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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.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
We have followed this story from the beginning because it shows how glomalin can help us with these issues in a concrete and substantial manner. We believe there is a workable plan that calls for some sacrifice by all parties initially that will improve all sectors sustainably, in a few years. A few wet years could be all it takes with a little willingness not to accept the status quo as the beat possible solution.
Because we are comparing runs from just a few years ago, we can discount dam removal for the moment. That can only improve the situation but is not relevant to current conditions. More water in the river can be achieved from higher flows but the watershed as a whole needs repair for optimal flows. Dam removal also expands the spawning range. Farmers should be compensated by implementing federal BMP’s for rainwater harvest across the landscape, off channel ponds, large water tanks and switching to less water intensive types of irrigation.
Our studies show land use is a major component in river health. The lower Klamath has been logged heavily and the impacts are the same as we have been describing here throughout. In a high rainfall area the precipitation interface and fungal water storage systems are disrupted across a wide portion of the landscape. Roads, soil compaction and diverted drainage are causing sedimentation of the channels, widening of the river, removing shade, impacting water temperature and dissolved oxygen and degrading spawning grounds. A steady decline is assured if we do not take this into account. So the lower Klamath region should put a moratorium on clear cuts and road building, or at least restrict them, and try to leave large tracts to regrow the forest that are off limits after early thinning. Aggressive treatment will provide jobs and small wood and chip products. This actually fits in well with TMDLs that are coming to the Klamath (Water Quality Control Board website www.swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb1. ) because these are the very goals we are tackling in the Mattole, although we had little agricultural residue.
A Eureka Reporter article on the meeting revealed the problem. “We are trying to understand not only what water quality conditions are in the river, but what is causing those water quality conditions to be what they are,” said David Leland, senior water quality engineer for the water board on the project. “So we are looking for cause-and-effect relationships.”
Ultimately, Leland said the water board is looking to develop a tool that can be used to change what those inputs are and then look for a response in the watershed system.”
Most of our sediment came from poor roads and legacy damage. Sediment surveys identified the problem areas for repair, and alternative drainage was introduced restoring natural patterns. Once new sedimentation is prohibited and people understand how to work the forests while retaining its crucial properties the fish will be back and there will be sustainable income from stable landscapes. Agricultural runoff, whether fertilizer, waste or pesticide will be discussed. “McKinleyville resident and fish biologist Pat Higgins told the water board that the situation on the Klamath River was dire. Higgins said a large amount of nutrients being released into the river, primarily from agriculture practices upstream, were causing algal blooms and other toxic conditions for fish, as well as known and new fish diseases that were “piggybacking” on some of those conditions.” While higher flows will help alleviate algae, I recall the ladies telling us about this process from For Sake of the Salmon from the Petaluma River and Stempfl Creek describing how hard it was to gain consensus in an area with 12,000 businesses along the river with 138000 people in the watershed, all with rights. The larger community must decide this needs doing, which, in effect, is why there is a water quality board holding hearings on discharges and impacts on the river, as required by the Clean Water Act. “Although the battle to improve the main channel of the Klamath River may succeed, Higgins said the war to correct the watershed may be lost if the tributaries to the river weren’t addressed rapidly. ‘If these fish can’t get to well-distributed cold water areas en route and we lose a half dozen of these (tributaries) in the next 10 or 15 years before we fix the mainstream temperatures, we may not have salmon to recover,’ he said.”
So far the impacts are mostly to those living in the region. There are others who must understand what is at stake and how they contribute to the problem. One such group are the recreational users of public lands that demand their right to enjoy their horse, ATV, dirt bike, mountain bike most anywhere on public land. Stop. High rainfall forests are much more fragile than you imagine. Another category of public lands is needed, perhaps temporary, that deemphasizes recreation so essential areas have recovery opportunities as well to provide essential far into the future. We would also ban salvage logging in advance just so everyone is clear we are rebuilding the water system by way of cleaning the atmosphere through trees and fungi.
It may seem like a lot of sacrifice for a few fish in terms of dollars, but this story has wider implications. Rising Arctic temperatures and sea levels are causing more notice now and most solutions are technological fixes that are a drop in the bucket or unproven. Redwood Reader has advocated for paying forest owners to grow big trees through sale of carbon credits. It may soon be time to set aside large chunks of land for carbon filtering by vegetation. Glomalin storage does the job. Its just too tempting to cash a large tree out. The trees must be value enhanced for what they do. Consider a large Douglas fir has about one million needles that cover nearly an acre if laid out. There is about one mycorhizzae attached to the roots for every needle, according to web articles mentioned earlier. One early picture showed clover making a gram of glomalin in thirty days, so for the sake of argument lets say each mycorhizzae is making a gram of hyphae sheathing per growing season- one million grams, one thousand kilos, a ton. It may make several, there are no numbers yet and too many unknowns. All of this will be figured out in the next few decades and will be part of a simple mathematical modeling for natural resources since we are talking about a rate of natural occurrence, and its cumulative impacts in terms of collecting and storing water as well as carbon.
It was recently reported CO2 in the atmosphere had doubled since the Industrial Age began. While processes like steel making and lime have contributed lots of CO2, and various combustion processes by billions of people contribute, little is said of the vast amounts of carbon released from the soil through time, and the very few practices we employ that return it, mostly we count on earth to do what it does while allowing that capacity to be diminished daily while continuing to add to the problem. Once carbnon dioxide is recognized as a resource the scramble will be on to collect the lions share and we will have entered a new reality.
Life at Sea Approaching the Shoals
March 26 2006
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-salmon26mar26,1,6229690.story?page=2&coll=la-news-environment This article includes a little background on the story of the Klamath since 2001, when drought caused upper river farmers to demand more water for irrigation.
Judge Rules for Fish in Klamath River Dispute
Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer March 28, 2006
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-klamath28mar28,1,6228547.story?coll=la-news-environmentKlamath River the focus of water board scoping meetingEureka Reporter
by Nathan Rushton, 3/2/2006 www.eurekareporter.com
Web site for Klamath TMDL's at www.swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb1.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Science always adapts to new information. Recently the connection of Solutrean points and Clovis points, made the same way but more refined, opened the door for main stream scientists to distinguish this culture from Asia, where embedded microchips were used for large killing point, an altogether different technology absent from the Americas. This changes our thinking to European immigration in times until recently thought to be devoid of humans. One big surprise was that many Clovis digs had stopped at the agreed time of 11500, or had continued but not included older findings in their reports for fear of being ridiculed by their peers. We hope some of these digs will be re-examined in light of the new thinking.
Americas Stone Age Hunters (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/3116_stoneage.html) exposed mans adaptability and what we call gravity flow, or ease of lifestyle. A pre-Clovis site at Gault, Texas revealed a settled area near with hunting grounds nearby but only one large point. It seems these folks were eating birds and turtles. There is little evidence of megafauna among the remains. But a picture emerged of a very capable culture from before the accepted date, with various lines of investigation converging to form the new picture.
We have discovered several dozen stone tools on our private property. Most are arrowheads but we have found a large appear point, obsidian scraper from the east part of the state, a small perfectly shaped flake with a hook we used for cutting very tough iris leaves, used for thread and rope, and on rabbit skins. It worked better than steel. As time passed we eventually returned these items to areas near where they were found. This is an area of nearly current stone tool use and it is fascinating to see ancient people craft all they needed out of chert, flint and obsidian.
Man is adaptable to whatever conditions he realizes. The problem is not recognizing problems or waiting too long. So the new points took out most all of American large animals in a few hundred years. So it is with rising sea levels. It is happening. It happened in the past. What is most at risk is our infrastructure along the coasts and valleys. It would seem to be time for some serious planning or the next generations will be forced into react mode rather than prepare mode. By the same token steps that can reduce this impact are known to be available but we see little concern in this regard.
China, on the other hand, seems to see what lies ahead and is not afraid to use its government to steer growth in environmentally friendly directions. Keith Bradsheer of the New York Times reports on new taxes on large cars, chopsticks and a range of other fuel and forest friendly measures to lessen the impacts of its massive growth in China Raises Taxes to Curb Use of Energy and Timber (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/23/business/worldbusiness/23yuan.html?ex=1300770000&en=0f3ade0218b51b71&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss . They are taking some lessons into account and it is very interesting to see them modernize with an awareness of what that implies. They are sharing with all the people in the sense that while several hundred million are now in a Western type economy, cell phones have brought coverage to the entire nation without the infrastructure of phone lines, and satellite computer and television are available in every village. This means everyone is able to use these services at least to some extent.
This is in strong contrast to Gale Norton advocating more road building on Federal lands on her way out of office, as reported in Grist today (email@example.com ). Interesting to see the two papers it names as sources are from Utah and Alaska, where the issue of vehicles on public lands has created quite a stir. This blog has shown what is lost in road building and destruction of subsoil landscape components, and California also has a strong off road lobby. In fact, these lobbies all insist on the right to burn gas to destroy natural systems that we, as biological creatures, depend upon. It has amazed us that for all the talk no one complains about the amount of fuel used in racing at all levels, the amount of exhaust or any of the development parameters like the golf course opponents list, from land prices to pesticides. We need better ways to prevent ecological destruction in the name of fun, promoted by oil and auto conglomerates or we are contributing to undermining our own infrastructure and quality of life.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
We have honored the Cattlemen last year and so it was sad to read the latest story about their annual meeting. I have contacted a few of the involved people and all involved agencies. I wrote many times to PL, who could have made a huge difference in getting this done but has chosen to sell off “unprofitable Douglas fir and ranch lands.” They have decided not to arrange multi party studies that would put everyone on the same page, or use their political clout or business influence to bring carbon trading to the NorthCoast or new science to Sacramento in search of regulatory relief. So they can squawk all they want about regulations but they have opted out of participating in learning something new that could alter all resource and development regulations and potentially bring in millions of dollars for resource managers and landowners. Someone did pickup part of the ball with HSU receiving money to Chair a Ecology of the Redwood Forest position, but the direction is not going to save other forest types and or illuminate managers and regulators to a basic principle of vegetations role in the ecology, and the proposition is in academia and out of the on-the-ground loop.
Cattlemen say feds are putting squeeze on them
PL bailing on Doug fir lands is not the only disappointing story we saw this week. The Hoopa tribe is accepting money to study small hydro generators on the tributaries of the Trinity. This is incomprehensible to me as it directly impacts spawning habitat, the Klamath system as a whole is in trouble, their subsidence fishery is closed and biomass and wind are available at no threat to the fish. The whole concept is baffling since the program covered Native Americans and renewable energy, you’d think they’d choose to study something less detrimental to their own tribal health. On the other hand, power plants earn far more money than fishing and lead to improved economic conditions in many ways. So it is a decision whether to further degrade an imperiled system for economic incentive.
In another light, white men lured Indians onto the reservation with shiny objects, the last Indian shed a tear for loss of the natural world. The Indians adapted and learned to lure white to the reservation with shiny casinos. Now the white men are standing in the parking lot shedding a tear for the lost habitat.
One of the leading lights on glomalin, Mattias Rillig of the University of Montana, worked under DOE rather than USDA grants for several years, and we have noted this important work before. This bore out our contention glomalin was a structural component and thus widespread throughout the fungi, and many species contribute to the soil storage building effort.
Our main contention about watershed health is not quite proven but we have filled in most of the pieces, especially where sediment, carbon sequestration and revegetation are concerned. What is needed is the overview study that demonstrates the biological influence upon landscape water capacity. This is shown in the forest model including glomalin. The samples can only be a snapshot in time. No note was made of the last floor disturbance, the age of the trees, the distance from them, the number of fungi and their place in succession or abundance or the rate of accumulation under various conditions. We also need to know more about the mechanics of foraging mycelium and its seasonal and successional interactions with other species. And we have to decide how much reduction in carrying capacity is acceptable for land use activities, from none to complete urbanization.
Hoopa tribe gets $103,000 for river hydropower studyhttp://www.eurekareporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?ArticleID=8987 We get to say one more time that the whole system is broken as we read About Pacific Fisheries Management Council upcoming talks in Seattle possibly shutting down the entire commercial salmon season for the region known as the Klamath fishery, about seven hundred miles from Carmel, California to the north Oregon coast. Clearly we are looking at a piece of a broken system. The emphasis on the juvenile salmon die off is only a symptom, of course, and is subject to repetition because it is the result of the effect of a decision about managing a natural system, water. Negotiations about removal of some or all of the Klamath dams are going forward, with no assurances. But no effort is being made to restore the lower watersheds health, or to improve stream flow on a systematic basis by reshaping roads, capturing rain fall or taking close care of any soil disturbances. Intensive precipitation management below dams may be a worthwhile tradeoff for power generators, at least leaving some part of the system healthy. There is also danger that natural events like SOD may cause a degree of forest decline that lowers the ability of the forest to regenerate itself. Like the pine beetles and spruce budworm, vast acreages of trees that remove CO2 from the atmosphere are losing their ability while people continue to burn the tropical forests. We are damaging the very tools we need to use to address problems like increasing CO2 levels and declining water availability.
Salmon Fishing Ban ConsideredDwindling runs on the Klamath prompt a proposal to put 700 miles of coast off limits.
By Eric Bailey, LA Times Staff Writer March 4, 2006
Thursday, March 02, 2006
I’d also point out this would allow them to make detailed maps of their progress in the Fortuna Creeks Program over the years, as GIS is an important part of watershed management. Thanks to them for providing training as well, which is also a cost to them and great for our students and staff.
Elsewhere locally we see TMDL’s coming for the lower Klamath in Klamath Water Quality Focus Getting Sharper. http://www.times-standard.com/local/ci_3561753 Total Maximum Daily Loads are being worked out for all watercourses to return our water sources to health. They were pretty scary sounding coming to the Mattole a few years back, but in the end they didn’t cover legacy damage, and sediment was our only problem. Sediment is controlled by vegetation and good practices on the ground, whether logging, grazing or even building. Nutrients are either excess fertilizer or animal waste although phosphorus loading from detergent was an issue on Long Island in my youth. The other two problems, temperature and oxygen, will improve with more regrowth, which contributes cool water in the dry season in the lower reaches. If you look at shade as a cooling factor nad how do we replace it, we start seeing the problem inside out. How do you prevent the river taking out the trees in high water? You slow down the amount reaching the river right after the event causing a smaller more controlled flow. You can also be sure tributaries are in good condition and manage the lands for maximum water production, especially in area with impacted flows. All of which is to say that in order to provide suitable habitat below the dams it is important to use all available land management tools. We suggest looking at BMP’s for water production in arid areas that may provide better flow regimes in the impacted stretches of river, a change in perspective on ground disturbances cost to late summer flows, and easements or something to guarantee long term rotations and minimal soil disturbance in harvest, preservation by purchase in critical areas of orographic influence to ensure maximum precipitation collection
These techniques will improve the situation above the dams as well but that will have less impact on salmon habitat. Both the state and federal governments are charged with capturing water resources as needed but they have mainly chosen to drain the landscape into reservoirs.
Several articles today show us global warming is occurring now, with potential for major losses. One article is reporting on shrinking ice sheets in Antartica, another about Mt. Kilamanjros shrinking glaciers, and another concerning increasingly ferocious storms in Europe. Power generators are named as the critical cause in tyhese European reports. However, the effect on Canadas western forests is documented in the Washington Posts Doug Struck ‘Rapiid Warming’ Spreads Havoc in Canada’s Forests http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/28/AR2006022801772_pf.html . This article is specifically about pine beetles and lodge pole pine but we know all four Alaskan major species are under attack from other insects taking advantage of warmer winters. One earlier story also mentioned that insects that usually hatch once a year were hatching two and three broods a year, greatly increasing the numbers, and also not being controlled by the killing cold.
The article goes on to describe the massive salvage logging industry that has built up to process the wood before it rots too much. From our point of view, this is only setting the stage for further degradation. An entire landscape no longer supporting the subsoil communities raises the likelihood of land sliding from loss of the precipitation interface and soil glue deposited to hold it together, and converts much needed water into soil cutting runoff, which is exacerbated by soil disturbance like skidding and road building.
Ironically, this is a boom market and has been a problem with trade for a while- too much cheap Canadian lumber. It is quite possible the entire North could wind up in similar condition in the not too distant future providing a steady stream of cull lumber for decades.. It could also get really cold one year…
They say it takes seventy years to regrow the pine forest, as we know, that does not allow the mature forest to do its task of cleaning the air and depositing glomalin, which in turn holds the soil together and allows water storage. Many studies have shown there will be extensive surface coverage reestablished in ten years and in flatter areas there will be diminishing erosion. Steeper areas will be more slide prone in heavy storms and it will take less rain to saturate the ground and begin running and carrying sediment.
As far as global warming goes, this is a vast area to lose production from (storing carbon from the air in wood and soil), as well as from the soil itself. The flip side of that is that global warming and higher CO2 concentrations multiply plant productivity several times. This is why we hope that general forest productivity does not decline across many species due to sudden oak death.
Catastrophic dieoff in the forests in occurring now and we should be prepared for events of this type, as Sudden Oak Death may begin a need for disposing of large amounts of vegetation. As we have stated earlier there should be local generating plants to take in green waste from vegetation control projects as well as chips. This could help pay for woodland improvement and provide income and jobs while securing a local supply of material for conversion.
The need for paid land managers to manage woodlands for growing big trees couldn’t be clearer. Conversion into energy and payment for carbon storage should be the heart of our efforts for sustainability in the forests. Paying for tree removal needs to be bested by compensation for other priorities. It also allows for all types of native trees as all have some role in the ecology. Lack of good wood or standard form is not an issue. The result is a forest that provides clean water and wildlife habitat by accident, is protected to some extent from fire through vegetation management and lowered risk factors.