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

Friday, August 26, 2005

Algae, Klamath, Global warming 

Blue-green algae making reservoirs toxic
The bloom of bluie-green algae reported in the Klamath is not really news. As the article points pout, it is a native in the watershed, although usually in sluggish water and not in the river itself. The algae produces microcystin, was can produce skin irritation, diarrhea and other ill effects and may be harmful to the liver. It has killed dogs locally in low water in Big Lagoon and the South Fork of the Eel River. What is surprising to me is that this would be overlooked in the reports concerning various aspects of water quality sent to Pacificorps planners preparing for relicensing of the two dams., since it is listed as a regular concern in Tom Stienstra’s July 31 San Francisco Chronicle article, “The best of times, the worst of times”, and is a recurring problem on the North Coast. In that column he points out the difference in the Klamath and the Trinity Rivers and summarizes the problems on the Klamath, especially at Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs. He then points out success of Trinity restoration. In conclusion he states for better rivers and fishing just add water, just as the Southland managers were saying about steelhead “Kool-Aid Fish” last month. The article says the effects of Pacificorps project were not considered by stakeholders concerned with water quality, and the company has no reason to.
Science grinds along proving theories, tossing pretenders and sometimes really uncovering a gem. An unexplainable cooling in the troposphere, ammunition for those not believing in global warming, was found to be a result of data collection errors. Readjusting previous readings shows warming precisely as recorded by other data sets.
The Duke FACE experiment wasw recently releasede under the title Study Yields Mixed Results on Potential for Pine Trees to Store Extra Carbon Dioxide ( To me these are another set of data drawing the wrong conclusions because not all of the factors have been included. At the same time, this article points up that saving forest will only work if the climate remains similar. No amount of soil conditioning can make up for an absence of sufficient precipitation. We note how easily it would be to add glomalin studies to these FACE experiments, developed by CO2 Science. We may find above ground growth pauses while fungi make use of more of the primary production, which would appear as less growth. We also see there is a water problem. The comment about 15% less soil moisture over the period needs clarification- is the watershed impaired, or precipitation down, or nonnative species being overly aggressive?
In the face of likely changes in weather patterns it would seem beneficial to prepare the forest for emergencies, including drought. This is the same as increasing the water storage capacity of the soil, and must be understood as such and not just a mechanism that locks water into wood.
Also recently released was “200-year Experiment Changes Face Of Forest Management”, an Oregon State project ( concerned with the decay of logs in the forest. Here we see another example of the unexpected biodiversity of species and variations on the decomposing function far more complex than previously imagined. Good information for those researching forest processes. “In the future, Harmon said, trees increasingly will be planted that are never meant to be harvested - by design, they will be left to decay and play certain roles in forest ecology, for the health of plants, trees, microbes and wildlife. With large trees that have commercial value, it's still not certain exactly how many must be left for the complete range of forest benefits, he said, and findings on that issue will continue to emerge from studies such as this.” We see the results will eventually be a better understanding of what can be done without too much system compromise. “Oddly enough, some of today's evolving forest management systems may seem more similar to those in the early days of the Pacific Northwest forest products industry - when large amounts of less-valuable wood was left behind in practices that were later deemed "wasteful" and changed dramatically after the 1940s, in order to harvest more of the wood and leave a clean site behind.” Cleaning up was a problem in the streams then too, so they hauled most of the big stuff out, only to discover the critical importance of Large Woody Debris in salmonmid habitats a few years later.
Finally, with European leaders in Greenland and Senators in Alaska all checking out global warming, it seems as though not enough attention is being paid to scientific critics of global warming from man made causes. The originators think it is the most likely reason but deeper scientific reading reveals earlier warm periods in these places from causes other than CO2, such as solar oscillations. It reveals that even with increased carbon emissions the earth will continue to warm and cool to its own rhythms, and that we may have to be more adaptable for long term survival, especially in water, food production and political boundaries if we hope to avoid repeated famines across the globe.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

153. Poor data hid warming effects 

While our good friends at CO2 Science magazine have made us aware of the mitigating effects of increased plant growth and carbon storage in the ground, the main body of evidence seemed to support global warming as an important issue. This week errors in reporting data in the troposphere, or lower atmosphere, were made public that pretty much eliminates the last shreds of hope for those who think the concept of global warming is over blown. However, carbon sequestration estimated at two billion tons a year for forests and seven billion tons for the oceans leaves us well short of the reported twenty-five billion tons annually produced by anthropomorphic activities. Atmospheric concentrations are at 379 ppm, up about 100 ppm in the last fifty years. Another television item reporting on pumping CO2 byproduct from coal to gasoline production (synthetic fuel) into oil wells to release more oil from depleted wells. I earlier though this ludicrous but put in terms of capturing this waste directly from manufacturing (!) and thus keeping it out of the carbon cycles seems worthier. However, a lot of questions are not answerable about this process, including if it would stay there and what impacts it may have on subsurface chemistry. The report says a hundred million tons of CO2 can be used this way each year, and that that amount surpasses all vehicular emissions worldwide. But it is only one two hundred-fiftieth of global emissions.
The ongoing interplay of environmental forces and the response of living systems is becoming clearer, and we see how conditions have been radically altered and then mitigated repeatedly through the history of our planet, arriving where we are today at some point in between naturally occurring extremes.
In Cloud Condensation Nuclei (Climatic Effects of Biologically-Produced Aerosols and Gases) a naturally self-preserving cycle of increased CO2 leading to more gaseous emissions from greenery that transform into particles for cloud condensation creating more and brighter clouds, increasing atmospheric reflectivity and thus slowing warming. This is a perfectly natural cycle that predates man by eons and is one of the many ways vegetation modifies climate in order to sustain itself. We see the more particles the more clouds, and by extension precipitation.
It helps to look at the forest as a community of purposeful individuals each with his own life and job and contributing to the greater good through payment to the general good, taxes if you like. The various life forms conduct trade and consume products and generate waste products. In its long life span the waste products have been used to improve the living conditions necessary to survival for the entire community, of which we are only marginally a part. Increasing available water in the root zone for drought protection for example. Even water vapor emissions contribute to fog and so we see no part of natures process is for nothing.
It has been a talking point for years whether old growth left on ridge tops attracts incoming fog, which by appearance seems to be the case. Adding to it the role of fog drip and it seems easy to draw conclusions. Some st5udies were saying fog drip was a large percentage of precipitation in an area. My experience is that fog drip is not enough to soak more than an inch or two into the soil, and must be on the hundredths of an inch scale in absolute terms. Divided by at least a hundred inches of rain, or even fifty, it disappears as a major factor in annual precipitation. Seasonally, while occurring in the dry summer it probably has more significance. No studies of the down range effects of this have ever been done, and we wonder about the role of coastal forest on inland weather.
Down wind studies have been done for dust arriving from Africa in Florida and China all along the West Coast. In fact an array of monitoring stations lines the coast from Alaska to Mexico that are looking at mercury emissions from coal burning in China as well as airborne life forms that may carry infectious diseases across oceans. Watching weather patterns it seems likely our activities contribute to weather on the continent east of here. We wonder if our Pacific storms originate over the oceans or are created by particles and emissions for vegetation on land masses.
Another way we contribute to climate change is through changes in native perennial cover over large regions. The replacement of the dark leaved, deep rooted sage with annual cheat grass on three million acres of Great Basin lands is an example of the way nature has already selected suitable species for specific climates. Here is the real danger of global warming. Nature will adjust as she always has. In that adjustment some areas will be favored and species will move with the changing climate. The only immutable objects on the face of the earth are political boundaries. Cheat grass does not condition the soil. Or store water or carbon in the soil, or absorb sunlight in the dry season. A nation located here would find itself in deep trouble very soon. I think we find this in many places and will explain some of histories questions, especially where more aggressive types without knowledge of local patterns replaced aboriginal people with a deep understanding of local conditions. I suspect that the people that came to Mesa Verde, for example, may have left poor climatic and/or political conditions invading more sedate agricultural societies. Winning easy victories they failed to understand local processes and in the end broke the very way of life they had hoped to benefit from. It seems many then reverted to building and sacrificing to appease the gods rather than learning to live in the harsh new environment and disappearing into history sooner rather than later.
Lack of vegetation allows sunlight to be reflected from an already inhospitable climate. When I first arrived here, the creek bottom had been completely devegetated and the glare in summer so harsh it was hard to see, and it seemed to add a couple of degrees to already high temperatures. Later we learned there could be a thirty-degree difference from open sun to shade from a group of trees.
Satellite photos released several weeks ago indicated fifteen percent of the habitable earths surface was located in devegetated urban and developed areas since 1980. Comments by Space Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins that smoke, brown earth and muddy sea water were visible from space should give humans real cause for concern. Added to croplands and impacted forests and we see only a small percentage of earths climate mitigating power is available to us, although it is easy to revert to natural systems if we care to. Our focus on human populations does not bode well because so little is being done to preserve the conditions necessary for a huge biomass to consume freely.
So we see starvation in Africa with little emphasis on moderating climate regionally, and realize one of the things that make the superpowers, whether the US, Russia or China, is a continent wide land base to extract materials from and to provide food for their masses. We do not see development of the prime grain areas being used to feed the rest of the continent in exchange for whatever local goods are available- water, oil, labor and so forth. When growing patterns shift in regions of smaller statehood we see results much more quickly.
In the Petrie dish that is the globe, humans are the third largest biomass amongst all species, behind blue green algae and krill. Almost all earths resources are needed to support a top of the food chain type that is also at the top in sheer volume. We have been given a brain that allows us to be aware, creative and make decisions. We will have to use these resources to maintain suitable habitat for all of us.

Friday, August 12, 2005

152. Educating those who would benefit 

I can see I need a book or some other methodical layout so people can find the basic information amongst all my illustrating articles.
Mr. McGuiness got busted over his false statement referring to logging on Palco land "near the mouth of the Mattole", then tried to cover it by claiming that proximity of sediment source to the response reach ("drop out zone") of the stream doesn't matter. The fact is, it does matter. Sediment deposition in the response reach is probabilistic. Fine sediment generated near the response reach has a high probability of being deposited in the response reach because it can readily be transported to it during low medium flows, when it is most likely to be deposited in pools. Fine sediment generated far from the response reach requires either more time or high flows to reach the response reach. The more time required to transport the sediment, the greater the probability that a high flow event will occur in the intervening time interval. In high flow events, pools are scoured due to the velocity reversal threshold and a large portion of the suspended sediment goes to the ocean. Therefore, the probability of sediment from a distant source being deposited in the response reach is lower than that for sediment from a proximate source. This is not to say that there is no probability, or that mitigation of sediment sources in upper reaches should not occur.So the Good Roads, Clear Creeks program is only applied to roads in use? That's far less mitigation than timber companies with Habitat Conservation Plans are doing. Sediment sources away from used roads are routinely mitigated under Erosion Control Plans for THPs. When a bad sediment source is identified, it becomes a priority regardless of whether or it's on a used road. FYI, the Palco HCP was signed in 1999, not 1992.
Thanks for responding. My experience in the Mattole has been to see pools fill with sediment regardless of how hard it rains. It contradicts the books, I know. Thats why I am bringing these points up. And my main point is that there is an understanding of how soil holds together and how that affects watersheds. You will do yourselves a large favor looking into this, as it is new science. It is here. It is easy to understand. You may save some money here or find regulations easing. But you would have to convince the public and the regulators this science applies as well to forest soils as it does to cropland, where it has already saved operators millions of dollars, protected and improved the soil, and sequestered carbon.
Good Roads Clean Creeks is wholly inadequate for the types and amounts of legacy damage in some parts of the Mattole. No one will put all those skid trails to bed or lay back vertical soil bluffs to the slope of repose. It is just too expensive. There is no timber left to justify the expense, and the area is seismically unstable and subject to very heavy rain so there can be no guarantees, a tough sell for public money. But the program is correcting various drainage problems that directly contribute to sedimentation of Class 1 streams, and road improvement should alleviate some of the need for annual scraping, a major problem. The best thing about the Good Roads Clean Creeks is it plans to do the same type of work in each sub-basin in the Mattole. Landowner cooperation is necessary and never one hundred percent. Hopefully most of them are in better shape than mine.
I believe the plan is for fifteen years, and is part of the Mattole River and Range Program, of which I know very little. PL lands will never be in this condition, but you can do better, especially if you understand why lands fails decades after vegetation removal in these steep, wet areas.
I have been researching this subject for many years. I am not an expert but in my reading I found the role fungi play in watershed health by way of USDA reports on glomalin. We see glomalin connects the PNW Research Stations Forest Mycorhizzia unit and Redwood Sciences Lab lament about still not understanding what is occurring on their test parcel on Caspar Creek although neither party recognizes it. I have extrapolated on its role in forested watersheds. It is simple enough to understand. Fungal depositions in the soil cause it to aggregate, holding it together and creating pore space for air and water. The substance is easily destroyed, and can be slowly starved, which ultimately causes topsoil to lose its integrity and become mobilized in wet weather decades later.. Glomalin deposited deep in the soil by roots of large trees are not replenished by glomalin production of short rooted vegetation, and as the glomalin decays the area is prone to slide to the depth of the old root zone if it is steep, and especially when saturated. If glomalin (the floor and some photosynthesizing hosts) is protected there is less need for buffer zones and more acreage becomes available. I think this will lead to reopening of National Forests for select harvesting, since we can cut some trees without impairing waterways with mobilized soils. I believe PL has the staff and monetary motivation to thoroughly scientifically describe this process. I have asked Redwood Sciences Lab and HSU, among many others, to look into it. I have suggested a Glomalin Task Force of timber men, scientists, educators, restorers and county planners and regulators to learn it together so everyone is on the same page, and useful and meaningful results emerge would be an excellent use of Headwaters Fund money.
I am a Good Roads Clean Creek consumer, being creek side and having asked for assistance with information and the maze of permits needed for in stream work. This is the program MRC developed to address these up slope, multiple owner problems. They also moved the creek away from failing soil bluffs by redirecting it into its old bed, which had filled in, and lining it with rock. Not what I hoped for, but an improvement. For more information on these programs contact Chris Larson, ED for MRC.
It is clear you are new reader. This blog is a gathering of items to support the concept that ignorance of this simple law of nature pervades our culture, and everyone is guessing about how much we can do sustainably. Farmers like it, it saved them millions. PL issues bear directly on the point and are useful for illustrating the problems with current regulations and practices. Timber men should be wary of new concepts, and it does contra indicate clear cuts, but it may be worth it, especially if it eases buffer restrictions, since properly prepared for they become unnecessary. Developers will hate it, but it at least organizes what restricitons are guessing at. They are the result of what has gone before. I am bringing something new to the table.
The problem with TMDL's and repair programs for legacy damage is that the people responsible are dead and gone. There is no economic incentive and erosion is just not a priority for most folks. It takes years to get permissions and permits to do a little roadwork, and it is very difficult to convince an uphill owner his activities are impacting people down hill. In the heavy rains we get here, runoff gathers a head of steam that increases with distance to an outlet, usually causing a gully or slide on the way.
I believe 1992 was the year a framework was established that set the table for the Norwest Forest Plan and the subsequent HCP. Regardless, this is the science that is insufficient, as we can observe. Glomalin does not contradict any current science it builds on it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

151. August SOD report 

Reports of relatively new threats to regional forests are far more frightening than any timber harvesting. The first reports of Asian Longhorned Beetle in California were found recently in Sacramento. This pest arrived in shipping material from China, but it is known on the East Coast since 1996, where it has established itself as a major problem with 115 million dollars spent on research and control so far this year.
The real issue now is Sudden Oak Death. There is a lot of news at the California Oak Mortality Task Force website this month and most of it is not good. This is the steady trend since the site started monthly updates several years ago. Sudden Oak Death has become an industry for researchers and regulators. A lot of money has been spent and a lot has been learned but there is a lot more to understand before we can even make decisions.
First there is a third species of yew has been found susceptible to p. ramorum. This is a nursery species from Holland and joins West Coast and U.K. species as hosts of the disease.
Five more infected Oregon nurseries revealed the first known cases of infection in magnolia tree, Magnolia loebneri, rhododendron and Pieris japonica as well. Two more were found in Washington State, again Pieris and Rhododendron. Another two retail nurseries were found to have P. Ramorum contaminated camellias and rhododendron. IN all cases trace forward/baclward is being conducted. California has had 53 nurseries found with the disease as of August 1. Of these, ten ship wholesale, eight nationwide and two to Nevada only. For eight of the nurseries it is not the first time. 76 sites have been found nationwide, 53 in California, 14 in Oregon, 2 in Washington, 4 in Georgia, two in Louisiana and one in Tennessee. Three sites are known from British Colombia, and the trace forward/back is underway.
Results compiled for the federal National Nursery Survey, in 41 states show 2,433 nurseries were visited and 39,345 samples were collected. Thirty-eight sites in six states tested positive so far. Only the above mentioned seven sites were outside the already regulated three West Coast states, and these amount to all known cases not on the West Coast.
Meanwhile more trees are passing Kochs test and moving from associate host to known host. The six newly classified hosts are: Castanea sativa, Fraxinus excelsior, Quercus falcata, Quercus ilex, Syringa vulgaris, and Taxus baccata. Here we see many Mediterranean species, also under assault from extreme heat and fire. It is interesting to note that different plant parts are affected depending on the plants species. A ring test to expand testing ability to multiple sites is nearly finished.
Tracking down and destroying the plant material seems to be working, as the above given numbers for sites outside the West compare very favorably with those from the previous year, where 61 sites in 17 states tested positive in 2004’s survey. The National Plant Board met to discuss P. Ramorum. They inspected labs for testing for negative results nad approved 5, with 16 more inspected but not yet approved. They made it easier for infected nurseries to move tested and uninfected stock, and created a research committee to investigate whether certain cultivars are responsible for the movement of the disease in nurseries.
After this is a long list of current research together with synopsis of particular projects. Among the most interesting to me at least is “baiting” the disease and filtering it from watercourses, along with the fact we are looking at multiple endemic phytopthora species, setting conditions for hybridization; infection found in European chestnuts, new phytophthora species and hybrids in Minnesota, that the disease is capable of infecting roots as well as leaves and stems; its persistence in a locality weeks and months after infected material is removed; OSU found variable resistance to infection from totally susceptible to complete resistance in Viburnum; the durability of chlamydospores in various soils and roots; the effectiveness of steam for sterilization and the temperature needed for it; resistance variability in tan oak, one of the worst sufferers; a sstudy on the world of critters that live on California Bay leaves, yeasts, molds and fungi, to see if they aid the phytophthora to spread infection; rhododendron leaf baiting was used on watercourses to study spread into newly infected areas, including recovery eight miles downstream from Redway; the effect of fungicides on nursery stock as well as recycled irrigation water in nurseries; the survivability in subsurface soils in all seasons; recognition of endemic phytophthora species and possible preoccupation of niches. Several links are given for information for professional planners, those interested in S.E. asian phytophthoras, and the new APHIS sudden oak death release.
A most revealing study is done in Britain on 23 hardwood and 11 conifer species important there. We see several families of trees pretty reistent but find Douglas fir consistently hammered; A short discussion of two California look-a-like diseases is followed by an article about Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and explaining the policy of cleaning shoes to each visitor there.
A discussion on the movement and economic uses of infected items repeats earlier findings that the disease does persist in the wood for months as it air dries. No processed products showed any results except firewood air dried less than six months. However, the percentage of usable product from diseased removals is very small and something will have to be done with the rest.
Finally, the Host of the Month is a hybrid yew named taxus media from Holland. It is the second European yew found infected after the UK found it in taxus baccata.
Plenty of people are working hard to discover the kikely outcome of this invasive species attack. One wonders if local species can keep the spread in check or ifsome other factor such as weather will be a contributing factor. We are surprised to hear about resistant tanoaks and should be seeking them out. We worry about transmission from boots, tires and even dust. We worry that Douglas fir seem to be so susceptible, although it is not clear if we are talking infection or mortality. Even if these trees are only impaired and some tan oaks survive, our precipitation interface and root zone storage areas will shrink considerably. This will create more runoff at the time of the event and reduce the amount of water available later in the year.

150. Comment! 

Today I got my first comment on my blog, sixteen months and a hundred and fifty posts later. I have received some emails about it but this is the first person to use Bloggers comment system, but then he posts anonymously. He/she had a couple of good points and let ignorance shine even as he/she yelled about mine.
“Mr. McGuiness shows his ignorance of the road construction standards followed by Palco and the road upgrading that is mandated under the Habitat Conservation Plan. Palco's road upgrading far exceeds the scope of the Good Roads, Clean Creeks program because it is mandated as a cost of doing business, rather than a project that depends on a series of negotiations with individual landowners and erratic funding sources. Also, even a cursory look at a map of ownership within the Mattole watershed will show that Palco's ownership is not in proximity to the estuary as Mr. McGuiness claims.”
I am aware of Palcos road building and upgrading to a large extent, because I have taken Private Ranch and Logging Road seminars put on by Mattole Restoration Council with Bill Weaver of Pacific Watershed Management around ten years ago. I have had roadwork done by Bob Angelini, a private contract logger who works for PL. They did our road in Bridgeville before rolling dips were recognized by the State, and those roads have remained in relatively good shape for ten years now. I am also aware of the huge impacts of roads from walking devastated landscapes with Richard Geinger and Jack Munschke.
To my mind Good Roads Clean Creeks is machine work across multiple ownerships in each tributary, and one of only a few watershed wide restoration that can make an impact, along with revegetation and stream channel improvements. The program only covers roads currently in use, and so vast amounts of work remain to return to even pre 1940 conditions after the program has moved to other streams.
Why would I be so interested in failing roads? People bought destroyed land after the 1964 flood ruined the landscape and many people moved away, or were bought out, like the Bull Creek Watershed. Previous logging and road building has led to as many as ten miles of unimproved road or skid trail for every square mile of land. Couple that with over a hundred inches of rain a year, some years two hundred inches, and we have vast amounts of runoff that should be being at least slowed and absorbed. Roads concentrate runoff in swales that nature optimally designed. We can fix it as we go but only if we are aware, otherwise we will get cumulative impacts from more water sources (any amount over the absorption rate), especially where it collects and concentrates from drainage diversion and vegetation removal.
DFG came out to see my property, which is creekside. The entire watershed above us is impaired and fault lines and undercut toes of entire hillsides, together with artificially steep banks meant there was nu guarantee of endurance or stability for restoration or improvement projects. We are dealing with what is left, and they tell us current science and laws based on it are inadequate to address these issues. DFG said there wasn’t enough money in the world to fix Middle Creek correctly, and even then it would be geologically unstable due to faults and heavy rainfall.
One thing DFG requested was a sediment inventory, and we also established baseline data for Middle And Westlund Creeks to measure over a period of years. The sediment inventory established the fact that every swale between the road and the creek was delivering sediment to the stream, and that new construction had rerouted a large amount of water causing massive gullies and slides on property below them. Good Roads Clean Creeks has no hope of fixing all these things, done in the name of industry and jobs back when. It can reduce sedimentation from publicly used roads (still in multiple landowner mode, to the detriment of reality) through reshaping and culvert upgrades. It can do little for the other disturbed drainages, artificially steep slopes and seemingly endless skid and fire trail remains. And it is all we are going to get at the current rate.
I have been receiving International Erosion Control Associations Erosion Control magazine for several years. In it we see ads for all kinds of silt and sediment retention devices for streets and building sites in populated areas. Humboldt County would benefit from many of these practices, some are on the books for developers but not natural resource management. There was a good article about the 101 culvert replacement in Standish-Hickey several years ago. We see mycorhizzia has made it to the advertising section but somehow is still left out of regulatory discussions since its role in soil aggregation was unknown at the time. This is the critical importance of the discovery of glomalin. We sure would like to see research get serious about this so we can go on to rebuilding the fisheries without worrying about our back.
Perhaps PLs land is pristine. Road building then is a real source of concern. Maybe the roads have been in for years- lets see what they did right. The last statement about the estuary shows a complete lack of knowledge of what happens in heavy rain on scarred ground. The answer is that the sediment will travel into the stream and collect in the drop out zone. Since the area is so steep, the sediment drop out site is the main stem of the Mattole and since they are close to the mouth, that is where the impacts will occur. Everyone upstream working on fisheries and habitat knows the estuary is already full of silt and is nearing unsurvivability for juvenile salmonids in the heat of the year. With the entire watershed working on fisheries recovery for twenty years, all of these impacts are foreseen. Comments like this will not serve to objectify the problem or reduce impacts.
Watching the Freshwater/Elk River fiasco we have suggested both sides take a long look at the science reported since the HCP was signed in 1992. The people here are used to clean creeks because there was little activity in these watersheds when people moved in. PL has done nothing to reduce public friction by announcing an investigation into new revelations about sedimentation caused by deaggregation of soils and increased mobility of those deaggregated soils due to reduced vegetative resistance. Logging rules are like telling a kid to clean his room, no matter what he does you see what he didn’t get to. In this case, all of that free moving sediment.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

149. Randy Stemler 

(A guest book is available to sign for Randy until August 7th at
Randy Stemler, a dedicated restorationist and a cofounder and powerful voice for the Mattole Restoration Council, passed away last month. Randy was a victim of lung cancer although he was a non-smoker. He leaves behind his wife, Amy, and two children, four-year-old daughter Chloe Cascade and three month old son Conrad Reid. This April,he was honored as one of the first Lifetime Achievement Award winners from the Salmonid Restoration Federation.
I had several projects that Randy helped with. In the beginning, we didn’t know the MRC people but we had a lot of legacy damage from previous land practices. Randy walked the land and taught us about landslides and debris flows. We saw how much of the problems were from further up the watershed than our property line. We had already been tree planting for several years. We did a lot of other work he said probably wouldn’t last, and it didn’t. In 1992 we worked with Gabrielle Roach and Mickey Dulas to have the old Middle Creek bridge removed before scour caused the rotting timbers to deliver its foot of roadbed gravel into the creek. Big storms that December caused the plan to be called off even as the very thing we were worried about occurred.
I had been trying to get machine time to move Middle Creek away from a failing bank on my property. The problem, besides permits, was that we needed multiple landowners involved. Middle Creek bridge satisfied that need but was far from the top on needed repairs after the storm, and so that proposal went by the boards. I began attending MRC board meetings to figure a better way. Randy attended many of these meetings. A few years later, as we were still planting trees privately, I was asked for suggested locations for Douglas fir plantings with Mattole seed stored at Davis and grown for bare root planting at Smith River Nursery. I suggested the burned areas on my own property and it seemed like a done deal. But when we went to lay the job out we found access very difficult. We spent several days walking the various access points. None could accommodate the truck delivering the trees. Workers would have to walk in about a mile. We tried every neighbor and possible entry point. IN the end we fixed a portion of the main road. The truck stopped short of the property. From here we hired two neighbors with four wheelers to make multiple trips to the planting site to get the trees there.
The rest of the job was straightforward. We had planned to allow planters to stay at the cabin but they decided to commute since most lived in the area. Local jobs are a constant theme in neighborhood restoration work. 17776 trees went into about thirty acres of burnt land in about two weeks. I was impressed with the thoroughness of the preparation, including flagging the routes, planting areas and boundaries of the job, workers, insurance, equipment and coordination.
My next experience with Randy centered on seed collection to restore the frozen store at Davis, since twenty years had passed since a good seed year. Randy asked if we knew of good trees and we suggested our neighborhood again. Randy studied up and we got several good climbers to shake cones down. But we had poor experiences here due to low seed counts in the cones, possibly from poor pollination, and an extremely high count of damaged cones with insect larva destroying the seed before it matured. While many cones had some good seed, for commercial collection it was inferior. Randy always made sure everyone understood all aspects of these jobs.
The next year Randy had hired a professional seed collector from Sacramento. For some reason this was a bigger year than the year before and the job was accomplished and the seed shipped to Davis for continuing reforestation efforts in the Mattole. This is one of the two collections mentioned in the article about closing the Davis nursery program. We wondered if the trees fake the bugs out with a sacrifice year and a better year behind it, but it is all speculation.
Before Randy left MRC he followed up on previous tree plantings. He stopped by our house in Eureka to ask if the map of previous plantings was right, it didn’t seem like it to him. We pointed out that none of the “planted” areas shown was even on our property. He asked if that’s where the trees had gone. We told him emphatically that the trees were and still are on our property. He said we were excellent watershed stewards and we felt that that said a lot, considering the source.
Randy worked on many projects in the Mattole and Humboldt County. One area you can see his work is in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. At Calf Creek he put in the rock armor to defend the banks. Further up he was responsible for the redwood tree planting just beyond Albee Creek. I am only familiar with a small sample of his work, but it will last more than my lifetime. Thank you, Randy.

148. Water myth, conservation farming and isotopic reconition 

'Myth' that forests improve water flows – study;_ylt=ApNj8sqff1zf.IfcRX.RwMsPLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUlSouth Africa Puts the Unemployed to Work, Restoring Land and Water Amanda Hawn, July 26, 2005
With a Push From the U.N., Water Reveals Its Secrets J. Broad July 26, 2005
This article from Reuters via Yahoo today is a good example of mixed signals and incomplete understanding of the nature of forest systems as precipitation interface and storage areas. The accompanying article from South Africa shows what happens when these kinds of programs are correctly envisaged and operated. The thought that trees should supply water in dry areas has never been true, since lowered rainfall will lead to a grass economy and a higher bacteria to fungi ratio in the soil. Trees that evolved to live on less water exist but high water trees in a low water environment will eventually dry out the landscape. Native vegetation has evolved its own methods for water storage locality by locality over eons.
Native systems, whether grass, forbs shrubs or trees, use fungi species that create soil water storage in these moisture regimes. Tree ranges often coincide with moisture bands as here on the North Coast where we have Douglas fir, redwood and pine belts, and plenty of examples of preferences such as live oak preferring drier sites and so forth
The authors say deep roots hurt in dry times but we see they have missed the entire precipitation interface concept when they say flows are not increased in dry seasons. Maybe compared to direct runoff, which here DOES mean erosion. Again they are afraid water soaking into the biological zone is lost as evapo-transpiration. While this is true much more water is lost from direct evaporation from lakes and rivers. A recent article stated that the five largest lakes in California evaporate more water than the two largest reservoirs hold when full, every year.
We see all kinds of challengeable statements in this article. The amount of particulate matter produced by forests has been shown to be far greater than previously thought. We get all kinds of headlines from these articles about forests creating air pollution and so forth. We point out the deuterium study showing how much Amazon rainfall is from transpired water rather than ocean evaporation. Hydroxyl radicals emitted by trees tear smog molecules like ozone and carbon monoxide apart and create friendlier atmospheric conditions. Emitted molecules are shown to cause water vapor to condense into drops.
Finally, in most of the cases shown the study is for perceived optimum species grown for wood or pulp or some other third purpose, rather than natives grown for water production. We can be sure species decide where who lives the best. Our perceptions are often clouded by good performance under good conditions. A landscape won’t be tested until extreme conditions occur, whether rainfall, drought or disease. We also note that if the landscape has been disturbed by clearing it will take fifty years for the maximum storage area to re-grow back to the starting point. So just planting trees won’t assist the water situation for some time. We also see no stepwise approach, planting one species to hold down the landscape while another species tries to reestablish itself. Here non natives are often useful, as using ponderosa pine to create shade for Douglas fir, with the pine scheduled for harvest as poles in thirty or thirty five years because it doesn’t do well over time in a wet landscape. In short, snapshot views are not very helpful in deciding a course stable for the landscape and profitable for men.
Meanwhile in South Africa a deep knowledge of water and wild land issues has found its way into practices we should look at collectively known as conservation farming. At the very top of the list is the removal of successful non-native vegetation, which is successful because it taps the regions water supply, often draining it. This causes farm and wildlife feed plants to suffer and the people and wildlife with them. The understanding has become that native plants work in the landscape because they store water in the ground for the dry season, keeping springs and streams wet in dry season. Many natives go dormant in the dry season, extending the time water is in the root zone. We see the nonnative vegetation often has successful strategies that outperform natives in the short run but often fail under duress. If enough of the landscape has converted before duress, the results can be devastating to local wildlife populations and habitat. The Africans are also very aware of carbon sequestration and should be players in the carbon market, since this is the likeliest way of deriving income from theses activities in the short term. The program can be a model for the rest of Africa and even natural lands anywhere. But in the current atmosphere of aid to Africa, paying them for resource protection and improvement surely is preferable to welfare handouts and business as usual.
This program has come to cover the same ground we are looking at. Starting with a program to reduce alien plants that were drying rivers up called Working for Water in 1995, and as much a program to put the “poorest of the poor” and especially single parents, the program has expanded to all South Africa and grown into several sister programs-first Working for Wetlands, to restore marshes and other riparian places: then Working on Fire, for suppression and control of wild fires: and Working for Woodlands, which is replanting regions with native vegetation.
It is noteworthy the program seeks to jumpstart natural cycles rather than planning on fixing everything. That is to say we too often count on our ingenuity to fix unexpected consequences when a return to a less intrusive method may be far more beneficial. The program is also creating a labor pool of skilled workers.
We applaud the concept of restoring the natural flow regimes with an eye to providing for human use through Conservation Farming. The activities of the modern land manager have cost the local people and landscape. Finally the government understands and finds itself restoring lands damaged by previous government programs, like restoring the farmland the government paid farmers to drain decades ago. We see eucalyptus detested for using a hundred gallons a day, and note it is or was one of the four primary invasive species in Northern California, along with pampas grass and Scotch broom, and we can relate to the Afrikaans name of ‘mother of millions” and what they mean by “aliens are going ballistic”.
Finally, I watched a report on conditions in Zimbabwe, just to the north and inhabiting a latitude that once made it the breadbasket of Africa. Today the government has forces white farmers off the land without compensation. The natives are not able to operate the farms and Zimbabwe is sliding toward collapse under its ruler Robert Mugabe. Large numbers of black Zimbabweans are illegally crossing the border into Botswanaland, where the government is trying to sort the economic and political refugees from agent provocateurs. The despair and desperation of those in custody shows the crux of the problem in a way words can’t, even over television.
The last article tells of the UN’s water assessment tool known as isotope hydrology. Isotopes allow for chemical fingerprinting of water molecules by the isotopic, or number of neutrons, in a given molecule. Water samples are based on various isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen such that each drop of water has a signature. This way flow, origins, age, source flow and fate of a water source can be determined and management decisions made in light of knowledge. An example shown in the article is if a water source is very young it is probably easily replenished by rain and can continue as is. But if the water is “old”, or fossil water stored in the ground millennia ago, there is a real danger of emptying the reserve.
This is the basis of the deuterium study mentioned earlier in this blog that allowed recognition of transpired water from terrestrial vegetation as opposed to ocean evaporation is repeated here except with O18 to O 16 ratios rather than hydrogen isotopes. Carbon 14 dating is used to determine the age of aquifer waters. This helps establish whether recharge is occurring. Many of the areas worked by the International Atomic Energy Commission projects are in arid developing nations, where the need may be the greatest.
In any case, a lot of recognition of the need to capture precipitation is becoming evident in a variety of ways. The disappointed scientists in the first article should go to a conservation farm. We have seen the effect of wolves on vegetation cause major improvements in just a couple of years; here it is the invasive thirsty plants removal that restores the stream. None of these can cause precipitation patterns to shift, but we can manage what we get much more efficiently.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?