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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.
Monday, January 31, 2005
Good articles on redwood quality this week in the Northcoast Journal. Here we plainly see the focus is not n the primary product of the land: water. At this point local focus should be on profitable use for all the vegetation removed or needing removal for fire risk management. But differing styles of management are all concerned with rotation and replanting and its effect on the wood. But the forest is a functioning system and should be allowed to continue to do so, or we will have all the types of trouble we have seen on the ground. We will have more planning and planning costs for harvest making it difficult to sell a few trees for private owners, effectively closing the market.
The ignorance of a basic natural law is costing us productivity due to over regulation because we haven’t found satisfactory answers to landscape destruction, which continues to outrage the people and set natural restoration back. It is the big tradeoff from development. When it is found glomalin accumulation is a major factor in watershed health we will want to preserve as much of this as possible and not interfere either with production nor accumulation in order to restore our land and streams. We can be serious marketers of carbon storage while actively taking a percentage as timber or grass. We will want land use policies that are permanent, to include capture and use of water and CO2 as positive and profitable measures of management, and that harmonize with sustainable activities across the landscape. PL was an all-aged operation until the Maxxam buyout. AW Smith had seen logging destruction in Maine and around the Great Lakes.. That’s why they were still here when most of the others had cut and run. Mendocino Redwood saw previous destruction and implemented a new strategy that is favorable to the watershed health and they may get some pleasant surprises. I have been writing about my own efforts to understand a destroyed landscape in Humboldt. We all started at a devastated landscape and worked back.
Are we better off select cutting or clear cutting and replanting? Again, this begs the issue. Smaller roots mean less carrying capacity, shorter rotations means ignoring the water storage altogether. There probably is some percentage of water storage removal a watershed can live with before it goes dysfunctional.
If we can supply a steady stream of material as we convert to an ongoing process we can add many acres to the land base for companies operating these facilities, from small wood mills to pulp, fuel and compost. A consensus on management decision would benefit everyone. We know several endemic mycorhizzia appear in newly planted ground (or else the trees would die) but it would take a long time to establish the biodiversity of functioning forest. It may be redwood needs nutrients it must obtain from associated species for chemical production just as it does for growth. It is quite possible defensive chemicals form early under duress- it could be why growth is slower.
The redwood argument can be looked at from this point: why not manage the stump sprouts in watershed areas? This takes advantage of the established root system to throw up a new canopy. Thinning to a few leaders in a couple of years gets a pretty good canopy. This produces water and habitat and reduces fire risk. These grow very fast although I have seen sawable logs with very little heartwood as young as thirty. I have also found washed out trees I planted a couple of years old with a heartwood core and very little sapwood. These trees are shade grown in duress. I also wonder if the cloned trees show genetic aging like the animals do. If so will they produce chemicals at an earlier age because they are “older?”
What about Douglas fir? It doesn’t stump sprout. It takes many years for the stumps to rot out. Clear cuts and natural seeding are used extensively because fir will sprout very well in vegetation free soil. Its biggest threat is desiccation in the summer before it establishes a sufficient mycorhizzial network for survival. We are counting on endemic fungi to regrow the surface water storage of the area. Its capacity to slow down and absorb water is greatly reduced, increasing runoff, and thus sediment through cutting and destruction of the soil glue leading to debris flows and slides. This effect is exaggerated in places where the surface drainage has been haphazardly altered. All soil cut loose ends up at the bottom of the watershed, in the stream, filling the pools and reducing biocapacity, and ensuring lots of bank scour and flooding in high water.
It is possible to create a stable and profitable landscape that provides jobs and products without sacrificing everything else to do it.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Trees act as two-way pumps between the atmosphere and the soil.
Trees are the primary photosynthetic producers in the forest.
By means of photosynthesis trees process enough carbon dioxide and water for both tree growth and to support belowground partnerships with mycorhizzia in order to assure itself of water and nutrients.
Forests form large networks of plants and fungi by means of hyphae infecting a variety of plants in vicinity.
One cubic centimeter of soil may contain a kilometer of hyphae.
Hyphae are the “grass” of the subsoil world, the bottom of a food chain counting on the trees as primary producer.
Important bacteria hide from predators inside hyphae.
Most forest plant communities have at least two associated dominant tree types and many smaller plants, assuring a host plant if one species comes under attack.
Patches of different plant communities combine to make a forest.
Many under story plants are infected by the network and create a fungal reserve against when trees are removed.
Many of the networked plants have differing rooting styles adding to the capacity of the forest to gather nutrients.
Forests are not maximized as trees become old growth but only arrive to take on the duties of mature individuals.
Water must be captured in the root zone whether to remain in the biological cycle or to percolate into deeper aquifers
Water in the root zone is what we call surface water.
Rivers are the emptying of this system. Springs are a result of an abundant root zone capacity.
The percentage of precipitation biologically captured for use is a primary measure of watershed health. Rapid reduction will lead to runoff and flooding from a similar previously harmless rain event
Aquifers are recharged by percolation through the root zone.
Insufficient water in the root zone leads to gradual desiccation of the landscape.
Stored water gets the forest through dry seasons, drought, insect attack and disease.
Trees encase insects in sap as a defense when there is enough water.
Mycorhizzia are a type of fungi forming mutually beneficial relationships with plants.
There are seven types of mycorhizzia.
Most species of plants have mycorhizzia associates.
Mycorhizzia infect plant roots seeking carbon products from photosynthesis.
Mycorhizzia deform root tip hairs in convoluted shapes, greatly increasing the absorbent surface area of the roots.
Mycorhizzia then spread as hyphae into the environment in order to collect water and nutrients to share with the hosts.
Studies of mycorhizzia in farm soils led to discovery of glomalin by government scientists in 1996 at USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.
Glomalin research has focused on vaso-arbuscular mycorhizzia, a major crop mycorhizzia.
Tilling exposes glomalin to the three things that destroy it: running water, ambient air and sunlight.
The root zone is destroyed by soil compaction as well.
Destroyed glomalin reverts to carbon dioxide and returns to the atmosphere.
The results are brought to bear as no-till farming, saving fuel, time and soil and preserving the glomalin..
This has led to farmers being paid to sequester carbon while still producing crops from the land.
One third of US cropland has gone to this method since the late nineties.
Glomalin is produced as a material, a stiffener for the walls of the thin two-way transfer tubes, which constitute hyphae.
The tubes transfer water and nutrients from the soil to the root tips and carry carbon products back to the growing end of the hyphae.
As a structural material, glomalin is produced by many species of mycorhizzia, and probably other fungi as well.
Glomalin is a glycoprotein, containing a nitrogen atom and tightly binding one or more iron molecules.
Mussels use a similar glue to adhere to rocks in the surf line.
It becomes available as a soil product after the hyphae die in several weeks.
Glomalin molecules are tough and durable living 7-42 years in the soil, accumulating in the soil.
Glomalin acts like soil glue, aggregating silt and clay particles into porous top soil.
28% of the annual carbon dioxide intake of trees is converted into glomalin.
Previously only 6% was found in the form of humic acid, because glomalin was hard to detect
Glomalin reservoirs in forest act like sponges, retaining two to three years worth of precipitation in the root zone.
Glomalin holds sediment in place in the watershed.
Glomalin is difficult to observe, even in the lab, but several methods of isolation are available.
Glomalin is distributed over a wide range of the earth. Most vegetated areas have at least some.
Glomalin presence is on a scale from old growth through recovered forest to fallow lands, pastures, croplands and finally developed areas of lawns and landscape plants still maintaining several inches of topsoil.
Higher concentrations of glomalin are reported in the least disturbed area, such as windbreaks.
Large glomalin reserves reduce the amount of runoff in rain events by absorbing a higher portion and delaying much of the runoff through vegetative growth, litter and duff.
Glomalin reserves and shade keep old growth moist and cool, reducing fire risk.
Much of the glomalin stored in the soil has been released to the atmosphere since the agricultural revolution up to today. This has not been accounted for.
Unrestricted forest growth will lead to fuel buildup.
Shaded fuel breaks can get it all done.
Most forest trees, about 4000 species, associate with ectomycorhizzia.
Ectomycorhizzia extend hyphae through the environment just like VA mycorhizzia.
Douglas fir is ectomycorhizzial.
Douglas fir associate with over three thousand species of fungi.
One 0.5 cm root tip as infected with seven species. One needle had 26 species.
Douglas fir cannot survive without mycorhizzia.
Individual trees associate with many species of fungi.
One tree may fruit several species at different times of the same winter.
Douglas fir benefits greatly from release after it has established its roots.
Douglas fir does not stump sprout. Land cleared of it must be replanted.
Stumps hold steep landscapes together but they are no longer supporting the fungi.
The ability of the land to handle precipitation is greatly reduced, diminishing for years after the cut.
Regrowth occurs as from barren ground, each seedling conditioning enough soil to survive the first years.
More tree energy is used at this stage of life growing rather than feeding fungi. But they are essential so they must be accounted for from the beginning.
Redwood and tanoak are mycorhizzial but also stump sprout.
When the main stem is cut the plants activates adventitious tissue to create several new leaders.
The plants immediately sprout new photosynthetic material in order to continue to feed the fungi.
There is some loss of depth but the total impact is not the same as on Douglas fir.
In redwood type lands ground disturbance is as much or more the problem.
Planted redwood in tough conditions may show three inches of heartwood in a five inch stem.
Redwood grown from huge stumps may have the same amount in a fifteen inch log.
This shows the trees respond by restoring the photosynthetic machine and the canopy before production of defensive chemicals.
An area goes through a succession as trees age: morels at disturbance, rhizopogons with seedlings yielding to truffles as the canopy closes in. which persist until late seral conditions bring on chanterelles.
Some mycorhizzia are species specific and others are generalists.
Many mycorhizzia fruit underground, some form mushrooms. Many fruit sporadically.
Cultivation or inoculation is difficult at best and unreliable. Wildlife does it best.
The result is a dynamic soil population changing over time with many species spreading hyphae through the same region over and over while also expanding with the trees roots annual growth and depositing large amounts of glomalin.
Some types of trees root all the way to bed rock regardless, like live oak. They pin the landscape down with massive root systems that create large storage capacity..
Some trees root relatively laterally, creating a mass of roots and mycorhizzia ion the root zone.
Some trees form large networks of individuals through root grafts.
Douglas fir grows in high precipitation areas with silty unstable soils and steep slopes.
Plant communities and drainage systems have shaped the landscape into what it was before the twentieth century.
Douglas fir adds strength to the slide prone landscape by its roots, fungi hyphae acting as miniature threads in the soil by the billions, and by emitting soil glue from hyphae running through the root zone.
Adding glomalin to the landscape allows it to condition more soil into porous water storage and glues it into one semi-solid sponge.
Trees also help by reducing the impact of rain drops, creating a duff layer, creating root zone pores and shade.
Trees capture fog drip in summer.
Trees are responsible for droplet formation from vapor through emission of various gas products.
The net effect of water storage and shade is a reduction of fire risk.
Thus the individual tree has ensured its own survival several ways, the forest has emergency water and stability.
Cutting down trees starves the mycorhizzia.
Cutting down trees removes the canopy, exposing soil and fungi to sunlight, wind and rain impacts.
Tractor logging destroys duff, exposes fungi to water, light and air, destroys glomalin and surface drainage and compresses soils.
Surface disturbances create volumes of water that can only overwhelms re-growing landscapes in heavy rains.
More running water leads to more erosion sites as surface running runoff is unnatural..
Clear cuts remove all cover for the fungi, return topsoil to transportable soil particles and rob the area of its water storage, creating sediment filled runoff, and limiting percolation deeper into aquifers.
Select cuts preserve at least some of the depth of glomalin storage and allow quick refilling of the canopy.
Clear cuts release huge amounts of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere besides the above ground vegetation.
Storage capacity is a dynamic thing but its destruction will take time to undo.
It may take centuries to replace via growth.
It may never recover if rotations are kept short and no allowance is made for accumulation by large trees.
Glomalin is why re-vegetation projects are successful, and how nature heals itself.
Desertification in many places is thus manmade.
Reclaimation by tree planting has won one woman a Nobel Prize.
Destruction of glomalin has led to the current unsatisfactory conditions in streams and landscapes.
We have seen conifers growing in restore summer flows.
Accelerating late seral conditions through thinning early in life provides plenty of jobs in the woods and reduces fire risk.
This also tales advantage of the new trend in timber company machinery for handling smaller trees.
Leaving for extended rotation and only eventual select cutting will restore the landscape, rivers, fish and water.
We can take advantage of the atmosphere rather than suffering from it.
Carbon dioxide is rising in the atmosphere, and is about 360 ppm today from 290 in 1900.
Most plants show accelerated growth with rising CO2. A lot of work has been done here.
Experiments show double the growth, triple the roots and 5 times the glomalin in elevated CO2.
Growth and production rates go up in warmer conditions.
Plants handle many stress situations much better in heightened CO2 atmospheres, from drought to ozone to slowing mineralization but increasing fixation of nitrogen to make more available for vegetative growth.
Glomalin accumulation is the reason creeks resurface and revegetation works as a restoration tool.
Glomalin captures precipitation, creates absorption, slows runoff, and reduces flood and landslide risk.
Glomalin stores greenhouse gases as a usable, necessary material in the soil.
Glomalin makes a good management tool for restoration as well as clearing the atmosphere.
Glomalin is measurable, making carbon sequestration quantifiable and doable, and bringing a true measure of sustainability into the picture.
Growing large trees that benefit from fuel reduction and TSI will result in restored stable and profitable landscapes that benefit the public in many ways.
We can base land use regulation on sound science although things will always be trade off economically..
Nature is reacting to the rising CO2 faster than we are.
As a result, the permafrost line is moving hundreds of miles north with green vegetation including trees on the march.
Coral reefs are recovering faster than expected.
Heavy storms are creating landslides in many parts of the world as a result of logging.
Fuel loads are increasing throughout the US west, in a record drought.
Annual grasses rely on seed dormancy in summer rather than stored water.
Perennial grasses are mycorhizzial, with many plant community associations and a water reserve.
Replacing perennial native grasses with feedlot annuals has cost the landscape a large portion of its water capturing potential.
In the Great Basin 3 million acres of sage is being replaced by low nutrition easy burning cheatgrass, an introduced annual that will not help store the limited rainfall. Aridity will increase.
Transpiration is up, cycling water through landscapes faster.
Many areas in Alaska are experiencing longer warm weather each year, allowing normally contained forest pests to reproduce several times a year, greatly affecting wide spread areas of Alaska.
Trees are be3ing overwhelmed in other areas because there is not enough water to contain insect attacks through sap information.
The result is a massive fuel load in a lengthening fire season, more runoff fouling streams and an area that will continue to dry out under these conditions.
Fungi are at least 400 million years old and associate with plants ever since.
Glomalin production occurs in most terrestrial ecosystems.
Glomalin unites many types of land managers.
Glomalin guides us in what is sustainable.
Glomalin repairs watersheds, forests and the atmosphere.
Glomalin is involved in the recharge of aquifers.
Glomalin delays the exiting of ground water due to gravity, extending the lifetime of each droplet in the terrestial biological zone.
Glomalin accumulation determines what percentage of precipitation is reserved in the watershed.
An understanding of glomalin and current best management practices can put us on the right track.
Glomalin thus provides us with a useful world view to rate development of all kinds against, and shows us what we must prepare for when we do impact the landscape.
Denying the impact of this issue means a continuing downward spiral for the regional ecosytem as we know it.
Denying this impact means continuing downward spiral of global conditions and the heightened ability to impact us.
RIN number 0649-AO04. 1/18/2005
I am writing to you concerning critical habitat designations. I feel critical habitat designations are stop-gap measures until some real information about why we have so much stream damage is incorporated into the decision making process. However, we need all the protections we have in place until new science gets the recognition it deserves and it can prove it can bear the responsibility of underlying new regulations. The information is available but is scattered among various segments of agricultural and natural resource sciences. It needs to be brought together, critiqued and applied. The new information plays out in the atmosphere but the unknowns are fungi and their products in the precipitation interception zones of forest and grasslands.
Mycorhizzia, symbiotic forest fungi, deposit a glycoprotein called glomalin in the soil as the fungi hyphae spread throught the soil. The short lived hyphae slough off the glomalin as part of a fast paced life cycle. Glomalin binds soil particles into aggregates, allowing more water and air pores in the soil. The fraction of carbon in the soil, previously believed to be mostly humic acid, was about 8% of soil by weight. The discovery of the tough and resilient glomalin increases that to almost thirty percent. Glomalin is what makes topsoil top soil. If you cook the topsoil long enough it will eventually dry out and lose its ability to clump up or absorb water because you have destroyed the soil glue- glomalin. In nature, glomalin is destroyed by sunlight, running water and ambient air.
Mycorhizzia relationships in the forest have been investigated since the seventies. At the same time forest practice rules in California were rewritten because of the incredible damage to the landscape had caused, to a large extent, the floods of 1955 and 1964. Three major changes to the landscape had occurred allowing this massive destruction: the canopy and interception zones had shrunk in height and percent of land cover, the surface drainage patterns naturally worked out over thousands of years had been radically altered by road building and log skidding, and the absorbent sponge layer of the soil had been compromised effectively diminishing the amount of water the landscape could handle. All other considered factors- amount of rain, snow pack, high tides and warming temperatures are common and can be expected to repeat. Ignorance of glomalin has caused streams and rivers in the West to shrink to nearly nothing in the summer. In the East, the reduced area of absorption in two dimensions in greatly exacerbated by the fact that the third dimension, soil storage, is overlooked and under utilized, causing regular flooding. Good understandings of glomalin together with glomalin reserves or production zones can yield fresh water and prevent flooding.
Allowing longer tree life and keeping the forest floor intact can enhance any watershed. Conditions will improve because that is what the system wants to do- defend itself by assuring itself of an abundance of necessities. Extended water storage allows forests to fight fire, drought, insects and disease. Precipitation needs to be invited to stay longer in the regions where it falls, lessening the danger of flooding and maintaining water levels in dry periods. The only way to increase this natural capacity is to grow it, both in the trees above ground but especially in the root zone. The answer to this mess of a riddle is another mess- carbon dioxide, but by combining messes they come into focus. CO2 processing by mycorhizzia which are associated with most all plants, use carbon products made in leaves and exuded through roots to grow into the surrounding environment to gather nutrients and water. These are the hyphae, and are short lived. Every time the hyphae extend, they die back in several weeks, leaving long lived glomalin (7-45 years) in the soil, which aggregates soil particles creating pore space in the soil. Glomalin is quantifiable and several methods for detection are posted on the internet.
The federal government released a statement last summer saying 15 agencies dealing with natural resources were not seeing each others work, they were not standing on each others shoulders, they were not connecting the dots. I concur. USDA Sustainable Agriculture Lab scientists Sara Wright and Kristi Nichols discovered Glomalin in 1996. The discovery has had a huge impact on crops by assuring success of no-till farming, which saves labor, fuel and sure enough, carbon in the form of glomalin. Farmers are actually being paid to sequester carbon while we have a far more efficient carbon storage machine- mycorhizzia and trees. In those years crop research has greatly expanded, but only a few of us recognize this in context of NW forest and stream problems.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been extensively studied through FACE experiments, published in CO2 Science magazine. Above ground growth doubles, root growth triples and there is a five fold increase in glomalin production at 300 ppm over ambient. With this knowledge in hand CO2 accumulation becomes a meaningful activity, producing water, forest, wildlife, fish and air while protecting from fire and flood.
Douglas fir has several thousand associated mycorhizzia fungal associations, many concurrent, some successional and some opportunistic ones. Suddenly we see old growth as a mass of fungal activity and competition for carbon products that probably really only gets started as the tree reaches adulthood. While seedlings have specific mycorhizzia and other species appear early in a trees life, the volume of soil to be conditioned means it will take a long time for a forest to reach maximum capacity. It is also likely that gases given off by trees are a function of a long life cycle. Some have studied these gases and found them more polluting than many man made gases. However, these particles are what water vapor attached to in order to create fog and rain, critical functions in California coastal forests. It is likely production of these is way down from presettlement times.
Putting it all together, we find atmospheric carbon dioxide to be the very watershed rehabilitation system we have been looking for, as well as explaining why nature always bounces back. These are very powerful tools that allow us to make rules that make sense rather than regulate by guess work, and having a genuine reason for wanting longer rotations. Preservation of old growth gives us an area we can collect baseline data from to form objectives. Carbon sequestration thus becomes a byproduct. This has the critical value of potentially paying off in a carbon credit market that would allow landowners to take longer rotations and select cuts rather than clear cuts- in short, economic incentive. Various seasonal and species specific problems are tackled when the entire watershed holds water back. It is likely that regions below dams can regain some of their flows by restoring the precipitation interface (trees) and storage (glomalin) in their watersheds.
Big problems take big thinking, but nobody has applied this knowledge to forests yet. I have asked Redwood Sciences Lab, a USDA component of the Forest Service, to look into this. It is the kind of new science that deserves to be included in planning because it is a real solution, allows business to function while improving two of our basic human rights and needs, clean air and water, is a quantifiable standard by which priorities can be shaped and results shown while restoring damaged natural resource systems at minimal cost, and providing a use for underutilized lands. This also lessens the need for preservation and provides wildlife habitat. Preservation eventually leads to fuel buildups necessitating expensive risk reduction, as well as purchase price, and losses of income, property and timber tax revenues when working forests are closed off. As an aside, cheat grass is an annual in the Great Basin, a non-mycorhizzial annual seeder, is replacing sage over wide areas. The cheat grass areas go tinder dry every year and burn, and local water sources are diminishing because the storage capacity of the sage’s root zone has been destroyed. The goal is widespread landscape management under various ownership schemes actively seeking to capture carbon in a reduced risk setting.
We can turn all of these problems around with minimal loss or cost. I believe carbon management willl be brought in hand by this knowledge and we will see CO2 as a resource to be captured by landscapes, and that this will enhance national assets globally, causing accelerated tree planting, fallowing of marginal farm land and providing more water storage. I would like to see all affected federal agencies get on the same page with glomalin as a quantifiable rule of thumb. We will then believe restoration is under way and local land use battles will need to be fought only for aesthetic reasons once there is recognition of scale in glomalin capacity in each type of land use. It is such a practical idea that only those who believe in non-sustainable profits could object. This is the science of the twenty-first century. When coupled with genetic modifications whole new vistas of opportunity appear before our eyes. I started a blog to get this idea out. You find my thoughts but also source articles from USDA, CO2 Science magazine and local newspaper articles that illustrate how we struggle with these issues even as the solution is at hand.
On my blog I get a lot more hits from Europe than America, and no person has actually sent in a question or a donation. I have included some of the evolving thinking in DOI area management plans. Scientists need to get together and compare notes and test this hypothesis that seems so simple and appealing. In twenty years of studying watershed repair, this is the simplest and most natural way. Read more on my glomalin-dominated blog at www.redwoodreader.blogspot.com.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Eleven Timber Harvest Plans in the Freshwater and Elk River areas already approved by CDF are ready to operate once approved by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board despite concerns over waste discharge from logging operations, which means sediment is moving. The NCRWQB has just approved four other plans. And here we are again at this point, with most local opposition at a loss or in disarray. There is property destruction occurring to individuals as well as to the people of the state. In 1990, Elk River and Freshwater Creeks were the best last local coho runs. So all the damage to these creeks is within the time frame of the takeover, and quite a bit since Headwaters was signed. Then there was the hole in the Headwaters. PL’s long time efforts to contain the problem can only be as successful as their understanding of what causes sediment to move downslope. PL scientists and government scientists need to study information readily available in order to make sustainable decisions that don’t harm their neighbors or public assets like wildlife and water quality. The government has imposed critical habitat distances from streams that seem draconian to the company and decrease available logs for their mills.
A better protection would be a mandated maximum canopy removal, no ground disturbance or trails or ruts. After establishment of baseline data for water storage in the root zone and yearly flow rates of a watershed, trees can be selectively harvested to insure plenty of glomalin producers remain undisturbed, and the watershed can continue to capture and store water for release later. Once the general principle is understood more acreage will be available for sustained water production, with timber as a large byproduct. Fuel reduction and TSI and shaded fuel breaks require lots of work and provide lots of small trees and brush, by small we mean up to 12 or 14 inches DBH. This is especially critical in cut over land. It needs time to re-grow the water storage mechanism. Clear cutting small trees causes all the damage done described in Our Shrinking Watersheds in the April 29, 2004 archive of this blog. TSI can be done at the same age as the Van Duzen clear cuts. Most of the trees would be harvested. But leaving some trees feeds the fungi, which work harder for less mouths to feed and the forest grows rapidly eventually streams are able to run all year again. This would greatly increase the overall health of the watersheds where cumulative impacts are making it harder to operate profitably. I am trying to point out this information and extrapolating from it in our forest and watershed experience.
Pl continues to threaten business losses causing loss of employment. They always say that, even when the layoffs are part of upgrading or seasonal weather. This week was a sensational week for their press releases and publicity campaigns. With the North Coast Board studying the plans, all eleven were in danger of failing the test. PL screamed foul to get go-aheads on four plans from the Board. Mark Lovelace of Humboldt Watershed Council went south to a hearing with the state WQB director asked for and received a meeting with Tamminen — himself a former Cal EPA secretary, currently on loan from EPA. He made his presentation alone unaware of the fact Tinnamen had beem briefed earlier, according to the LA Times.
On January 11, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger EPA Cabinet secretary Terry Tamminen and Cal EPA general counsel Maureen Gorsen met with company owner Charles Hurwitz, President Robert Manne and other representatives and officials in order to get permission to work. PL also submitted a request to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors asking for their support in the decision. The item was added to the agenda and approved without public notice on a three to one vote, with Jill Geist opposed saying it was inappropriate for one agency to pressure another.(!). Roger Rodoni a Palco lessee, abstained. The Eureka Times Standard reported the Palco request for support from the Board of Supervisors and published the Supervisors letter.
http://www.times-standard.com/Stories/0,1413,127~2896~2674582,00.html On January 13 Catherine Kuhlman, executive director of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, said she received a phone call from Cal EPA, the agency that oversees her own just asking many questions. She has said she has eleven more plans on her desk.
According to the Times-Standard Catherine Kuhlman, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's executive officer, said Palco requested time on this morning's meeting agenda to discuss the company's timber harvest plans back on Jan. 12. The company asked for three hours on the agenda. Kuhlman said she wrote back to Palco on Jan. 17, stating the company would have 20 minutes of discussion time this morning, January 27. Palco has reported itself operating at 11% of capacity on TV.
Of course, this is all buffalo wallow stuff where so much capital is thrown at securing a natural resource. We will only persuade them to stop destroying things if we can make economic gain that requires the use of the products we are currently selling, in this case carbon dioxide accumulators. Our wholesale consumer good has become a piece of capital expense too valuable to take out of production. Suppose we find Douglas fir sequesters 1 ton of carbon a year per acre in wood. Thee will be another ton below ground in roots and fungi, and another in produced glomalin. (We need numbers here. There is a lot of work to do.) If we recover the profit from the wood but we lose the belowground, the existing glomalin reserve, and the ability to retain the same level of water in the ground, sediment is cut loose for years as silt and as dust and we lose our habitats and our fisheries.
This scheme, converting timber zones to working glomalin zones with constant thinning sustaining small wood, chip fuel and pulp industries could allow PL to enter the carbon market. At $10 a ton and a ton per acre it is about two million dollars a year. PL would have to put on their ties and make this happen. Headwaters Fund money could allow them to arrange for property owners of all sizes and stripes to enter the carbon market, they would be local heroes bringing home the bacon and global heroes of the War on Global Warming. It is totally do-able.
Another sort of science-fictiony idea is a whole battalion of Wood-Mizers operating on their lands. It is kind of surprising they don’t have a hardwood operation. Wood Mizers allow for making every board a radial cut, preventing warping in oaks and other tough to cure hardwoods. There is also a whole field of small veneer lathes used in Europe for short trunked hardwoods like oak and chestnut. Perhaps the economy of scale has once again overextended itself. Maybe they just use hardwoods for power, or maybe its all been sprayed out. But probably it gets skidded into big piles till the season ends, then the trunks get sold by the ton.
If neither of those is the case, note that the Stockton-Pacific export dock was purchased by Simpson at the same time Lee Man bought the pulp mill, for future chip export when market conditions are right. The sale of the mill has resulted in the back bill being paid. Fairhaven Power also regained its effluent pipe access allowing the sale of that facility to DG Energy of San Diego to go through.
The other alternative for PL is selling to a more flexible operation with an updated business plan that improves public resources while remaining profitable. I think we will see a flurry of golden parachutes just before they announce closing the operation or sale. If we don’t then the operation is probably more profitable than they are willing to admit, and should support research into using glomalin as a land use guide in order to sustain their own operations.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Stockton Pacific Pulp Mill was officially sold today (Jan 21, 2005) to Lee Man of Hong Kong. I can’t say if this was a good deal for the sellers, but the people of Humboldt have acquired a promising new partner in the community. Privately held, and producing material for their own manufacturing takes the market variations out of the picture for this plant, promising stable employment and production. The union has signed a contract outlining raises for the next three years. Management has said nearly everyone working there now will be back when the mill reopens. This was an important deal for Humboldt Municipal Water District as well since it appears that the new mill owners will pay old water bills of over $500,000. The mill owed so much there was talk of the Water District facing bankruptcy this year, and that Eureka and Samoa would see large rate increases to make up for the 50% cut in usage closure would have meant. Fairhaven Power Plant, also in sale negotiations with a separate buyer, hung in the balance as they use the mills effluent outlet to dispose of their wastewater. Finally, the village of Samoa’s fire protection is from the mills water supply, although the tap water is not. With a solid long term player perhaps some way can be found to open the market for chips so that fire risk reduction and TSI work can have a place to dispose of material that may bring a little return and start us into profitable sustainable forestry.
Pacific Lumber announced closure of the night shift at its Fortuna mill citing lack of logs. 38 workers are out of jobs. The company said failure of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board to approve 12 THP’s already approved by CDF accounted for the problem. The THP’s are located in Freshwater and Elk River watersheds. PL has recently put new mills into place in a significant upgrade to new forest conditions. These new machines are set to take advantage of the smaller trees. More tree sitters have joined the countersuit against PL and the actions of the tree sit remover Eric Schatz, raising the total to seven.
A federal judge said she had no jurisdiction in the Klamath River suit between downstream users and the farmers upstream. People seem puzzled by the announcement. Another judge in Oregon refused Pacific Legal Associations challenge to coho protection in the Klamath. The Trinity received good news this week when Westlands Water District said they would not go to the Supreme Court to appeal previous court decisions on flows. This was seen as a major victory for tribes and fishermen.
There is more good news to report on the culvert replacement program. Since 1997 over one hundred miles of spawning habitat have been reopened simply by replacing culverts that blocked fish passage. Fish are showing up in places they haven’t been for decades. There has been a general stabilizing of the landscape since the flood of 1964 and the Forest Practice rules of 1972. Insults occur but in general there is far less widespread surface scarring occurring today. Except in recently worked areas there is less sediment and rivers should be recovering, but there is enough upslope activity to negate any gains in removing streambed sedimentation, and destruction of the glomalin base has resulted in streams inability to transport sediment. This flies in the face of NOAA’s intention to remove areas from protection that currently have no fish, rather than areas that historically had fish. We see here 100 miles of spawning ground inaccessible to fish reoccupied within a year of culvert replacement. I hope someone pointed that out to them. In fact, this IS a NOAA program. Let keep connecting those dots.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
As far as I can tell, I am the only one seeing carbon sequestered in association with trees as a key reason watersheds and forests are failing in the West. Yet I have only connected dots from several sciences to solve a problem on a piece of land. What causes landslides? What are the roles of roots and fungi? Why do streams go dry? All these paths were answered when glomalin is included in the landscape makeup, enough glomalin stored in the ground to store several years worth of rainfall in the root zone of the forest.
Glomalin also shows us that all the carbon accounting is off by a considerable amount. Before the discovery it was thought 8% of the carbon processed by trees was stored in the soil as humic acid. With the discovery of glomalin that amount jumped to 27%. Its properties of binding soil particles creating water storage is well documented for topsoil but has yet to be carried over into forestry. The role of fungi in the forest is not well understood, and their byproducts unrecognized because glomalin is tough and durable, and had been thrown out in earlier research.
Nevertheless, its enemies are the things that come with development- running water, sunlight, and ambient air all help destroy glomalin, which reverts to CO2. So huge amounts of carbon are being released from the soil we have never accounted for. New ‘best management practices’ can reduce that considerably. Being a product of many fungi associated with most growing plants production continues as species change as land conditions change. High turnover areas are well studied in croplands but long term storage has not, only that there is more glomalin in places left alone for a decade or two.
The Pacific Northwest has an amazing variety of fungi associating with trees. Their job is to help the tree gather nutrients and water. They actively condition the soil to absorb and store water for the forest to use in dry season. Experiments with raised CO2 show rapid growth of trees and even faster rates of glomalin production. The rapid growth seems to provide its own solutions to problems like nitrogen and ozone. It is also the very conditioning we need to restore the streams supporting anadramous fisheries. I was told my creek would run all year again once conifers got established in the area. This is why.
So carbon dioxide becomes the very tool we need to reestablish order in the forest. Carbon credits could pay for it. The entire US (Forest Service homepage shows 193 million acres, more than the 148 million called for in the Pew Report) seeing the forest this way, and counting the glomalin sequestered as well as the trees, should show what is possible. Parkland, preserved land and non-industrial timber holdings also stand to benefit and or assist, in fact every conceivable land use has the ability to store carbon and benefit from an abundance of it. It also carbon dioxide as the healing power of nature for scarred landscapes (New Scientist reports this week on battlefield recovery) from development and resource extraction. It gives us a scale of rainfall retention from full old growth to reforested area, with less in pasture or meadow, but still a factor in the lawn percentages of paved and roofed areas. This may well assist urban planners in the design, use and locations of open space, parks and yards as well as storm water catchment, diversion and/or storage.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I sat in on a few MRC Board meetings when this issue came up. It is a sure community divider on a resource that should be abundant. Battling over who is using what will not solve the problem. It is far more important to restore the natural precipitation interface and storage mechanism, which has shrunk the depth of root zone water storage, or the problem will continue to get worse and lead to more scrapping instead of renewing the resource to its former abundance that sustains all users.
Research has led me to the conclusion we have destroyed the lands ability to absorb and store surface water over a large percentage of the landscape. The mechanism is the soil glue glomalin, produced by mycorhizzia in the vast majority of plant life. Knowledge of the way plants convert carbon dioxide into soil products gives us the key to many problems n the environment, enabling us to restore natural systems from the bottom up.
The real secret is that left alone the landscape will grow back simply because water using and producing forests will grow expanding their ability to store water in the root zone in ever increasing amounts. Unfortunately this leads to fire risk, so early vegetation management or stand characteristic thinning should be done relatively early in the stands life, and then allowed to remain undisturbed for as long as possible while the water storage capacity is improved and restored, and then allowed to operate naturally. These same processes will allow large amounts of carbon to be stored, or sequestered in the soil for extended periods. This is a global solution to several global problems and needs to seen as such. It is why reforestation works in bringing streams back up to standards. It is simple and cheap but not business as usual, although there are plenty of economic benefits that are perhaps better understood in the third world, like clean water.
Report presses for changes along summer-parched Mattole River
By John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Monday, January 10, 2005 -
As rain washes the North Coast, it's hard to imagine a dry riverbed anywhere. But in nine months, it's likely that several rivers will be parched. The Mattole River has in recent years been reduced to an underground freshet in some places, and a recent report looks at how people can make that worse, and how they might make it better.
Mattole residents in the dry fall of 1999 became alarmed at the depleted river, once a salmon- and steelhead-heavy stream. Not only do fish use the river, but so do many people in the area, many of whom draw water for household and agricultural use from the river.
Last September, the report reads, the entire river flow upstream of Bridge Creek was less than 2.3 gallons per minute -- less than an average shower. Around the upper watershed, the story was similar. And dissolved oxygen critical to young fish had dropped significantly in various places along the river.
Tasha McKee, the Sanctuary Forest Inc. stewardship coordinator who drafted the report, pointed to climate change, land use practices past and present, and increased use of water as the likely causes behind the river's draught. "The problem is really serious and there are things that can be done about it," McKee said in an interview with the Times-Standard. "We can make some changes. It's not too late."
Precipitation patterns, though not total rainfall, may play an important role in the seasonal river dryness, McKee postulates. Heavy logging of the 1950s and 1960s also filled in channel and pools, causing streams to flow subsurface, she wrote. Logging may also have reduced shade and increased evaporation in many tributaries downstream of Ettersburg. But logging may also have prompted the growth of thickets in the Mattole headwaters, which may sap water from the river.
The population of about 1,100 in the area is up by 250, a 34 percent increase, from the past decade. Many homes along streams come with riparian water rights that allow the property owner to pump from the river.
Since the 1970s, many in the basin can afford pumps, and have indoor plumbing and washing machines that can be inefficient, and many have lawns.
"If population and water use continue to increase," McKee wrote, "it is expected that low flow impacts to households will become more widespread affecting more households in the Mattole Headwaters as well as downstream communities."
Scott Downie of the California Department of Fish and Game said that the low flow in the river may have occurred without human influence, but it almost certainly exacerbated it. He credited residents and groups like Sanctuary Forest, the Mattole Salmon Group and the Mattole Restoration Council with working toward water conservation. "They've really grabbed the bull by the horns on this one," Downie said.
McKee proposes a number of education, conservation and management measures to avoid future water deficits, as well as compulsory and regulatory means. It often doesn't cost much to upgrade water systems, she said, using low flow shower heads, faucet aerators and automatic shut off valves on storage tanks to prevent tanks from overtopping. Irrigation systems for gardens can be modified to be more efficient.
Also, McKee said, public funding could be sought for water storage tanks. These 25,000 to 66,000 tanks can be used -- and already are by households able to afford them -- to store water taken from the river or creeks before Aug.1, after which critically dry conditions set in. McKee said compulsory measures to limit growth could also be considered. Declaring the Mattole a water conservation area could limit lot sizes and hence limit density.
She said most water rights often allow a landowner to take far more water than they need, and often don't consider the effects of that on neighbors or fisheries. In part, McKee said, the biggest challenge may be to help people change how they think about using the land and its water. "Do you really want to live next to a dry river?" McKee asked. McKee said she's in the process of getting support from the boards of the area's nonprofits, which have not yet approved the recommendations.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Among the panel were Sally Fairfax of Cal Berkely, a forest policy professor, Gifford Pinchot III, grandson of the Forest Services founder and president of his own company, a Republican Congressman fron Idaho and a leader from a group from the Adirondack Park area. They were saluting the Forest Service and pointing out problems and future scenarios.
The truly incredible part was that if you understand glomalin, the perspective changes and prescriptions become obvious and doable. For example, one person brought up climate change in regard to ecosystems moving, and needing to prepare places for the ecosystem to move to. A general dissolution of ownership across landscapes was seen as a way to deal with this. Glomalin management will show up in ownership blocks over time, and glomalin depletion will remain one of the biggest unknown factors in a wide variety of symptomatic forest problems, including low flows, fire risk, tree diseases, insects, floods and landslides. Glomalin management allows working forests to provide some timber while maintaining the water storage properties of the landscape, which is now a thin slice of what was a water management system over 500 foot from root hair to crown. Previous models of watersheds in two dimensions do not accurately reflect the damage done to this system. Harvested lands will show an increasing resistance to slides and creeks run longer as the trees grow. Development will show a very thin layer of capacity in yards, while row crops under no-till methods are actually being paid to sequester carbon. Unharvested lands show the magic of old growth because its glomalin was never disturbed.
But if your primary object is water for a locality, you want to remain in the precipitation zone and maintain soil structure that can maximize local precipitation. Trees with deep root systems and thorough canopies and local mycorhizzia are the surest way to capture precipitation. Time slows down in the forest for water, and it takes months to perk through the system and completely dry out, resulting in year round rivers. Without forest rain bounces off the ground into the river and out to sea in a few hours. Running water cuts sediment free from its fungal restraints and heads downhill into the river.
The ironic part is that glomalin is an unknown here while it is USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research Lab that discovered glomalin in the first place. Talk about connecting the dots, it kinda says forestry as is is not sustainable, doesn’t it? But now we can fix that. The vegetation management risk reduction measures everyone is yelling for create the exact conditions for glomalin production zones. Shaded fuel breaks with undisturbed floor are called for on a huge scale. Small wood mills and chip products can be made from the slash for paper or composite or biofuel. IF the canopy stays intact many less desirable species are prevented from gaining a foothold, also minimizing the need for spraying herbicide. It is important to remember we are also tying up huge amounts of carbon by not disrupting the ground as well as increasing the water holding capacity of the soil. Now CO2 emissions are atmospheric fertilization, and the increased CO2 is causing accelerated growth above and belowground at high levels of efficiency. We can study it to death or run with the obvious and wait for more science to shed more light. There was a question of whether the Forest Service should move to the Department of the Interior. Glomalin and its discovery make the answer to that a resounding No.
It is a pretty good year for the coho locally. The larger numbers at sea have translated into more fish in the streams, and the fish are taking advantage of miles of reopened spawning habitat coming available as a result of the regional culvert plan. It is important to see results from the efforts of so many people. John Driscoll of the Eureka Times-Standard writes about this success.
On January 6 I asked Ray Lingel of the Mattole Salmon Group how the Mattole spawning season was progressing. He responded: “It’s been a rough year for the fish, but all in all they are coming through pretty well. We don’t have a handle on the Chinook run this year...seems most of them spawned in the mainstem due to the dry Nov and Dec, but if things stay relatively dry they may be fine. There is definitely a decent run, but how it compares to other years, or what the total number of spawners is, remains a mystery. It looks to be another banner year for coho tho, the second in a row. The headwaters are full of them. Not that we compare to Freshwater creek, but the numbers are really exciting so far. Both the Chinook and coho runs are continuing, tho the Chinook are tapering off. Steelies are starting. Everything is a bit late due to the river mouth opening early, then closing again til Dec 9”.
Critical habitat rule changes are under discussion for several runs of salmonids. NOAA will hold a public hearing on Jan. 13, at the North Coast Inn, 4975 Valley West Blvd., Arcata from 6:30 to 9:30. A link to the rule itself and for a variety of ways to comment can be found in the article body below, from the Eureka Reported, January 4, 2005.
The results of the culvert program should be as good as they appear to be and stay that way for quite a while Other fixes in the restoration of natural cycles will take longer. Reopening habitat is simpler than restoring it. Glomalin study should guide critical habitat issues, as it is the heart of the watersheds health, while still allowing select cutting in many areas, and shows the general condition of the regions natural water storage, a sure index of stream health. While it is known to many that dry streams may return after conifers have become established, the three dimensional aspect of water storage has not been well documented. Watersheds are categorized as damaged or impaired by a percentage of surface area paved or roofed. But most other land uses decrease the ability of fungi to condition soil to absorb and hold precipitation, and the watersheds capacity is reduced especially in the dry season.
Opening doors to salmon: Remove barriers and they will come
By John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Sunday, January 09, 2005 -
Rosy-flanked coho salmon are seeding gravel in Lindsay Creek with the hope of years to come, and the path they now take to their honeymoon suite is easier than it’s been in 40 years.
Since the 1964 flood tore apart an earlier culvert that passed the creek under Murray Road, salmon and steelhead have struggled to get upstream. Again in 1998 it blew out during pounding El Niño rains, sending tons of sediment downstream to clog spawning areas.
The repair—like so many in the desperate rush to reconnect the devastated Humboldt County road system after the 1964 and 1955 deluges—didn’t have fish in mind. In many places since then, biologists have watched as salmon literally beat their heads against culverts in their instinctual push upstream.
Today, dozens of poorly designed, rusting culverts essentially close the door to salmon looking to get up streams they historically used. But replacing the bogus culvert like on Lindsay Creek, a Mad River tributary, with a giant pipe that follows the lay of the stream has now been repeated 40 times on county roads in Humboldt, Del Norte, Siskiyou, Trinity and Mendocino counties.
“Of everything you do, removing barriers is going to have the most immediate result,” said Mark Lancaster, program manager for the Five Counties Salmon Restoration Program. Some 98 miles of habitat have been opened, and in many cases salmon just couldn’t wait to take advantage. The projects are not just a boon to salmon, but a major overhaul of important county infrastructure, improving stream crossings so they can handle big water.
Taking the tally
Upstream from Murray Road about a half mile, the romantic ruckus was obvious last week. Tired, fungus-covered males did their best to brave the flow of the stream—only feet across there—while fresh males and females jostled to pass on genes.
The fish passed easily above the Murray Road crossing, then pushed under three new private bridges that once were culverts prone to blowing out.
On Monday, fisheries biologist Ross Taylor and geologist and videographer Thomas Dunklin crept along Lindsay Creek’s banks examining and photographing the fish. Taylor led an effort to inventory barriers to migrating fish for the five counties. On the counties’ roads alone, he identified 250 barriers, at least 100 of which slam the door to salmon. A California Coastal Conservancy survey went on to identify more than 3,300 known fish barriers, and 9,000 potential fish barriers, in the state. So far, the five counties, the state and the federal government have spent $10.9 million replacing 39 culverts. In many instances, the results have been nearly magical.
In tiny Humboldt Bay tributaries Morrison Gulch and Ryan Slough, and in Merrill Creek, a tributary of the Salmon River, fish immediately took advantage of newly opened creeks. In other places, notably in Mendocino County, little new action has been recorded. “Actually seeing fish upstream is kind of the icing on the cake,” Taylor said. This year, 10 projects are scheduled, including four in Humboldt County. It’s not going to be cheap; those projects will cost $2.3 million.
Most of the cost is born by the California Department of Fish and Game’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program; the Coastal Conservancy; the National Wildlife Foundation and American Rivers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries department provides consultation and recommendations.
The counties share a significant portion of the cost—Humboldt County in 2001 and 2002 spent $500,000. Lancaster pointed out that while that money comes out of the same budget as that which funds paving and striping, maintenance costs surrounding poorly designed culverts drop. “If you’re willing to pay for it, you can have your cake and eat it too,” said Terry Roelofs, a fisheries professor at Humboldt State University.
Nothing that wasn’t known
Seventy years ago, biologists for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Fisheries saw the writing on the wall.
In “A Biological Survey of Streams and Lakes in the Klamath and Shasta National Forests of California,” A.C. Taft and Leo Shapovalov wrote that in many areas, state and Forest Service crews had cut off fish habitat while building roads.
Especially problematic were culverts that had outfalls many feet above the creek bed downstream, they wrote. They advocated small bridges wherever possible, despite the expense.”It is certainly robbing Peter to pay Paul to put in low-cost but impassable culverts on the one hand and expend money for stream improvement on the other,” the pair wrote.
Over the years, the subject occasionally came up and piecemeal work was done to correct simple barriers. The issue cropped up in the 1970s, and biologists, hydrologists and engineers talked about it at length. But nobody, said hydrologist Mike Furniss, had an inventory of barriers, much less a larger view of the conundrum. “We were driving over these problems on the way to conferences to talk about recovering fish,” said Furniss, who is now with the research branch of the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis, Ore. Finally, about five years ago, the inventory movement began and Furniss, along with hydrologist Mike Love and engineer Susan Firor, developed a software program called Fish X-ing, which did the hard math necessary to design culverts friendly to fish. That program, developed out of Humboldt County, is now used around the world. Funding also came to bear, in large part through then-state Sen. Mike Thompson’s SB 271, and through Propositions 12, 13 and 50 state parks and water bond measures.
While dams on productive salmon streams pose the same problem to fish as do culverts—often on a much larger scale—the panacea to small barriers is both cheaper and less divisive. “Fish passage improvement is like apple pie,” said Michael Bowen, a project director for the Coastal Conservancy. “Nobody stands in the middle of the stream saying, ‘You’re not improving fish passage here.’”
Likewise, the process of replacing fish-blocking culverts is simpler than regulating sediment from logging and land use, more instantly productive than doing work to improve habitat in streams, and easier to understand than how fish use estuaries. As spectacular as the results of the projects are, though, Furniss said replacing culverts is by no means the only means to recovery for ailing salmon populations. Dam removal, temperature problems, water quality, sediment and critical nutrients, provided in part through dead spawners—“You have to have fish to make fish,” Dunklin said—will all have to be addressed.
One key to a salmon future
The results on a number of Humboldt County streams are heartening, though. On Lindsay Creek, there have been chinook and coho salmon using the crest of nearly every riffle this year. On Mather Creek, enough salmon have been busily digging salmon redds, or egg nests, to have moved huge amounts of gravel added during the culvert replacement.
Still most staggering perhaps is Morrison Gulch, a tributary of Jacoby Creek. The winter after its fish blocking culvert was replaced, 2001 to 2002, more than 50 spawning-age salmon dug 39 redds. The following year saw 216 coho and 116 redds. The number dropped in 2003-2004, the year salmon born before the culvert was replaced returned. Then it rose again. This season’s surveys show 60 adult salmon and 57 redds so far. That’s a significant improvement, to say the least, from years just prior to the project when Taylor and biologist Tom Weseloh would net fish below the culvert and bring them upstream.
But recolonization, as its termed, is a long-term process affected by everything from ocean conditions to sediment. Still, Taylor said, freeing up the access should come first; then the other parameters can be addressed.
Tiny little Morrison Gulch in the 1970s was described by a biologist as a small, brushy, overgrown creek with no fisheries value. “That may have been the last time anyone looked at it,” Taylor said.
NOAA schedules four hearings about salmon
Jan 4, 2005
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service’s southwest region has scheduled four public hearings to gather input on its proposed designation of critical habitat for seven evolutionary significant units of Pacific salmon and steelhead in California.
On Dec. 10, NMFS proposed critical habitat designations for two ESUs of Chinook salmon and five ESUs of anadromous steelhead (including resident rainbow trout) in California that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
These public hearings have been scheduled to provide the public and other interested parties additional opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations by Feb. 8. Comments may be made directly to agency staff at the hearing or by a number of other methods listed at the end of this news release.
Public hearings will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the date and location noted below:
• Jan. 13, North Coast Inn, 4975 Valley West Blvd., Arcata
• Jan. 20, Radisson Hotel Sacramento, 500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento;
• Jan. 19, DoubleTree Hotel Sonoma Wine Country, One DoubleTree Drive, Rohnert Park; and
• Feb. 1, Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, 633 East Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara.
Written comments on the proposed critical habitat designations must be received by Feb. 9. Community groups and residents may submit comments on the proposed critical habitat designations, identified by docket number (041123329I-4329-01) and RIN number (0649-AO04), by any of the following methods:
• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include docket number and RIN number in the subject line of the message.
• Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
• Agency Web site: http://ocio.nmfs.noaa.gov/ibrm-ssi/index.shtml. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
• Mail: Submit written comments and information to Assistant Regional Administrator, NMFS, Protected Resources Division, 501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, Calif., 90802-4213. Groups and residents may hand-deliver written comments to the agency’s office during normal business hours at the address given above.
The proposed rule, maps and other materials related to the proposal can be found on the southwest region’s Web site at http://swr.nmfs.noaa.gov.
This summer the federal government stated research and information were not flowing smoothly across agency and department lines, policy of some agencies flew in the face of others research, some research was duplicated at taxpayer expense and other research neglected by agencies that did not conduct that research. This was in relation to fifteen agencies involved in public lands and natural resources. And this is only at the federal level. Many of these agencies are duplicated at the state level. Sometimes these agencies act as successive filters for actions refining the decision making process in a series of steps. Too often, though it is the lateral movement of data across lines that is the problem. This is the story with glomalin.
Researchers focus on the object of their study, that is the nature of reductionism. They provide information that they interpret to best of their ability and in the channels they are accustomed to. Later, decisions are made by compiling past studies and extracting practical conclusions. So it is that USDA has discovered a soil glue mechanism deposited by fungi called glomalin in 1996. This study is already saving farmers millions of dollars converting to no-till farming practices as well as giving them a method to quantify soil carbon storage and earning them carbon credits to sell for additional profit.
Now, fungi are common in forests, indeed one writer has pointed out that soil samples high in bacteria are from grasslands ad those high in fungi are from forests. In fact, fungi are critical in forests as mycorhizzia, decayers and in a host of forest functions such as mineral transport and water storage. Hyphae extend through the soil in huge numbers, and deposit glomalin, accreting soil particles and providing pore space for water transport and root growth. In foresat soils this is occurring billions of times a year on each acre and slowly the soil becomes a water storage mechanism for the plant community stable while protected from major disturbance.
The salmon restoration movement has recognized the importance of maintaining river flows. Low summer flows in Middle Creek are not caused by water withdrawal or upslope use. The watershed does not retain enough rain because the vegetation is too young and the fungi have not reestablished the previous soil water space. Still, there is no talk of establishing glomalin or water producing areas for the benefit of rivers or fish. In xome cases improving the quantity and quality of water may be as useful as restoring original flow regimes, at least for the fish.
Similarly, clearcutting small trees hardly allows soil structure to improve if glomalin is considered. Naturally thick growing Douglas fir will need thinning at or before this age, but thinning with minimized soil impacts allows for quick return to stable conditions. Many county lands are in this recovering condition after the flood of 1964, the logging boom or fire. BLM planning for various areas all call for stand improvement thinning at an early age. Reducing fire risk also includes thinning and spacing. The conclusions reached by BLM are pretty close to how land would be managed for water production, with sound wildlife habitat and mature trees and strong year round flows. In the meantime, use should be found for small trees culled or thinned by land management crews charged with TSI projects.
Careful reading shows many examples of agencies fighting political battles without benefit of other government information. Fish and Wildlife vs. Board of Reclaimation. A concept like fungally produced soil glue made from excess greenhouse gases that stores rainwater needs to be understood as an everyday fact of life in planning and decision making because it allows us to live and work within the natural systems, that is, sustainably.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Forest ecologists have not caught up with government sustainable agriculture scientists or the discovery of glomalin in 1996 by USDA SAR Lab in Beltsville. Glomalin is a glycoprotein manufactured by fungi in soils that conditions soil to absorb precipitation and store water in the root zone of vegetation. It is tough and durable. It is accelerated by increased atmospheric CO2. Without this storage mechanism, most precipitation is lost as runoff in events, the net result being increasingly earlier low flows and dry streams. This in turn has all kinds of bad implications for natural aquatic and terrestial systems.
Glomalin management allows us to restore function to watersheds while maintaining a profitable landscape. Ignorance of it has been catastrophic, yet acknowledgement only suggests prescriptions that are actually much less restrictive than todays standards, set by guess work because the science wasn't there. Glomalin management consists of preserving ground cover, canopy and reducing fire risk. Stands of well spaced large trees will provide the year round flows critical to fish. Management would include continuous select cuts, in contrast to the concentrated clear cuts demanded by costs and machinery. However, there is little need for set asides or preservation with a sustainable model that concentrates on natural systems first.The need to bring forests into order will demand large amounts of TSI initially.
Glomalin has revolutionized farming by allowing no-till methods that preserve soil and sequester carbon. Little has been done in forestry although Matthias Rillig ant U of Montana, and Dr. Leslie Reid at Redwood Sciences Lab in Arcata have taken an interest. Fuel reduction projects look the same as glomalin management. Decreasing stream flows in areas seeing little or no development are a result of impacted soil water storage mechanisms. These are readily fixed with understanding. Doing nothing will improve the glomalin situation but result in uncontrolled growth and greatly increased fire danger. Fuel reduction also lessens the amount of water lost in transpiration and growth processes. Salmon, streams, sediment, slides, trees, roots, fungi, CO2, glomalin: a progression of study.
The two articles below show the extremes of the issue. The first one covers fire plans and the second relaxation of regulations and elimination of public comment process for National Forest logging plans.
Park lays out 5-year fire plan
By John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Tuesday, January 04, 2005 -
Redwood National and State Parks has ruled out a let-it-burn policy for natural fires but will continue using prescribed fire and mechanical treatment to improve ecological and cultural conditions and buffer the land from severe blazes.
The five-year plan is outlined in a recently released document that the National Park Service is now taking comments on. There are few significant changes to its current fire plan, said Rick Young, fire management officer for the parks. Among the shifts will be burning three coastal prairies used by Roosevelt elk, grasslands that are being squeezed by encroaching trees. All three areas are to the west of U.S. Highway 101 and once were prime elk grazing lands, Young said. The three prairies will be added to the slate of other grasslands the park has been burning for years to maintain cultural resources for area tribes. The park also is looking to burn in the Little Bald Hills in Del Norte County, in part to improve habitat for a rare butterfly that doesn’t do well in dense, older undergrowth, Young said.
The park also has two priority areas for mechanically altering its forests to make them less prone to major wildfires. The first is a shaded fuel break outside Berry Glen, when dense, young forest will be thinned to give firefighters a chance to fight a blaze that could come up from Elk Prairie Campground. The other is a massive project that will be done in stages. The park is looking to create a shaded fuel break from near the Elk Camp California Department of Forestry station out Holter Ridge along the park boundary to U.S. Highway 101. That’s 17 miles of fuel break that would help firefighters mount a defense on a park fire that could spill over into adjacent timberland.
The park will not explore using naturally caused fires as an agent of change in the park, Young said. The park’s 109,000 acres—which border prime timberland—were determined to be not large enough for such a program, he said.
The park is taking comments on the plan until Feb. 5. Copies of the plan may be requested by calling Rick Young at (707) 464-6101, Ext. 5290. They can also be picked up at the park’s Crescent City and Orick offices, at the Humboldt, Del Norte county libraries and the Humboldt State University Library.
Comments should be submitted to: Superintendents, Redwood National and State Park, attention: Fire Management Plan, 1111 Second St., Crescent City, CA 95531 Fax: (707) 464-1812
Bush Official to Probe Sierra Logging Rules
Environmentalists fear the review could lead to revisions that would weaken protections on national forest land in the mountain range.
By Bettina Boxall
Times Staff Writer
December 30, 2004
A Bush administration official has decided to review a new plan that increases logging levels in the Sierra Nevada, adding another twist to a decade-long fight over the future of national forest land in California’s most famous mountain range.
The review by Agriculture Undersecretary Mark E. Rey opens the possibility of further revisions to a plan that has been criticized by the timber industry for not allowing enough logging and by environmentalists for allowing too much.
”The undersecretary didn’t give me any reasons for doing a review other than to say he was doing it,” said Dan Jiron, national press officer for the U.S. Forest Service.
Jiron said Rey has reviewed other forest plans in the past, typically making only minor changes.
”Would he rewrite the decision entirely? The answer is no,” Jiron said.
But Rey could send the plan back to California for extensive modifications.
The plan Rey has chosen to review is itself a revision of a wide-ranging set of protections adopted for the Sierra’s 11.5 million acres of national forest land during the Clinton administration.
Those guidelines deemphasized commercial timber harvesting, set aside 4 million acres of old-growth reserves where only small trees could be cut, and relied heavily on controlled burning to reduce the risk of wildfire.
After Bush took office, his administration moved to weaken the Clinton rules, saying they were too restrictive and didn’t do enough to thin dense growth that can fuel forest fires.
Early this year, Regional Forester Jack Blackwell amended the Clinton plan to allow for more logging of larger trees, effectively eliminating the old-growth reserves and loosening habitat protections for rare species such as the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher.
Blackwell’s decision, appealed by both timber interests and environmentalists, was upheld in November by Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Rey, who oversees the Forest Service, informed officials Tuesday that he was reviewing Bosworth’s action.
In the background is a lawsuit filed by the timber industry — and the promise of more lawsuits to come from environmentalists and the California attorney general’s office.
The California Forestry Assn., a timber industry group, sued the Forest Service earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, contending that the latest Sierra plan still contained too many logging restrictions and thus undermined one of the primary purposes for which national forests were created — to provide timber.
Environmentalists and the attorney general’s office, on the other hand, have criticized the Forest Service for weakening wildlife and old-growth protections.
”There will be a challenge coming from a variety of parties, including the attorney general and environmental groups,” said Craig Thomas, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign.
Thomas said that in light of the timber lawsuit, Rey’s review could be “an attempt by the Bush administration to give the industry what they want, which is a settlement that remands [the plan] back for increased logging in the Sierra Nevada.”
The administration has elsewhere cited industry lawsuits in dropping environmental protections.
Earlier this year, for instance, it eased restrictions on logging old growth in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Northern California after settling a timber industry suit challenging the regulations.
Jiron said he was not aware of any settlement talks in the Sierra case. California Forestry Assn. officials could not be reached for comment.
Efforts to overhaul management of the Sierra’s 11 national forests began in the early 1990s with concern over decline of the California spotted owl and loss of the old-growth habitat it favors. Years of scientific and Forest Service reviews produced the Clinton regulations, which signaled a major shift toward ecosystem and wildlife protection and away from commercial timber production.
The Bush administration’s move to weaken the Clinton rules was criticized by Democrats as well as by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was running for governor.
Candidate Schwarzenegger called the Clinton plan “a model of forest ecosystem resource protection” and vowed that “as governor, I will direct all relevant agencies to comply fully with [it] and call on the federal government to abide by the policies.”
But since his election, Schwarzenegger has not taken any action to defend the Clinton rules.
Regional Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes said his agency has received no letters or formal comments from the Schwarzenegger administration on the matter.