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.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

202. The Calculus of Glomalin 

There is no doubt we can use glomalin to measure ecosystem health. Yet such a system is in a continuous growing and declining state, just like any other population. Detecting the presence of a universal substance doesn’t give us much insight into the health or potential of the system. This is why we have pointed out the current methods of study give us only snapshots of activity rather than dynamic patterns usually associated with living systems.
That is to say, digging up the ground to a certain point will surely indicate the presence of some of this material, but what is the saturation point, how much is accumulated over time, how deep into the soil have the hyphae penetrated, and what is the water carrying capacity of the soil with and without varying amounts of deposited glomalin?
While we wait for scientists to begin looking at glomalin in forested settings, we do have some information to go on. The development of recording dynamic processes was well illustrated in some of James Burkes’ series Connections. In particular, the calculus of the flight of early artillery shells demonstrates recording of dynamic activity. At ant point along the flight, height, distance and time could be recorded, but it did not have much value until equations that compared many individual calculations was devised. Once the flight path was figured, many guns could be targeted the same way. Each time a gun was moved, new calculations were called for.
Now substitute trees for guns and we see why past methods of measuring forest health were often flawed. Rotations were based on tree growth, and the wild cut over lands did come back. Yet watershed health and associated problems continued to worsen. More runoff, less precipitation capture, less particulate or core forming gas emissions, less cooling of air by shade all impact the next level of forest health- habitat, biodiversity, water quality and the ability to clean the air of natural and manmade pollutants.
New models are called for. Mycologists are often amazed by the appearance and disappearance of certain mushrooms in a given location. A dynamic approach would see many fungi species living in an area, some of which produce mushrooms regularly, but the majority need specific conditions to fruit. Many fruit underground so there is no visible count. Other species are related to the growing conditions of their mycorhizzal associates such as age, side pressure or canopy closure. More species lie dormant as spores in the soil awaiting catastrophic landscape change. Climax forests have a seemingly lowered mycological biodiversity count but that is more a case of top level members controlling the other species, probably through pheromones. So we need much more thorough methods of accounting for soil fungi.
This, again, is easier to picture as a city of millions of inhabitants all of whom are working on the collective efforts in building and maintaining the city. All living members of this ecosystem are workers for the greater good, and all are taxed to improve infrastructure and living conditions. Each has their role and dominates in the process for a while, then settle into long term routines we recognize as normal conditions. Just like the barbarian invasions, the destructive activities in one area have repercussions throughout a much wider sphere of influence than the attackers realize. Removal of command and control and primary producers causes the workers to get busy rebuilding or suffer a dark ages where it is impossible to recreate the earlier conditions.
As the farmers have shown, glomalin is a dynamic attribute of healthy soils. The understanding allows us to harvest products we need as humans without depleting the natural systems or reducing productivity. The realization that this is a dynamic process will give us management tools for the future across the globe. Glomalin will be an essential part of teaching the water cycle and the basis for regulatory measures that protect the biological processes we depend on as a species. Its role mitigating problems with atmospheric, bioactive heavy metals and water quality issues will give us the tools we need for a sustainable future. Like the early artillerymen, a basic understanding will be the basis for mant improvements we do a have part in, in the same way the flight of a thrown stone would be a precursor to the flight of a cannonball, subject to continual improvement even today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

201. Stressed Ecosystems 

An unusual winter has led to more water being released into the Trinity River than at anytime in the last thirty years. The high cold water should be great for salmonids and clearing sediment from the lower reaches and keep the Klamath in good shape fro this year. Snowpack was reported as high as eleven feet just a few days ago. Rafters and recreation managers in the National Forests are warning of safety concerns all summer due to high water and strong flows, and rafting outfits are changing their runs for safety.
A shortened salmon season also may have fishermen taking extra risks, especially in small boats. Bad weather as well as rogue waves take a toll on sports fishermen regularly, the latest earlier this year when a small boat capsized in the surf zone and a rescue helicopter went down in the rescue effort. Two people on the boat died, the chopper crew all survived. The article is titled For Sake Of the Salmon, and it is obvious the writer was unfamiliar with the long established salmonid restoration group of the same name.
PL has appealed to the NCRWQCB for its permits so they can get to work, worried they will miss interest payments again. Apparently there is some concern over the submitting of applications because of reworking needed by earlier decisions. It was reported their logging season is now reduced to May to September in these watersheds, and they are wondering what is taking so long. Meanwhile it will be interesting to see how much business pressure the science can restrain over methods such as clearcuts, now that the culprit behind sedimentation has been identified.
Yahoo reported a new study indicating wastewater pollutants at the waters edge are often lingering in the sand longer than in the ocean waters. This was a surprise finding as beach closures have been based on water contamination. The study also found 1000 times the contamination in sheltered beached compared to beaches facing the open ocean after spills. All of this calls for better reporting and safety measures to protect the population from infectious disease.

Another article in the L.A. Times (On a Clear Day, You Can't See the Pollution) repeated earlier findings that reduced particulates do not necessarily mean cleaner air. As mentioned earlier, reduced particulate size is having an unexpected effect on rainfall patterns. The National Park Service says most of the problem is drifting into the parks, although traffic has some part. It says that massive increases in drilling for oil and gas in the West are primarily to blame, and in some areas are hurting native plants as well as humans.,1,6864392.story?coll=la-news-environment
Finally, a massive refiguring of public land use has been put on the table by Congress to allow pipe and powerline corridors throughout sensitive public lands including many of the same places listed in the previous ozone article. This measure will allow energy development at the expense of many protected lands, which is why the government owns them in the first place. Use your power of public comment to be heard on this critical issue for the future of our nation and its resources. There are better ways than despoiling pristine areas. (Power Lines and Pipelines Draw Closer to Parklands),1,1752573.story?coll=la-news-environment
Most of our reporting so far has centered on mans impacts on natural systems or impacts of weather on mans constructions. However, ecosystems have their own problems and it is interesting to see some of these up close. High in the mountains one can see the results of avalanche, lightning strike, heavy runoff and a shortened growing season. The slopes are in various stages of regrowth that will continue indefinitely. The effects of various burrowing mammals are apparent everywhere. The locals have a list of edible fungi. The local university is just beginning a survey of glomalin in forestry but it will be several years before results are in. The school was involved in early glomalin studies and like many others is taking on the subject in earnest.
We note the many readers in Japan and the high number of European searches for glomalin, often with date attached (glomalin 2006). These are coming from Poland, France, Italy, Portugal and Sweden among others off the top of my head. Australia and India have also showed uo regularly as I check my site hits. Most U. S. hits are for topics in the blog but not the main idea- fungal modification of the biosphere for improving growing conditions for its partner plants. As we note, this is the heart of sustainability, the cause of erosion and declining habitats and the main reason development is so deadly to ecosystems. It gives us parameters to work within and methods of healing past mistakes, and will become a well known factor in elementary schools by the time mainstream researchers are finished. We only wish they would hurry up, and that this new science will not have to fight its way through business as usual to become implemented.
A hard copy of numbers 1-200 of The Redwood Reader will be available inthe near future. It is intended to stimulate interest and study in regional settings of natural biological activity.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

200. Second anniversary 

My circumstances have changed so I will be a little less Humboldt oriented for a while. In the meantime, we can see steady improvement in the issues we covered while realizing continued development means more problems everywhere.
Lets start with the North Coast Regional Water quality Control Board's decision on Freshwater and Elk River. Two things are clear: the Board has had its power reaffirmed by the courts to have the final say in loggingt plans, able to override the Habitat Conservation Plan; and PL is doing everything it can to come into compliiance with Zero Discharge, not Zero Net Discharge. This means they have to protect the floor/glomalin or they will cut sediemnt loose. I have explained this and they appear to gat it. IF there is no new discharges then we can go instream for dredging etc. Residents must know their homes, driveways and roads have their own problems although once built the landscapes grow back in. Still, 390 nhomes is a preety big impact.
The world carbon trading market is crashing at least in part because of incomplete science. This needs to be fixed or there won't be any way to get people to grow big trees and all the problems outlined in theis blog will continue to get worse.
Save the Redwoods League is continuing to work on its hiking trail aspects of the Redwoods to the Sae Corridor with continuing purchases and investigations into possible campgrounds in the area.
Salmon season opened Monday in the Northcoast area. THe weather is beautiful. Good luck out there! To gat an idea of life on a crab boat, Discoverys new show "The Deadliest Catch" about King crab fishing in Alaska gives a great picture.
A new report about slackening trade winds, a necessary phenomenon to recirculate ocean nutrients into the higher parts of the water column. may affect fisheries all along the coast. The State of California is trying to get a handle on exploding marine mammal populations taking over docks and eating everything that swims. Fishermen have been complaining for years but it appears the situation has grown critical.
THis leads us into the Klamath situation, which will probably be alright this year due to heavy precipitation. Again, the NCRWQCB has insituted a TMDL regime for this river and it should show improvement below the dams. Dam removal on the California side would expand spawning territory. I don't think the Oregon dams are part of the relicensing and so will stay for now. OUR little model in the Mattole is ready for expansion.
I read about a pikeminnow bounty in Oregon. Looks like a great idea for the Eel. Articles 1-199 are being prepared for printing. We will post more info as it comes in.

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