffles, and rhizopogons. As plants inhabit an area, a succession of mycorhizzia occurs, by species as well as over time as conditions change. So we have one set for disturbed ground (morels), seedlings associates, then truffles and other hypogenous appear in young forests as the canopy closes in, and finally chanterelles appearing in mature forests. Each of these species has to infect a portion of root hair, and extends hyphae to gather nutrients when it does. In the extension of hyphae is the physical need of the plant to produce the glomalin, sealing the hyphae against loss in either direction. The glomalin binds local soil particles into a porous water holding soil. Root hairs have been found with seven species of fungus in a half centimeter of root hair. Glomalin is made from excess carbon products the tree produces from CO2 and water.
The stated life span of glomalin allows the original glomalin production to condition the soil until the canopy normally closes in. It seems likely underground fruiting fungi evolved to await canopy closure so they didn’t just wash out. As a piece of ground matures, the hyphae continually search for nutrients, depositing glomalin in a continual process. The results of this process are the water holding capacity of forest soils. The process continues as new trees and especially age appropriate associated plants appear in the understory. New mycorhizzia grows back over the same lands already conditioned, further increasing the water holding capacity of the soil. New trees reintroduce the succession fungi to established areas. Weather caused canopy openings allow for more regeneration and biodiversity.
Many forest trees are associated with ectomycorhizzial fungi. These tend to coat the root hair and turn it into an absorbent sponge. With this in mind we can expect newer, fresher glomalin at the drip line and older glomalin closer to the origins. We also expect glomalin to be produced deeper in the soil as the roots grow out and down. Eventually the glomalin “dies” and reverts to CO2 after fifty or so years but the forest is thriving by then and production far outweighs loss.
We should expect mature trees to live a busy life as adults, and glomalin production for water storage and nutrient gathering would be primary activities. As a by product we have water stored in the soil keeping rivers flowing year round and trees emitting gases that cause raindrops to develop. Staying on short rotations means the soil is depleted and not allowed to recondition itself. Water storage drops and production in the dry season becomes an issue in the streams. This is the local difference between industry managed lands and lands managed for reasons other than timber cutting. The need to reduce rising carbon dioxide levels is becoming apparent to many but this simple fact of how the world works is ignored in forestry, but not agriculture. We are learning to connect the dots representing highlights of reductionist science, but the implications are not industry friendly at this time. Even so, the need to act on rising CO2, as well as the understanding to use that information to repair past damage will justify long term forest protection.

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