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Glomalin and Conservation in Humboldt County The 1996 discovery of the soil glue glomalin is changing our understanding of the impact of elevated carbon dioxide, while giving important clues to forest health, watersheds, revegetation, wildfire and carbon sequestration. Here I share what I have found so others may read and draw their own conclusions, and relate it to my own experience, Humboldt County issues and stories from the news.
Monday, December 26, 2005
I drove in in a down pour over a very wet weekend. The road was in very good shape. All the water had been drained via large rolling dips. They may actually be a little high for large vehicles or trailers. The road is fairly steep for several miles and there is often no room for the back of tyhe dip to drain more than a few feet down the road before it is running the other way. A small section of road had minor water running down it near the Park, who may have opted out rather than have dips installed, I am not sure. The road is as good as it has been in years, but usually the level grading is gone by winters end and needs more work in one or two years. The rolling dips and out sloping should be good for quite a while.
Seeing the creeks in the Park were up I stopped at the top and hiked in, as there is no hope of crossing the creeks after big rain. I looked down from the bend in the road and was delighted to see the creek roaring in its new/old bed. The old bed still had water entering from the upper stream but was much reduced in volume and cutting power. Before, the soil bluffs were the left hand bank and the right hand banks was revegetating. Now both banks have established trees.
I moved down to the ford by the Magic Pool. The creek was high and ripping. You feel the power being right next to it. But here as in the section viewed before, the creek was in its channel. I doubled back up the hill and dropped down the other side, crossing the Upper Creek that now forms the waterfall. Much smaller than the creek it was still too wide to jump and the banks were steep and wet. The cat cut trail was extremely slippery and the Back Creek was also too wide to safely cross. We are talking about a lot of water.
I am still on the left side of the Creek but now I am downstream of the area I saw from above. Here looking downstream I see the creek has stayed in its channel, which is not usually the case. Vegetation grows along both banks to the waters edge and nothing even looks amiss. Some planted firs there are twenty-five years old. Redwoods are starting to appear in the brush. This area appears to be recovering nicely but it is part of the stretch that goes dry each year. There is also several side creeks entering the main stem here and the area has repeatedly blown out from large events uphill or upstream.
Moving back upstream to the soil banks themselves I am kind of frustrated another rocck wall wasn't built. The channel was dug except the last four feet and would have removed the cutting force from the bottom of the bluffs. Here I believe we are a victim of our own success, as this was the first year that section of creek has run all year since the mid eighties. There are little fish in there and it probably was a whole different permitting issue to dewater rather than working in a dry stream bed.
Nevertheless the creek will work its way into the back channel eventually.
NOw that we are moving along new project ideas make themselves known. One example would be to put the second section of Middle Creek back in its old bed. A second on, putting a culvert in the Upper Creek, restoring the flow to its old channel and dewatering the waterfall. It would then be possible to backfill the entire bowl with the soil bluffs, putting in a road that eliminates the Middle Creek fords and bringing the land to a plantable slope of repose.
Kudos and thanks to all the people involved over the years. The implementation came after years of planning and field visits, finding the connections between sediment, roads and creek conditions, several years collection of baseline data with Mattole Salmon Group
It was an amazing day for mushrooms, some areas literally littered with little brown and/or white mushrooms. We found several perfect boletes and a patch of white coral mushrooms. There were bright yellow ones, gold and black ones and pink ones. We didn't look too hard or too long but it seemed like numbers were up but variety was down.
I grabbed one redwood about four inches in diameter and was surprised how spongy the wet bark felt, much different from most other bark. I could see a lot of water is being reserved in the bark. Again we see the individual trees doing their bit to moderate climate for the good of the community, here by extending the time water remains in the biological zone rather than simply running off.
Coyote brush is blooming now and available from covering large amounts of grou7nd simply by shaking the seeds free. This was very effective for us years ago here and I still recommend it for and open ground like Big Hill above Cuneo or any burnt sections above fish bearing streams. Alder cones are also ready. These are simply dropped in the creek and allowed to sprout wherever they end up.
Once established they make plenty of seed every year and there is no need to repeat the process. We have had some success scattering seed on bare slopes in washouts high above the creek. Some have hit springs but we cannot account for several success stories in unlikely situations. We also note that several alder snags we have seen are over thirty-six inches in diameter.
We have been working with groups for a long while, and generally things are successful. However, removal of several items that probably seemed innocent enough have left some bad feelings in their wake. One was an old bent circular sawmill blade leaned against a stump along our road and belonging to my neighbor. This disappeared during the sediment inventory. Another was a large boar skull removed during tree planting several years ago and belonging to an absentee landowner. Both of these items come up now and then. Both of these items had sentimental value and belonged to other people. We have had restoration people on the land for many days and am thankful for all they accomplish.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I was watching an older geology show on Annenberg(KEET 8). More relevant topics came up that augment our understanding.
One item were strolatomites, I think they were called, that are composed by the accretion of sediment by a sticky substance given off by blue-green algae. Other geologic looking structures formed the same way were literally being eaten by creatures with magnetite teeth, which scraped alogae and stone off rock at the waterline, undercutting small islands until they looked like Dr. Suess landscapes.
Satellite photos from the eighties revealed Amazon cloud formation and showers occurred daily with no input from the ocean, as confirmed by the deuterium study reported last year. Yet deuterium determination and satellite imagery are more twenty years old, so why was that anything new? With the loss of evapo-transpiration, particle forming gas emissions, and the entire precipitation interface from canopy to forest floor and the slow decay of the depth of water holding soils, diminished volumes of shade cooled air, we should expect less cloud formation and precipitation, and a drying of the ecosystem to some extent. As we have pointed out since the inception of this blog, the longer water remains in the biological zone the richer the biota. If it cycles through as surface runoff in an ever quickening pace the cycle will take unexpected turns with unknowable consequences.
The next interesting item concerned the life of carbon atoms. Each atom goes through a cycle starting as atmospheric carbon becoming vegetation, decaying through soil processes eventually reaching the ocean. The process continues as the carbon settles as sediment and becomes chemically transformed into rock. This rock is forced toward the margins of the oocean plate where it is subducted and dives back into the earth. Slowly the adds new land and magma is forces to the surface and the carbon re-enters the atmosphere through volcanism. This cycle is said to last about 100-150 million years and has happened about thirty times to every carbon atom on earth. This is a much grander carbon cycle than the usual given biological cycle.
This led to a discussion of nuclear winter, which we rarely hear about anymore, caused by smoke from wild lands burning. The major catastrophe of nuclear war has been overshadowed by the slow death of climate change. Man will have some ability to adapt to climate change. There is no cure for radiation pollution other than incredibly long decontamination rates in the hundreds of thousands of years, exceeding the entire existence spans of many species. Yet climate change can and has caused civil upheaval and temperature cycles are found to coincide with abundance and stability or famine and civil unrest throughout history.
Finally, the Gaia hypothesis was discussed. The Gaia hypothesis, so named by biophysicist James Lovelock, says that life moderates earth for the benefit of life. The example given was of dark and light daisies. Dark daisies proliferate and absorb sun light. As the temperature rises more white daisies bloom, reflecting energy back into space and downwardly regulating temperature. As the temperature falls, more dark daisies begin to appear, so that optimum temperature is maintained. Glomalin is very much a similar case of an ecosystem developing the means of assuring its continued existence by water regulation and communication by pheromones emitted by glomalin producing fungi. It is implied Gaia will deal with humans before they are allowed to exterminate the organism.
C-Span had a debate over forming a task force for implementing the recommendations from the Oceans report drafted for Congress last year. Fisheries and Resource only covers 7 out of 31 chapters in the study, other jurisdictions included Atmospheric, Agriculture, wind, drilling, coastal development, wetlands, shipping and on and on. This is probably a little bigger than glomalin but not by much, in terms of blurring agency boundaries.
We repeat the need for more synthesis and analysis of available information. A fine example was of a known weed killer. Looking at its written formula it looked like nothing special. When the model was represented n 3-D, its structural resemblance and properties made it immediately clear this molecule had potential as an anti-tumor medication. Something on hand that works, but only accidentally found through a different representation.
Several other items today. The continued research from the oceanic inventory has been putting chips in all kinds of sea creatures and tracking their movements. One result of note here is that salmon tagged in the PNW and Alaska from the same streams had the same oceanic migratory journeyts. That is to say, salmon from a certain river will spend their time in particular parts of the ocean. This would allow fishermen at sea to avoid fish from low population on shore locations.
The Pombo Bill to rewrite the 1872 Mining Law and open public lands for development was cut from the Budget Bill.
Patty Berg was honored by CDF for her work on rural firefighting and urban interface issues.
An earthen dam in Missourii failed and sent a wall of water down river. Three hurt, none dead.
Snowmobiles were found to not impact wildlife to a significant extent, a major argument against them in National Parks. What about the quiet?
The California Oak Mortality Task Force monthly report has an interesting item about field testing for the disease with portable PCR devices to be used in the field. Developed specifically to deal with the disease, the technology has a wide array of applications. Some interesting reading in the year end summaries. A report from Oregon on their attempts to keep the disease contained states using glyphosphate (Roundup) on stump sprouting species two weeks before stem removal, to be sure the roots won’t send up new shoots
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
All too often we are unaware of how we pollute our own environment, and chatter is one way, especially other peoples. I can’t possibly say how many times I’ve wished people would just be quiet. Usually it is an intrusion into their little world with all those unguessed consequences and often blown far out of proportion.
When you live close to the outdoors you learn to walk in silence because you are aware of things reacting to voices. You listen for voices in the distance. It is amazing how big a valley one chainsaw can fill, or one ORV or one gun, or how often a few working families drive the road each day for school, work and so forth. If you are fairly remote you may figure out the schedule of the jet liners high in the sky, but smaller planes are completely random. We had many visitors from the cities who could not handle the lack of background noise and couldn’t wait to leave, and kept up the noise for self reassurance throughout their waking hours.
Silence is a key element in meditation and solemn rituals. It shows our reverence but is not regarded as a health quality, only a quality of life issue. Yet the benefits of meditation and other practices of clear thinking give demonstrably healthy results. Many people live under constant barrages of background noise that make true relaxation difficult.
Yet it is a pre-requisite if our hearing is to operate in its natural role as our always-on defensive system. We trade it off for the advantages of communication, and have further traded acuity degradation in favor of labor savings and growth of the economy and population. Attenuation to Nature is a better term than silence, as both articles show. The opportunity for these experiences is seriously being degraded. Humboldt County has some good resources here, but I am sure one square inch probably won’t work here in the daytime in the summer. Winter is another story. Snow bound silence or the constant sound of water both may give you fifteen minutes of quiet in many places here. I think this may be a better measurement than viewscape and both should be considered in natural resource planning for wildlands.
It may be helpful for some groups to offer this kind of hike. But we can experience this by a estaglishing a few rules, and getting together with like minded others to experience some of Humboldts finest landscapes with a group respecting silence as the reason to be there.
I had a foreman when I was in construction who used to say,” I can hear you point better than I can see you yell.”
Selected quotes from the articles follow.
A voice for silence
One man, writes John Balzar, thinks quiet may be Earth's most endangered natural resource.
By John Balzar, Times Staff Writer
Hempton chose this place to make a stand.
If he can stir up a ruckus, maybe the right people will listen and the National Park Service will officially designate just one square inch of this park as a place of absolute quiet. One square inch of quiet, of course, means miles and miles of buffer — essentially securing the natural soundscape of the entire park.
A simple idea. Turn off the generators in those RVs, reroute the airline traffic going into Seattle, forbid private planes overhead, and plaster the visitor center with posters reaffirming the mission of our national parks: to preserve nature as it was, quiet included.
Inside the glass candy jar are messages. Visitors to One Square Inch are invited to write a short meditation regarding quiet. Only those willing to make the walk will read them.
Hempton will sit on his one square inch for an hour.
The serenity he restores in himself will last for days afterward.
"Quiet is like a vitamin. Vitamin quiet."
Hempton defines quiet this way: "Quiet places are where you can go and listen and not be distracted by human-caused noise."
By that definition, standing near a waterfall can be quiet, even though it is also loud.
So how does one teach listening, or learn it?
It would be glib to say that a first step might be to stop talking. Accomplish that and there will likely be an awakening — at the least, a recognition of how many other people on the trail have lost the capacity to be quiet, let alone enjoy it and restore themselves.
Hempton's advice is practical: Put in foam earplugs for half an hour. Take them out and you'll immediately detect enriched sound.
Or walk with a young child as a guide. Before children are sent to school and made to "pay attention" — that is, filter out every sound except the teacher's voice — they are naturally attuned to their surroundings.
Statutory and regulatory law generally describes harmful noise as that which results in hearing loss. A more down-to-earth definition might define it as the aggregated clamor that deprives us of peace of mind.
Last night's rain drips slowly out of the moss. A raindrop falls many times in this forest: from the clouds to a treetop, from there to the moss of a branch, then down to another branch; finally, 10 hours later, it is released the last 100 feet to the crown of your hat, where the splat is so vivid as to give you a start.
More quiet. Here and there the flat splatter sound of weeping trees. A crackle of something moving. A long interval of soundlessness — so long that the faraway hiss of the Hoh finally enters your consciousness. The mighty woodpecker breaks the spell with another drumroll from the heavens.
A practiced listener, Hempton hears a symphony in this glen. As a novice, what you hear is not yet decipherable as music. But it is consuming, and unexpectedly suspenseful. In the silence, the whisper voice of nature speaks.
Want quiet? Then zip lips
On many remote trails, the most persistent noise pollution is the sound of hikers' own voices.
By Veronique de Turenne
Special to The Times
November 15, 2005
The staff at Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills — a 605-acre swath considered the geographic center of Los Angeles — have a solution: silent night hikes. Starting at dusk on the first Saturday of every month, hikers eager to experience the sounds of silence gather at the park.
"It's a great way to relax in the safety and camaraderie of a group and yet have a solitary experience," says Michelle McAfee, one of the naturalists who lead the silent hikes.
The quiet hikes at Franklin Canyon begin with some communal deep breathing ("I tell them to breathe in the twilight and exhale the day," McAfee says) to help unify the group. Then, with daylight fading, hikers set out along a flat and wooded fire road.
The two-hour hike flies by. When the group reassembles, even though they haven't uttered more than a few words, they seem united by the experience.
"To be a part of the night and a part of nature, as opposed to just walking through it, for some people is deeply moving," McAfee says.
All you need for a quiet hike is a friend or two and a pact: No talking. Plan your route ahead of time. For safety, agree not to move out of each other's visual range. If you want to catch your companion's attention, you can clap your hands. Want to share the amazing thing you just saw? Point.
Hiking in quiet reveals a lot about even the noisiest outdoor spaces
Monday, December 12, 2005
In our studies we are aware the carbon sources from the ground are a huge factor in greenhouse gases, especially CO2. We also know that heightened temperature causes vegetation to use more CO2 through increased production for the plants and their associated fungi.
One of the key findings in Rilligs’ DOE work was the concept that plant production was deposited in the deeper reaches of the soil. That is to say, deep roots and their mycorhizzia got a larger share of primary production than roots closer to the surface. This illustrates our riparian sponge concept in that the poorer soil is being given extra attention in order to increase the water holding capacity of the ecosystem.
This weeks CO2 Science Magazine has an article about a recently published paper in, Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment and Ectomycorrhizal Infection of Red Pine Trees. This is an important step into discovering the actual mechanisms of soil fungi response to increased CO2. Ectomycorrhizal fungi are the major form of mycorhizzia associated with temperate forest trees, and are locally abundant and essential to forest health. Once again there is no glomalin component to the work, but we are filling in the blanks at an ever increasing pace.
Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment and Ectomycorrhizal Infection of Red Pine TreesBetween all the articles we have reviewed it is clear we have a sound hypothesis. In almost two years I have nothing that disagrees with the premise, and found all kinds of supporting data. What we don’t have yet is quantification of glomalin deposits, a simple explanation of water delayed in the biological zone as part of the basic water cycle, or public awareness that we are living in a time of great opportunity for all forces dependant on carbon dioxide, such as natural resources and agriculture. The critical link to water supply is not being studied anywhere, yet loss of glaciers means rethinking water supply throughout the West and many other parts of the world dependant on snow pack runoff in the dry season. We will be forced to think in terms of rainwater harvesting. Failure to recognize the natural order results in rainwater harvest in terms of cisterns in developed areas, rather than landscape BMPs that direct precipitation into underground storage.
Choi, D.S., Quoreshi, A.M., Maruyama, Y., Jin, H.O. and Koike, T. 2005. Effect of ectomycorrhizal infection on growth and photosynthetic characteristics of Pinus densiflora seedlings grown under elevated CO2 concentrations. Photosynthetica 43: 223-229.
What was done
Red pines (Pinus densiflora Sieb. et Zucc.) were grown from seed for 18 weeks in a sunlit phytotron at either ambient CO2 (AC = 360 ppm) or elevated CO2 (EC =720 ppm), with or without inoculation of their roots with the ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus tinctorius (Pers.) Coker et Couch (Pt), while a variety of measurements were made of both the seedlings and the fungus.
What was learned
The authors report that "the infection rate of Pt in P. densiflora seedlings grown at EC was significantly higher than at AC," noting that "previous studies have also found that ecotmycorrhizal development in seedlings of several tree species at EC was greater than at AC (Seegmuller and Rennenberg, 1994; Ineichen et al., 1995; Rey and Jarvis, 1997; Runion et al., 1997, Rouhier and Read, 1998)."
What it means
The CO2-induced enhancement of Pt infection rate in P. densiflora and Pt's subsequent more robust development is very significant, for Choi et al. write that "ectomycorrhizal development enlarges the absorptive surface of the root, with widely ramified hyphae allowing the release of phosphatases, which enhance the availability of organic phosphate and exude organic acids," which interactions between host plant and ectomycorrhiza "increase the use efficiency of limited soluble phosphate and organic N in soil (Smith and Read, 1997; Lambers et al., 1998)." Consequently, they suggest that seedlings with better developed Pt, such as occurs in response to atmospheric CO2 enrichment, "have increased nutrient and water uptake, leading to improved plant nutritional status and giving rise to more vigorous physiological response, in particular photosynthetic activity, and that these responses delay down-regulation at EC."
Ineichen, K., Wiemken, V. and Wiemken, A. 1995. Shoots, roots and ectomycorrhizal formation of pine seedlings at elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. Plant, Cell and Environment 18: 703-707.
Lambers, H., Chapin III, F.S. and Pons, T.L. 1998. Plant Physiological Ecology. Springer-Verlag, New York, New York, USA.
Rey, A. and Jarvis, P.G. 1997. Growth response of young birch trees (Betula pendula Roth.) after four and a half years of CO2 exposure. Annals of Botany 80: 809-816.
Rouhier, H. and Read, D.J. 1998. Plant and fungal responses to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide in mycorrhizal seedlings of Pinus sylvestris. Environmental and Experimental Botany 40: 237-246.
Runion, G.B., Mitchell, R.J., Rogers, H.H., Prior, S.A. and Counts, T.K. 1997. Effects of nitrogen and water limitation and elevated atmospheric CO2 on ectomycorrhiza of longleaf pine. New Phytologist 137: 681-689.
Seegmuller, S. and Rennenberg, H. 1994. Interactive effects of mycorrhization and elevated carbon dioxide on growth of young pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) trees. Plant and Soil 167: 325-329.
Smith, S.E. and Read, D.J. 1997. Mycorrhizal Symbiosis. Academic Press, San Diego, California, USA.
Reviewed 7 December 2005 http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/articles/V8/N49/B2.jsp
I am not sure greenhouse gases are the only cause of warming anyway. Nova had an article about the poles shifting in response to heat plumes from the molten iron core of the earth. Todays paper has an article about the North Pole (magnetic) moving from Canada to the Siberian side. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4520982.stm
What is the impact of lighting? Radioactive materials concentrated then vaporized in testing or as depleted uranium? Body heat of the human biomass? Urban heat sinks? The vast amount of rotting garbage in the world? Whatever the cause, we are but a flash of geologic time that we can certainly shorten but probably can extend only in the face of gradual change, leading to what comes next for us. Some go theological but what will fill the environmental niches left behind?
Saturday, December 10, 2005
I have seen plenty of scorpions in Humboldt County. Several have been found on peoples clothes or seats, so they seem to move. I don’t know anyone ever stung, and had heard these were not capable killers. We had a lot of them building near an old slash pile/log deck. A visitor familiar with desert scorpions suggested chickens, his old family cure for them.
The chickens were full of lessons themselves. They followed me around the yard. Every time I flipped a log, rock or piece of fir bark the chickens immediately ate everything they saw- bugs, eggs, whatever. When that part of the job was done they would go to rotten logs, and dig with their feet into the rotten wood. Then they stuck their head in the hole and listened. If they heard something they attacked the log in that direction until they found the source- and ate it.
Now, these chickens were survivors who had escaped a chicken massacre when apparently a weasel got into the pen and killed them without eating them. These chickens hadn’t come in for the food and spent the evening s in fir trees, safe from predation.
http://www.times-standard.com/driscollscolumn/ci_3280240 Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle Outdoors section talked about the life long memories stemming from wildlife sightings, although certainly landscapes must be included as effects of nature upon people. He writes the best ssightings are unplanned and had plenty of e=mails relating just those kind of experiences.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/12/04/SPG9IG2QRF1.DTL Meanwhile down south the problem is not being able to find non-wildlife- cattle actually, in rugged Park .lands .Six of the escaped cattle were lured in with bait but the other nine are adapting quickly. We read early Humjboldt explorers found plentiful wild cattle from Spanish escapees. One report said forty grizzlies trailed a thousand cattle. The author notes escaped pigs on Mt. Tamalpais but treats it as a one time incident, rather than a statewide issue going on for decades. Even more amazing to me were the stories from the Mattole of feral sheep, unshorn for years, roaming around until the early eighties. My neighbor said the dogs got them eventually, but you never can tell what you might see when you are in the field.
The L. A. Times also ran an article about various restoration and preservation efforts in the Southland to restore nat6ural systems in places past their industrial prime or too raw to have been useful. Guess what? They all have tremendous value as part of naturally functioning ecosystems, and the lands respond to any effort- even leaving them alone. As we have stated in the past, restoration is just a step in the process of allowing natural processes to operate. Meanwhile folks are learning how green belts, streams and wildlife corridors make nature available to urban and suburban youth.
The critical role of outdoor education is not mentioned anywhere in the No Child Left Behind Act. Yet any child that gets their entire outdoor education in a classroom has been left behind. Our education system needs to build on our knowledge of the natural world rather than replace it. This is how we learn we are part of the world and not a special exemption free from laws that constrain all life. The younger people become aware of this the better they can focus education and lifestyles for the betterment of everyone. Two local programs I saw in action when I worked in the schools was Jeff Selfs steelhead hatchery at Washington ele3mentary, and Pam Halsteads Fortuna Creeks Program at Fortuna High. I am sure many other teachers are getting their kids involved and you see and read about these things regularly. They cannot be made less important because there are no questions on the standardized tests about the creek down the street. Students are then able to seesome of our problems first hand and begin thinking about them at an early age. Outdoor education also means being prepared for field work both in skills and before implementation, bringing major planning into the equation. The needs and opportunities for trained people will make itself clear to those deciding on a course for their future.