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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.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
A friend showed me a website some time ago concerned with contrails. They were convinced there was a conspiracy to save the industrialized areas of the world from high levels of UV radiation due to ozone loss from pollution. The story said planes flew over the cities in the northern hemisphere and that the exhaust created a shield that slowly floated back to the surface. They could make a permanent globe if they could cover the entire earth in a short period of time, but was an impossible task, so new shields were put in place regularly via contrail. The conspirators were the US, Canada, Russia, EU, China and Japan.
It was just another crazy story until Nova reported on people checking the three days after Sept 11 2001 when no planes flew at all over the U.S. The result was a quick drop in temperature range due to lack of clouds keeping the heat in at night, with higher day temperature and cooler nights. The change was so rapid as too seem impossible.
This matches up well with CO2 Science magazines’ (www.co2science.org) reports in the Subject Index on contrails as well as the albedo effect- the reflection of sunlight off clouds and radiating back away from earth. We begin to see that climate warming is being counteracted by less sunlight reaching the surface. In fact, temperatures are less than predicted for the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, global warming is not climate change, and there are plenty of problems with this man made protection too.
The most important of these is the effect on rainfall. Nova clearly illustrated normal raindrop formation with a natural nucleus. We can imagine this as some of the solid nucleus gases emitted by trees- large natural particles called aerosols. As the water condenses on the core it gains weight until it falls. The problem with man-made particulates is their size. The small cores collect water much more slowly and remain light, which can allow moisture to stay in the cloud cover far longer and bring uncertain rainfall, or cause it to fall far down wind of the normal pattern. The longer life of the clouds means even less sunlight is reaching the surface. An interesting note is that greenhouse gases really took off when we began to focus on particulates, solving one at the expense of the other.
Another effect is the rate of evaporation. Surprisingly, temperature has little to do with the rate of evaporation. Evaporation is caused by sunlight (photons) hitting the surface of the water and knocking water molecules free from the liquid environment. The wind also does this. Ice can and does evaporate. Thus evaporation is slowed whenever there is less light available. With something like 30% less light than a few decades ago, we should be seeing more clouds and cloudier days but less rainfall, or rainfall carried further before precipitating. This is climate change without warming.
CO2 Science also has several articles about the effects of long term CO2 on ecosystem nitrogen availability. Here we wish we could get the climate guys to read the plant physiokogists who have found increased CO2 leads to greater growth of nitrogen fixing bacteria, keeping higher than natural amounts of nitrogen available for extra growth. Hidden here is the fact that the protein part of glomalin requires nitrogen for sequestering carbon, and that glomalin production goes way up under increased CO2, and I haven’t heard of glomalin not forming from lack of nutrients. I have heard that fertilizing reduces the amount and effectiveness of mycorhizzia because there is no need to forage through the soil for life support.
Global dimming shows us all the data is not in yet regarding rising CO2 and global warming. We have to wonder if there is a productivity drop off due to less sunlight, and what effects that may have on agriculture and ecosystem health around the world.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
All through the nineties we were told that carbon from trees was all released back into the atmosphere once the tree was cut- eventually the slash, roots and lumber will all oxidize and return CO2 to the air, creating a no net gain situation concerning trees for storing carbon. This was at the heart of European and Commonwealth attempts to enter the carbon market and a major U.S. objection to it.
A fine example of why old trees are needed comes from Greenbelt Consulting website for restoration in Puget Sound. The article Hydraulic Distribution and Tree Roots http://www.greenbeltconsulting.com/ctp/hydraulicredistribute.html written as a letter from the Forest Service to the Plan writer goes into some picture of the need for deep (>2 meter) roots for maintaining daily intake throughput the dry season for western conifers. This is one of our core issues. A good question may be whether woody roots are mycorhizzia at depth, and how much glomalin is down there. Mykoweb (www.mykoweb.com) reports an average Douglas fir has about one million needles and just as many mycorhizzia. The crown covers about an acre of total coverage. Thus mature trees must generate a large amount of carbon products just to maintain the fungi. Total soil carbon is greater than anticipated and more dynamic than recognized. Second growth cannot match this capture and forests will experience steady decline until it becomes part of the institutional understanding.
The 1996 discovery of glomalin shows us trees and associated fungi do the same job with far more benefits than any of the other methods. This is because glomalin is the sequestered product of vegetative systems, is made mostly of CO2 and water with an iron containing protein, that sequesters metals, conditions soils to hold more water, and persists in the soil for decades after tree cutting, although not permanently.
A decade after the discovery we find Nature publishing a new article about the inability of plants to sequester carbon. They had plenty of variety in their set up and control but failed to measure total production because glomalin is not included in the final analysis, as reported in the Pioneer Press (http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/local/14326175.htm ) on April 12, 2006. There is lots of evidence fertilizing slows mycorhizzia activity since there is less need for foraging for minerals and thus would actually decrease total productivity. It is stunning so much time has elapsed and funding is available for studies that ignore recognition of new science. Last year I wrote Nature about the need for their editors to come up to speed on this simple discovery, yet they continue to publish far off the mark articles that keep people from thinking they can do something on global pollution issues. Even CO2 Science magazine (http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/articles/V9/N15/B2.jsp)in Four Decades of Russian Forest Growth is slow to pick up on this critical component, adding it to the Subject Index but not seeing it for its importance or how it allows us to approach several seemingly intractable problems or provide insight into new or ongoing studies.
Scientists are finding more difficult processes are performed by Nature with far less energy and hazards than their man-made counterparts. The study of this is called biometrics. In a sense glomalin activity in the soil is similar to baking without heat, in that pockets are created in solid material, and loose ingredients are consolidated into a continuum- in this case, the landscape. Reports of hillsides swelling in rain from Redwood Sciences Lab reports tells us the precipitation interface acts like bread absorbing water when rewetted to the point of the weight causing dissolution. We also can see Nature has a method of removing excess carbon from the air in a way that benefits all its denizens.
If we picture a mature forest as having deposited residue in the ground for many years, with many individuals contributing to a pool of the material, we can see why select cuts are far less damaging than clear cuts. We only have to look at the effects of a century of select cutting and compare them to clear cuts and their impact on fisheries. Select cuts allow other individuals to contribute to the pool. Clear cuts remove glomalin sources and decline begins in the woods. Mattias Rilligs work shows us higher percentages of glomalin are deposited through the deepest roots. Redwood Sciences lab tells us vegetative cover returns to full coverage within ten years. The big question was- why do we have landslides decades after tree felling even after the surface appears stabilized? The answer is that deeper layers of glomalin decay before the new roots can reach the depths of the old deposits, and they slowly decompose until no soil glue remains. When the soil glue is gone soil reverts to inorganic granules that are easily mobilized in wet weather or gravity.
This is the point of separation from restoration because we need to move into how we will manage those recovered lands. How do we encourage growing large trees that won’t be cut for timber? How do we protect the floor? What are we willing to sacrifice for economic opportunity?
Deposition of glomalin is the main function of individual trees in the forest. In their symbiotic relationship with fungi they enhance their environment and lay the foundation for all other forest processes and species. In and of itself this is a great beneficial advantage, but there is more to come. Dissolution of glomalin, a nearly global presence in vascular plants, has been the hallmark of the Industrial Revolution, particularly agriculture and development. While the causes of glomalin destruction are well known, no one has done a study on the cumulative effects of the impacts of tilling such a large percentage of the earths surface. Nevertheless we can now be proactive about global warming by taking local steps. And those steps enhance our local natural systems once thought to be a mystery of Nature.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Water Quality Control Boards implementation of Total Maximum Daily Loads directly targets low dissolved oxygen and water temperature, which will improve conditions in the river as is, probably with more sediment control. We have notified them of glomalin before and they may or may not include it in their thinking. This is why we call for an end to clear cutting, indiscriminate road building and salvage logging, especially on public lands, until the damage caused by land use is recognized, regulated and better methods implemented.
The Klamath is in relatively good shape compared to the Eel, and one or two years should see a buildup of numbers again without any effort other that making sure some are allowed to spawn and enough water flows for fish survival. Dam mitigation, whether ladders or removal, will boost the spawning territories in the interior. Improved conditions in the tributaries below the dams are also important as these contribute cold water late in the season. As we have shown here, the restoration of water stored in the ground for late season flows is a missing element in most recovery programs, although all count on revegetation to restore healthy conditions.
It would appear all the pieces are available for a strong return of Klamath runs. Of course fishermen are afraid of losing this years catch and history shows that controlling take allows conditions to improve while recovery takes place. Cyclic phases occur in many species. In this article commercial fishing is cited as a 150 million a year industry. Later there is a mention of $761 million for 327 Klamath fish.
In this day and age maybe we need haul insurance for fishermen like crop insurance, a program that makes the payments even in rough years. There is no doubt Klamath salmon will be back, and removal of obstacles to spawning should lead to larger returns than currently possible.
One way to insure a compromise is to inflict everyone with some of the pain. Fishermen are being punished for situations out of their control. The TMDL’s will improve ground conditions in the watershed and water quality will improve. Increased flows from the dams will ensure survival until the dams are removed or the ladders installed. A portion of the change should help farmers with off channel collection and storage of precipitation and less water intensive irrigation methods. Finally, planners must have an authoritative say in future development in the watershed and controlling sediment caused by construction, as we see in Erosion Control magazine. Renewable energy should be part of the solution since local generation will be critical in the future as the need for centralization is realized to be a mixed blessing at best. We’d like to see a model derived from these items that could be applied to other river systems.
Anglers Argue for Salmon Fishing
A fighting chance for the Klamath
SF Chronicle writer Tom Stienestra reported a large stretch of the Sacramento River has come under BLM management, which has been excellent with Plans in the Arcata Field Office, and the land is already purchased but the attempt is to create the Sacramento River National recreation Area.
“A little-known piece of the California Wild Heritage Act of 2006, introduced in Congress in March by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, would create the Sacramento River National Recreation Area. It would span 10 miles along the prettiest section of river, roughly from Anderson to Red Bluff. The beauty of this is that in the past 20 years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has already bought 17,000 acres of land along this river corridor. So no new money to buy more land is needed. That means it is possible that the proposal to create this new National Recreation Area could be split out so it could bypass the Congressional Appropriations Committee. That's where bills go to die (when they need more money to get implemented). So this has a real chance to go through. The BLM could then provide parking, boating access, trails, picnic sites, law enforcement and maps that would allow people to connect to a beautiful area that will be managed in its wild state.”
After telling of threats from the current rush to sell off unimportant Forest Service and possibly BLM lands, and development of three thousand homes two miles away, he goes on to tell of another stretch of river. “Unless you have floated a boat down the entire river, you can't imagine what it looks like for more than 100 river miles from Colusa down to Sacramento. The Army Corps of Engineers has stripped all vegetation along the river and lined the banks with rocks and concrete blocks. In one four-hour stretch, we didn't see a single living creature. For miles at a time, you don't see a tree or bush, or any habitat wildlife and fish need to survive. In one 36-hour stretch, we paddled for 32 hours to get through this section of horrific river destruction, brought to you up close and personal by the feds and paid for by you and your tax dollars.”
The opportunity exists for interested parties to participate in all BLM land decisions through the planning process, which will include scoping, meetings, gathering and drafting a plan within the allowable scope of that parcel and a recommendation that will be one of several BLM chooses from. Public comment periods are another opportunity to be heard in the process. We approve of Congressional recognition of the Area as it adds a layer of protection.
Key span of Sacramento River needs protection
Northcoast Journal reports Sierra Pacific wants to build a road to an in-holding they have in Underwood Roadless Area in Six Rivers National Forest in another area proposed for wilderness status by Sen. Boxer. Timber harvest plans are already approved but roads are a major issue for most conservationists. Of course we agree with the need for maintaining naturally functioning forest, just as a water quality issue. Scott Gracean of EPIC said “securing the integrity of the roadless area and proposed wilderness” was important. “We are strongly opposed to the proposed road, and we'll all get a chance to comment on that proposal when the Six Rivers releases the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the road project, expected out any day now. The good news is that the Wilderness Land Trust and other conservation-minded potential purchasers are very interested in working with SPI to get the parcel in question moved into public ownership. To their credit, SPI's managers have been willing to talk about a buyout, and have agreed to a meeting in mid-April."
HOLE IN SIX
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 landowners along the river with 138,000 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 carbon 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
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
Klamath River the focus of water board scoping meetingEureka Reporter
by Nathan Rushton, 3/2/2006 www.eurekareporter.com
Web site at www.swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb1.