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Glomalin and Conservation in Humboldt County The 1996 discovery of the soil glue glomalin is changing our understanding of the impact of elevated carbon dioxide, while giving important clues to forest health, watersheds, revegetation, wildfire and carbon sequestration. Here I share what I have found so others may read and draw their own conclusions, and relate it to my own experience, Humboldt County issues and stories from the news.
Friday, September 30, 2005
HEALING A WATERSHED
Paul McHugh SF Chronicle 9/23/05
Chris Larson, Freeman House, Joe Zanone and the Mattole Restoration Council were interviewed for the San Francisco Chronicle in part of a series about kayaking down the North Coast from Crescent City to the Bay Area. The Mattole article laid out the situation and improvement seen in fisheries the last few years. We know the massive amount of work needed without going into details, the main problems still revolve around sediment mostly mobilized by past land practices and heavy precipitation. Most of the back country in Northern California has been logged at some point and thousands of miles of skid trails and roads are funneling peak event runoff, which in turn carves or destabilizes the land down slope. Mattole Restoration Council has worked on road decommissioning for years with BLM in the King Range, And BLM put a road to bed on Larrabee Buttes, and selective sites are or will be at Headwaters, King Range, HRSP and Gilham Butte. We are glad to see some fish numbers, and a little discussion on the estuary. We got a number on per yard costs from the article below, about 2.50 a yard. Eighty million yards would be 200 million. Maybe its just that I’m getting so used to everything in billions that that doesn’t seem like a lot.
An excellent article about putting roads to bed in Humboldt Redwoods State Park’s Mill Creek in Weott in Erosion Control (http://www.erosioncontrol.com/) magazine this month. Written by Ethan Casaday, an engineering geologist with the North Coast Redwoods District, California State Parks, the article covers the setting, background, objective, entire process of planning, funding, preliminary studies, prescriptions, implementation and actions, a detailed post construction analysis of the project and the participants gives a clear idea of issues on the ground, and suggests ways to smooth out the process. This project is in keeping with the philosophy of working on entire sub-basin tributary watersheds at once. It cost $515,272 to close 20.4 miles of road, it cost around 2.50 a yard to mitigate road problems in this project. The setting accurately describes conditions throughout the area, although heavy precipitation is not mentioned. These are the same issues Good Roads Clean Creeks is attempting to fix, although damage is so extensive that only a percentage is likely to see the kind of money needed to return it all to natural contours. The Mattole reaches to ten miles of logging road per square mile.
IN the analysis a point is made about some problems in the wet season. We point out that this process would benefit from an inclusion of glomalin thinking, which needs to be grown back quickly, limiting the exposure to failure causing weather events. While mulching reduces impacts and creates seed catching areas, knocking down trees after the work seems like throwing away the accumulated soil stabilization factor of glomalin and root growth. Taking care not to bury functioning glomalin pockets is another consideration. Future stability of the slopes depends on revegetation and the land will slowly stabilize, with no sediment after ten years of regrowth as in studies by Redwood Sciences Lab. Still, landslides are still possible if soils are buried that were fed by trees removed in the process, the glomalin will decompose over several decades before all the soil glue is gone. Hopefully by then enough new material is being produced to keep the land glued together.
An interesting note in this regard was mentioned by the representative of the noteholders in negotiations with PL/ScoPac.( http://www.times-standard.com/local/ci_3071334; http://www.northcoastjournal.com/092905/news0929.html). They wish to separate Scopacs land holding from PL’s mills, as most other operations have done in the past twenty years, and reinvent themselves along with the current more sustainable views of institutional owners and environmental groups. They recognize the logged over land cannot support neither the debt nor the mills by themselves, and that PL needs to buy logs from more sources. They want new management plans for Scopac more in line with the current array of large landholders, which have switched from industrial owners, to institutional owners, many with no-commercial logging clauses in the title. This is a problem because it precludes development of commercial uses of thinning and fire protection materials and limiting possible uses to lop-and-scatter or pile burning or onsite chipping.
Finally,clear evidence of mankind causing warming is not keeping pace with the actual changes we are seeing. Revelations about the inability to know the effect of changes in the sun itself is throwing everything into question except the facts on the ground. The earthshine, or albedo, is poorly understood. Yet we can see massive change in land use in the last twenty five years, and bare ground stores heat and reflects light while vegetation absorbs light and cools through several mechanisms including transpiration, evaporation and shade. It appears something is happening to cause a ten to thirty percent increase in sun energy influencing climate. It must be remembered the geologists tell us the magnetic field of earth is in flux and that could happen quite rapidly. Finally, Ice Ages appear and disappear much more quickly than previously believed. Miss a couple of years of summer and the glaciers will be back. Wild fluctuations of average temperature in short time periods have occurred in the past, humans are extremely adaptable. The difference this time is infrastructure and political boundaries, centralized agriculture and the sheer size of the human population. An example this year is a thirty percent reduction in European plant net productivity due to drought. This in an area where drought has been going on for five or six years and large swaths of forest burn every year, and it is harder and harder to revegetate because there is not enough timely water. Could be desertification from local use but more likely a shift in weather patterns. We know now a large amount of rainwater is generated from evapo-transpiration over land, and this moisture travels the jet stream, creating rainfall continents away.
One thing nature has worked out is to take advantage of natural resources for environmental modification to take advantage of climatic conditions. The amount of land being devegetated is as much cause for concern as smoke in the atmosphere or vanishing species. More carbon is being added to the mix from glomalin destroying land practices. Not enough attention is being paid for the need to use this rising atmospheric fertilization to stabilize landscapes, provide water storage in the biological zone, increase forest production of gases that lead to particle formation and cloud formation. Destruction of wetlands also reduces our natural defenses against storms and flooding. Coral reefs play a part in mitigating storm surge. All are benefiting from increasing CO2, in many cases with added emphasis in warmer situations. But without it being recognized the process is constantly undermined by the results of our activities.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Today as Rita churns across the Gulf we are counting on the accuracy of our science in the guise of meteorology to warn us about the looming threat. We can all see the pictures on NWS websites or TV. I often make my own weather predictions based on TV weather. We all see the pattern but the actual paths are guesswork, based on most likely outcomes. When it comes to life and death, or leaving everything behind to evacuate, it really becomes necessary to have full authority of science backing up legal concerns, because you are putting a lot of people and property at risk.
Governments set their agendas to scarce funding resources. Government officials who got their jobs because groups of people contributed funds owe allegiance to those who put them there. The people in power then act in ways compatible with their backers, which may or may not be in the general publics interest. Since the public is concerned with growing the economy, it is up to the government to find and set limits by funding and recognizing the contributions of science, the only way to predict and interpret results of our activities. So the people are counting on the government to protect them from themselves, knowing the species will maintain constant pressure on any resource found useful, legally or not.
Two years ago federal agencies were blasted for not sharing information or recognizing each others work. This was only a small example of what has been occurring over the last five years. A steady stream of poor studies erodes previous scientific evidence that was generally accepted. We have no problem with science changing as new information comes to light- this is the scientific process. It fails when it authors jump to conclusions radically different from the common knowledge based on poorly planned studies, peer reviewers are discounted, is tested against economic means, or is politically distasteful.
This debate is seen in today’s papers in a commentary article in the LA Times today titled Bush And The Mad Scientists by Chris Mooney of Seed magazine writing about the Plan B contraception failing to gain over the counter status, the new market based fisheries policy, the failure to recognize natural disasters as a large a threat as terrorism, the debate over carbon emissions and environmental change, control over the supply of food seed and its quality, relaxing the roadless rule and federal failure to continue to protect clean air and clean water or people in known risk areas. The current administration has challenged the scientific community in all of these areas, mostly on an economic basis. “Perfectly safe, absolutely harmless” for their products and concerns; unproven, too costly or wrong in the eyes of God in anything standing in the way. But they are counting on science to lead them back to the moon “on a shoestring.”
When I was growing up, the background threat of nuclear war was an important part of thinking. Science could make the world slightly better or very much worse. Science was out to prove itself with space exploration and cures for many of the infectious diseases in the world. Sometime in the sixties serious threat of nuclear war seemed to dissipate, and recognition of dwindling resources for a booming population came into view. Since we no longer feared devastation from a single source like a Soviet ICBM attack, we started being interested in life issues again, and the environment became an important focus of study.
Memories of air armada campaigns meant civil defense was an important component of readiness, and I remember the public announcements saying the yellow and black air raid shelter signs on many buildings with basements meant they were available for many kinds of disasters. I often wonder what became of civil defense. It might be a good idea to restore local networks of volunteers ready to react in any emergency, to do the things relief and emergency groups need time to organize. I would include planned shelter or distribution points so folks know where to go.
In the book Celtic Wisdom an old poet is questioned about the end times. The description is much scarier than Revelations could ever be, because it tells us we are the cause of the end times, and not the victims, and ego is a big part of the problem. The description is of every person having an equal voice, reason and insanity inseparable; fools, cynics and satirists are equal to statesmen and leaders, all utterances bear equal weight and the ability to discriminate lost. That’s enough to set the stage for any number of catastrophic events.
So it is I find myself with a possibly important discovery that lies outside the accepted norm. I only know about it from peer reviewed science published as articles in the popular press, but it ties together a lot of previously published information into an explanation of what I was seeing on the ground. Last week I wrote about the problems with the Soil Organic Carbon studies in England and Wales pointing out the loss as soil carbon due to glomalin destruction caused by machinery. CO2 Science magazine pointed out its failures in other ways. Similarly, the Scientific American article on forest soil carbon sequestration totally ignores glomalin deposition as a product of tree productivity, and is also ripped by CO2 Science for other weaknesses in the setup and the study. So I continue to concur with CO2 Science despite the fact they seem to be taking a long time recognizing the importance of glomalin in forest productivity studies. It must be included at the outset.
Somehow the country must be convinced science is not malleable to the wishes of industry or the economy or even the citizens. We cannot say science is absolute because it is based on a continuing inquiry that is in constant state of rediscovery. Nevertheless, it is possible to make an argument seem like good science when it fits the stated needs, and takes other scientists to poke holes in it. Throwing out good science because it contradicts our preplanned position is not in the best interests of our country, its resources or its people.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Parks' staff versed in explaining Earth's dynamics to visitors
Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer Monday, September 12, 2005
Geologists see the The National Park Service as a great opportunity to educate people about local geology. Most Park employees have biology backgrounds. Robert Lillie, a professor of geosciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis, has written a book titled “Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments and Seashores.” In it he says many of the nations’ 380 National Park sites are recognized because of unique geological features. He is on tour collaborating with Park Service rock specialists teaching rangers more about tectonic forces that shape their work. He started off with Golden Gate National Recreation Area and will visit Rocky Mountain National Park later this month. His team will visit forty-five parks in the next year. A lot of time in the article is spent explaining how cookies and decks of cards can be used to simulate geologic activity.
This has been my experience as well, that geological information is either hard to get or hard to understand, especially here on the North Coast. Even when you thin the possibilities of rock to one or two you then are left with soils to study, as shown for redwood with Dr. Paul J. Zinke, Associate Professor of Forestry, University of California, School of Forestry, Berkeley paper Soils and Ecology of the Redwoods. Even with soils a limiting factor we find redwood grows well over a much larger range than its home. It seems to me that soils must be very unfriendly to prevent growth. We do note the radical difference in plants growing in serpentine soils, home of many species of interest.
West Nile threatens magpie population
Joe Robinson reports in today’s L. A. Times article that West Nile virus threatens yellow-billed magpies, unique to California. UC Davis scientists have asked Fish and Game to arrange an inquiry board of scientists to study the situation. West Nile is particularly severe in corvids, the family composing jays, raven, crows and magpies. Two-thirds to three-quarters of crows in the East have already perished.
Walter Boyce, director of the Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis, said 88,000 dead birds with the disease have been found this year, and that is probably a fraction of all bird deaths due to the virus.
"There have been a large number of magpies observed dead this year," Boyce says, noting the yellow-billed magpie, unique to California, could go extinct. "Because the magpie is limited in distribution and highly susceptible to the virus, this could push it over the edge."
Like Sudden Oak Death, this new disease threatens to radically alter California ecosystems on a landscape level. A lot of discussion was focused on this family in the Headwaters management plan, as these birds take advantage of human activity in the forest to predate other species, or usurp their nests. I also read many years ago that due to market hunting of birds, only 10 percent of the 1900 bird population existed in 1950, and that had reduced to a similar fraction since then, leaving about one percent of the 1900 population. Market hunting in the late eighteen hundreds decimated many wildlife populations and was the cause for many of the beginning environmental laws, such as the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.
Water quality hearings on hold John Driscoll Eureka Times Standard 9/14/2005
Meanwhile, North Coast Regional Water Quality hearings slated to begin yesterday in Ferndale for Freshwater and Elk River waste water discharges were temporarily shelved as Pacific Lumber got an after hours restraining order preventing the hearings. Due to PL’s claim that NCRWQCB staff could not have read all the comments and criticisms by the scheduled date. Katherine Kuhlman, Executive Director of the Board, said the Board does not simply respond to its staff critiques, and often overruled them in their decisions. She said she was unclear of the cause for the restraining order, which appears to cover a September 27 hearing as well. The case could cause PL to lose more than half of their permitted harvest, putting tremendous pressure on their ability to service their debt.
Katrina turned lush forests into wastelands
9/14/2005 Julie Schmit and Elliot Blair Smith, USA TODAY
USA Today reports more than 2.4 billion dollars in timber lost to Hurricane Katrina, according the the Mississippi Forestry Commission, damaging about 1.3 million acres, or nearly half of Mississippi’s timber. Timber is a major industry, the poorest state in the country. Sixty percent of the land is in forest, a lot of it in private hands with about 100 acres an average holding. While the salvage is ready to go, many problems including closed roads and lack of power are getting things off to a slow start. Another problem is the blue stain mold, which makes wood products less desirable but does not affect the soundness of the wood. Tom Harris, publisher of the Timber Mart-South price-reporting service, and a professor at University of Georgia, said overwhelming demand has not caused the bue stain timber to be used in the past. He says if the crushing need makes it acceptable to use it will be the first time. “Harris predicts that the glut of fallen timber will benefit mill owners at the timber ranchers' expense, depressing the raw materials' price. At the retail level, he says, the effect is "almost reverse. Huge demand for lumber and plywood will drive up (retail) prices."
Monday, September 12, 2005
After detecting the disease and an experimental treatment in February, 2004, to attempt to control the limited number of infected California bay laurel trees in Redway, survey began to identify the infested area and to test the feasibility of future control treatments using aerial detection, watershed monitoring, and a residential and wildland ground-based survey.
“Partners in this strategy included UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Humboldt/Del Norte County, the Humboldt County Department of Agriculture, the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology Rizzo Lab, the UC Berkeley Garbelotto Lab, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the USDA Forest Service, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), Hoopa Tribal Forestry, Yurok Tribal Forestry, the Bureau of Land Management, and numerous private and public landowners who granted permission to survey their properties.”
“Pathologists and foresters from the University of California, USDA Forest Service, and CDF recognize that the disease is operating at a scale that is much more difficult to manage than previously thought.
Management of P. ramorum at a landscape scale has not been attempted before in California. The group recommends an adaptive management approach that attempts to contain the pathogen within the smallest geographic area possible, treating the area much like a wildfire containment area. Experimental treatments will be applied, where landowner permission and funding can be obtained, to the perimeter of the infected areas in the hope of containing the pathogen and preventing spread to other watersheds. Bay and tanoak, the primary hosts for the pathogen in the region, will be removed within this “ridgeline host reduction zone” as the highest priority for treatment. Any new infected areas outside the perimeter will be aggressively treated. Within the perimeter of the infested area, the cooperators hope to compare the success of various treatment approaches as well as reduce inoculum levels in the areas with the greatest apparent concentration of P. ramorum. A detailed report of findings and proposed treatment strategies will be made available soon. For a map of the 2005 Southern Humboldt P. ramorum Survey Status, click here. For more information on the survey or Humboldt’s P. ramorum program, contact UCCE Humboldt/Del Norte’s Yana Valachovic at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Chris Lee at: email@example.com. “
We applaud the attempt to contain the disease in a geographic locality but doubt it will do much good. There are just too many transmission vectors and insufficient understanding of the movement of the organism. We note the publishing of a book covering nine years of research chronologically. We had noted Dr. Alex Shigo (he calls it California Oak Decline) predicted the existence of native relations to the disease that would hybridize and cause a new set of problems is borne out with one new US phytophthora species and several in Europe.
An earlier article noted lack of SOD in lands burned in the last fifty years. This could be a good management tool, but it raises the specter of stand replacement every fifty years, which would not allow for the full recovery of the soil water storage mechanism. Like harvesting small conifers via clearcut, it is a recipe for continual landscape desiccation, and lowered ability to resist soil movement.
Five new host plants have tested positive for P. Ramorum via pot culture. They are Oregon Ash, Redwood ivy, California nutmeg, maidenhair fern, and Sweet Ciciely.
Representative Pombo has asked the General Accounting Office to report on government responses to invasive species in our forests. They chose Emerald Ash borer, Asian Longhorned beetle and SOD. The first two are complete. GAO reps will be here in late September to gather “insight into how P. ramorum got into the US, what damage it has and could cause, how efforts have minimized its impact to the forests, what risk assessments have been done and used for allocating resources, and what lessons have been learned that will be used to improve this or future responses. The USDA’s APHIS and Forest Service, in cooperation with CDFA, the COMTF, CDF, Native Americans, County Agricultural Commissioners, nursery industry representatives, regulated states, and other stakeholders, are coordinating the compilation of information and site visits for the review.”
Another new species of phytophthora has been recognized in England, and one of its two oaks (Sessile oak, Quercus petraea)has been found infected, symptoms being bleeding trunk cankers.. Other new hosts come from China, Evergreen maple (Acer laevegatum), and Michelia doltsopa, used for landscaping in California.
We are surprised there are no warnings or restrictions coming out because the disease can even spread in cut wood, let alone bark. We would think maybe no wood should come out of the area or it will spread it around Humboldt. Not that it can’t spread in other ways. But we won’t be able to do that if the disease gets into Douglas fir and redwood in a big way or we will lose our timber industry. Fire may be able to contain the outbreak, but that is a large response with an iffy outcome. Fires like the Canoe Creek fire may actually be a better prescription but that remains to be seen.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
New Scientist reported recently three quarters of published science is wrong. We often see results from research started before more information comes to light. Here is a fine example. This study started nearly twenty years before glomalin wass discovered. Since we believe starving glomalin can lie decaying at much greaster depths than this, we can even surmise why the ground appears to be sinking. I suggest first a history of previous land use for say fifty years, to be sure deeply deposited glomalin has all decayed. We would measure to a greater depth than 6 inches, as that is for row crop farmers and does not give a clear picture of soil carbon profiles in areas previously occupied by deeper rooted plants and trees. Lastly, measuring the top layer does not account for carbon being deposited at any greateerr depth. If your crop deposits glomalin to ten inches, and is replaced six inches every year, you will maintain fertility in the topsoil even as deeper deposits from previous land use decay. Like the U. S. FACE experiments, we would like to see this science repeated in forestlands to a much greaster depth, and with a historical land use analysis to know how much glomalin may be present at the site before measurements begin. It is also interesting to wonder about the surface water capacity of the sites and if that has changed over time. Ground radar may give a quick reading but a connection between water and glomalin needs to be quantified, preferrably as part of a wider study. We point out in response to the Guardian that richer soils often have less need for forasging mycorhizzia, and thus we expect lower production than in poorer soils.
“Warmer soils will have encouraged greater microbial activity so more rapid decay of organic matter in the soil, leading to greater discharges of gases.” Some of these are the very microbes fixing glomalin in the soil, a higher rate of activity will mean higher rates of carbon fixation. We will also find glomalin to greater depth annually of lands being reforested or rewilded. While the British scientists are worried their study shows little hope for controlling carbon dioxide, they contribute directly to our understanding, and pave the way for more focused studies based on a knowledge of glomalin. Three-quarters of the planet's soil carbon is trapped in the temperate zones, they note. Professor Kirk said: "It had been reckoned that the CO2 fertilisation effect was somehow offsetting about 25% of the direct human induced carbon dioxide emissions. It was reckoned that the soil temperature emission effect would catch up in maybe 10 to 50 years' time. We are showing that it seems to be happening rather faster than that."
In answer to that, we include CO2 Sciences article showing accelerated productivity over fifty years in the Amazon Basin, where carbon capture seems to be working better than expected. It is interesting how much we seem to depend on tropical forests for this when the soil isn’t very deep and the glomalin seems to turn over at an accelerated pace. If this is occurring at that rate, and temperate forests are not as quick to decay glomalin because they are cooler, then we can believe that three quarters of the earths soil carbon is in temperate zones. The problem is that it is clear no one is measuring carbon deposition and storage at tree root depths, water carrying capacity and the changes in soil as glomalin decays.
Finally, in reading archeological articles from Britain there is a lot of remorse over the use of tractors and bulldozers on the landscape after WWII. Several books have mentioned that WWII aerial photos revealed old depressions in the ground that often signaled ancient sites, even in areas farmed for hundreds of years. It all disappears under modern equipment, illustrating the extent of carnage on the ground due to those machines. Once again, we have no idea what we may have lost.
8 September 2005
Grounds for concern
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7056/edsumm/e050908-11.htmlThe possibility of a positive feedback between CO2 release from soils and global warming is one of the most contentious issues in climate research. The concern is that rising temperatures may be causing some of the massive reserves of carbon stored in the soil to be released into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas CO2, resulting in a further increase in temperature and yet more CO2 release. So far what evidence there is for this feedback mechanism has come from small-scale laboratory and field experiments and mathematical modelling. Now a team from the UK National Soil Resources Institute and Rothamsted Research presents data from a long-term national-scale soil monitoring scheme that reveal extensive carbon losses during the past 25 years: land use has little effect on the rate of carbon loss suggesting a possible link to climate change.
News and Views: Environmental science: Carbon unlocked from soils
Changes in climate and land use are implicated as the main factors in the large-scale loss of carbon from soils in England and Wales over the past 25 years. The same picture is likely to apply much more broadly.
E. Detlef Schulze and Annette Freibauer
Full Text | PDF (222K)
Letter: Carbon losses from all soils across England and Wales 1978−2003
Pat H. Bellamy, Peter J. Loveland, R. Ian Bradley, R. Murray Lark and Guy J. D. Kirk
Loss of soil carbon 'will speed global warming' http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,1565049,00.htmlTim Radford, science editor
Thursday September 8, 2005
England's soils have been losing carbon at the rate of four million tonnes a year for the past 25 years - losses which will accelerate global warming and which have already offset all the cuts in Britain's industrial carbon emissions between 1990 and 2002, scientists warn today.
The research dashes hopes that more carbon dioxide emissions might mean more vegetation growth and therefore more carbon removed from the atmosphere.
The unexpected loss of carbon from the soils - consistently, everywhere in England and Wales and therefore probably everywhere in the temperate world - means more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which means even more global warming, and yet more carbon lost from the soil.
"All the consequences of global warming will occur more rapidly. That's the scary thing: the amount of time we have got to do something about it is smaller than we thought," Guy Kirk, of Cranfield University, told the British Association Festival of Science, in Dublin.
He and colleagues sampled the top 15cm (6in) of soil at almost 6,000 fixed points in England and Wales between 1978 and 2003, to measure the changes in living and decaying matter locked in pastures, croplands, forests, bogs, scrubland and heaths.
Their findings, published in Nature today, show that carbon was being lost from the soil at an average of 0.6% a year: the richer the soils, the higher the rate of loss. When the figures were extrapolated to include all of the UK, the annual loss was 13m tonnes.
There was no single factor other than global warming that could explain such changes in non-agricultural soils, they said. "These losses completely offset the past technological achievements in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, putting the UK's success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a different light," said Detlef Schulze and Annette Freibauer, of the Max Planck Institute, in Nature.
In the past 25 years the average temperature has increased by half a degree centigrade and the growing season of the northern hemisphere has been extended by almost 11 days. Warmer soils will have encouraged greater microbial activity so more rapid decay of organic matter in the soil, leading to greater discharges of gases.
For more than two decades, climate scientists have tried to calculate the planet's annual carbon flow. Some of the carbon is absorbed by the oceans, to be trapped as limestone; some is locked in soil as peat or stored in woodland. The latest research implies that in a warmer world much of this "lost" carbon will find its way back into the atmosphere more quickly.
The study confirms the value of long-term research: the national soil inventory was established in 1978 as a network of fixed points at intervals of three miles, and the scientists used went on using the same techniques to measure the changes in soil carbon over more than 20 years.
Three-quarters of the planet's soil carbon is trapped in the temperate zones, they note. Professor Kirk said: "It had been reckoned that the CO2 fertilisation effect was somehow offsetting about 25% of the direct human induced carbon dioxide emissions. It was reckoned that the soil temperature emission effect would catch up in maybe 10 to 50 years' time. We are showing that it seems to be happening rather faster than that."
Continued Accelerated Growth of Amazonian Forests CO2 Science Magazine Volume 8, Number 36: 7 September 2005
For most of the past century it was believed that old-growth forests, such as those of Amazonia, should be close to dynamic equilibrium. Just the opposite, however, has been repeatedly observed over the past two decades. In one of the first studies to illuminate this new reality, Phillips and Gentry (1994) analyzed the turnover rates - which are close correlates of net productivity (Weaver and Murphy, 1990) - of forty tropical forests from all around the world. They found that the growth rates of these already highly productive forests had been rising ever higher since at least 1960, and that they had experienced an apparent acceleration in growth rate sometime after 1980. Commenting on these findings, Pimm and Sugden (1994) reported that the consistency and simultaneity of the forest growth trends that Phillips and Gentry had documented on several continents led them to conclude that "enhanced productivity induced by increased CO2 is the most plausible candidate for the cause of the increased turnover."A few years later, Phillips et al. (1998) analyzed forest growth rate data for the period 1958 to 1996 for several hundred plots of mature tropical trees scattered around the world, finding that tropical forest biomass, as a whole, increased substantially over the period of record. In fact, the increase in the Neotropics was equivalent to approximately 40% of the missing terrestrial carbon sink of the entire globe. Consequently, they concluded that tropical forests "may be helping to buffer the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2, thereby reducing the impacts of global climate change." And, again, they identified the aerial fertilization effect of the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content as one of the primary factors likely to be responsible for this phenomenon.More recently, Laurance et al. (2004a) reported accelerated growth in the 1990s relative to the 1980s for the large majority (87%) of tree genera in 18 one-hectare plots spanning an area of about 300 km2 in central Amazonia, while Laurance et al. (2004b) observed similarly accelerated tree community dynamics in the 1990s relative to the 1980s. And once again, it was suggested, in the words of Laurance et al. (2005), that these "pervasive changes in central Amazonian tree communities were most likely caused by global- or regional-scale drivers, such as increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations (Laurance et al., 2004a,b)."Expanding upon this theme, Laurance et al. (2005) say they "interpreted these changes as being consistent with an ecological 'signature' expected from increasing forest productivity (cf., Phillips and Gentry, 1994; Lewis et al. 2004a,b; Phillips et al., 2004)." They note, however, that they have been challenged in this conclusion by Nelson (2005), and they thus go on to consider his arguments in some detail, methodically dismantling them one by one.At the end of the day, it thus appears that a large body of scientists (see the references cited below) agrees that a wealth of scientific data confirms the reality of the ever-increasing productivity of earth's tropical forests, especially those of Amazonia; and they tend to agree that the concomitant rise in the air's CO2 content has had much to do with this phenomenon. We also agree, noting that an even greater wealth of laboratory and field data demonstrates that rising forest productivity is exactly what one would expect to observe in response to the stimulus provided by the ongoing rise in the atmosphere's CO2 concentration (see many of the Headings listed under Trees in our Subject Index).Sherwood, Keith and Craig IdsoReferencesLaurance, W.F., Nascimento, H.E.M., Laurance, S.G., Condit, R., D'Angelo, S. and Andrade, A. 2004b. Inferred longevity of Amazonian rainforest trees based on a long-term demographic study. Forest Ecology and Management 190: 131-143. Laurance, W.F., Oliveira, A.A., Laurance, S.G., Condit, R., Dick, C.W., Andrade, A., Nascimento, H.E.M., Lovejoy, T.E. and Ribeiro, J.E.L.S. 2005. Altered tree communities in undisturbed Amazonian forests: A consequence of global change? Biotropica 37: 160-162.Laurance, W.F., Oliveira, A.A., Laurance, S.G., Condit, R., Nascimento, H.E.M., Sanchez-Thorin, A.C., Lovejoy, T.E., Andrade, A., D'Angelo, S. and Dick, C. 2004a. Pervasive alteration of tree communities in undisturbed Amazonian forests. Nature 428: 171-175.Lewis, S.L., Malhi, Y. and Phillips, O.L. 2004a. Fingerprinting the impacts of global change on tropical forests. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 359: 437-462.Lewis, S.L., Phillips, O.L., Baker, T.R., Lloyd, J., Malhi, Y., Almeida, S., Higuchi, N., Laurance, W.F., Neill, D.A., Silva, J.N.M., Terborgh, J., Lezama, A.T., Vásquez Martinez, R., Brown, S., Chave, J., Kuebler, C., Núñez Vargas, P. and Vinceti, B. 2004b. Concerted changes in tropical forest structure and dynamics: evidence from 50 South American long-term plots. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 359: 421-436.Nelson, B.W. 2005. Pervasive alteration of tree communities in undisturbed Amazonian forests. Biotropica 37: 158-159.Phillips, O.L., Baker, T.R., Arroyo, L., Higuchi, N., Killeen, T.J., Laurance, W.F., Lewis, S.L., Lloyd, J., Malhi, Y., Monteagudo, A., Neill, D.A., Núñez Vargas, P., Silva, J.N.M., Terborgh, J., Vásquez Martínez, R., Alexiades, M., Almeida, S., Brown, S., Chave, J., Comiskey, J.A., Czimczik, C.I., Di Fiore, A., Erwin, T., Kuebler, C., Laurance, S.G., Nascimento, H.E.M., Olivier, J., Palacios, W., Patiño, S., Pitman, N.C.A., Quesada, C.A., Saldias, M., Torres Lezama, A., B. and Vinceti, B. 2004. Pattern and process in Amazon tree turnover: 1976-2001. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences 359: 381-407.Phillips, O.L. and Gentry, A.H. 1994. Increasing turnover through time in tropical forests. Science 263: 954-958.Phillips, O.L., Malhi, Y., Higuchi, N., Laurance, W.F., Nunez, P.V., Vasquez, R.M., Laurance, S.G., Ferreira, L.V., Stern, M., Brown, S. and Grace, J. 1998. Changes in the carbon balance of tropical forests: Evidence from long-term plots. Science 282: 439-442.Pimm, S.L. and Sugden, A.M. 1994. Tropical diversity and global change. Science 263: 933-934.Weaver, P.L. and Murphy, P.G. 1990. Forest structure and productivity in Puerto Rico's Luquillo Mountains. Biotropica 22: 69-82.
Monday, September 05, 2005
As a society, defense against nature is first and foremost. We act collectively to protect collective interests, health and safety among the priorities. It takes political will to spend money on prevention and readiness, yet like insurance it is necessary or the losses will be staggering. It is possible to engineer and build a safer structure, but how much can be spent to accomplish the task? What about not financing the recommended precautions called for as they are being implemented? Spending at the national and state levels should protect citizens and the productivity of the nation. Tax cuts that imperil large numbers of people should be criminal.
Growing up in the Cold War and within society’s clear recall of WWII, massive destruction and collective effort were a reality in peoples minds. Sure enough the nukes would fly one day and it would look like the London blitz or Berlin in ’45 or one of those Japanese cities we laid waste to. People built and stocked fallout shelters, something that would actually work in a tornado. And if the military sealed an area off and ordered everyone out, they made sure it was so.
One episode of Malcolm in the Middle had the grandmother, a European war survivor, telling Malcolm his education would be worth nothing when they came for him “with the trucks in the middle of the night.” As much as that rings of civil liberties lost, the trucks never came after an order of mandatory evacuation and forty-eight hours of lead time to remove 125,000 people without transportation. Where were the trucks for the frail, disabled, poor and otherwise recalcitrant? Americans have been led to believe the government would be there in a disaster.
After the horror of a weeks worth of television images amazingly free of public officials, the heroes that emerge, to me, are the care providers stuck in this mess and not willing to put their responsibility aside for their own interests, at the Superdome, the Convention center and probably in many of those submerged homes. Saturday there was a picture online of a dead woman in a wheelchair outside one of the complexes; it says unknown dead woman symbolizes the forgotten. But Thursday her grandson was beside himself in front of cameras saying they had wheeled her there as directed, only to go three days with no water. One fellow on the runway had flown with a large number of premature babies out of the pediatric unit. He was there by himself; no helicopter had gone back for the mothers and nurses.
It is incredibly unfortunate shoot to kill orders for looting were not issued with the mandatory evacuation before the hurricane. It is easily modified or unimplemented in dire needs, acts as a deterrent, points up the severity of the crises and the need to be mindful of mandatory duties. By the time it was called for rescuers had already paused whenever fired on, an unacceptable condition, and people were starving and dehydrating and should not be considered looters at that point. Then the troops arrive carrying their rifles as though they were in a combat zone. Their hands aren’t free to work, and they have no enemies in continental North America. They didn’t look friendly. Small groups of well armed law enforcement hunter teams are all that are needed to quell opportunists and provide security. This belittled the people- that the rescuers felt they were not safe from the people asking for help.
In many ways this administration echoes Germany of the thirties. One thing my dad said he fought for in Europe was not to need to show ID in order to travel. “Let me see your papers, please.” was an evil statement impinging on the right to travel freely and privately. The government was far above all else, especially the law. Informing on your neighbors was encouraged and rewarded. Ignoring or attacking lower classes was rampant. They invented modern propaganda methods using psychology as a basis. They attacked the churches to undermine the people’s stalwarts. However, we have not established the authority to make people act and have not acted in a way that creates trust among the neediest people. It is caring for the neediest that separates us from them, our disabled and infirm their “useless feeders.”
Katrina the natural event was not preventable. Katrina as an engineering disaster of underspending on a known problem will echo through time. Katrina as a tipping point in consideration of the fabric of our social safety net is a watershed event. No region in America is free of natural disaster threat. Preparedness for natural disasters prepares us for other scenarios like terrorist attacks, but screening luggage does not prepare us in any way for natural disasters. Any regional hub in America will eventually attract the sick, those in need of medical or social service, the frail, the poor. Disaster planning must account for the last person out of every neighborhood.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/national/04conserve.html?th&emc=th It is ironic this article is from the New York Times, and the place they go to is timberland formerly owned by Plum Creek Timber, the company Robert Manne left to head Pacific Lumber here in Humboldt. We see they sold 88,000 acres of land to conservationists, presumably after it was cut, since they seem happy to be done with it. Once again writers are surprised by the coalition that developed to make it happen, but these coalitions are the only way enough interest and resources get focused on these issues. As we have stated repeatedly, buying land to preserve it limits the amount you will be able to buy, prevents repairs and improvements, decreases the tax base, limits job opportunities and new ideas and often provides recreation opportunities that go underutilized due to remoteness, requires state or federal agencies to hold title for management and law enforcement as well as for duration. We are not talking wilderness here, functional landscapes have to be the goal.
Communities have demanded their right to a share in their own indigenous resources. Environmental health and local jobs are critical components of community forestry efforts that regional owners can provide for compared to bottom line driven overly capitalized and centralized heavy industry. Then the forest resources go back to all the forest resources and not just timber- water quality, air cleaning, carbon sequestering, biodiversity, wild life habitat, fire risk reduction, and the peace of the forest.
How to get there is clarified to some extent by the Times-Standard article,
http://www.times-standard.com/local/ci_3000354. This is a major focus of my blog, as well as BLM planning for Headwaters Forest, and King Range and Gilham Butte in the Redwood to the Sea Wildlife Corridor. These prescriptions allow the formation and functioning of the mycorhizzia and glomalin deposition which results reduced sedimentation and clean water, and better late summer flows, in short, better habitat. There are restrictions on commercial harvest of timber on these lands. A better model finds use for the huge amount of vegetation that would be removed if this became the general management concept and creates jobs, and more importantly, cash flow for stewards and communities. Careful select cutting over large acreages then could be sustained indefinitely without widespread sedimentation but below the rate at which road building is profitable, forcing less destructive methods of extraction.
Mr. Hartley rightly points out late seral conditions are relatively easy to replicate through management treatments, especially early in the growth cycle of new stands, up to about 80 years. It is a lot easier to deal even earlier because there is so much less volume to dispose of. It also allows the trees to take immediate advantage of minerals, water and light. Douglas fir, in particular, will often recolonize an area with thousands of seedlings. Eventually they will thin down to a few hundred very large trees with some second growth scattered around, and a huge fuel load of dead and broken trees and limbs. Douglas fir was planted in place of redwoods because it will provide sawlogs much faster than redwood seedlings. But Douglas fir is not as long lived, does not stump sprout, has minimal fire resistance, and dies if the root crown is buried in silt. So there are very good reasons to plant redwood, especially near streams, and a few interplanted among Douglas fir to be left as leave trees will give stability to the landscape over the long term. We also have suggested studies of using redwood trees as screens across feeder creeks, using fire resistance and water retention as windbreaks to prevent fires from using side creeks as chimneys, and for catching and retaining sediment in flooding. Shade and moisture together with reduced fuel loads and spacing will give a measure of reduced fire risk.
An issue I have been slow getting to is the role of bacteria in the formation of our soil water storage unit. This week New Scientist reported a probable ten fold increase in the number of species due to restructuring the method of sampling soil bacteria used to determine the number of species. Bacteria take us a further step down in the reductionist thread here, with one of the earliest things I read about mycorhizzia was that the hyphae provided safe haven for beneficial bacteria. Another tantalizing statement I read said the role of bacteria in aggregating soils through production of sticky substances was well understood. There has been a large interest in biofilms recently as well, often created by large quantities of similar cells and giving a colony of single cell organisms some properties of multicellular organisms. We begin to see how an assemblage of very small creatures can create an amazing thing like a watershed if there is a common need and a collective benefit, and a resource to work with. Once the bacteria with chlorophyll teamed up with the dependant workhorse fungi, the two could fix carbon and release oxygen and develop better mechanisms for such basic needs as light gathering, water and nutrient collection by growing bigger plants, deepening roots, aggregating soil and storing water for use in dry times. We often see life appear by the simple addition of water due to endemic seeds and spores.
Bacteria communicate their abundance, which often acts as a population control measure. Fungi are known to communicate via pheromone and probably control abundance and succession in any given area. It probably is the mechanism that determines which mycorhizzia appear in a stand as it ages, without old growth types heavily suppressing other types through this network, in undisturbed areas. Shade may also play a critical role in fungi activity.
A recent show about microbiologists on PBS had scientists collecting soil samples from beneath Douglas fir in Vancouver. You could see the glomalin but they were far more concerned with bacterial differences and soil differences in a very small area. They were sampling by old stumps as well, thus missing the living influence of the tree on the soil. Nevertheless, interesting work again stating how difficult it is to grow natural dependant species in laboratory conditions, just as the mycologists studying mycorhizzia have found. Most cultivated mushrooms feed on dead plant material and can be cultivated but mycorhizzia are dependant on a primary producer they have a special relationship with.
We also saw Russian scientists sampling for altered soil microbes outside Chernobyl Number Four in pine test plots, hoping to find altered microbes producing new antibiotics. They were actually succeeding with primitive equipment and conditions. But a click of the channel and there was an Indian women fighting Monsanto over the company’s patenting native plants of Indian agriculture in their continued quest to corner agricultural seed markets. Another scientist was very worried over genes escaping into the natural world. His argument was a genetically altered salmon that grew to five pounds in the first year could escape. Its offspring would out compete native fish and ensure his bloodline. After forty generations all trace of the wild fishes DNA had vanished and a newer, larger fish was established in the wild without benefit of the test of time, and limited in genetic variability, the basis of adaptability. One last thought is that maybe that “problem salmon” grew fast enough to evade predators like the pike-minnow in wild conditions.
In the future we will need the products of forest more than ever. A new viewpoint in which we live within the natural law can provide all we need but cannot sustain artificial rates of activity based on debt. Any patch of woods provides to the public good through air cleaning, shade, soil protection and preciptitation control for a vast region. This is not anything new, it is that resources are now running low and we have seen what happens when we ignore what we know. Sooner or later there will be another flood that illustrates how we understand where the hurricane will go but not why the mountain soil lost its ability to withstand forces it has seen regularly for thousands of years.
The hypothesis: Mycorhizzia fungi create glomalin as a structural component for the foraging hyphae. As the mycelial mat dies back this material is left behind, where it binds soil particles into clumps, making pore space in the soil for water, air and roots. Associated with a large percentage of plants, mycorhizzia associated with trees condition the soil with these deposits, creating water storage on a landscape scale to the depth of the roots and fungi, the biological or surface water zone, and slowing its course through the soils extending the wet period in many areas, and defending against drought. This substance acts like a landscape glue. Its destruction sets in motion sedimentation and dissolution of steep hillsides, especially in wet weather. The surface glue can be grown back in several years but deeper deposits starve if all their sources of nutrition suddenly are removed. This can cause land failures years and decades after the trees have been harvested even if grass and shrubs have been established, since the roots rarely get deep enough or widespread enough to replace the aging glomalin. Managing for glomalin protects water resources and makes tree cutting simply a means of reducing excess capacity in a very productive enterprise.
Science Daily (www.sciencedaily.com) has had several articles from the Duke University Free Air Carbon Exchange (FACE) experiments, usually with some finding like trees won’t reduce global warming or something. We also have linked to research from Wisconsin on these FACE experiments, but they are all in one place at www.CO2Science.org magazine. Once again I wish they include glomalin production with the increased CO2 measurements but I suppose that will be later in the century. These FACE experiments could quantify carbon sequestration, and used in conjunction with soil moisture readings really give some insight into how vegetation modifies its landscape and interacts with the climate.
New Scientist also reported most scientific reports turn out to be wrong. But that is how science works. You propose a hypothesis based on observation. You acquire as much as knowledge as you can and ask others to try it out and debate it. If it seems to answer the hypothesis, it is accepted until newer knowledge tells us we must go back and recalculate. The idea may be commercialized or ignored at any point, so that money is often more important than observed facts, and the research challenged because it threatens economic interests. But we ignore natural law at our own peril.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
New Orleans untenable situation is well known. Situated between a huge lake and the mighty Mississippi River and below sea level, it can only exist in an artificial environment, and everything must work smoothly to maintain it. There are very few roads in or out, and bridges fail regularly in large natural disasters. New Orleans was spared the storm surge that devastated the areas just east of it, where the water acted like the tsunami, rolling five miles inland and destroying most everything it touched. But the biggest problems were caused by removal of the natural protection Nature developed for these situations- the wetlands along the coast that had been removed for development. One report said five miles of wetlands had been “reclaimed”, or drained for development. Another said the Gulf Coast lost an acre of wetland every 24 minutes due to development. The upstream levees along the river have been hotly debated; many claiming the historic record show they hurt more than they help. But this is in bad weather, surely a minority of the time. So far the river levees are not the problem, they are just waiting their own overwhelming incident.
In the big picture, Americans need better planning for major infrastrucure. These so called natural disasters are more often people disregarding obvious threats in order to thrive in good weather, exactly the same as Californians building in the wildfire zones or along the crumbling seashore cliffs. You can’t account for risk people are willing to take. You can regulate activities to improve defenses, though, and America would do well to regard weather as its biggest enemy.
Montana has demanded their Air Guard helicopters back from Iraq for fire fighting. A spokesman talking about sandbagging the levees said yesterday they had gotten the men, sand, and bags needed but the Blackhawks hadn’t shown up. Coast Guard choppers have pulled hundreds of people off rooftops one at a time- obviously more could be put to use. It is expensive though, probably $1500 an hour or better each. This problem and its expense is directly the result of people failing to heed mandatory evacuation order. It appears at least 100,000 people were too stuck or determined to stick it out. That is not mandatory evacuation. The National Guard should have been stood up BEFORE the storm hit in order to assist those needing transportation, and to clear stragglers. With this should have been the martial law declaration along with the deterring shoot to kill orders that go with it. You only need a rumor like the cops are shooting people in downtown to eliminate most of the problem with looting. The officer can always decide if a situation is appropriate at the time- is it a mother getting water or a gang member cleaning out a jewelry store? Looting or scavenging? In any event, the stolen property is as much part of failing to secure the scene as it is in failing complete evacuation. Now people are shooting at the cops with stolen guns, and rescue operations are hampered.
The same is true in the other hard hit areas along the coast. One woman survived the ordeal, and hurried home the next day but the looters had already cleaned out her house. These areas are not flooded although storm surge wiped out the first five miles of along the shore, which should have been wetlands and would have absorbed a large proportion of the surge. Here we have thousands of refugees who are not imminently imperiled but still in need of basic necessities, and more importantly, a positive attitude adjustment for dislocated survivors. How do we do that for them as a nation?
This storm also had the potential for massive pollution from petrochemical plants that dot the area. Offshore platforms, undersea pipes, onshore refineries, tank farms and a host of related activities took a glancing blow. It could have been utter destruction for the Gulf of Mexico, an oil spill of unimaginable proportions, and an unleashing of all kinds of industrial pollutants into the environment. For avoiding that cataclysm we must be thankful.
Once again we see Nature has developed ways to combat her own extremes. High wind and heavy rain have caused Nature to protect herself with wetlands and forests to absorb these powerful events without stripping the surface of the land. Wetlands defend against storm surge. Trees absorb wind so that hurricanes rapidly degrade once they are ashore. Forests absorb heavy rain and delay its path to the draining rivers, spreading the runoff over time and allowing the rivers to work as drains.
Hurricanes were a regular part of growing up on Long Island. It seemed we never got the “big one” we hoped for as kids that would close school. Last minute course corrections, or suddenly lowering winds always made the pronouncements seem overly worrisome. We would go out in the rain and wind to experience it, tying blankets to wrist and ankles and sliding in the water via sail. Later in life we would assist in cleaning the streets, and for one I worked in a twenty-four hour bagel store. That was probably the busiest overnight retail action the store ever saw. After a while we were told to stop charging and coffee and bagels were on the house. I still feel bad for the guys we charged in the beginning of that shift, thirty plus years later. That storm cut a new inlet in the barrier beach that extends along Long Islands south shore a recurring feature. This only allows water into the Great South Bay, and the beaches role as a hurricane defense is well understood. Nevertheless, Newsday reports a storm in size, scope and power like Katrina would be a mortal blow anyway.
The policy of measuring storms in dollars fails to instruct people in the future. IF the record storm surge is twenty feet, it helps to know twenty plus feet will buy you a good measure of protection. Not that there won’t be a thirty foot wave a t some point, but saying the storm cost x billion dollars and so many lives does nothing for preparation. This is especially true in location. A five-mile surge would have nearly cut Long Island in half if it were high enough. The largest point there is a landfill, and the highest natural point about 450 feet as I recall off the top of my head. About six million people would be headed there, since Long Island can only be evacuated routes through New York City. This was the basis for the States case against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that prevented the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant from getting its operating license. There is just no way to get all those people out of there in a timely fashion. It shows the need for local citizens to be aware of the risks, and for leaders to put in place workable solutions for catastrophic events. It is not if, it is when.
Finally, it seems to me the government should be delivering as many personal water purifiers as it can get its hands on. Backpackers have a wide variety of water filters that would allow people to use that water without risk of disease or having to boil it. I am thinking particularly of the ceramic type since I am familiar with it. It would seem like you would be empowering more people to help themselves and others, as well as ease the need for everyone to be at the distribution centers seeking water repeatedly. In fact, these should be in all preparedness kits around the country, along with crank radios and the new permanent LED flashlights.We can learn from other impacted areas as well. It was found by health agencies that cholera, a deadly water borne disease, could be filtered by using the traditional sari material used for women’s dresses, when folded eight times, caused filtering down to eight microns. Cholera is about 25 microns so a good measure of protection is offered. Lets get this translated into what we have on hand, and be sure this is enough protection for consumers to use, since other types of pollution may not be alleviated this way.
Whether global warming or a regular pattern, there are more hurricanes, more people, more impacted natural systems and more likelihood of these types of events. As is so often the case, a large natural event turns catastrophic when too many people become complacent or are unaware of the potential event. Our natural world is often the best protection we can have. Too many times it is developed and then unable to perform when the time comes.