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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

117. Gilham Butte CMP Released 

The Community Management Plan for Gilham Butte and the Scattered Parcels is available for public comment until April 30, 2005. It is available at, Mattole restoration Council's website. It was written by Kate Crockett for the Middle Mattole Consevancy. She also wrote the Mill Creek Community Management Plan for Mill Creek Conservancy. MRC administered the project funded by BLM. It is the culmination of many peoples efforts over many years, and we humbly salute all those before us working to keep this area intact and functioning, and to restore the impacted lands to productivity. We thank all those who contributed time and knowledge in preparing this plan.
The purchase of Gilham Butte and the scattered parcels is an opportunity to maintain and study functioning forest land and use accelerated recovery techniques while reducing fire risk. These parcels comprise essential stepping stones in the Redwoods to the Sea Wildlife Coridor. The community has had a chance to make their voices heard through the inclusion of the Peoples Plan as one of the alternates BLM will choose to follow. BLM is making inclusion of a community managment plan alternative a major portion of many plans. The plan is for twenty years and closely coincides in timing with plans for Humboldt Redwwood State Park, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and King Range National Conservation Area, all of the public lands in the Redwood to the Sea Wildlife Corridor.
Gilham Butte is a remnant of functioning coastal old growth Douglas fir forest with both precipitation interface and root storage areas intact. It is surrounded by recovering lands in public and provate ownership. It is an essential repository of old growth species and of restoration efforts in the area comprising the Redwoods to the Sea Wildlife Corridor. It is the first public lands to have incorporated glomalin in the thinking for alternate management regimes. BLM is becoming a repository of non-timber oriented forest management. It will become the home of many studies in the next few years. Its value as a functioning model is irreplaceable and should not be compromised. Studies should include carbon deposition and water fllows and sediment control through glomalin deposition and protection.
Gilham Butte is subiect to direct orographic events and is in the high rainfall area and provides water to three creeks. The scattered parcels include several more creeks. These streams should see a marked difference over the life of the plan although they run through or drain private lands. We expect to see increased summer flows since these areas are growing and more water should be delayed later into the year. We hope natural events or a future prrogram will allow more pools in these areas so hard hit by sediment. Local residents are stuck with lousy roads, a continuing problem in all these watersheds. Good Roads Clean Creeks will help enormously but understanding glomalin will benefit everyone, and can prevent harm done in the name of good. Recreational users must be educated on the fragility and critical purpose of the forest floor, and prevented from causing deterioration in one of the last old growth Dougla fir study areas left available. Wildlife habitat is a core driving force and wildlife viewing the major recreational opportunity.
Studies done by the m mycorhizzia research team at USDAFS PNW Research Station in Corvallis released a study identifying some of the many ectomycorhizzia found associated with Douglas fir. It seems likely there are many more species of fungi that were not counted due to the nature of the studies. It is necessary to preserve at least some natural old growth just for this reason. I am not aware of any major soil fungi surveys locally. Much emphasis both here and at Corvallis is concerned with commercially exploiting fungi. I believe there is too much unknown on the verge of disappearing to allow that, but it should eventually become a regular contributor to the economy on a sustainable basis once that has been determined and after discussion during the next planning period.
Fire planning nad vegetation management are of critical concern, including preserving the forest floor while implementing fuel reduction and stand improvemnt operations. The approach BLM uses fits nicely with maximum glomalin protection and production. The costs of glomalin destruction are evident and many restrictions are in place that try to mitigate damage without understandiing its cause with some success and a lot of misses. Sedimentation is no longer a mystery, nor road failure nor landslide. Armed with this and knowledge of using glomalin to grow watersheds and forests gives us a new vision of what is achievable with information already at hand. Our resource and chief material is CO2, our tools trees and fungi and our products water, wildlife, fish, cleaned air, aerosol contribution to cloud formation and a stable and profitable landscape. We gain sharp insight into the opportunity cost of poorly planned development.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

116. Power of Authority 

Power of Authority
Redwood Reader has clearly demonstrated the role of glomalin in watersheds (#.Our Shrinking Watersheds) and followed the invisible trail until we could explain what happens to glomalin impaired watersheds. (Cumulative Impacts #106 and Legacy Damage #115) by accumulating a preponderence of evidence that illustrates, demonstrates and illuminates the role of glomalin destruction in salmon recovery.Evidence pours in supporting these arguments from many directions and old information gains new relevance under new recognition. One example is found in Mushrooms Demystified, where the author reports a type of fungi that attach pupae, then extend their mycelium, dend up a fruiting body and disappear. It was a leap from AV mycorhizzia, now another to many fungi in the soil web contributing to the root zone water storage system, and illustrating biodiversity contributing to the stability of the infrastructure of their environment.
Recent PBS broadcasts on the TAll Grass Prairie work at Kanza and Seeds both illustrated glomalin knowledge at work without realing it. Kanza explained the rooting system, subsoil cameras, some of the universal issues such as carbon and water and explained harvesting the production of the land with animals, like Smith and his pigs in the acorns. They understand the importance of sustainability, have substituted fire for the ground breaking of huge herds of grazers, and found an acceptable level of harvest that maintains the functioning natural system while enhancing it for maximum production. This has got to come to timber. CO2 Science this week shows river flows in Europe have hardly changed over hundreds of years regardless of wet and dry times. The flow is regulated by the glomalin zone. Most of Europes wars were not fought nthe mountainous watersheds, and the work of man has already influenced glomalin reservoirs in the agricultural and developed areas. This work indicates again low flows are the result of general root storage capacity destructio, and a balance of land use and water retention..
The Seeds program showed repeatedly round clumps of soil stuck together with many hanging over spaces. We see seeds penetrating between the clumps and roots interacting with them. These are great topsoil and glomalin visuals especially compared to the few glomalin photos on line.
Another article in Yahoo about Australian scientists tracking duterium in rainfall indicated evapotranspiration from trees was resposible for much of the rainfall in the Amazon. THis supports earlier articles about droplet formation being caused by organic tree emissions. It also gives us a tracking tool for investigating California fog bank and storm formation.
Another item about gas drilling in Colorado reminded us that huge glomalin deposits have been flooded or buried in ancient times, and these must be represented in the fossil fuel story. Subsurface mineral right owners are enforcing theri claims, and the landowners only recourse is "excessive damage." Common knowledge of glomalin could be a decider in these kinds of issues. Not in the article, but relevant, is the fact that some of this drilling hopes to be paid for by hundred million dollar projects to pump CO2 deep into the earth, with admittedly no sure guaranty of what will happen as a result. We need that stuff and know exactly what to do with it. Dont spend the dough on that bad idea.
The article in Nature about mans influence on the landscape would not have been published as news, since all our interactions with the landscape start at glomalin. We would be noting dust a result of widespread deglomalization (new word!). We note the old inch of soil a millenium myth is as useful as the seven seedlings do more for the forest than one large tree. Topsoil grows. Duff protects the subsurface and is not the critical issue in tilth.
In an odd yet gratifying way I saw the glomalin team has discovered the bioremediation of Potentially Toxic Metals was predated by a decade from the myclogists Stamens and Dan Wheeler. They also discoursed on the abilities of each species with its own enzyme to break down a soecific molecular compound in their environment. This helps confirm my sources. And these probably also contribute to the glomalin budget.
Locally, tomorrow the regional Water Quality Control Board is deciding the fate of a new batch of Timber Harvest Plans and the downslope and downstream neighbors are seeking relief. PL is standing on the "best available science beyond the letter of the law." Clearly the law needs new science. How do we make that happen?
The importance of glomalin in the landscape cannot be over emphasized. Decision makers need to have this easy to understand concept firmly in hand. Eventually it will be taught in grade school as part of the water cycle. Meanwhile the implications in every kind of development as an opportunity, an opportunity cost or as a warning of potential problems specifically foreshadowed. Who has the authority to impose new thinking on such a xast scale? Redwood Reader followers starting from the beginning will have laser sharp insight that blitzs through much ignorance. As such it is a tool of the widest importance.
Equally powerful is the knowledge that watersheds are grown, and what the consequences of ignorance are. Here we need authority on the world stage, not politically but in terms of development prescriptions we can share that increase water availability through glomalin management, and protect people from landscape failure.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

115. Legacy Damage 

115. Legacy Damage
When I step back and look at what originally drove me to this point, I see I have answered many of my questions as to what happened to create such a disaster on the landscape. To get there you drive through the Humboldt Redwoods, probably one of the worlds greatest accumulations of fungal residue, out past Albee Creek. Here we see the results of flooding and development when the creek jumped its banks and swept the town and riparian forest remnants away. As we learned from the tsunami, debris filled rushing water has far more momentum than clean water and is therefore more destructive. Further along we see the HRSP restoration project tree planting because recruitment has been poor after all these years. This is a result of the soil in the root zone being swept away or buried forccing the glomalin cycle to start from scratch.
Another exciting aspect of this program is the digging new pools in the stream bed. I hope it is a model we can repeat in lots of places once the upslope threats are recognized and or ameliorated. These would include roads, houses, old jobsites such as landings and clearcuts, any other open ground causing runoff rather than absorbtion, active faults, artificially steep terrain, even individual stumps alll play a role in the cumulative and continuing injury to the forest system.
Moving up the hill we see the Cuneo Creek slide from the aptly named Devils Elbow. It is rather bare still after all these years, a little bit of growth creeping down a few gullies. Again, the ground is not going through the usual regenerative cycle because the entire system had disappeared down the hill. DIrect seeding by air or artillery is one suggestion. ANother is filling helicopter nets with seeding coyote brush and dump it on the lide to distribute its seed. A better one would be to experimentally plants sections with different mixtures of mycorhizzia innoculuent found in the Park in succession so workers are working on ground somewhat stabilized by previous planting. THis course would take small jobs over many years. As I have repeated, bare ground is unacceptable in high rainfall areas. THis is the problem with preservation, at times it prevents the very work that would stablize it. HRSP's current general plan contains lots of restoration activities, and we hope vegetating Cuneo is high on the agenda. The Park can really incorporate the glomalin issue into their practices and outreach.
At the top of the switchbacks we find the top of Cuneo, and we can say with certainty that it is doing exactly as predicted when the vegetation is removed from the top of marine sediment-formed mountains like Hispaola. It is failing and continuing to fail. It is so massive there is no fix. More slides are inevitable as nature seeks its own angle of repose through peak rain events. We do not see the massive live oaks here we see over the hill, I bet they were cut for tool parts and firewood, additionally destabilizing the local area before the big event. I see no effort to absorb a higher percentage of rainfall above this slide, a possibly helpful activity above any disturbed ground or watercourse. The Redwwods to the Sea could as easily be the Cuneo th Honeydew Slide Trail.
Just up the road a rock outcrop loses some rock every year. These vertiacal rocks walls of rock of low integrity are continuous problems in the region. Spoils and rock piles along the road indicate road crews contribute to the overall sediment load in the watershed. The large concrete water tanks are a great example of public works and water capture providing a high level of service to the people with minimal landscape impacts. This program should be renewed, and we have supported the new large tanks now available for private parties, and cistern projects THere are also power line trails that show that hardwoods lean into canopy openings reaching for sunlight possibly influenced by the sudden loss of side pressure and competition. These sites rarely slide because low growing brush fills the ground area and remains largely undisturbed. Right around here we are leaving the rain shadow, and rainfall average almost doubles from 65" in the park to 110" on the wet side.
Coupled with road closures in the upper watershed area it was stupifying to see the Mazzone Re-Route, apparently an administrative access road, cut along the upper headwall of the watershed. I have not walked it but multiple massive slides on Middle and Dry Creeks suggest this is a very bad idea. It is said a minimum number of trees were cut but roads building has cut soil loose which now has to travel through the watershed. The area where the road rejoins the access road by the beginning of Rim Road is too close to be parallel the existing roads. There will be too much water in that swale in a peak event. It seems like a particularly poor example of informed land management.
On the way in to the Thought Preserve we pass through shaded fuel breaks, a legacy impact of restoration and firefighting issues merging. I think this should be a big employer but we need some funding sources from business activity, rather than being grant driven. Carbon credits fill this need There are other areas of young tanoak that have somehow spaced themselves reasonably and have complete canopy and duff layers. I see this in Gilham Butte and other Humboldt landscapes. Fire is suggested as a reason for even aged stands but my own burnt parcel has coppiced into multiple stems rather than the few well spaced stems I see. Then we come to the old tree planted area the old man cut his firewood out of. It was fully stocked and well kept until he died. THis is an old issue for treemen. The estate cut most of the timber. Continuing issues had them cut the rest a couple of years later. A few seed trees, some seddlings, stump sprouts fromm madrone and brush now cover the area. The road is very dusty here, it used to benefit from fog drip when there were Douglas fir here.
Now at the creek side spur road, we walk up to the old Middle Creek bridge. The surviving landscape is full of majestic live oaks, and the creek canyon seemed to be lined wiwth cliffs topped by these trees. The reality is more sinister. They are the survivors of horrific landscape events caused by human activity nad peak rain events. Looking up at any one of these slides they are all topped by these trees, and the roots are not bare, and they are not exposed when the hillside slides. They are rooted tooo well to be moved, and their massive root zone maintains its own storage system too greater depth than other types. Over and over you can find trees of every other species in slides. Of the four I know of that have gone down, one was excavated, one intercepted a slide from above it and a 24"+ trunk sheared off, and the other two had fire burn the uphill roots. After twenty years the growth on the downhill side, where it was the only item left in the canopy, eventually weighed them down. Their turned up roots burnt clear to the trunk, the other side still firmly rooted in the ground. These critical trees need protection in fragile landscapes because of the excellence of their firewood.
The road we are on is a typical old style road, originally a ranch road, later a circular subdivision road and now a remnant of the old cut and fill type. Glomalin isn't sufficient to hold the fills in heavy weather because it takes a lot of time to grow the landscape back together. Cuts are a problem because they starve the glomalin. The road is first cleared of trees and vegetation. Glomalin is then starved above thecut up to the point of stabilityi which is the live oaks. Starved glomalin below the road fails when saturated. An interesting note here is how often abandonded roads fail after a hole is dug in the surface or inboard ditch. It seems liketly that they allow water to penetrate a compacted surface, and find the subsoil root zone devoid of soil glue. WIth its long life span glomalin remains in the soil if buried slowly aging as no new material is added. After a while the soil has reverted to sediments ready to liquify in the next peak event. Fills and surfacing material across Douglas fir bridges and Humboldt crossings and around culverts have the same problem, the material is not easily reincorporated back into the landscape, and quickly gets into the stream as the landsccape and timbers fail. Besides that many Humboldts were for seasonal work, material left in swales were carried away by each major rain event. These events get smaller and more frequent as continuing and cumulative damages affect the watersheds ability to absorb strorm water. The cutting force of running water on the landscape is well known. It is well illustrated at and above the old bridge. To the right, the old road wound up the canyon wall. It was denuded by logging with many stumps and only some brushy remnants. After big rain in 1982 a whole section of lands surface slid down the hill and disappeared. We can say that glomalin was decaying and was the resulting silt liquified upon saturation, resulting in mass wasting. To the right, up the hill a large piece of cleared land was begining to slip, partly because it is on aa fault line and partly because the stability at the bottom of the hill had long before been compromised. In the December 1992 storm, uncaptured runoff rushed down that crack cutting a flat bottom gully about four foot by three foot all the way to the bridge There it cut all the soil for eight feet back into the bank leaving the protruding boulder as an island far from the bank.
Turning West again we approach the Thought Preserve, heading down a well rocked raod to- a hairpin turn overlooking a sixty foot vertical soil bank with a creek at the bottom, Six feet to your left is a secondary creek, and there used to be a bunch of land between Middle Creek way down there and this little stream six feet away and about 15 feet below you. We have been here long enough to see dozens of feet of this landscape disappear as continual vertiacl slides caused by undercutting, caused by sediment daelivery from feeder stream son the other side of the canyon. Probably a couple hundred yards of it. The creek to my left has punctured the wall that was a roadbed of the third kind- creekside roads cut supposedly for fire access in the fifties and sixties. These roads fail because of glomalin starvation one way or another, cut or fill. The old creek bed wanders off as an empty gully in the brush and a gushing waterfall appears after rain which has created its own ongoing project of erosion and movement since. Meanwhile, a huge chunk of land, some cutover lies above the steadily advancing vertical slide. It will take some massive events to restabilize this situation. THis is our only access and a property corner. Looking across the creek we see alders and some young fir creating aomething of a canopy below us, and lots of brush up the hill with only a couple of remnants of live oak left over twenty feet tall. Mass wasting sites on the wall of a side creek are visible, only a hint of the incredible number of insults the landscape has suffered here, all from removal of the trees and eventual glomalin decay exacerbated by runoff creation and drainage disruption. The brush is mostly stump sprouted tanoak and ceanothus grown back since the fire of 1981.
We turn right and head down into the shade creekside. Bear scarred alders stand like carved sentinels on either side of the rock armored ford. A pool with a couple eight inch steelhead and a few younger ones is surrounded by six to eight inch dbh redwoods. Several hudred of them go up the creek. Downstream is a curious avenue effect of alders on either side of a boulder stream bed packed with sediment. The redwoods have done a magnificent job containing the creek and weaving streamside soil into a tight knit mat that is undercut that the fish love. This is a spot for a moment of reflection or meditation. It is shaded and cool with its own breeze. The creek dries up right to this spot every year and no fish can live from here to the upper side creek joins the creek at the bottom of the properety three-eighths of a mile downstream. Slowly streamside vegetation is returning behind the short lived alders, which root on rocks and then have their roots battered by high water. They are in a continuous cycle of shooting up thirty or so feet, seeding annually, and then succumbing. They rot quickly but cause a lot of critical diversions when the water is high. In lesser years they maintain the creekbeds shoulders. When the creek moves away from them they also die. In wetter areas they thrive in open land, probably taking advantage of high soil water content.
Straight ahead is a short piece of road to get out of the creek that turned out to be too steep. Now the road turns left and moves to join the bench road at an anglle like the Mazzoni reroute. At any rate you pass some good sized rotten stumps with cable railroad spiked to them from past logging and come out at the bottom of our fourth type of road-fire roads.
The fire roads went straight up the hill at a very steep angle, then cut across the top of the land across drainages and the fault line trying to contain the fire. This first one did surprisingly little damage and the hardwood forest thers has survived and is maturing nicely. It also exhibits this natural spacing without a cluttered understory. Trouble starts where the bulldozer turned left and cut a road from the edge of that swale across the top of the properety tro get around the fire. From one end of this road on out, every swale has blown out, mystery gullies have been cut due to drainage changes above us, filled spots have failed and the stream crossings are now more than ten feet deep for tiny little creeks. Huge amounts of soil have gone down hill. But a little further out we find something new, scarping. This is the breaking and sinking of the landscape into beches as it begins to move downhill. It is rare in forest but common in the so called meadows on the ridge. It is the entire landscape on the move. The question of revegetation then becomes whether we can reincorporate enough soil into water storage to handle the rain events before a peak event causes cutting runoff or saturates the soil below the fungally stabilized region. If not, slides and mass wasting occurs. The concentration of runoff was exacerbated by our fith type of road, a skid road or trial remnant from the logging. There is one to every stump, mostly frpm the downhill side. Over on Dry Creek you can see multiple side entries into the slide area, each undercutting the one above and all contributing to ovversaturation in the swale closest to the unaffected side and again in the swale on the other side. This is at least half mile across, and all that land for a hundred feet down is just gone. On our side you can findriparian blowouts where small tributaries get cut. After ten or more years the glomalin starved soil is saturated and the bank or the headwall fail creating a bowl. This happens when the swale above them are overloaded as described above. All the fir stumps eventually rot out and here we mostly have replaced it with ceanothus, a nitrogen fixer than sprouts freely after fire and does an amazing job growing baked clay back into soil. It forms dense canopies and emits flammable gases in hot weather, a very dangerous combination en masse. THe stuff is tough and wiry and I have battled it to open the overgrown road in order to get tree planters out beyond there. It has a short life span and a shallow root system and sometimes provides shade for Douglas fir seedlings. None here because the few seed trees left burned. The tanoak sprouts are residual coppicing that probably goes back to the tanbarkers removing the tanbark the INdians cherished allowing the Douglas fir to grow unsuppressed and without competition. Douglas fir took full advantage of its opportunity until it was found there in the forties for the new plywood industry and a cut began. As we continue out the road we see King Peak one ridge ahead of us and Gilham butte one ridge to our left and the Headwaters of Middle Creek parcel purchased by Save the Redwoods behind us. This parcel protected whatever work we would be able to accomplish in the creek below it. We hoped to includee it in an overall plan but was inexplicably given to State Parks rather than BLM.Only one parcel stands between it and the Thought Preserve and it has mature forest, and the THPs had been filed. We thank all parties involved, and hope ERS can find a sustainable business plan that can keep them as knowledgeable land owners into the future.
Gilham Butte was fought over for years and finally saved, which now means we saved the glomalin. King Peak was severly backlit in the Honeydew Creek fire and will probably have problems for years in light of our new knowledge, the high rainfall in Honeydew (200+ inches fairly often,) and King Range Conservation Area mandate not to replant burned areas. And so the race is on for the landscape to restabilize itself before the glomalin layer liquifies before new vegetation can reach it and resume feeding it, molecule by molecule. This reallyputs the old seven seedling for every cut tree rap to the shame it always felt like it had. How could that be good? It isn't. But if you do have to plant in mineral soil as Douglas fir are reported to prefer, dense stocking allows quicker regeneration of the subsoil system by pumping more carbon down there quickly. The trees then thin themselves continually until there are a dozen or so per acre in the fully functioning late seral forest.
Tree planting efforts are also revealing. Ponderosa pine is surprisingly tough when established in thick stands on slide faces in full sun Some seem to have hit location jackpots and taken off. We find this with individual trees scattered around, like they found residual working fungi pockets. Bears have eaten all my tree species. Douglas fir thickets of new growth often form dense canopy and shade at a very young age, propelling the soil conditioning. Redwoods seem to exhibit this too in some dense plantings away from soil moisture. Redwoods also create their own microenvironment early in life in favorable aspects.
Now checking out the creek bottom can best be shown by the KRIS coho report, which includes the results of three years of streambed surveys by the Mattole Salmon Group, including myself. Conducted to gather baseline data for a number of parameters for salmonid habitat, Middle Creek ranked very poor for shade, embeddedness, depth, temperature, large woody debris sediment load and presence absence. We profiled the thalweg and three cross channel locations, and put monuments in to return for coompaarative surveys in the future. This was done in the first pools in the creek, a hundred yards or so from its perched mouth at the river junction. This streambed is lined with willows and runs like a line through a huge cobble beach area, remnants of massive earth moving through the system propelled by heavy rain fall and debris laden torrents. It is beginning to trap sediment in high water and this is the brgining of vegetation moving back into the riparian zone after repeated scouring. In the work area the creek has been sedimented in a wandered back and forth around the area, but found itself trapped between a boulder and a logjam, backing up and scouring an area 3-+by 50 by 15 feet deep. Lines of old alders show the old channels.This area was logged previously but the uphill side on the north wasn't. Douglas fir was planted here irecently but redwood should be added to absorb sediment and survive root crown burial in the highly mobile sediment environment. This huge delta and overlooking meadows caused by logging was also recently planted- a tough job in a difficult location worth every bit of effort. Put that land back to work, tie up the sedi,emt. store some water, secure some CO2. I woukd recommend denser stocking on these difficult sites so that multiple trees contribute to common water storage more quickly. The more efficient pumps will outcompete the othrs and the resulting tree death will feed a differnt class of fungal soil explorers, the decayers. It is now evident mycorhizzia are but a portion of the soil conditioning fungi at work in the functional forest but being associated with roots are probably among the deepest penetrating and thus control depth of the storage zone, while decayers and others infill the prescribed drip zone filling it with their own glomalin and mycelium increasing storage capacity in the immediate area of the tree.
Westlund Creek, right between Middle Creek and Gilham Butte is in much better shape. There is lees residual cutting and all creel parameters are better than Middle Creek. Slippery brown algae make crossing the river difficult in the summer. Westlund may be a good candidate for a pool program since Gilham Butte is protected and sediment surveys are already in hand for the Patrick Ridge side. Across the river ranch parcels in excellant shape after 70 years of using cats sparingly, cutting selectively and reasonable grazing shows old style agriculture understands the need to maintain sustainability. Beyond him are other timber and Save the Redwood parcels for a short distance to King Peak. We are returning or preserving a pretty good sized swath of high rainfall landscape and should help with the water quality. But we are in danger of losing our benefit from the BLM fire and the cutting on Rainbow. We have exposed past problems, showed how and why they occurred and can predict with certainty some events following particular actions I this light it is heartbreaking for these two actions to be allowed to occur while the knowledge was becoming clear. With MRC and BLM unwilling to defend the estuary, we ate a bullet and will deal with the consequences. We can only hope these two events are the last ignoranance driven land management decisions so we can expect our restoration successes to grow into a stable and profitable landscape.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

114.Mannes Myth Busting and the Water Control Board Decision 

Redwood Reader salutes the efforts of Pacific Lumber to limit sedimentation, and their willingness to talk about their operation. We have been critical of them but for specific reasons and to illustrate my other concerns. It is no surprise there is so much contention, because the whole premise is based on a false concept. PL is not to blame for this. IN the last year I have contacted everyone involved in the Freshwater dispute concerning the role of the fungal product glomalin in the forest as regards sedimentation. No one presented anything of the sort and the Water Board decision was apparently made as a compromise with economic interests due to the lack of factual information as to the causes of sedimentation.
Pl has been fighting a non-stop battle to operate competitively in the marketplace. We will not argue about the mitigations for NSO or marbled murrelts. Destructive practices are not ameliorated by feel good stories from agency workers. Everything looks good because they are within the letter of the law, which was based on current science when it was written. Obviously residents are being mpacted and are upset. There is real loss, and the threat of massive damage in extreme weather events. As pointed out by Denver in the Times-Standard, the reason PL is in this new fight is because it refused to accept clearcutting in the first place. They have survived because the founders were familiar with destructive logging in the Lake state region and Maine. Now under the California business climate, economies of scale, technology and needing to prove PL was as undervalued as advertised, they are forced to operate in a manner that appears sustainable but is in fact allowing far more damage than is suspected. We can prove that but is not helpful without recommendations. In light of the no new surprises clause we hope that legislationn concerning BMPs and all other land use issues will take this amazing new discovery in hand and implement sustainable practices and regulations based on the role of fungi in maintaining watershed health. We point out that roads are an egregious example of cutting sediment loose without cutting trees. Skidding, loading, clearing yards and landing sites all have detrimental effects on watersheds. The damage may continue for decades as at my place, after the last big tree is gone, potentially because the undisturbed portion has been cut off from its food supply and is slowly decaying in the soil.
50 percent of its timberlands and 60 percent of its volume to be off-limits to harvesting until more detailed science was completed.
A "science-will-drive-policy" approach provided two processes for making changes to the HCP when science dictates (watershed analysis and adaptive management).This science does not include health of the root zone water storage functions of fungal residue, the critical missing element in the discussion, nor of the impacts of ground disturbance on the forest system which creates sediment in the first place by dissolving the aggregating property of the fungi..
No harvesting in areas prone to landslides.
Geology does not cause landslides, peak climatic events cause failure in areas where the precipitation interface has been compromised. Heavy cuuting on top of a stable ridge will cause runoff and land failure between the sight and the drainage stream at the bottom . Look at Haiti last year, Mitch, Stafford and other massive recent slides in the Phillipines, Venezuela and Colombia and LA. It can happen here.
Either "no harvest" and/or "limited harvest" only would be allowed in wide buffers along all watercourses.
This is a clear example of not knowing what is happening. If the forest floor is protected then some vegetation management will be possible, indeed necessary to reduce fuel loading, especially in damper areas. Sediment once cut loose is very hard to reweave back into the landscape, and this is why spoils fail to become part of the landscape. Once the sediment is separated from the glomalin and the aggregated particles dissolve, they will move downhill carried by water or as dust. So impacting the land near a watercourse is actually less destructive than further up in the watershed, as everything cut loose will eventually find its way into our watercourses.
Harvest restrictions in both Elk River and Freshwater watersheds of 600 and 500 acres annually were imposed.
Acreage is unimportant when select cutting. Economies of scale however make concentration of effort seem more imperative than working a larger piece but with less impacts. New technology like the walking machines, self contained feller-bunchers with minimal impacts on the forest floor, will prove their value once glomalin and the system that produce it are recognized as the key to forest and watershed health. Could be a key purchase, maybe more important than the new mill.
"Leave trees" are to be scattered throughout the harvest area for wildlife habitat.
"Leave" trees and the old seed trees were often pointed out as good management in the past, but inevitably someone else would come in and get the rest. Wildlife habitat will come naturally in a less devastated environment, and there will be less need for full protection as more acreage comes under sustainable operations. Like teaching a kid how to clean, we see what is left, not what was done.
6,000 acres, including a large portion of old growth, was set aside for 50 years to protect marbled murrelet habitat.
It will be found that all of our rotations are too short to restore the fungal systems in impacted forest areas because fungi follow each other in succession, the "redevelop" areas byrepeatedly infecting the same soils, each individual and species doing its bit by paying glomalin tax to the forest as a whole, just like people.
Detailed scientific watershed analysis is to be conducted in all PALCO watersheds to determine appropriate protections. The problem has been studied to death but there is no satisfaction. There is real, scientific, hard evidence from USDA-SAR that really applies to this problem. It will end the need for scientifc quest the way day ends night and let us move onto a more harmonious stage. There is a vast amount of work to be done quantifying the impacts of fungal residue in the soil and how it impacts watersheds and sediment, even simplifying glomalin detection and accounting methods for handy field use will be extremely important. PL can then gather their data remotely or with technicians and allow their scientists to analyze the data and move forward with research. One example: A story was posted on agroforestry several years ago regarding innoculation of trees with mycorhizzial fungi. THe results are fairly well known when applied to one or two species of fungi. When the writer gathered fifty species of mycorhizzial fungi and ground them into an innoculent, he reported six foot leaders on Douglas fir. Another field of study will be the difference chemically of slow grown redwood compared to the rapid growing second growth. Of course the broad array of operational fungi in the forest, mycorhizzial, sprophytic and parasitic and the functions of their hyyphae, mycelium and supporting molecules is a huge field. To this point, mycologists have missed glomalin because it is not a component of the living, friuiting body. Plenty to learn, plenty to do.
The rest of part one is a bunch of gobbledygookabout legislation and court hearings. Their will be no settling these issues until everyone gets on the same page about glomalin, at which point we can move forward again without imperiling, people, property or natural systems. We note the shift from CDF approval to Water Quality Control Board is a response to sediment moving from hillsides to streambed. It is preventable as well as the heart of sustainability.
In Part 2 Mr. Manne explains his companies stand on many issues. It is clear new science can help him out and make the company more profitable, without going into some of my more esoteric earlier suggestions on this blog about business options. In the relatively sterile environment of farm fields it was easy to see the impacts of single species of fungi. Inn the forest this hasn't been applied yet and is a whole world of science awaiting our interest.
In all the above discussion the most important issue is the retention of water and sediment on the hillsides in the biologically conditioned soil. This is what must be preserved, and restored where necessary. Glomalin is easily destroyed by human impact and will need time to return to health. There will have to be longer rotations and larger trees to replace the lost glomalin. It will do it, it is the healing power of nature. THis makes carbon sequestration quantifiable and doable, and may provide revenue streams for PL lands protected by law. They would have to argue and prove old trees restore watershed health far more quickly than seedlings just because of the number of molecules formed in a given period of time. Ok, now you need scientists.
But glomalin is also an amazingly easy concept to grasp so we need to educate everybody about it. I mean the entire world. It is associated with the vast majority of greenery anywhere yet is invisible and difficult to extract, which is a whole story for the discoverer to tell. It affects water issues directly and shows we grow the water holding capacity of any landscape. Retention also means less flooding and we see why development is so harmful, and why green belts and parks are essential in urban development. As for rising emissions, aerial fertilization has been shown to stimulate growth of above ground root and fungi repeatedly, and that the more you have in the air the faster you can collect it and the richer you can become for it.
Being aware lets you make some small differences right away, especially in operations, like in roads and so on. It may come to be you go to all walking machines so you don't need any roads at all, bringing a higher percentage of land into use. To make a big difference,call for a glomalin task force of state federal including PArks and BLM, CDF, USFS, DFG, tribes, restoration groups like MRC and HWC, other timbermen, ranchers, HSU, UCCE, USFW and see if this is truly amazing as it seems, and how to take advantage of it as the basis for sustainablity into the future.
A bigger difference then would yield land use benefits for development and agriculture throughout the state and would be extremely helpful in developiing nations struggling with many of these issues.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

113.Sudden Oak death found in Humboldt again 

The California Oak Mortality Task Force (listserve:, web: www.suddenoak reported new findings of Sudden Oak Death in the Redway-Garberville area.(See below.) Calls for landowner permissions and possibly volunteers experienced in field surveys are being sought. In addition, articles about unraveling the phytophatora genome and restricitons on moving potentially infected material are posted in this months COMTF newsletter. There is a request for proposals for a round of research funding later this spring. We are glad to see more information for landowners as much of the recent material has dealt with new discoveries of infected species in nurseries both regionally and by species.
Phyotphthora is the genus of potato, soy and chestnut blights, among others. Chestnut blight type devastation will unravel California landscapes (11 million acres of oaks) but an amazing amount has been done since the discovery in 2000. Researchers are attacking this problem from many angles. There is a link to:
Stopping the Rot. Henry Nicholls. Public Library of Science (a public access
journal) Vol. 2 Issue 7:0891-0895. July 2004. This article discusses
Phytophthora ramorum as well as Phytophthoras in general. The article includes
information on the origins of Phytophthoras, genetic testing, financial impacts,
environmental impacts, reproduction and recombination, and epidemiology. To view
the article in its entirety, go to:
What we fail to see so far is cooperation between chestnut researchers and SOD researchers. Chestnut had them fooled for a long time butbreeding programs are finally showing signs of success. IMHO, manipulation of genetic on/off switches will be a real path to providing defense to new predatory species, such as the gene that causes older bark to furrow, allowing access for spores in the spring. If we can learn to turn this gene off-voila! Meanwhile we hope to have remediation before we have massive die offs and landscape unraveling like we have never seen.
The updated table "Phytophthora ramorum Regulations for Forest Products"
is now available and has been posted to the COMTF website. The matrix summarizes
state and federal P. ramorum regulations pertaining to the movement of eight
different categories of regulated forest articles.
The new findings in Redway/Garberville are reported in this article.
The Humboldt County Department of Agriculture, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE),
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), and the USDA Forest
Service are conducting an ongoing survey and assessment of P. ramorum-infested
areas near Redway and Garberville in southern Humboldt County in preparation for
potential new suppression efforts. In the summer of 2004, USDA Forest Service
aerial surveys identified seven patches of tanoak mortality near Redway and
Garberville that were subsequently confirmed by ground crews to be P.
ramorum-positive. The crews found these patches primarily in riparian forested
settings, with steep, challenging topography (unlike the residential setting
confirmations found in Redway in February 2004 where suppression efforts were
These findings triggered the development of a survey designed
to: delimit the extent of the newly discovered infestations; provide a strategic
sampling that will assist in the identification of other unknown local
infestations in forested and riparian areas; and continue to monitor the
development of the disease in residential Redway and Garberville, including
sites on which suppression activity took place in 2004. The Humboldt County
Department of Agriculture has begun surveying in residential areas where
permission has been given by property owners to survey for the pathogen, and
they continue to seek permission from remaining landowners in the area. In
March, Humboldt County UCCE personnel will likely take over surveying efforts in
wildland settings, and may be seeking volunteer help from cooperators
experienced in P. ramorum-identification.
In addition, CDF and UCCE are
developing drafts for potential suppression activities in known infested areas,
as well as any new infestations that the surveys may reveal. Possible
suppression scenarios range from pruning of selected host branches on
residential properties where landowners are unwilling to have trees removed, to
felling and removal of selected hosts with or without additional thinning and
pruning. Soil, plant parts, and new host sprouts from treatment sites will be
monitored for at least two years after treatment.
CDF, the Humboldt County
Agriculture Department, and UCCE also continue to monitor soil and leaves from
the lower Redway sites treated in February 2004. UCCE staff has installed seven
new watercourse monitoring sites, in addition to the five already in place
around Redway and Garberville. Three more watercourse monitoring sites are being
established this month. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Arcata Field Office
staff has also installed two watercourse monitoring sites on the Mattole River
and its tributaries in southwestern Humboldt County in cooperation with UCCE.
These new monitoring sites in southern Humboldt County complement an already
existing network of sites in Mendocino, northern Humboldt, and Del Norte
Counties, which are regularly monitored by UC Davis and UCCE investigators. The
remainder of Humboldt County, as well as Del Norte and northern Mendocino
Counties, will continue to be surveyed in heavily visited municipal, county,
state, and national parks, as well as in Six Rivers National Forest.
more information on Humboldt County area efforts, or to volunteer for survey
work, contact Yana Valachovic, UCCE Humboldt/Del Norte, at:
<> or
Chris Lee, UCCE Humboldt/Del Norte, at:

112.DAms, Riparian sponges, Glomalin and Opportunity Cost 

I am trying to find the answer to retaining water in a watershed, or at least extending the legnth of time between last precipitation and the date the creek dries up in August. I average over a hundred inches of rain a year, the watershed is only about three and a half miles long and a little over a mile wide. It sits atop the Triple Junction of the North American, Gorda and Pacific plates and has its own fault on the geology maps. The more I studied the water situation and tried to apply proposals, the more obvious it became we were missing some method nature uses to do this.
Many days on Waterforum and Agroforestry newsgroups led to some key points:
Watersheds retain water through forests
Complete forests include trees, duff, roots, fungi and soil
Complete forest carbon budgets must include the 25 or more percent of annual production stored underground
Complete forests rarely slide even in extreme events
Second growth forests feel much drier than old growth
Thousands of species of fungi inhabit wet forest, most synbiotic with the trees as mycorhizzia
Mycorhizzial fungi are ubiquitous in vegetated areas
The few exceptions are pioneers or annual grasses and forbs that reseed annually to offset climatic conditions. Invasive plants are often of this type and need no mycorhizzial associates, and often create dense colonies that soutcompete slower growing native perrenials.
Mycorhizzia infect millions of root hairs, simultaneously, redundantly, in succession and every other combination. The same piece of ground will be reinfected over and over, each time adding a drop or two of glomalin adding to the water storage capacity drop by drop, millions of times a day.
Soil carbon is found far below the duff layer and far from roots
Best restoration tool is tree planting
Most cost effective method is leaving it alone
Canopy and duff slow precipitation so it will sink into the soil
Rising carbon dioxide levels stimulate plant growth above ground, double in the root mass and increase stored carbon five fold
No till methods preserve soil carbon and build the soil up
Aanerobic decomposition forms methane
Greenery is advancing north and moving up the mountains
The Great Basin has lost its grazing value by losing the perrenial sage to the annual cheatgrass
Fires are frequent and seem to be getting worse
Glomalin is a soil glue, produced by mycorhizzial fungi, a structural part created by many species to perform specific function of stregnthening the hyphae walls when it must cross pore spaces in the soil
Glomalin was discovered in a single crop environment at USDA SAR in 1996 with vaso arbuscular mycorhizzia
Forest trees are ectomycorhizzial but the sticky stuff is caonfirmed by mycology professors relating to a poster
Loose sediment is the only problem in the experimental watershed
All the pools are filled in and the banks scoured.
Less and less rain is required to cause the creek to jump its banks
High rainfall scours the banks and takes all our and natures successes to that point, downstream
19 springs before the fire are reduced to four
Drilled wells are far below the level of my stream. Aquifers are too deep to be responsible for low flows.
Theres a bunch of other interesting tidbits to go on but there is no pattern here, no answer to urban sprawl or why vast landscapes are dehydrating, or the cause of sedimentation or what is happening when it is working right. Until we get to glomalin. Like magic we can see the opportunity cost of glomalin destruction and the true devil in the details of development of many kinds. We gat to generalize in a way big enough to legislate and change curriculums. There is a lot to learn but the topic is so big everybody can contribute.
Accepting that glomalin is as ubiquitous as mycorhizzia in general, and that mycorhizzia expand along with tree roots, we can see:
All parts of the green landscape absorb some water but will reach saturation at some point
All pats of the grren landscape are producing glomalin
Saturated landscapes will move downhill toward the creek
Glomalin storage will be in proportion to the type of vegetation and the time between disturbances
GLomalin gives the soil porosity, which will vary by region, soil type and species.
Glomalin is tough, durable, long lived but not inorganic and ultimately breaks down
The longer left alone the more glomalin saturated the soil becomes, increeasing its water holding capacity
Human activity on the land can be seen as a percentage of glomalin system impacts, rating each activity in the amount of water it can hold compared to some number it could hold under maximum glomalin production conditions.
In descending order of available absorption we find old growth forests at 100%, savanna, grasslands, farms, lawns, down to pavement and roofing, 0%
The watershed thus is measured in three directions with its capacity being total soil volume in the glomalin producing zone, multiplied by porosity
The difference will be in how large a rain event it takes to overwhelm the system
Glomalin loses its magic propertis when exposed to sunlight, air or running water, reverting to CO2 and fine sediment
FIne sediment moves through the watershed as dust or mud in running water, collecting in the stream bottom cementing rocks into solid impenetrable masses
Now insights and ideas come flooding like the waters from a breached dam. It is significant this dam is about flooding rather than hydro or irrigation, because flooding is caused by poor watershed health and poor planning in the flood plain areas. There are many stump ponds back East that were built for mills before electricity. Most were floodoed after the trees were felled with an axe, and should have glomalin buried in their sediments. This would be a really intersting subject, just one of thousands we would need to move this concept into the hard numbers of engineering. Nevertheless, rules of thumb have been amazingly accurate for a long long time.
Forest floor damage creates huge amounts of sediment.
Dust is a problem in the creek.
Clearcutting exposes the system to additional damage through exposure of the soil to trhe elements after the binding properties of glomalin are compromised.
Of course native plants thrive with their natural associates.
Desertification is avoidable.
Sustainable agriculture, like modern dairy farming or the old orchard-pasture method find levels of sustainability without being aware of glomalin but we can see advantages now, compared to say bare floor orcharding or treeless pasture.
Creeks live on water stored in the root zone, Aqqifers are recharged by excess water filtering through these zones due to gravity
Fossil fuels are as likely to be buried glomalin deposits as aboveground material. In fact, undisturbed for millions of years, there should have been a lot of soil stored carbon when inland seas flooded, or other major flooding events.
Anerobic decomposition of glomalin will probably yield methane in decades, not eons
The opportunity cost for water storage in a dam site becomes the acreage flooded times the maximum porosity and volume, plus the reduced capacity of cleared land whether completely lost to paving or impaired by vegetative treatment, plus capacity lost to disrupted drainages, plus lost terrestial riparian systems and fisheries, plus the amount evaporating off the reservoir each year rather than stored safely in ther ground available to terrestial life.
Glomalin destruction cuts sediment loose, the number one problem in many dam systems.
Greater damage is likely from further development in the watershed above the dam.
Much of this dqamage already exissts and is exacerbated by dam building. Flooding is a sure sign upper watershed health is not all it should be.
The old soil science thing of drying soil and weighing it do not help as we cannot separate the eveporated water from the gasified glomalin reverted to CO2. Neither are the particle filters as helpful as they seemed.
Opportunity cost in terms of carbon would include lost glomalin production, lost glomalin and water storage capacity, lost carbon dioxide sequestration, flooding and landscape instability, carbon loss to ground disturbance in the construction areas outside the dam proper, co2 conversion to methane in anerobic digestion of glomalin in flooded areas.
In the West many small dams had timber cut around them to increase runoff and hold it in the reservoirs until later in the year. When the chapparal grew up the water table seemed to return. When forest came back the water table seemed to lower, so they cut the trees again. Now we can see the error. The soil is biologically conditioned to store water. The water table thus moves as a result of glomalin, its capacity growing at depth and in radius from the plant and in response to that plants function, as pioneer or main player, in the landscape.
The opportunity costs to not build the dam include less flooding from greater surface area of absorption and deeper storage capacity, less surface disruption outside the dam preventing more glomalin loss, lower fire risk, healthier forests and vegetation, less sediment, more and better fisheries and wildlife habitat, no changed environmental variables making inhospitable conditions for native species, cleaner rivers, more upslope surface waters such as seeps and springs, more carbon sequestered, no methane conversion from drowned CO2, and many times preservation of archeological sites often on the benches above rivers.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

112.CA Tree Seed Program, CA Integrated Hardwood Range Mngmt Program 

112.California Tree Seed Program, Cal Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program
These are two state programs that are essential to watershed health thatcould use a shot in the arm. One is facing budget cuts from the manufactured state deficit, exactly the same size as California was ripped off for by power suppliers in the energy crunch. Schwarzenegger should have persisted here regardless of party because he is leader of the state and the state being ripped off is the issue that put him in office. The other program seems to be running out of steam for a lack of new ideas. That both are critical in restoration becomes obvious in the light of glomalin.
It was reported recently that the state was about to integrate its tree seed program at UC davis and consolidate it with Forest Service work. Nowhere do the articles relate to the seed bank program for other users, such as MRC, that have collected their own seed nad store it frozen at Davis for planting out every year. This program was given twenty years worht of seed in the early eighties. MMC and MRC spent considerable time and trouble to replenish these stocks, as the first year found a high proportion of insect infested cones. Local folks were used the first year and lots of people got a good hands on experience. With all the trouble the first year professional seed collectors were used for Douglas fir the second year with much better results.
It was also explained to me students did the work under professors direction and that large numbers of folks were being trained to work for forest and native plant nurseries. The FOrest Service had a nursery in MCKinleyville closed as part of the Redwood National PArk deal that ended Forest Service jurisdiction on public lands on the North Coast. LP and Simpson have provided many of the containerized trees we personally have purchased since then. Our bare root trees have come from Smith River Nurseries. BLM and NPS have not needed to replant large areas and it is not in their management plans to replant after fire, so their is little federal need for seed here. I am not sure of the disposition of the LP nursery since the sale. I have seen pictures of the Simpson nursery recently as backdrops for local TV spots, so they at least still exist.
WIth redwoods not having a real seed year in twenty years we wonder about the amount of seed material currently held, how fast it is used, and what plans are being readied to refill the seed coffers. IT is likely economies of scale will allow a single operation to germinate enough seed but centralizing always roughs over the local edges and discounts local information simply by making fewer people available to talk to and putting them as far away as possible. THe state is involved in many restoration and habitat improvement projects, public and private, and have a much greater need for tree seed.
Before I started researching mycorhizzia my favorite search item was landscape stability through reforestation with tree crops. I have planted quite a few acorns in my time , but the survival rate was so slow I wondered what was out there I could use. Rodale Press had two books on tropical agroforestry and they are actually very relevant to this discussion. The problem is that acorns are susceptible to many predators, tap rooting trees are very difficult to transplant, and dry summers make it hard to keep newly planted trees alive the first few years. African workers devised a method of creating grass baskets deep enough to grow a tap root that could then be transplanted in the field intact with its container. This method greatly reduces the number of predators, many of whom can attack seed but not trees. It guarentees all the trees have germinated and grown for several months and will be better able to exist unaided in the forest. I tried growing oaks, madrones, pepperwoods and bigleaf maple in pots. Madrone, tanoak and oak sprouted quickly. Madrone hit the pot bottom first and succumbed. White and black oak followed. Maple and pepperwood seemed to fill the pot with roots. Tanoak seemed to adjust after hitting pot bottom, unlike any of the others. So when I got online oaks were among the first searches i did, and Cal IHRMP was one of the best sites. I saved nearly every Oak n Folks article. As I said, I moved away from this area of study when I started following the mycorhizzia trail. As it turns out, it was merely a side loop on the same trail. Oaks also play a role in water retention and the glomalin story, on a very large scale and is severely threatened by Sudden Oak Death, imperiling a large amount of our water supply. Oak trees are mycorhizzial and we find oak woodlands play the same role as conifer forests in the water cycle, having adapted to local conditions. Other information said soils have a fungito bacteria ratio, and that under one would grasslands and over one forest. It seems likely the ratio can be further quantified by forest type and tree cover.
SOD is a threat to over eleven million acres of oak forest in California alone. Oaks fall in areas with thirty to forty inches of rain a year. Higher rainfall means a higher percentage of conifers, like Douglas fir and Black oak regions. Lower rain gives us the savanna effect exemplified by Oregon white oak, blue oak and other species specific to their home ranges. Almost all of these areas are open enough to grow grass under and between the trees and has been a prime area for ranching. Oaks are having a hard time regenerating and development is further shrinking our precipitation handling mechanism. It seems essential we learn to grow and transplant these trees in the case of restoration but also in the event SOD explodes across the landscape while more resistant tree types are developed. It may take a massive replanting to preserve the landscape and knowing how to grow the trees and having seed on hand is certainly good insurance against a known risk. We would like to see a government program working on a better planting out scheme for oaks. It is possible acorns sprout better after fire (see my earlier article on the effect of smoke on germination) and it may pay to smoke the acorns, hopefully raising the percentage of sprouters above the ten percent persistently reported.
These two programs should be put to better use. If we looka t the Eastern forests we see 300 years of interference and people living with flooding as though it were inevitable. And itr is in the fractured and developed watersheds that have been cleared and paved or built up or that have been repeatedly logged ensuring the biologically conditioned soil zone is a fraction of what it originally was. This situation is easier to see and fix here in California but the principles of soil conditioning is the heart of sustainability throughout the world.

110.Lessons From La Conchita 

The tragic loss of life at La Conchita cannot be undone, but we can learn powerful lessons from the short video captured by the news crew. Let me say that I have witnessed a relatively small sloughing from a vertical bank and was impressed by the speed and power of moving mud. The only one I've seen on film for study was in a Japanese landslide study, where they have built chutes studded with sensors for studying mudflows. These studies showed how far material "rolls out" after sliding and hitting the bottom of the hill. Roll out is a property of material in a liquified state, which is how even dry material acts, once in motion and mixing with air, far further than scientists realized at that time. The proof was that rollout continued for about three times the height of the slide. e can look at the big piece of granite that fell off El Capitan some years ago and see this effect on dry, originally solid material. It takes a lot of force to pulverize granite and turnitinto dust and roll out sediment. In Humboldt County the building code calls for setbacks at least the height of the slide plus forty feet at the top and the height plus 15 feet from the foot. These are insufficient in since we know dry material will move threee times the height of the slide, and wet material may move a little further. While it is difficult to estimate distances on a short video, it is clear houses were closer than the height of the bluff, let alone height plus or three times height.
JIm Marple was a regular contributor to He would rail against massive water projects and their operators as wasteful and unnatural, therefore unsustainable policies. He got in many verbal tiffs with water techs and pros and some tried to ban his posts. Nevertheless his dogged determination as well as his illuminating posts have provided much insight into why my creek was failing. Two outstanding principles were repeated: water must pass through the biological zone, which is at least modified by the action of plants and animals such as beaver, buffalo and gophers. The second is that we have discarded any attempt at sustainability in the greater LA basin simply through political agendas that have created a huge , expensive and unnecessary public works and bureauocracy which sustains itself through inertia and arrogance, which is difficult to dislodge. Using average rainfall, LA needs to capture just 10 percent to supply itself with all the water it uses. Instead, paving and roofing have covered a vast area, creating runoff, publicly channeled into storm drains and shipped to sea as fast as possible. Development, fire and cutting have left the mountains surrounding LA unable to handle the same amount of rain it used to. Remember, landscapes are shaped by peak events and it can be many years between events. So it is in the Southland this year, wettest in 115 years and falling on a landscape considerably diminished in capacity in the interveneing years. Plus we diverted water from all over the Southwest to meet the needs even as we threw their own water away, leading to heated debates about whether it was smarter to build dams or restore the earths natural sponge by returning brush and field back to forest in the upper Colorado watershed. Other hot topics included the costs of pumping water over the Tehachapis, before but especially during the energy crisies, Owens Valley, loss of water in dams from evaporation, use of cisterns and other user friendly water saving ideas. These are big issues, getting bigger by the day. This is science looking at a problem for answers. Marples attackers did not seem to understand this.
In this short video we can see the vegetation ride the slide basically intact. The entire hillside is moving at a depth far below the root zone of the chapparral. As the material moves it is possible to see a clay layer with a small stream in it appear at the bottom of the slide. The moving material is entirely soil. So after record rainfall the soil was saturated throughout the column all the way to the clay layer, which was basically at street lavel and with no weight on the toe, a relatively cheap insurance well known to slide mitigators. What is not clear is the exact trigger. The soil column was probably saturated to the clay. Without roots, hyphae or glomalin at depth the soil lost its adherence, liquifying en masse all at once and sliding on the wet clay. Rollout appears to be at least three times height, bearing out the Japanese studies.
If we were to implement all we have learned in the LA basin there would be a large decrease in the amount of safe land to build on, and a percentage of that would have to be set aside to absorb rain. Insurance regulators, FEMA, and building codes all need to rethink their policies as continuation leads to diminished natural systems and increased human risk and assured losses in heavy events, in addition to increasing fire danger. In this sense the people in LA are at the same risk as the third world debacles in NIcaragua, Haiti, The Phillipines, Venezuela or Colombia, all in the last few years and attributed to logging and development on unstable soils above population centers.

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