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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

191. Whose science is it anyway? 

One apparent pattern of the current administration is the gutting of federal oversight agencies like the GAO, FEMA, the mine safety people and so forth. Add this to disregarding the best available science, even discredit the scientist, and you get a scenario similar to the Bay Area sturgeon count. DFG reported a 90% decrease in white sturgeon. Tom Stienstra ( then reported that fishermen were upset that DFG had sampled the wrong section of the Bay and that there were far more fish than thought.
Generally we are witnessing more poor science where it is still paid lip service to, and more instances where it is simply ignored, or set up in a way to get desired results, more attacks on the scientists themselves and reshaping or ignoring their reports from farm chemicals to global warming to fisheries, and the confusion of conflicting results often obtained merely to obfuscate unwanted results. We also note funding continues for studies that are clearly based on past knowledge since discredited yet providing convenient results for partisan announcements, like the repeated forest carbon studies that don’t measure soil carbon and then announce trees can’t help with global warming or increased greenhouse gases.
So it is with the forest fungi. President Bush announced this week a proposal to use some kind of super fungi to create a gasoline substitute from cellulose. We know folks have been working on this for a while but it came out of the blue and had very little supporting information. We probably don’t care too much if the fuel at the pump is from a new source if we can drive away.
Similarly, reading the Peaceful Valley Farm Supply spring catalogs, which I haven’t done in years, reveals many “new” organic pest controls, a few new drip options (compared to a decade ago), some fungi inoculants but little else really different. One thing they did carry was Paul Stamens new book. Paul is probably one of the leading lights on growing fungi and bringing new species into cultivation. However, most of his work deals with the commercial aspects of growing decomposer fungi. Mycorhizzia is difficult to grow because of its nutritional regime. In our own thinking we have learned a great deal from Paul as well as David Aurora’s Mushrooms Demystified, and more generalized readings following them. They point out the amazing diversity and abilities of forest fungi, like standing on a ridge and pointing out an entire unknown valley spread out before them.
This is the point where commercial thinkers start to see some potential for new products or medicines in individual species. Reductionism has done much to provide new products from life forms but has not done as well adapting natural systems, the problem being that reduction leads away from seeing interconnectedness and evolving parameters and interactions over time, such as succession, repression and opportunism. Yet the biome rests on these basic principles, and we can see the same mechanisms at work in any forest, field farm or lawn, and since the dawn of life on earth.
For these reasons we are very disappointed in the direction of research at PNW (Pacific Northwest Reaseach station of the Forest Service in Corvallis. This is the area so much great info has come from, including luminaries like James Trapp. The station itself seems to be dedicated to understanding cultivation of forest mushrooms for economic gain, mainly as food. The scope of the thinking is so misdirected that it is stunning. All we can provide is lumber and a few edible mushrooms? What about all the industrially significant enzymes created by fungi? What about the mycelium pulsating to the seasonal beat and depositing glomalin to ensure water supplies? How does a diminishing supply affect macro issues like forestry, fish, landsliding and wildfire? We have shown that glomalin can illustrate exactly what is lost from natural systems when development occurs. We have shown the critical importance of glomalin in soil stability, and how to prevent or minimize future problems, and that this issue goes a long way toward cleaning up our heavily sedimented rivers.
After almost two years of writing no better solution than paying for carbon storage seems available. We need to pay people to grow big trees and keep them growing. Since most North Coast restoration money is coming from oil wells in the Santa Barbara wetlands it would seem industry should take this next step, providing more rural money for restoring the natural infrastructure of our nation. Carbon dioxide capture is what built the value into the landscape when the whites arrived. We have been on an ignorant path of unraveling the scheme in many ways and are only beginning to figure it out after all these years. Yet we find plenty of occurrences where natural instinct, rule of thumb and common sense have noted the limlts and stayed within the basic rules of sustainability. In the twentieth century we have lost a lot of that, yet we know beaver trappers were not concerned with aquifer health, or loss of glomalin in the Eastern forest where water storage is not as critical issue as in the West, so there is a lot of built in cultural ignorance.
Now we know what works and what is hurting us, and we can put these together for a positive solution time tested by nature. The large amounts of greenhouse gases are there for the taking. We must consider this something that will not recur regularly once the causes are understood and controls go into place. Everything we have learned about accelerated growth rates is temporary based on fluctuations. If we control the amount of emissions, rethink land use and BMP’s to reduce the amount of glomalin destruction, and harness natures growing ability to provide clean air and water as well as food, then the CO2 concentrations will fall Good examples are in China, where deserts are shrinking due to massive tree planting schemes, and the Sahel region where similar projects have been ongoing for years. We note in both cases invading deserts have been contained, showing these areas get enough rainfall but had lost their ability to store it in the biological zone. Tree planting means restoring the glomalin and the longer it can be left to its own devices the better the outcome.
Make no mistake, this is enough to do for an entire century. Forest improvement stands ready to take advantage of new practices and some are awaiting enough interest to actually happen. One example is inoculation of seedlings by many varieties of mycorhizzia, which has reportedly led to spectacular above ground results in tree growth. Soil moisture must be understood a property of glomalin deposition and accumulation, sedimentation as its unraveling and destruction.
Glomalin is not the only issue demanding attention. Sudden Oak Death threatens several species with heavy damage, but has been found as a minor pest in many other species, including Doug fir, redwood, California bay, madrone and many others. So far there is little discussion on overall forest health. Yet it would appear nearly every species is experiencing leaf spots and other signs of low level infection. The question is how much will this slow overall forest productivity? Will this loss lead to slower recovery of glomalin deposits? That is to say, are we about to witness a decline in the forests ability to regrow itself?

Friday, February 24, 2006

190. Water 

The Supreme Court has taken up a challenge to the Clean Water Act of 1972 brought by Michigan developers who say the law overextends its authority, and denying them the rights to develop in areas designated wetlands. Justices to Study Scope of '72 Clean Water Act,1,3144888.story?coll=la-news-environment
In an article written by their staff writer David G. Savage on February 21 the LA Times illustrates developers and industry’s continued attempts to roll back progressive legislation for protecting the environment. The cases involve filling in wetlands for development, and the key to these arguments is the extent of navigable rivers and who has authority in those areas far from rivers big enough for boats. No where in the article is any of the fill considered non=point pollution, the heart of TMDL (total maximum daily load) regulations. As we have seen over and over, it is not what happens on a nice day that matters, it is what happens in large weather events. We can be sure large events will move fill out of wetland areas and into streams as that is the nature of sediment transport. We also know wetlands are wetlands because flow in the area exists as surface water, which will probably be converted into runoff through land management and roofing and paving. This is why we support the concept of builders taking care of runoff from heavy events in the planning. Storm water systems just deliver contaminated runoff into naturally healthy environments. Sand vaults and percolation zones should be part of altered drainages.
Now it is a known fact that every inch of land is in one watershed or another and we must sacrifice some natural environment for development. That doesn’t mean every situation should be a challenge to or from developers. It also means developers are learning to live within the rules as laid down. Rules prevent us from damaging our ecosystem and impinging on our neighbors. If developers could cause no net harm they may find less opposition.
These arte closely watched cases due to the arrival of new Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito and is their first environmental test. One week in and already they have abortion and development cases that will probably be an indication of what is to come. We don’t expect rollbacks of state rules under this lawsuit but we can be sure challenges will continue.

Long time onsite retention champion Jim Marple has kindly posted a list of references for Best Management Practices for collecting and storing rainfall on the Waterforum Newsgroup, run by Rockware, a storm water management company and publisher also of Erosion Control magazine. He has argued our water systems are hugely inefficient and that we have created a huge bureaucracy and infrastructure to do something that should be far less capital intensive and only benefits operators and beneficiaries while putting simple solutions far out of reach. He has taken lots of flak over the years and tirelessly crusades against complicated solutions to a simple problem- how do we manage precipitation?
To complete our examination of this issue this week we look at CO2 Science magazine’s article on Soil Moisture (Climate Model Inadequacies (Soil Moisture) – Summary) . After several years of writing them we couldn’t be more disappointed, not in the study but much more in the Editors Summary, since they are critiquing soil moisture experiments and no one even mentions glomalin. The article is riddled with unknowns that make the authors appear not to have read glomalin articles listed on their own site. Attributing an increase in available water to stomata closures from increasing CO2 would seem less important of an issue than how much volume of moist soil is available to for the dry season. The research done appears to be legacy thinking in an area where new ideas are as abundant as fungi in the forest, and the clear picture provided is still out of focus without bringing all possible light to bear. This is where HSU needs to start, not in identifying species or getting snapshot counts or single reading glomalin studies. We need long-term experiments that can handle many species to get an idea of soil conditioning by living systems and their waste products.
In the same they recover a bit issue River Runoff: The Effect of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment ( and illustrate why there should be more fresh water available but again miss the long term picture of the vegetation conditioning the soil to absorb water. River flows are meaningless without historic land use (glomalin destruction) patterns and the duration and cover species on site (glomalin deposition). These forces are constantly at odds in today’s world yet they are responsible for all connected water issues.

Friday, February 17, 2006

189. Logging in the Third World 

Five articles about logging in AFP/Yahoo today, starting with another mountain collapse from deforestation, in the Philippines again The next article covers farmers invading burnt forest land faster than the government can control. The landslide potential is enormous, the loss of tropical forest harsh for water and air quality, the lifestyle marginal. The third article tells of the huge Asian market for tropical woods and the immense trade in illegal timber. Then after a discussion of Vietnams situation the fourth article again explains the worthlessness of timber tagged sustainable. In the fifth article, we may perhaps see a glimmer of hope that some companies are willing to cooperate in establishing guidelines in the Third World. I could end this with links to the several articles about Greenland’s glaciers melting at an accelerated rate, as a cause and effect item, or continued drought in southwestern Europe and East Africa. As far as the Greenland articles go, they are concerned with rising sea levels. Nature this week has an article about higher delivery of fresh water from rivers than previously recorded. I believe this would be from glomalin destruction from land use shrinking the soils capacity to retain precipitation. Taken together we could be seeing a change in salinity and circulation in the ocean, which could conceivably bring about the kind of climate event that changes the course of history. engulfs Philippine village, up to 1,700 feared dead;_ylt=AgQs.m7xzXly7ETS7XwF2dbPOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--Forest destruction leaves Indonesian farmers facing landslide risk;_ylt=ApauQBT.VIx2igXlLv8SDbXPOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--
Saving tropical forests: will Europe's "Jack" fell Asia's "giant"?;_ylt=Anw30n_TrdEkhXl1rmCVdbTPOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--Timber industry looks farther afield after ravaging Vietnam;_ylt=Ai.Mv1jrr.JyjnYrRZ_W9AjPOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--
China out to polish woodwork in Central Africa

188. Opportunity Cost 

The Mattole Salmon Group is celebrating tis 25th anniversary this weekend with a meal and music at the Mattole Grange Saturday night, $15 a meal or $5 for music only. Anyone who has never been to one of these local fundraisers would be amazed at the importance of these little parties in a small isolated community. The young people especially appreciate the chance to hear live music and have something to do. Generally there are older folks for the meal and busy people get a chance to meet and do before the entertainment gets underway. The Mattole Grange and the Community Center deserve special thanks for providing facilities over the years.
The Mattole Salmon Group was founded to return salmon to the Mattole River. When it became clear upland conditions were part of the cause of salmon decline, Freeman House split and formed the Mattole Restoration Council to improve up slope conditions as a necessary prerequisite to stable in stream conditions. While the Salmon Group stayed focused on fish the Restoration Council began tree planting, seed gathering, industrial timber monitoring, road closures and eventually Good Roads Clean Creeks in order to reduce sedimentation.
Now we are beginning to see returns on our work. Last year it was reported that the run was about one third of the historical salmon runs, 3500 chinook and 1500 coho. No steelhead numbers were given but I believe our fishery is about to stand on its own two feet again. This is significant because the Klamath run is likely to be very poor this year, probably from a multitude of factors including dams, low water, poor regeneration several years ago, too few spawners the last two years, minimal upwelling by last years spring winds making poor food chain conditions in the sea offshore. Of course, all these are also subject to natural cycles in fish populations still poorly understood. The Colombia is having its worst runs ever while the Sacramento is having a run of historic proportions.
Redwood Reader has repeatedly stated that forest regeneration is the key both to late summer low flows and reduction of sediment in streams, and that fish will return when these conditions are met. SO it is with relief we see Pacific Lumber has decided Douglas fir lands do not meet its business model and cannot be profitably harvested. There is a good reason Douglas fir land is about a thousand per acre, while redwood lands are about 10,000 an acre, comparable to grape land. This, if it covers the Mattole holdings, and there is plenty of reason to believe it does, eliminates the last industrial threat to the Mattole. We have earlier asked BLM and MRC to weigh in on THP’s that would deliver sediment to the overburdened estuary. I have also presented the facts of glomalin to PL during their Mattole Watershed Analysis, and it would seem to be the basis of their decision, coupled with reaffirmed authority of the Water Quality Control Board to exercise its power over logging. With a huge chunk protected for stream buffers and steepness, terrible soil and climate conditions for road building and maintenance, limited value of the lumber itself, about half the value of redwood, the planning and permit processes and a bunch of negative publicity, PL has done the right thing by any business standard. Unfortunately, that is result of not developing a better business plan.
I don’t like to pretend I know what they are up to, but 60, 000 acres at 1000 per is about 60 million dollars, a little more than two interest payments. Perhaps the amount to pay off will go down a bit if the land is sold. The other 160,000 acres of redwood are valued at up to 10,000 an acre, about 1.6 billion dollars, and the fir is about 3.6% of the value of the timberlands. For this reason we had hoped PL would see the need for new markets for forest management, use their scientific expertise to draw out operational facts and move into the 21st Century with an income and a plan for marginal forest lands, and their political capital to power through new regulations that not only provide lasting habitat and water supplies, but annual income for carbon farming. Instead, they have bailed, and like the Forest Service are paying annual costs by selling capital assets.
We feel this would have been the time to negotiate for carbon sequestration at a time when the Governor has launched his million home solar initiative along with other measures to reduce greenhouse emissions. It is imperative we come up with a plan to clean the atmosphere, acknowledge that our problems on the ground can be mitigated by taking action on the atmosphere, that millions of dollars in restoration and preservation are a hindrance to the economy, that wild lands need income to remain in healthy conditions, and that the private market for carbon sequestering should pay for all of it, and that government and big business are needed to make it happen, and that this is a rare opportunity to rectify damage from past practices. We can make use of the aerial fertilization effect on a grand scale and hopefully we would see a reduction in atmospheric gases as regulators cap industrial emissions and on the ground practices restore the landscape while there is an abundance. We will also have an abundance of understanding when it comes to the environmental cost of development.
For this reason we are disappointed yet ecstatic to see the new chair at HSU dedicated to redwood forestry. With the amount of material in this blog alone we could keep people busy for fifty years without doing the reductionist thing species by species and organ by organ. We need the picture of a forest as a system, a community of different individuals with jobs, families and a building pattern that makes the environment a healthier place for its residents. We also point out the need to understand subsoil communication via pheromones, succession, suppression in the different life stages, manipulation of systems, individual modifications into more useful products and quantification of carbon and water storage. A lot of work is being done and HSU needs to come up to speed if it wants to be on the cutting edge studying its own local resources.
The opportunity cost is the melting of the Artic sea ice and glaciers around the world, continued habitat loss, heightened fire danger, less water availability and less air cleansing, and failure to provide jobs and income in rural areas that don’t degrade the environment while not getting our own house in order.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

187. Palco, USFS lands go on market 

Pacific Lumber offers to sell 60,000 acres
Environmental groups may bid for forest land
PALCO reacts to allegations of liquidation by Kara D. Machado, 2/10/2006
Two important land sale issues popped up Friday. The first is the report of Pacific Lumber selling about a quarter of their timber holdings. They characterize the lands as ranchland and comparatively unproductive Douglas fir lands, retaining the core redwood lands. Douglas fir lands are worth maybe a thousand an acre, while redwood commands grape like prices in the range of ten thousand an acre. Redwood is worth roughly double Douglas fir per board foot per thousand. Douglas fir has the additional expense of replanting for best recovery, although blocks are cut for natural reseeding. And it is Douglas fir growing in the steep wet coastal valleys most susceptible to road failure and mass wasting that results in road building costing 34000 dollars per mile.
These Douglas fir lands are the very heart of my experiences in restoration studies concerning the fungal by product glomalin and its role in landscape stability. Douglas fir is the best suited vegetative cover in the high rainfall areas outside the redwood zone, especially to the west of the redwoods. With a large percentage of acres off limits due to streamside buffers and steepness rules, why should PL pay taxes on or maintain these lands? Unfortunately these lands will lose the trained oversight now provided by the company to multiple owners with varying agendas. Some will hopefully go to environmentally minded concerns.
This taken together with the gloomy report in Northcoast Journal about our economic woes just points up the need for more serious planning. We have repeatedly called for an easy way for local landowners to be paid for set asides for carbon sequestration. Prior plans did not account for ground storage of fungal by products, which can be up to forty percent of annual photosynthetic production, and is not necessarily all lost once a tree is cut. Sixty thousand acres at 100 dollars per year would be six million in income. A hundred dollars an acre per year could be enough to do TSI an fire safety and do the maintenance and improvements that would be part of an ongoing concern, a long term ag project using trees to clean the air, now that global warming is upon us. Like bandwidth, carbon storage is an invisible asset that should be creating its own opportunities in the open market and returns for forest land owners.
For the same reason we see the Forest Service proposal to sell timberlands to meet road and school money issues as the worst way to make sure no child is left behind. The school will be the only thing left in their town. And selling capital assets to meet annual expenses is just bad business. The people deserve better than this on every level. We would lose the professional oversight America has invested in. We would lose our opportunity to do something about taking some carbon out of the air for the benefit of water and wildlife concerns, a win-win-win situation. Again, selling off those carbon storage rights could pay this bill every year while requiring no new effort at all, only guarantees against clear cuts and unnecessary road building. We also point out that management for carbon storage does not gain as much by having contiguous parcels and the worry about that becomes less of an issue.
Timber is not dead but timbering rugged wild lands is too costly to continue. Another source of revenue must open up or these lands will fall further into decline. A program of paying for carbon storage will see a return of streams and fisheries, more wildlife habitat, less dangerous runoff, more late summer water, and jobs that can not be exported. Out of the area money will pay for the right to manage these lands properly and the pressure will come off the trees to justify owning TPZ lands.
A tax could be placed on this income to cover lost timber tax revenue. As a withholding tax it might never be missed as the entire check is a bonus to the landowner anyway and will generate income tax as well. This would be collected every year on every acre in the program, rather than just those harvested that year. That would be a lot more stable for schools and roads.
We have laid out a relatively cheap and easy screening program in our earlier Carbon Credits article that could give a sense of the scale of opportunity here. Public agencies should be able to take advantage of these opportunities as well and gain some non-budget discretionary funds for local improvements.
Humboldt County has the scientific clout to quantify the actual amount of carbon stored using the formula that includes glomalin. While we can be sure of what is occurring, there is plentry of science left to do concerning accumulation, depth of deposition, the effect of soil glue at varying degrees of slope and so forth. Since I started this blog two years ago the number of hits for glomalin has gone from 12 to over 14,000. USDA, starting with just a couple of press releases, lists 826 papers that mention glomalin and Mattias Rillig at the University of Montana (invited visitor school of HSU Forestry Club several years ago) is publishing something new almost every month, much of it concerning glomalin and other causes of aggregation in soils, including forests. This is a huge amount of research money that directly affects us and no one even seems aware of the lost opportunity.
Humboldt County needs to get its economic footing back, and the heart of wealth is land. Timber, even heavily regulated, is still going to out pay carbon storage in prime locations and these will remain productive for the foreseeable future. But the rest of us can greatly benefit from using our understanding of our natural setting and applying it to some really difficult problems we face as a community, a nation and globally.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

186. Redwoods and Fungi 

This blog was named Redwood Reader because I drive through the redwoods on the way to my experimental site, which is just over the hill from Rockefeller Forest. However, most of my writing has been about Douglas fir, as the main constituent of the properties. When I realized Douglas fir and redwood had many common properties, I stuck with generalities. However, I have collected a mountain of material on soils and other components of redwood forest that are often searched for when folks find Redwood Reader.
Soil Ecology and the Redwoods, Dr Paul Zinke, 1964, gives a fine account of the limitations of the redwood zone focusing on soils and water. He explains the role of fog but an even more important point is comparison of late summer soil moisture to spring levels. He also points out the likelihood of Douglas fir to invade poorer sites, which may be an indicator of mycorhizzia influence on the landscape.
Searching for more information I found the Las Pilatas Nursery's on-line encyclopedia articles on soils, hardpan, compaction, native ecosystem restoration and mycorhizzia helpful. I gave a local flavor to the articles posted by Zelnick and Sons at www.chesco/ It also matched up well with data from OSU about the role of mycorhizzia fungi in forest ecosystems and food webs. I could see dozens of species of fungi on the ground, let alone go digging for those fruiting underground, which is an amazingly busy place as it is.
The role of fog is an issue that also needs better quantification. After giving fog high marks for acting like summer rain, it occurred to me that the ground is often wet beneath certain Doug fir trees, the tall ones, and that not much of it seemed to penetrate the ground either. While I don't live in the South Fork of the Eel River, sixty inches of fog drip across the whole landscape is just way too high an estimate. Also, it does seem to be a regular feature, and in this way maybe we can make sense of the fact that shallow roots on thin soils may count on capturing more fog because it doesn't go as deep as other tree species. As a member of a community, lateral rooting over large areas together with soil li8mitations give rise to an alternate dry season strategy, perhaps older than the deeper penetration of various other species. I would put Douglas fir in a middle category, with an eye toward the percentage that seem to have large roots that grow downward almost like a tap root- maybe ten percent. Douglas fir is a newer species in the scale of time and seems to have taken advantage of many different ways of adapting and enhancing its environment.
A good idea of the state of mycological research in ectomycorhizzia forest systems can be found at in the series of articles Mycorrhizas. by Steve Trudell. All five articles give a lot of clues about where new research might look, for example, dual fungi mycorhizzias, snow plant suppression of certain species, possibly showing suppressant or pheromonal response below ground to species, and the fact that most forest systems have not yet been studied. It is clear there is a mountain of work to do, some essential and some just there to be done. He concludes with a statement that extra radical expression of the fungi in the environment is the next step.
We can say for certain this would include glomalin, and hopefully reveal its nature as a soil component, its role along with bacteria and other soil organisms in the creation of aggregates which have the effect of available water storage and soil stability. Glomalin surveys will not tell us what species are current but shows the amount of biodeposited material contained in the soil. We now know its universal presence but in question are the depth of deposits and the rate of decay. Seven to ten years are sufficient to regrow ground cover and provide at least a surface glomalin layer. Rilligs' research is showing higher rates of deposition at the deeper soil levels. This would seem to support my contention that deeper layers of glomalin in the soil do not get replenished by the new growth, leaving Douglas fir region clear-cuts prone to slides decades after the ground has been recovered by greenery. This in particular is why I avoided redwoods, as stump sprouting further complicates the picture, with diminished capacity for feeding subsoil food webs. We see this touched on tangentially in Part Five, about the mechanisms that drive fruiting. Finally, glomalin may be seen as a biofilm created by a community of organisms for the benefit of all
The Scottish forest modellers also included ergosterol in their study. This is interesting. Ergosterol, a precursor of Vitamin D, plays a similar role to cholesterols in animal cells, forming the cell walls in fungi. By quantifying ergosterol in the soil the researchers are able to get a snapshot of recent fungal activity, varying in the study by the month. Glomalin, a residual product sloughed off and durable in the soil, shows fungal activity over time. A steady 3 mg/l were found, in the range of the initial field crops reports and way below the 15 mg/l in the wild borders of the fields, or the 100 mg/l found in volcanic soils in Hawaii. but then the story breaks down because no soil profile delimits the depth of deposition, no depth of sample or age of area under study are given. We need long term observations and at varying depths to find the optimal point at which we can begin thinking about sustainable harvests and exportable water.
The health of a forest ecosystem is also dependant on the number and nature of the individuals that make it up. We see that several species of native phytophthera do not aggressively attack oak and tanoak stands like p.ramorum. Is the new species the problem, or is it taking advantage of a relatively new scheme of things in the coastal forests? It is not possible to state the nature of infected sites but there is a good chance not much remains in the way of the original relationships between plants. It seems quite likely Sudden Oak Death would have more trouble in old growth, like so many other invasive species taking advantage of sudden changes in conditions. Then again chestnut and potato blight spread with ease. Many of these will run rampant until some normal limiting factor kicks in- a cold summer, drought, flooding, shade, salt water, fresh water, a return of naturally suppressant species. The one factor limiting SOD I have read is that none appears in areas that have burned in the last fifty years or so, certainly questionable and a good place to start in the field of ideas. I am searching for my list of mycorhizzia associated with redwood.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

185. Glomalin in Forest Software, Kenneth Fisher Chair created at HSU 

Modelling an Untended Scottish Forest Ecosystem
Utilising Standard and Customised Software
Modelling an Untended Scottish Forest Ecosystem
Utilising Standard and Customised Software
Two important developments in our efforts to educate the public in a new way of seeing forests and land use in general came to our attention this week. As has been our aim to convince people a key component, glomalin, has been missing in discussions over land use, especially as relates to erosion control, and in the carbon and water cycles. We have tracked this story since 2002 and written nearly two years about incorp0orating this important discovery into natural resource and land management issues. It also is a key factor in climate change issue but offers solutions and opportunities at nearly every step.
The first is the first report I have seen incorporating glomalin as simply a parameter in a forested setting, just as we’d hoped. Of course we can talk about a wide variety of approaches to the mountains of unknowns to the countables, as soil fungi surveys show. Glomalin is included in the computer modeling. This is an important advance as land managers of different stripes learn from each other. The researchers have included various sampling soil markers,:
Their golas were to collect forest ecosystem data, using customizable software to observe
quantifiable interactions, and create a dynamic model capable of representing different aspects of the ecosystem.
This shows the need for technical expertise, as glomalin extraction alone is a difficult laboratory process, several other procedures are called for, data needs entry into meaningful equations and the results need to be at least intellectually and scientifically useful.
At the same time, trained professionals are often too close to their own specialty to see larger systems, and we often see research that wouldn’t occur if some of this knowledge were already widely known. We see need for solutions and for clear understanding of what is at stake in land, forest, fish, wildlife, and air-and water-quality issues. So we keep on plugging. Many thanks to for hosting this site, our only contribution.
Modelling an Untended Scottish Forest Ecosystem
Utilising Standard and Customised Software
S.J.J. Walkera, R. Watlingb, H.J. Stainesa, A.Garsidea, D. Knottb, J.W. Palfreymana and V. Krivtsova
“• Estimation of total microbial biomass through differences in Abs 280nm levels between fumigated and control samples.
• Estimation of fungal biomass utilising the biomarkers Glomalin and Ergosterol.
• Estimation of bacteria numbers.
• pH of soil.
• Soil and surface litter composition.
• Leaf decomposition (using mesh bags).
• Patterns of fungal succession from sporome observations.
Among the systems under investigation is estimation of fungal biomass utilising the fungal biomarkers, Ergosterol and Glomalin. By modelling the Glomalin subsystem, it may be possible to predict the extent of soil aggregation in different forests based on their tree and under story composition.”
The importance and presence of fungi and bacteria are clear from the outset of the study. Solid background data will need collection, and I would say depth of glomalin would be an essential component. It may be detectable through ground radar or other water moisure models, or simply coring a wide number of sites. Fungal identification may not be as important as overall abundance for various reasons depending on goals, but understanding succession and seasonality will require a lot of detective work, lots of it already collected and awaiting interpretation. We expect major improvements in forest growth once mycorhizzia inoculation becomes a serious area of research. The authors end: It is our feeling that Scottish forests should be managed in a more natural way, to improve conservation and attract rare species of fungi. The attraction of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to areas of clear felling and grassland may reduce soil erosion and improve conditions for sustainable crop growth.
In general, the results of this study will enhance our understanding of forest ecosystem dynamics and hopefully improve management practices to reduce human impact on the environment. Timber production in Scotland will double over the next 15 years to nearly 8 million m3 per year [Forestry Commission, statistics published on the internet]. With some adaptation, the models may be applied to those forest areas where intense management is practiced. With further adaptaion, the models may also be applied to temperate forests in general.
And then, the announcement of biology professor Stephen Stillet as the new Kenneth L. Fisher Chair position at HSU to study Redwood Forest Ecology!
A Chariman Among the Treetops
The Times-Standard 02/04/06 HSU forestry alumnus Kenneth L. Fisher, founder and CEO of Fisher Investments, donated an investment fund of 3.2 million dollars in order to earn $90,000 a year for the position, for at least two years. He did this because he feels there is a lot to learn yet about the redwood forest. It allows one professor to do research as well as hire several graduate students. We are certain that our information, a dedicated team and that kind of money will get results worth writing home about. We of course, would like to see a bunch of folks take this opportunity to open discussion and start funding projects, and seeing the possibilities of technology transfer that are opening up in supplying necessary microbes for optimal growth in good conditions and competitive advantage in stressful situations, like drought, and glomalins critical role at the crux of the soil, atmosphere and precipitation regimes. We point out that much of the research so far started with USDA money, and Rillig worked under DOE contracts for several years. The number of hits on glomalin now exceeds 14,000 (we started at twelve) and there is plenty of private interests, like Save-the-Redwoods, that fund studies. An immense amount of work is waiting interest, including cataloguing the observations listed collections like the Humboldt Mycological Society’s proceedings in the HSU libraries. We have said before this discovery may well yield research, departments and industries.

Friday, February 03, 2006

184.Storm damage, Style, Water Board Authority 

(I apologize for losing the formatting tools. I'll figure it out sooner or later.)
While our little experiment in one portion of the Mattole River drainage may not be huge, the lessons provided are there for all to see. So it is with the roads in Hoopa, subject of a story in the Times-Standard this week. . There was so much damage from the New Years storm they have not even been able to assess conditions off the main roads. Pictures of failed roads along rivers indicate vast new influxes of sediment into an already distressed river. This bodes ill for warm water season, as storms of that magnitude should be scouring sediment out to sea and improving in stream conditions. The new influx will not only fill in any pool building already occurring but will bleed sediment for some time until repairs and healing can take effect. The tribe would do well to look at the rolling dip model of road maintenance rather than level grading, which necessitates in board ditches, culverts and necessitates seasonal scraping adding to the up-slope destabilized sediment in the watershed. A little knowledge can go a long way, and times of big damage are times to reassess.
Storm damage in the Arcata Community Forest came from blow-down. Interestingly, it is the model used by Forest Planners in the first place and so wasn't a total surprise, although Nature has a way of letting us be right even when we are wrong. So the damage came from an unexpected direction and was limited to a specific elevation range. This was similar to a storm about ten years ago that took out most of the large black oaks on the north facing side of the hill. An unusually warm fall, heavy rain, sudden freeze and then a wind storm, and the damage was done before the storm concluded with snow. These trees all turned up their roots so we also lost their ability to stump sprout. We applaud the managers for careful planning and good decisions, and recognizing dollars are not the primary function of forests.
Climate Prediction Center reported Thursday water temperatures in the North Eastern Pacific were cool and indicating a La Nina in the coming months. La Nina is the opposite of El Nino and usually indicates cool wet weather in the Northwest and drier than normal conditions in the Southland. We are basically on the edge and could go either way. I am not sure how this affects upwelling but I am sure they are related.
We continue to be depressed over the style used in global warming issues. The unrelenting headlines tell us no amount of land management can influence the issue. The english, especially, make some pronouncement about once a month repeating this, as if to say we are only causing problems with industrial emissions. Last month the argument was that trees emit methane as they grow. The tree is entirely composed of material gathered from the atmosphere and the emission is a tiny fraction of the biomass. Yet they multiplied the methane by the size of standing forest, took no account of subsoil activity inside their gas collection apparatus and as usual, took pains to be clear that this was a problem with no solution. We couldn't disagree any more. This is similar to a blurb in the Advocate showing marijuana users are in twice as many accidents. All the way at the end and not in the release was the statement that alcohol users are six times more likely to be involved in traffic accidents, and we applaud the Advocate for reminding us of the power of spin and misdirection.
This leads us to George Clarks rant on Harvesting Humboldt’s lifestyle, a personal issue of longstanding interest, and goes directly to Arcata’s attempts to challenge corporate personhood. It is hard to say where America would be without the durability, financing and teamwork. We could argue whether we'd be better off. But a whole mountain of protection and privilege have gone to the corporate players at the expense of everything else. Every item along the way that impedes a corporations’ path is challenged, often with local support. We see Confusion HiIl and S.R. 299 closed again- is it in any large corporate interest to see these roads opened quickly, or to spend the money to permanently fix these problems. There will be if they find gold or some other valuable in sufficient quantity. And the gold could even be a market starved for certain commodities. In the meantime, we are a backwater with a nasty attitude and so capital rich outfits are really not interested. For many of us, that means our lifestyle options that brought us here remain intact.
Mr. Clarks piece is one of the new blogs that are currently the rage around town. The Times-Standard and the Northcoast Journal both seemed to discover local blogs a week or two ago. Also, Redwood Reader doesn't come up in a search of Humboldt in blog titles, although it appears in the description box. We hope someone will run a natural resources blog in a larger outlet locally. My most dedicated readers are in Japan, especially readers using the Western Red Cedar and Good Deck ISPs. Translating the ISPs home page shows how bad Internet translations can be, along with a high potential for humor. (TS Blogs)
We came here believing we could restore cutover and flood damaged lands to a stable and profitable landscape. It started with getting fish back in the stream and has led to many fields of activity and interest. However, we are dependant on climatic and ocean conditions for the fish themselves, and by all reports, bad things are occurring in the Pacific. Blamed mainly on lack of steady winds, the upwelling natural to the area has not been anywhere near normal. Upwelling circulates nutrients from the ocean floor back into the growth zone, where plankton feed and create the base of the food chain. No upwelling, less plankton, and all the following reports: Starving orcas in Puget Sound because the 100,000 normal salmon didn't arrive, thousands of dead cormorants and murres along the Washington/Oregon coast, glaucus seagulls hatching less than 100 birds, starving auks not mating in the Farallones, and hatched chicks being killed by their parents, a 90% decline in white sturgeon in the San Joaquin/Sacramento system in the last five years (from DFG reported on KTVU SF), delayed crab season in the North (interesting because in early December the TV report said Eureka crab were in good shape but with Crescent City included the crabs did not have enough meat. I am not sure but it looks like including the entire North Coast hurt Eureka crab fishermen disproportionately since the crab was good right from the beginning.)
Reading Frank Keating’s’ Hunting and Fishing column in the old Long Island Press throughout my youth taught me many marine species cycle through population boom and busts, and we saw several scares where species were disappearing and made strong comebacks, some by human interference and some by natural rhythms. So size restrictions on striped bass were put in place, but the fishery in NY recovered after PCBs were found to be the cause of the crash and restrictions put in place. Disappearance of blue claw crabs put an end to my crabbing days but when we visited in the early nineties there was a bumper crop. A hot debate was brewing over whether to return egg laden females to preserve the fishery with one side contending the bumper crop happened on its own and so there was no need for regulation. Good guys returned the females but where was the science? It is also likely the bumper crop had more to do with conditions in other parts of the coast further south.
We applaud the State Supreme Court ruling giving the Water Quality Control Board jurisdiction over projects that impair water quality throughout the State. We note that PL has complied with this order voluntarily in contested regions. PL claimed they were within all legal guidelines by following CDF. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed that argument because the Forest Practice Act doesn't limit another state agency’s jurisdictions.

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