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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, August 29, 2006
The lead article concerns Sudden Oak Death reaching the Mattole watershed. A careful look at our prescriptions for glomalin enhancement to restore water storage and prevent landsliding also shows how seamlessly it fits into BMP's for disease control of this particular pest. We have advocated for the growing of large trees, particularly conifers, and reducing fuel loads and competetion through management practices. This is exactly the method being used in the State Park and other sites in southern Humboldt to control the disease, altouogh it appears to be spreading faster than previously identified. Chris Larson in his ED column reminds us as landowners we are still moving from restoration to active management.
Ali Freedllund's article on Palco's Watershed Analysis relates the opportuny given MRC by PALCO to visit and study their Mattole holdings,which had been off-limits for as long as I know. Ali is MRC's Forest Review leader and has commented on many THP's in the area, including all of PL's. She points out how well the larger stream buffers in the Habitat Conservation Plan look compaared to sites cut under California Forest Practice rules, although the history of thw watershed analysis is that they are used to reduce the buffers in future THP's. MRC has also hired a third party geologist to study landscape instability. Here is where a lack of understanding of the biological effects of glomalin on landscape stability will become apparent.
An article about the Good Roads Clean Creeks Project reiterates my earlier postings this year about the success of the work after a heavy winter. The damaged areas mentioned in the article are not in the area by our land and we were very pleased, and hope this project is not only completed throughout the Mattole, but is exported to other heavily impacted areas looking to diminish sediment influx into their streams and prevent landsliding.
Several items mention removal of invasive plants- Japanese knotweed and Scotch broom in particular. While these plants are a problem, the bigger problem is the land disturbance that allows them to thrive. Shade from trees and competition from subsoil microorganisms are known methods of reducing many invasive plants.
A very dood article on Madrone dieback is writtewn by a concerned landowner, Andy Chittick, and he gives good references for more information. This is apparently not a condition caused by the sudden oak death vector but has been here as a antive disease the trees have some resistance to, although the leaf dieback is a symptom in madrone.
Continuing in the "more you know" vein is Amanda Malachesky's article on learning to avoid avian alarm calls iwhile in the field, thus enhancing your opportunity to see more wildlife while disturbing them less. Valuable insight for fieldworkers and landowners.
This year the tree planters put out 47,000 mostly Douglas fir seedlings. Encountering all kinds of weather obstacles, including snow, they planted extensively in the upper Mattole, Middle Mattole and the Honeydew Creek burn area. Many trees were planted along roads put to bed and around restoration points from the Good Roads Clean Creek project.
JJ Hall writes about sweat insurance - fire insurance obtained by clearing land of fuel loads around dwellings. It only pays off in lack of destructive fire but is the best insurance a rural dwweller can have. It merges with our responsibilities on the land to improve conditions ooutlined by the ED's report.
A generouds donation of eighty acres of land along the Mattole Estuary was given to MRC by John Winzler and Ken Dunaway.It is good to see MRC in financial position to accept these types of gifts as they have not acted as a land trust before. They have the option to sell the land or manage it themselves. One of the factors in starting the Middle Mattole Conservancy was that there was no land trust in the middle or lower Mattole, apparently there is now. Congratulations to MRC on a very impressive year.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Glomalin -- Summary What's new in the world of belowground impacts of the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content? How about the ever-increasing production of a protein that is created by fungi that live in symbiotic association with the roots of 80% of the planet's vascular plants, which is being released to almost every soil in the world in ever greater quantities with the passage of time, and that is working ever greater wonders with a variety of processes that benefit the biosphere? It certainly has our vote as something up there near the top of the list of highly-desired biological phenomena; so let us explain how and why it works.
In a multi-faceted research program carried out at experimental sites in northern and southern California, USA, Rillig et al. (1999) studied belowground ecosystem responses to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations over a period of several years, focusing their attention on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) that form symbiotic associations with plant roots. In addition, they measured soil concentrations of an AMF-produced glycoprotein called glomalin and evaluated its response to elevated CO2, after which they evaluated the impact of glomalin on the formation of small soil aggregates and their subsequent stability.
Rillig et al.'s reason for making these multiple measurements derives from the fact that the degree of soil aggregation and the stability of soil aggregates across many different soil types is closely related to the amount of glomalin in the soil; and they wanted to see if the aboveground benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment would trickle down, so to speak, from plant leaves to plant roots to symbiotic soil fungi to glomalin production to soil aggregate formation and, ultimately, to an enhanced stability of soil aggregates in the presence of water.
The researchers' plan paid off. The amount of fungal-produced glomalin in the soils of the CO2-enriched treatments in all three of the ecosystems they studied was greater than that observed in the soils of corresponding ambient CO2 treatments. They also observed increases in the mass of small soil aggregates in the treatments exposed to elevated CO2; and the stability of the small soil aggregates in the CO2-enriched treatments was greater than the stability of the aggregates in the ambient CO2 treatments. In addition, in one of their studies, where six CO2 concentrations ranging from 250 to 750 ppm were imposed as treatments, they found that "the proportion of soil mass in aggregates of 0.25-1 mm showed a linear increase along the CO2 gradient," and that "glomalin concentrations followed a pattern similar to that of the small aggregate size class," indicative of ever-increasing soil structure benefits with ever-increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2.
In a subsequent study conducted in New Zealand, Rillig et al. (2000) examined several characteristics of AMF associated with the roots of plants that had been growing for at least 20 years along a natural CO2 gradient near a CO2-emmitting spring. They found that the elevated CO2 significantly increased percent root colonization by AMF in a linear fashion - and by nearly 4-fold! - in going from 370 to 670 ppm. In addition, fungal hyphal length experienced a linear increase of over 3-fold along the same CO2 gradient, while total soil glomalin experienced a linear increase of approximately 5-fold.
What are the implications of these observations? First of all, just as more and longer roots help plants hold soil together and prevent its erosion, so too do more and longer fungal hyphae protect soil from disruption and dispersion. In addition, fungal-produced glomalin acts like a biological glue, helping to bind tiny particles of soil into small aggregates that are much more difficult to break down and blow or wash away. And to have soil glomalin concentrations increase by fully 5-fold as a consequence of less than a doubling of the air's CO2 content is a truly mind-boggling benefit.
These observations lead one to wonder if CO2-induced increases in soil-stabilizing fungal activities might lead to increases in soil carbon sequestration. A potential answer comes from another study conducted near a natural CO2 vent in New Zealand, where Ross et al. (2000) measured soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) contents in areas exposed to atmospheric CO2 concentrations on the order of 440 to 460 ppm and other areas exposed to concentrations on the order of 510 to 900 ppm.
In this study, it was determined that several decades of differential atmospheric CO2 exposure had increased soil organic C and total N contents by approximately 24% each, while it had increased microbial C and N contents by more than 100% each. Hence, in the words of the scientists who did the work, "storage of C and N can increase under prolonged exposure to elevated CO2." In addition, they concluded that increased storage of soil organic matter can occur "even when soil C concentrations are already high," as they were in the situation they investigated.
Consequently, as the air's CO2 content continues to rise over the years and decades ahead, the potential for soils to sequester carbon will likely prove much greater than what nearly everyone had previously anticipated. Not only will the capacity of soils to store carbon grow ever larger due to the ever-increasing aerial fertilization effect of atmospheric CO2 enrichment - which enhances plant growth and results in more carbon being transferred to the soil - it will also grow ever larger as increasingly active soil fungi help to keep ever greater portions of that carbon better preserved in increasingly more stable soils.
Yet augmented soil carbon sequestration is but the beginning of benefits that can be expected to be provided by CO2-enhanced AMF growth and glomalin production. In their report of a FACE study of sorghum conducted near Phoenix, Arizona, USA, for example, where it was found that an approximate 50% increase in the air's CO2 content increased fungal hyphae lengths by 120% and 240% in wet and dry irrigation treatments, respectively, with the mass of water-stable soil aggregates increasing by 40% and 20% in the same respective treatments, Rillig et al. (2001) noted that "soil structure and water-stable aggregation are crucial for facilitating water infiltration, soil-borne aspects of biogeochemical cycling processes, success of sustainable agriculture, and for providing resistance against erosional loss of soil (Oades, 1984; Elliott and Coleman, 1988; Van Veen and Kuikman, 1990; Bethlenfalvay and Lindermann, 1992; Daily, 1995; Arshad et al., 1996; Coleman, 1996; Jastrow and Miller, 1997; Young et al., 1998)."
In addition to these benefits, Gonzalez-Chavez et al. (2004) report that "glomalin participates in the sequestration of different PTEs [potentially toxic elements]," that "the glomalin pool in the soil may have a potential to sequestrate PTEs, not only by the colonized roots, but also by the hyphae and through deposition of glomalin in soil," and that "this glycoprotein may be stabilizing PTEs, reducing PTE availability and decreasing the toxicity risk to other soil microorganisms and plants." That these benefits have enormous significance is vouchsafed by the fact, to quote them again, that "glomalin is ... copiously produced by all AMF tested to date (Wright et al., 1996, 1998; Nichols, 2003)," that "AMF colonize 80% of vascular plant species (Trappe, 1987)," and that AMF "are found worldwide in almost every soil."
In light of these many observations, it should be evident that the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content must be ever so subtly having a tremendous positive impact on the biosphere via a suite of mechanisms linked to a fungal-produced protein that only a decade ago was largely unknown - even to most plant and soil scientists - and similarly unappreciated.
Arshad, M.A., Lowery, B. and Grossman, B. 1996. Physical tests for monitoring soil quality. In: Methods for Assessing Soil Quality, SSSA Special Publication 49. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin, USA, pp. 123-141.
Bethlenfalvay, G.J. and Linderman, R.G. 1992. Mycorrhizae in Sustainable Agriculture. ASA Special Publication 54. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Coleman, D.C. 1996. Fundamentals of Soil Ecology. Academic Press, San Diego, California, USA.
Daily, G.C. 1995. Restoring value to the world's degraded lands. Science 269: 350-354.
Elliott, E.T. and Coleman, D.C. 1988. Let the soil work for us. Ecological Bulletin 39: 23-32.
Gonzalez-Chavez, M.C., Carrillo-Gonzalez, R., Wright, S.F. and Nichols, K.A. 2004. The role of glomalin, a protein produced by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, in sequestering potentially toxic elements. Environmental Pollution 130: 317-323.
Jastrow, J.D. and Miller, R.M. 1997. Soil aggregate stabilization and carbon sequestration: feedbacks through organomineral associations. In: Lal, R. et al., Eds. Soil Processes and the Carbon Cycle. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, USA, pp. 207-223.
Nichols, K. 2003. Characterization of Glomalin - A Glycoprotein Produced by Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi. PhD Dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA.
Oades, J.M. 1984. Soil organic matter and structural stability: mechanisms and implications for management. Plant and Soil 76: 319-337.
Rillig, M.C., Hernandez, G.Y. and Newton, P.C.D. 2000. Arbuscular mycorrhizae respond to elevated atmospheric CO2 after long-term exposure: evidence from a CO2 spring in New Zealand supports the resource balance model. Ecology Letters 3: 475-478.
Rillig, M.C., Wright, S.F., Allen, M.F. and Field, C.B. 1999. Rise in carbon dioxide changes soil structure. Nature 400: 628.
Ross, D.J., Tate, K.R., Newton, P.C.D., Wilde, R.H. and Clark, H. 2000. Carbon and nitrogen pools and mineralization in a grassland gley soil under elevated carbon dioxide at a natural CO2 spring. Global Change Biology 6: 779-790.
Trappe, J.M. 1987. Phylogenetic and ecological aspects of mycotrophy in the angiosperms from an evolutionary standpoint. In: Safir, G.R. (Ed.). Ecophysiology of VA Mycorrhizal Plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, USA, pp. 5-25.
Van Veen, J.A. and Kuikman, P.J. 1990. Soil structural aspects of decomposition of organic matter by micro-organisms. Biogeochemistry 11: 213-233.
Wright, S.F., Franke-Snyder, M., Morton, J.B. and Upadhyaya, A. 1996. Time-course study and partial characterization of a protein on hyphae of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi during active colonization of roots. Plant and Soil 181: 193-203.
Wright, S.F., Upadhayaya, A. and Buyer, J.S. 1998. Comparison of N-linked oligosaccharides of glomalin from arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and soils by capillary electrophoresis. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 30: 1853-1857.
Young, I.M., Blanchart, E., Chenu C. et al. 1998. The interaction of soil biota and soil structure under global change. Global Change Biology 4: 703-712.
Last updated 25 January 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
In fire control, a Times-Standard opinion piece points out the incredible destruction caused by the new style fire mmanagement that has come to the fore in recent decades. While probably appropriate for saving homes and development, the backfires and erosion from fire fighting and salvage logging are often considerably greater than if the fire had been left to burn out on its own. The writer has witnessed several large fires in back country, and they were all finally extinguished by fall weather rather than suppression efforts. THe modern method has created a bureaucracy that can be manipulated for pay, benefits and perks and it is no wonder so many fires are started by wildland firefighters. As a friend who did this work years ago told me, the work is hard but you have no bills-everything is provided, and the food is excellant.
The Real-and unexpected- Threat From Forest Fires Felice Pace, 8/20/06, http://www.times-standard.com/opinion/ci_4211130
The LA TImes reports on large desert fires in the Mojave, where fire is not part of the natural cycle. A skeptic claims fuel loading is caused by a wet winter causing an abundance of wildflowers. Further reading refers us to red brome and a well known culprit in other western deserts- cheatgrass. the loss of ancient woody perrenials is mentioned but the loss of water storage via the root systems and their partners is not. Most natives are very long lived and recovery will take centuries.
Desert Fires' Damage Will Last Janet Wilson 8/21/06 http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-desert21aug21,1,6604582,full.story?coll=la-news-environment
Another article reports on the Bohemian Clubs forest management. As usual, the accountants are paying off land maintenence by cutting the large old trees, and increasing the cut to keep up with growing expenses. This is being done in the name of fire control, althoough by now it is clear large old trees survive low intensity fire, and that brush and slash lead to hot fires in second growth which will kill the big old trees. This is one of the largest privately held redwood groves left. Brush and erosion complaints are fueling calls for a rollback. Here is where paying to preserve large trees could really have a big payoff, sequestering carbon, preserving water quality and preventing erosion.
Bohemian Club Has Ax To Wield Tim Reiterman 8/21/06 http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-bohemian21aug21,1,5305287.story?coll=la-news-environment
The San Jaquin River will benefit from a decsion in an 18 year old court case regarding the amount of water withdrawn. Once one of the biggest chinook runs in California, an irrigation project decades ago drained the river to a level unsurvivable for the fish.A 1949 regulation that ordered enough water for fish to survive was ignored. Agriculture flourished under the regime but that is being challenged in many areas now as hte decline of fish runs has activated many people. Agriculture mostly needs to improve its methods as vast amounts of open irrigated water are lost to contamination and evaporation.
Settlement Will Provide Water For Parched River Bettina Boxall 8/20/06 http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-sanjoaquin20aug20,1,599394.story?coll=la-news-environment
Finally, a little blurb in the Eureka papers about convening a suuden oak death council with a member from the Board of Supervisors gave tantalizing clues abouot the rapid spread of this pest in Humboldt County. The Council was abandonded in February for lack of action, but it seems the disease is widespread, moving quickly and infiltrating north where it was conjectured to have a rough time. We noted the excellant article in the Northcoast Journal a short while ago.
County May Reactivate Sudden Oak Death Coouncil 8/21/06 Times-Standard http://www.times-standard.com/local/ci_4213468. Meanwhile, Janice Alexander, KAtie Palmieri and Susan Frankel at COMTF continue to turn relevant information at a monthly pace. They have recently updated the website to make it more user friendly. www.suddenoakdeath.org
Saturday, August 19, 2006
A recent article on TV reported Amazonian climax forest trees being much deeper rooted than thought, researchers found roots forty meters deep. A climatic history of the area showed five major droughts in the area killing off most vegetation except the surprisingly deep rooted trees, and they were the source of regeneration after rain returned. This is an important insight because in time we also will have droughts in the Eastern U.S. and it shows the need for large old trees. Many of these trees are ecosystems unto themselves, hosting thousands of species.
Road building and runoff appear to be the culprit behind a persistent algae bloom in the Florida keys. The nontoxic algae are threatening the ecosystem by clouding the waters making it difficult for sea grass to get enough sunlight. While some believe the problem will go away, others point to nearby areas that have not recovered after a decade. The bloom is affecting all kinds of marine life in areas usually regarded as nurseries for fish and other sealife, and is worst in areas directly adjacent to widening U.S. 1, the main highway connecting the Keys and the mainland. Report Blames Keys Algae Bloom on Roads AP via www.Yahoo.com, Jennifer Kay, 7/18., 2006
A bill passed in the House providing more funding for conservation easements in agricultural areas to protect them from development. We hope this includes timberlands as we see conservation easements as one of the key tools for protecting rural lands and especially trees in the near future, until the need for them as carbon storers becomes a paying opportunity for land owners and managers.
www.times-standard.com. 8/19, 2006 Agricultural Coservation Measure Signed Into Law
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The importance of seeing the whole picture in land management can hardly be better recognized than in two articles in different papers on the same day. The first article tells of environmental groups buying timberland and trying to operate on a sustained yield in Mendocino. They have some heavy monetary obligations and will have to cut to meet them. Their main stated purpose was to improve the forest as habitat for endangered species, especially coho and Northern spotted owls. They are also seeking to limit development in the urban interdace, which degrades habitat.
Tree Huggers Embrace Ecofriendly Logging Tim Reiterman, August 6, 2996
The second story concerns barred owls entry into spotted owl territory and appears to be a case of a better suited natural immigrant out hustling the diminishing native owls and pushing them to marginal areas. They just appear to be better suited to conditions. As they are larger, it is possible it is a matter of not enough old growth but they may just be bigger and better at what they do. Hunting the barred owls to save the spotted owls is mentioned but we have to wonder if replacement is something that is going to happen anyway, as the spotted owls are in decline even in their best habitats. Diminishing spotted owl numbers could put the entire Northwest Forest Agreement at risk, which cost many jobs and is still a contentious point to many. But the dimished logging has benefitted the forests in many ways, including rebuilding the glomalin base and improving water quality.
There Goes the Neighborhood
John Driscoll www.times-standard.com Aug 8, 2006
This is why a general knowledge of glomalins effect on general forest conditions is so critical, so people can make informed decisions. The environmental loggers are not protecting the essence of the forest and are protecting a vanishing species which could happen under the best circumstances. They are taking on financial risk without protecting the basis of sustainability, although they may improve water quality to some degree and so favor coho. While we agree preservation alone does not make great forests, managing for carbon storage is beneficial to all the natural systems and helps the general environment. Payment for carbon storage must become part of the economic picture in order to restore functional forests or we will be on the cycle of cut and cut again like the East Coast, without the advantage of summer rain.
Another Times-Standard article and an editorial earlier in the week told of new management at the owners of the Klamath dams, and their willingness to look at removal since Warren Buffet bought the outfit. Oregon is included in the plan and alternative power generation for 70,000 homes there is part of the package. California has already voted money and sampled some of the sediment for toxicity built up behind the dams. It is a long way from done but it good to see progress. The editorial says it could be the environmental showpiece of our time.
Positive Momentum John Dricoll August 3, 2006 www.times-standard.com
Dam removal could be a historic opportunity August 5, 2006 www.times-standard.com
Northcoast forests and rivers are recovering but still suffer from a million cuts. Development, lightning fires, sudden oak death and redwood poaching are all in the paper this week. Nature will find its own level and may not be what we hope for. And philosophers remind us only God has the power to change things and then change them back to what was before.