Friday, June 12, 2015

Plants considered parasitic actually have positive impacts on greater increases in biodiversity

Okay, so the original title of the University of York's research study wasn't exactly so flowery. The original title was: " ‘Vampire’ plants can have positive impacts up the food chain. " Okay so I dislike terms like ‘Vampire’, ‘Devil’, ‘Hell’, etc being applied to kool things in Nature. I predict one day mankind globally will rename many natural wonders which have been shackled to derogatory descriptions because of certain perceived spooky characteristics. Hopefully this will be happening sooner than we all think.

Rhinanthus, Castle Hill National Nature Reserve in Sussex
"New research has revealed that parasitic 'vampire' plants that attach onto and derive nutrients from another living plant could benefit the abundance and diversity of surrounding vegetation and animal life."
(Source - University of York)

The Plant celebrity in the published article from the University of York in Great Britain is an annual root-hemiparasite of nutrient-poor grasslands called Rhinanthus minor or commonly known as Yellow Rattle. It is also found in permanent pastures, hay meadows, the drier parts of fens, flushes in lowland and upland grasslands, and on montane ledges; also on roadsides and waste ground. It's classified as what is known as a hemi-parasitic which means it draws nutrition from it's host, but also from Chlorophyll, just like other familiar better known hemi-parasitic plants who also have a host and draw nutrition from the sun through photosynthesis, the common Mistletoe. Life benefits from such associations which in our modern times have been discovered with Mistletoe and trees or shrubs. So too has great importance been discovered with the presence of Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) to the biodiversity of fields and meadows in not only holding back more aggressive plants which would proliferate in the absence of Yellow Rattle, but also the unexpected abundance of biodiverse populations of all manner of insects, [butterflies, snails, wasps, etc] animals and birds. 

"Lead author, Professor Sue Hartley, of the Department of Biology at York and Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute, said “This was a really unexpected finding. Although hemi-parasites are known to increase the diversity of other plants in the community by suppressing the dominant species they parasitize and so allowing other plants to flourish, none of us predicted there would be such dramatic and positive impacts on other components of the grassland community."
“Rhinanthus minor (Yellow Rattle) increased the abundance of all sorts of animals including snails, woodlice, butterflies, wasps and spiders. This is an important finding for the conservation and management of these chalk grassland communities, which are exceptionally species rich but also rare and threatened.”
(Source: University of York)
Interestingly, many cattle ranchers and farmers with various grazing animals period generally are looking for a monoculture in fields and meadows where they place their animals. They want grasses and nothing more. But monoculture seems to be the desired human pursuit these days, especially with regards industrial agriculture backed by horrible science which discounts the benefits of biodiversity. They are ignorant of the fact that many of these other Forbes [noxious weeds in their warped opinion] have health benefits to their livestock. Great article about field biodiversity and it's importance, but again as a recap, not only do these and other plants suppress  certain aggressive plants which would  overwhelm the ecosystem with populations of dense grasses, but it opens the field up to other lifeforms which are important to ecosystem health overall.
"The changes induced in the plant community were consistent with previous studies of the impact of  'Yellow Rattle' - Rhinanthus minor, particularly in the suppression of grasses. However, the striking enhancement of invertebrate abundance across several trophic levels has not been recorded previously."
Hemiparasitic Plants of the Western United States
Image: Sprouts Greenhouse, Landers Wyoming

Indian Paintbrush Integra
(Castilleja integra/
Artemesia frigida)

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja integra)
This got me thinking of a couple of native wildflowers where I originally come from in the Western USA. Ones I am most familiar with, but also ones I come to find I should know more about. I never paid much attention to wildflowers of SoCal before other than common & Scientific names. My thing has always been chaparral and trees native to the same region. And of course the community relationship between them as an active functioning living biological machine. However, it seems like the more I discover, the more I really don't know. Human lifespans for the present just aren't long enough to find out all there is to know and benefit from. But I now wonder about such plant's roles and purpose within the ecosystems I am familiar with in SoCal. For example, when I lived in Anza California previously for over 20+ years, I was most familiar with the Indian Paintbrush  wildflower. What was interesting was that this plant was always mostly found in association with a chaparral plant called Silver Sagebrush like the one you see above in the larger photo. Now while I always knew it was partial parasitic, I knew it never harmed the Sagebrush as most people would normally have a view of things we label as parasites. Now with further information from the University of York, I am further curious as to ecosystem roles of this plant. Providing pollination for various bees, wasps and other winged insects, what else does it accomplish ? Does it keep the Silver Sagebrush (Artemesia) in check or balanced and where it's not overwhelming the entire system ? Do other things like birds or animals benefit from it's presence in the system ? Questions, Questions, Questions and more Questions.


Image by Jeff Hapeman (2010)
"A field of very large Purple Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta var. exserta ) along California highway 58 in the foothills of the Temblor Range." - Jeff Hapeman
Jeff Hapeman's Flickr page for Castilleja exserta - Purple Owl's Clover

image by Jay Beiler
The other flower I also wonder about is Purple Owl's Clover or (Castilleja exerta) which was always native where I lived up in Anza, but especially on the untouched unmolested areas of Cahuilla Indian Reservation. Mostly large swaths in Terwilliger Valley to the east. The photograph here was taken most likely in 2010 by Jay Beiler of San Diego on the western end of Cahuilla Indian Reservation. If you look closely, you'll see snow capped Mount Jacinto way in the background and the eastern edge of Cahuilla Mountain on the left, so this is looking north. You can see Owl's Clover in among TidyTips, Thistle Chia, California Poppies, Lupines and other natives. Wonder what other plants the Owl's Clover colonizes here ? What roles does it play in meadow biodiversity if any ? This plant, like the Yellow Rattle and Indian Paintbrush is a hemiparasite and like several members of the figwort family, it gains its sugars from photosynthesis but has a poorly developed root system, so it "taps" into the roots of other plants by producing nutrient-absorbing haustoria [like the hyphal strands of mycorrhizal fungi], to obtain some of its water and mineral nutrients.

image: Emmanuel Boulet (2002)
Like the mycorrhizal fungi, they don't really do damage when they send their haustoria type roots to invade within the host plant's root cells as you can see from the photo of a typical type of haustoria here where tissues have been blue stain revealing the light blue cells with the haustoria being the darker blue. Note that it goes through into the tissues, but doesn't puncture the cells. Another benefit besides water and nutrients from host plants are the specific alkaloids that may be produced by some host plants which protect Owl's Clover or Indian Painbrush from predation. lupines have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and any plant parasitizing them is going to get increased access to nitrogen. Studies have shown that Castilleja using lupines as host experience better growth, increased reproduction, and increased pollen output. Those Lupines in the Anza wildflower mix may even offer some protection from herbivory to Castilleja, as along with nutrients parasites also receive some of the alkaloid lupinine, which is toxic and bitter to animals. This protection may be conferred to the Castilleja, although studies have shown mixed results in whether having lupine as a host actually does decrease herbivory on Indian paintbrush or not. In any event the exchange of differing plant alkaloids between different plants through the underground mycorrhizal grid network is well documented. It's actually been tough to actually search for similar findings with Owl's Clover and Indian Paintbrush as having impacts on biodiversity like the Rhinanthus minor. Either way, it’s clear there are big benefits for these hemiparasitic plants taking advantage of host plants like lupine, and on the Cahuilla Reservation area it’s not uncommon to see the fields full of almost exclusively lupine, Owl's Clover and paintbrush. The Lupines also have their own beneficial symbiotic relationship with bacteria which fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, so nutrition from Lupine hosts is a huge possibility. 

If anything further arises as far as more information on this subject, I will come back and add to the post here
Further Reading References of Interest Family of OROBANCHACEAE
The Population Dynamics and Community Ecology of Root Hemiparasitic Plants. The American naturalist, D. Smith

Monday, June 8, 2015

Strange Encounters of the Spore Germination Kind ?

Image: Mycologist Paul Stamets

Folks - In the 1970's, when studying Psilocybes under the Scanning Electron Microscope, I encountered something that still mystifies me and other experts today. This SEM photo is of Psilocybe cubensis spores, which are normally smooth. These nerve-like growths were on all the spores I looked at from only one sample. I reach out for wild speculation, and perhaps a fellow scientist can help. What are these ? A wrinkling of the outer spore coat ? A new life form ?  Has anyone seen anything like this before ? Love to hear your ideas ! 
Thanks, Paul Stamets (Source: Fungi.Net)

Image: Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956
An American Mycologist Paul Stamets posted these questions on his website and Facebook page as to what these curious little wrinkles were on these tiny fungal spores. Of course the description by Paul and comments by readers lean towards humor of some type of alien organism. Sure enough it could look that way, but then many people should realize that most  Sci-Fi flick writers and film producers get their imaginative ideas about aliens from most things they do not understand here on Earth. Considering the mismanagement of Earth in our times, this should be any surprise. Spores are very much like regular seeds, but of course they are very microscopic. But to understand things we don't see, we need to illustrate them by what we do see. Many readers asserted and assumed that the wrinkled patterns were some sort of mycelial strands of other fungi invading the spores, but that doesn't make sense given that spores are tough enough with their protective coating. For me this was a no brainer. In so many ways they are very much like and are seeds like those of organisms we do see above ground. Take the common beans seeds below.


Ever soak beans prior to cooking them ? Of course, this is necessary in order for the processes of cooking them to work properly. I often soak all my larger vegetable seeds prior to planting to give them a head start. Beans, Corn, etc all have a characteristic wrinkling of their out seed coating prior to swelling of the germ inside which thereafter allows for the actual germination of the first root to emerge from the seed. The seed or bean is hydrated through the Hilum or scar from where it was originally connected within the pod when which facilitated it's development. The hilum is a scar that is produced from the separation of the seed from the ovary wall of the bean pod. It's at this Hilum point where water enters the seed or spore and expands the outer seed coat which itself also creates more room for the expanding plant embryo inside just prior to root emergence. Below is an example of the seed or bean parts and then I'll re-post the Paul Stamets picture below that for comparison.

image: Penn State University

Clearly you can see where the bean was connected to within the womb of the pod and it is this region where water can penetrate. There is a striking similarity with spores of fungi which are also at one time connected within the enclosure of the fungi fruiting body we call a truffle or perhaps mushroom. Water must somehow penetrate and expand the living tissue within the spore before germination. In the case of mycorrhizal fungi which are often host specific, this is furthered along by chemicals produced by the root cap tip which must come into contact with the spore, releasing the chemical signature which triggers a germination response from the spore. The fungal spore in Paul Stamets example is Psilocybe cubensis. Like many Psilocybe, they break down forest mulch and wood chips and spread very well by landscapers. Many of the tweekers out there will know them by the common name, "Magic Mushrooms" for those psychedelic qualities or properties. Where's a Tower Records store when you need one ? 

image: Paul Stamets
Many other spores wrinkle as well, but can quickly and easily rehydrate when conditions are favourable. Bacteria can form spores when their environment dries out and then rehydrate when humid conditions reappear.

credit: Xi Chen/Columbia University

"As Bacilli bacteria dry out and form spores (shown here), they wrinkle, and as they rehydrate, they swell. A team lead by former Wyss Institute resident scholar Ozgur Sahin harnessed these humidity-driven changes to power an actuator and generate electricity."
Ultimately, who knows ? I an aware however that assumptions and assertions are not explanations. Still, I stick with the wrinkles being  the result of hydration and rehydration. 
Further Interesting Reading References on Fungal Spore Germination (Magic Mushrooms)
Why Biotechnology should be about Mycorrhizal Fungi and not GMOs

A few more important research studies of GMO Bt toxin effects on Mycorrhizal Fungi germination and colonization & lingering effects in soils and aquatic environments

American Journal of Botany: "Evidence of reduced arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization in multiple lines of Bt maize"

"In a 2011 study “Evidence of reduced arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization in multiple lines of Bt maize”, researchers at Portland State University Tanya E. Cheeke, PhD, Todd N. Rosenstiel, PhD, and Mitchell B. Cruzan, PhD found that the cultivation of GE corn, which expresses the insecticidal soil bacterium Bt, has negative impacts on beneficial soil life. Their findings show a decreased presence of the beneficial fungi in the roots of Bt corn when compared to non-Bt corn. These findings were the first demonstration of a reduction in Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonization in multipleBtmaize lines grown under the same experimental conditions and contribute to the growing body of knowledge examining the unanticipated effects ofBtcrop cultivation on nontarget soil organisms."

Experimental systems to monitor the impact of transgenic corn on keystone soil microorganisms

(2008) "Our experimental systems allowed us to monitor the impact of two Bt  corn plants and their residues on AM fungi. Both transgenic plants decreased mycorrhizal colonization by G. mosseae and Bt  11 plant residues negatively affected mycorrhizal establishment by indigenous endophytes after their incorporation into soil. Mycelial growth in the presence of transgenic residues was not affected. Transgenic root exudates and residues incorporated into soil may produce long term effects on soil microbes(Castaldini et al., 2005). Studies on Bt  toxin persistence have shown that this protein maintains its activity after absorption to clays or binding to humic acids (Saxena andStotzky 2001) and retains its activity for 234 days (Saxena et al. 1999; Stotzky 2004).Other authors have demonstrated slower litter decomposition for  Bt  compared with non Bt  lines (Flores et al. 2005). It remains to be established whether mycorrhizal colonization is reduced directly by the Bt  toxin present in corn litter or indirectly by soil microbial population alterations or by other factors. Moreover, it is possible that prolonged permanence of litter in the soil could significantly affect inoculum potential of mycorrhizal fungi."

Occurrence of maize detritus and a transgenic insecticidal protein (Cry1Ab) within the stream network of an agricultural landscape

"A 2010 study, by University of Notre Dame ecologist Jennifer Tank, PhD and colleagues reveals that streams throughout the Midwest are contaminated with transgenic materials from corn crop byproducts. “We found that corn crop byproducts were common in agricultural streams and that 86 percent of sites contained corn leaves, cobs, husks and/or stalks in the active stream channel,” Dr. Tank said. She continued, “In addition, using a sensitive laboratory test that specifically measures the amount of Cry1Ab protein from Bt corn, we detected Cry1Ab in corn collected from 13 percent of the stream sites. We also detected Cry1Ab dissolved in stream water samples at 23 percent of the sites, even six month after crop harvest."

Take special note in the last two links that the long term presence of Bt Cry1 toxins were so persistent in soils which effected mycorrhizal colonization effects that lasted for as long as 234 days and the second study showing the persistence of GMO crop residues lasting for up to six months in streams and other aquatic habitats throughout the Midwest monocrops growing States. As recommended by these studies, further long term effects should be undertaken, but realistically how likely is that ? This isn't about superior science overcoming the gross imperfections and perceived flaws Nature influenced by some debased philosophical human constructed ideology. This is about an industrial corporate business model monopolizing the global food capabilities and fighting to keep it there.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Uncovering the truth behind Ecosystem Management Studies by exposing the commitments of the Researchers

Not all researchers are committed and obligated to those who fund their projects. But a great many others whose research often effects business interests or official government policy out there are committed to those doing the bankrolling. 

Add caption
On February 20, 2015, there was an article published in Forest Research and Outreach titled: "Thinning is an effective tool for management of blue oak woodlands" It dealt with a topic of enhancing the wildscape to improve grazing, but it made some interesting statements. As always, the theory is, the landscape has to many trees which in these case were bad because grazing plants for livestock was more desirable. Often times in the past, Chaparral itself has taken the hit for not allowing grasses and other herbaceous plants from thriving for cattle forage. This time, Blue Oaks take the hit. After Oak removal, here is what was said about what they had hoped would happen and what actually happened. I'll quote two paragraphs:
“The Versteeg Ranch thought that, with more sunlight, the amount of native grasses would increase, but that wasn't the case,” Richard Standiford said. “The vegetation in all the plots was mostly grasses and forbs that were introduced after Europeans began settling California, as it is in most oak woodland around the state.”
This is interesting. First, because it agrees with what the California Chaparral Institute has been saying about the myth of California at one time being loaded with Oak Savannas everywhere. Actually, these so-called Oak Savannas were introduced into California by the Spanish and later American settlers for the Cattle business. Most all of the original Oak forests were within the chaparral ecosystems, the grasslands in such regions were almost non-existent, with the exception of low valley meadows which one would expect. Here below is another interesting quote with another invented term about "undesirable vegetation" which carries a lot of weight with the average landowner in California and the public in general. Small land holders tend to strip their land based on the uneducated propaganda created by so-called experts. It's to bad because it has provided an unfavourable message and viewpoint of the average person about the native Chaparral plant community. As a result, private landowners who number into the 10s of 1000s have ruined their land by stripping it of valuable native vegetation because they view it as dull and mundane and of little worth. But that opinion is based on gross incompetence and negligence on the part of the very scientific researchers who are shackled and committed to industrial business models. 
"For thousands of years, fire was an important part of California's oak woodlands. Native Americans and, more recently, ranchers set fires to improve habitat and enhance desirable vegetation. However, aggressive fire exclusion during the last 30 years has led to significantly denser stands of blue oak trees."
The key words or expression here convey the idea that habitat improvement is the result of removing what is deemed undesirable vegetation [traditionally Chaparral or now recently just having to many Trees], which prevents "non-native grasses" from expressing their full potential as cattle fodder. Oddly enough this was the same message conveyed in an Arizona Game and Fish Department mandate on removal of Manzanita chaparral which was posted last December on the Chaparral Institute pages in December 2014. 
"Most of the ridges and mesas are in an undesirable ecological state (dense chaparral), which requires a disturbance to transition to a more desirable state (oak-savannah grassland)."
Read the entire page without me adding more quotes here. You will find that not only are they obligated to the ranching industry, but even more heavily committed to the Hunting lobby which is apparent in the reasons given for what is defined as desirable from a Hunter's perspective. In the mean time the ecosystem takes a hit in having less function. However, there is one statement they made which is important and highlights the gross incompetence of the researchers knowledge of how the ecosystem operates. 
"As chaparral density increases, herbaceous production decreases, leading to more bare soil, increased erosion, and increased water turbidity."
image: Rick Halsey
This is really a nonsense statement. Chaparral does not in any way prevent weeds from competing for space on the ground, it's the under ground mycorrhizal grid or network colonized on the roots of chaparral shrubs and trees which accomplish this. That is actually a desirable condition to obtain in most ecosystems. For example, look at this Manzanita photo where members of the Chaparral Institute are counting how many varieties of Manzanita exist in this one area. Notice the clean pristine environment on the ground in front of them ? There is a major lesson here for industrial farmers obsessed with a chemicals ONLY approach to dealing with weeds. This bare soil is actually normal, not abnormal as the researchers insisted in that mandate justifying brush mastication. The other way weeds are undesirable, is from a wildfire perspective because fire spreads faster within any ecosystem loaded with weeds. The mycorrhizae will always outcompete plants that are ruderals [plants which thrive in a bacterial system, not mycorrhizal] for the phosphorus within the soils. That's why weeds won't succeed and why you should want more trees and shrubs. In the Arizona Mandate, the area in question for the chaparral removal were not the lower valleys or rolling hill country where you would expect grasslands to exist and thrive, but rather in their own ridiculous recommendation they state plain as day, they wanted removal off ridges and Mesas. The justification was that chaparral also causes erosion and water turbidity ? Another untruth. Chaparral provides a deep rooted means of infusing deeper soil layer with the excess water it removes from off the surface soil layers and pumping it deep into the ground in subsoil layers or in certain fractured rock location it can increase possible percolation into underground aquifers which recharge springs or at least greatly slow down water movement into valleys and lower plains to be taken up be bunch grasses for superior cattle grazing. The bottomline is that humans have historically been lousy land managers and it's become worse since they've apparently become more enlightened over the past 100+ years since World War I. Reasons ? The same old human greed for short term profit  hasn't change any.
Trees have become the New Enemy to hydrology ?

image: US Forest Service
Over the year 2013 thru 2014 there has been a propaganda effort to justify removal of trees from California Mountains because they are  gulping down to much water which prevents it from percolating into streams and rivers which eventually fill up California Reservoirs for those important Farmers in the Central Valley. In other words trees steal water from California Farmers. Other industrial interests such as the Timber industry also want to thin forests under the guise of fuel removal because apparently trees not only gulp water, but they cause wildfire as well. The fact is forests have been mismanaged since humans started harvesting their resources over a century ago. Instead of humans blaming themselves, Nature once again takes the hit and of all people, this comes from the very science crowd that should know better. Fire ecology is another controversial subject depending on who you talk to. According to whatever expert you speak with, fire frequency is said to be from anywhere of 15 to 30 years, but still others insist 50 to 80 years. The people with shorter intervals as you research them have major connections to policy makers, who often themselves are shackled to big Timber or Industrial Farming interests. In any case, if you ever find yourself reading controversial literature which encourage extreme options for management, before you believe anything you read follow the funding and who is providing those funds. Chances are such reports will fall in the Bankroller's favour. Research done in Eastern Oregon not long ago about Western Juniper invading long traditional cattle grasslands was funded by the Cattlemen's Association up there. People should know, plants do not scheme nor plan to ruin things for humans, they respond to the programming within their genetics which reacts to environmental cues which in turn trigger an epigenetic response as to how they will respond in an environment which has been changed by human mismanagement of the landscape, for good or bad. 

image - American forest

 Seedlings planted at Rancho Cuyamaca State Park

image: Chaparral Institute
Another area I have long wondered about when it comes to the Roger Bales & Timber Industry argument for forest thinning to provide more water for farmers and cities, is that often times while so-called fire prevention has been blamed, could not also the practices used in replanting also be blamed ? The argument is that there are to many small trees, the forest is crowded and they gulp down the very water humans should be using. But often times their explanations on how ecosystems worked in the past do not account for the reality of what the average ecosystem life was really like on the ground way back when. For example, the quote above near the top of this post spoke of Native Americans [often romanticized as the world's greatest conservationists whoever lived] set countless fires. Why did they do this ? Well a number of reasons. No doubt they also had same identical opinions like modern humans today of just what they considered desirable and undesirable vegetation. After all, they were human, not animals as part of the landscape. They made intelligent decision making based on personal bias and preference when using fire. No doubt they used also fire for times of warfare against enemies and like humans today, they also were prone to making mistakes. Campfires not properly managed and left unattended. Cooking food on extreme weather event days when there were intense Santa Ana Winds or some other extreme heat  events which may have allowed fire to get out of control. See, they were no different than us. But the problem is, the argument by land managers is that everything they ever did was for the good of the forested or grassland ecosystem. That's just not true. Hence we have experts who are committed to certain industrial practices or policy management rules who will use this imaginary example to justify their version of scientific truth. Another important area in historic nature based forest management that is rarely considered is just what role did wildlife have in forest maintenance. At this point in time, it is hard to say as humans have eliminated massive amounts of animal numbers and caused extinction of so many large species like Giant Ground Sloths, Grizzlies, etc. We may never know the true impact of just what they added to the maintenance question. Clearly many still play roles in tree thinning as the plastic mesh around new seedlings at Cuyamaca demonstrate. 

But the argument of fire frequency is yet another silly argument. With the frequent use argument being every 15-30 years, one wonders how the natural world ever developed all  those old growth trees that were once a common presence. Sadly  today, they are mostly gone and indeed disappearing as has been reported recently. That type of  ongoing continued stripping the landscape of vegetation almost to the ground could not have been all that beneficial in times past as it is promoted today. That brings me to a Swedish Forest practice dilemma, that of harvesting trees by means of strip clearing every 25 years. Does this also have the same negative impact to the environment that burning so regularly does ? I've never found anyone anywhere ever discussing this. After all, this region of the world where Boreal forests thrive has never had that same kind of fire ecology as other areas, but as a result of climate change, that is even increasing. I can tell you that most forests here are unnatural as they are industrial plantation forests. In fact these trees have been genetically modified to produce less lignin which is what gives wood it's strength, but this was done for the Paper Mill industry by SweTree. In any event, these trees were also engineered to grow faster with the addition of regular annual intervals of tonnes of chemical fertilizers being dropped from planes and helicopter over large tracts of land at a time. For me this type of mismanagement is the reason that very little life lives within these forests as I have personally observed them. Larger animals like Moose would normally have a tough time moving their way through such density, but even smaller creatures like squirrels and birds can be absent. Surprisingly, even mosses and lichens can be scarce within such forests if it is dense and dark enough to prevent any light of day from penetrating through the heavy forest canopy. The Swedish forestry business model calls for a management program of forcing growth and harvest for every 25 years as opposed to waiting 100+ years for harvest. This is viewed as sustainable and their model is promoted in their literature that every other government around the world should follow the Swedish model for forestry.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal

"In the Finnish fertilizer program, a special hopper slung under the helicopter is fitted with a small diesel motor, controlled by the pilot, which throws the dry fertilizer out centrifugally"

Fertilizing the Forest
"The Finnish forest industry has confirmed pretty much what every gardener knows: The best way to manage your crop is to fertilize it—and they are doing exactly that with their trees, expecting some good gains in timber volume."
"It probably comes as no surprise to anyone with a green thumb, but the Ministry of Forests in Finland has stated that the best thing managers can do for their forests is to fertilize them. This is after independent scientists have proved that bigger and better trees result from spraying fertilizer."   
"Government sources stated that forest fertilization is the most profitable thing a forest owner can do and taking the lead, ordered sufficient fertilizer to spray 36,000 hectares of state-owned forest in 2007. They plan to increase this to 100,000 hectares in future years and predict that a single application of fertilizer on this area will increase the wood availability by 1.5 to 2 million cubic metres. They also claim there are less defects in the wood."
Nothing is really going to change land mismanagement practices of  the world's governments and big business interests. However, this info should help and advise smaller landowners who do care about their property, the wildlife, various plant ecosystems and what it takes for proper land stewardship. The Land Management Gurus referenced in the News as having been credentialed and having the settled science like Richard Minnich, Roger C Bales and others should be taken with a grain of salt and understood in the light of just whom they really represent behind the scenes. 

The main message here is that when it comes to official statements on management practices of natural resources as being backed by science, people rather than taking their official word for the statements, should do their own research and question the prevailing science as they demand it. Especially when such science is done by the very researchers who may have economic or political commitments to the Grantors. Expressions such as,
"We have scientific consensus" or "follow the science" or "settled science" have no real meaning except to those who stand to gain financially or politically. Below is a good video documentary which was done back in 2011 on other E.U. countries taking up the Swedish Forestry model as the ultimate in sustainability. Specifically, it deals with an E.U. member country called Latvia. Any forestry model that counts 1000s of hectares of land with few inch high pine seedlings as a real forest has got problems. The fact is, we have more knowledge and understanding as never before in history, so yes that has changed. What hasn't changed is the same old human greed for short term wealth at any cost. I'll post the video and some relevant links below it.

Previously I've written about the same screwed up scientific logic where citation bluffing and shouting we have consensus were employed to justify an action favourable to large corporate industrial business interests which more often than not foul up nature. You may read it here:
Pretzel Logic & the "Denial of the science is malpractice" Mandate
References to the Swedish Forestry Business Model
Sweden’s Green Veneer Hides Unsustainable Logging Practices
Forest policy threatens biological diversity

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) Ecology of Fire & Water

A tree once harvested almost to annihilation over some 5 centuries is now a saviour of sorts when it comes to creating water resources for the island's inhabitants
 "Hahai no ka ua i ka ululā`au"
 Hawaiian Proverb which means:
'The rain follows the forest' (Source)
Photo Mine taken February 2015 on Mount Teide

The Fire Ecology
The Canary Island pine tree is fascinating in it's almost tough insistence on survival, not only on what appears to be jagged, sterile looking volcanic rock with almost no organic matter & water, but also under the constant potential for wildfire threat either by some future eruption or careless of humans. For the most part, fire often does not kill it, but in some cases not even logging it to the ground seems to stop it's persistence as a living organism. I actually have a picture of that below in the subheading section of Tenerife's ancient forest relics. Most all pine trees that I am aware of from where I come from simply do not stand up to being thoroughly thrashed by fire or even sprouting back from their trunks with a vengeance. The only exception of course is the tough Bigcone Douglas fir which is almost always associated with Chaparral often at lower elevation, than in higher located forests, though there are pockets of them there as well. So with human development encroachment and constant threat of a cigarette fire, the potential this tree's demise is ongoing. Still, it's a tough organism and a hostile world.

image: Nicky vB - 2010

Jonkersberg, Outeniqua Mtns
South Africa
Now seriously, when was the last time you ever in your life saw a Pine sapling completely burn up in a wildfire only to sprout back with an explosion of newer branches from each of the whorls around it's trunk ? This one was photographed in the Jonkersberg in Outeniqua Mountains in South Africa where they were introduced and have successfully naturalized in places. For most of us who have life experiences with fire, we've never heard of such a thing. Oh yes, there are numerous chaparral plants which re-sprout abundantly from a deeply rooted burl and maybe oaks and some other deciduous trees, but never a pine tree. Even the tough tree species like oaks will start to spring back long before the next rainy season begins, but even with available water, pines never really do. There are however those rare occasions where intense heat may scorch all the needles, but leave the tender delicate living tissue under the bark or at bud ends intact. In that case, new growth from sprouting isn't an issue. Yet, this isn't the case with the tough Canary Island Pines. They are capable of complete burn and intense regrowth afterwards. Anyone familiar with Canary Island Pines in their area should take some time and closely examine the bark of any of these incredible pines. I've always noticed a thick sponginess about the bark which seems to well insulate it from such disaster. The bark is unique in construction and if you view any healthy tree, you may observe that they continually have several small twigs or sprouts growing right out of the bark, especially in the lower areas where their first branches have been self-pruned decades previous. One interesting note here about fire. While the volcano potential fire is a given, this only occurs as very long intervals when and if the volcano emerges from it's lengthy centuries of dormancy. Other potential for fire historically in most forests is the common scenario for lightning strikes, just like the western USA, However, in the Canary Islands, did you know that lightning storms and strikes are rare, with fires started by lightning said to only be less than 0.5% ? I've linked at the bottom of this Fire Ecology subheading the paper on Pinus canariensis and fire adaptation which is an interesting read. 
Pinus canariensis and Fire for regeneration ?
This subheading is an important footnote dedicated to all the "Burn Baby Burn" people who promote the continual ongoing over zealous usage of Control or Prescribed Burns & justifying such practices by using the flawed argument that many trees and shrubs cannot reproduce without Fire. Of course this is a mere mask or cloak in disguise for wanting to reduced supposed fuel loads. As I have written previously, yes there are many trees and shrubs which have a strategy encoded within their DNA which allows them to mass reproduce in a sort of numbers game after a wildfire event. However, this strategy is not a magic bullet for justification for control burns every few years. Even in nature if this truly happened on a regular interval basis as they insist, the trees and/or shrubs would go extinct. It's simply an emergency backup plan to perpetuate the ecosystem. 
Previously I have written about my experiences regarding seed germination especially in regards to the chaparral plant community of Southern California. For over two decades of exploring and observation out in the wild, I suddenly began reading some of the fire ecology literature for the first time [believe it or not] around the year 2001 which insisted many trees and shrubs in fire pro-prone regions will not regenerate unless their ecosystem is obliterated by fire. One of these was Tecate cypress which is a tree that has what are called seratonious cones. This simply means that they will not open unless by some type of intense heat like that of wildfire or extreme temperature heat waves. But they will also open if a branch breaks or an animal or bird opens them up. It is these later example scenarios which I had always observed in the wild and I always saw Tecate Cypress seedlings [some dead some alive] within all of the old growth chaparral and Tecate Cypress Forest environments I explored prior to my reading of the literature by Fire Ecologists who wrote otherwise.      
But it was this dogmatic view or opinion by these fire ecology experts which threw me, because I had never experienced what they were writing to the public about how things worked out in Chaparral ecosystems. I had never once experienced what they were saying. I had always witnessed seedling emergence every single time I visited. After reading such literature, I took one last visit before moving to Sweden up on Guatay Mountain and sure enough there were the seedling underneath old growth chaparral. So I for the first time paid close attention to any and all clues for how these cones were releasing seeds and that is where I viewed small broken branches from windstorms and birds actually pecking on the cones to get at the seeds. But getting back to Pinus canariensis. They are listed in that paper I've referenced below as having seratiny and yet that is also not my experience with them as a Landscaper & Head Gardener. 

image: Mine

Here's rather large Canary Island pinecone
and for scale, I've added a one Euro coin 

image: Mine (May 2011)
In my own personal landscape experience, these Canary Island Pine Cones open every year, seed is thus released and readily germinates. Clearly from these two photos above & photo at left, you can all see this is true. The three photographs above of the Canary Pine seedlings & cone were taken in the old growth forest section on Tenerife this February 2015. I've created a separate subheading further on down in the post where a few giant remnants still exist below the south rim of the volcano. Two years  before leaving California to come to Sweden, I planted a raised landscape bed and used to bring mulch over from where I worked to apply around the Tecate Cypress and other native plants I installed in the landscape. I finally brought over some pine straw mulch from around the Mobile Home Park pool area which had some Canary Island Pines which should not have been planted there. Within the pine straw, were also bark, cones and other pine litter, but unknown to me were also pine nut seeds. Several volunteered immediately among all the other plants only a couple months after placing all the pine mulch down. I decided to leave many of them, but had to thin out others. There are now just three large trees. This photo from 2011 shows the scale of seedlings which emerged from germination in late 2005 which would make them at this time (2011) about 6 years old, however presently you should know that in 2015, they are more than doubled in the height you see here. What can I say, they are a remarkable tree. No fertilizer has ever been added, other than the first initial inoculation with a well blended species mix of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria which moves throughout the soil to other plants. No weeds grow here, with the exception of some stunted weeds which cannot compete in a mycorrhizal soil setting.

image: Jeff Ollerton (April 2013)- one year after wildfire 2012
I remember hearing about this fire after we visited in February 2012. It was sad to hear about but nevertheless a part of what goes on in our modern times. I had not traveled this part of the Highway prior to this past month so I do not remember what it was like. Fortunately, this explorer, Jeff Ollerton has visited quite often over the past 14 trips and was able to photograph the aftermath of what the wildfire did and the regeneration that was then just beginning to kick-start this forest system all over again. In this photo you can see the resprouting from the trunks from bottom to the top. At the top of that pointed hairpin curve in the highway you see in the picture there is a turnout where we stopped and I photographed the greener picture you see below, but first another angle of Jeff's picture from the bottom of that grade facing this direction south. 
image: Jeff Ollerton - 2013 Burn however was in 2012
In my photo below you can just see that same white patch of what looks to be something like gypsum which is the same patch as you can view it above. That is the bottom of that canyon where the road turns and travels upward again. The viewpoint where I photographed shows a much further advanced greener forest area. Below you can see the hairpin which crosses the dry wash where the above photo was take in 2012. It is the same exact location referenced above a year after the 2012 wildfires. Any wildfire which would do this in the southwestern United States would have surely killed all those trees and these ugly debates over harvest logging would be the order of the day. 
image: Mine - February 2015 - Canary Island Pine regeneration

Canary Island Pine forest regenerated again around the perimeter of El Teide Caldera's outer rim

Excellent Canary Island Pine Fire Ecology Reference
Fire Adaptations in the Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) 

Wildfire References for Canary Islands (2012)
Al Jazeera (Aug 2012) "Canary Islands fire forces mass evacuation" 
Unique Volcanic Island Hydrology
Image: Mine - The other island to the South here is La Gomera

image: Mine
In the above picture, you can clearly see another island which is called La Gomera to the south. Also notice how we are under the cloudy marine layer. Now the picture to the right here is also La Gomera, but you can clearly see we are above the cloud marine layer high up in Tenerife's El Teide's volcanic mountain ranges within it's immense caldera. From this vantage point we can also observe La Gomera's volcanic mountain tops above the same cloud layer. The forest around the giant caldera rim is almost always slightly above and below this moist layer and though it does rain and snow here above this marine layer, it has less influence from the low clouds and fog as the lower steppes receive. But quite often the marine layer is large and heavy enough to spill over these mountains as well and that is where an incredible phenomena of Canary Island Pines acting as a sieve to siphon off or tap into as much moisture as possible. The Pines have exceptionally long needles for this fog or mist capture. The abundant forest cover on Tenerife is clearly recovering from past over-cutting. Really big trees are rare because of past exploitation, but enormous specimens are now mere 'monuments' for tourists to see at certain specific turnouts. But trees in all stages of growth in extensive forests now occupy the entire pine belt surrounding the Caldera on all sides of Pico del Teide on Tenerife. When you visit today, you will not find any evidence of commercial logging or private cutting or for that matter any recent fires. The last bad fires were in 2012, but that can always change as development and people move closer to the forests inland. The Spanish authorities are well aware of the importance of retaining forest cover on this extremely permeable volcanic 'soil' of the island in order to ensure water supplies. The exploitation of its timber [which probably lasted for centuries] has been banned and this ban is strictly enforced. Past decline has not only been halted, it has been reversed due to active management and protection since the tree planting programs back in the 1950s. 

Palo Colorado Canyon Road off Hwy 1
But this same phenomena I'll get into further here of fog or mist water harvesting is an important and probably more so in the past a more common phenomena observed by many, though probably not well understood from a mechanisms standpoint. I wrote about this phenomena when over in California when my wife and I drove down the California Central coast Highway 1. What was remarkable to me is that this region is listed on the drought maps as been above the extreme designation and listed as "Exceptional Drought" region. Little rainfall in this now fourth year of mega-drought and yet we saw streams and rivers running. The question was why ? For one thing, the California Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirons) is a well known marine mist and fog water harvester. I'll post the link at the bottom in references. However, it should be known that more and more observed phenomena is being replicated through the practice of Biomimetics or Biomimicry for ecological applications of innovations humans need to use desperately. Look below

Many may have seen or read about some places around the globe where conditions are highly favourable for water harvesting this way where water resources are scarce to none. Such places such as along the Red Sea in the areas of the mountains of Western Saudi Arabia and Yemen where the plants on the tops of those mountains mostly receive their moisture reserves from the methods I'll describe in some detail below. This is also how the Canary Islands receive their moisture, but through more natural biological mechanisms. More and more, humans are going to be forced to recognize much of the natural world does have many great design applications for replicating after all, irrespective how one believes they got that way. 
So how do the Hydrological Biological Mechanisms actually work ?
Photography By: Dominic Dahncke

Waterfall Of Clouds, Canary Islands
Now think about a phenomena called Rain Fog. You have all heard and experienced it at one time or another. Especially if you are from Southern California and have experienced "May Gray" or "June Gloom" and often woke up the next morning wondering if it had rained because all the streets and surrounding landscapes were wet. Or even Central or Northern California where the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) accomplish the same exact phenomena but on a grander scale. Once again, I wrote about this last year because despite Central California coast being in the middle of the "Exceptional Drought" designation, those forests still have running streams, even though the rainfall have been extremely low. The cloud flow phenomena above is also one many have seen throughout California. Trees like even the Torrey Pines can also accomplish this water harvesting strategy. 
image: Chuck Summers

Redshank Chaparral Adenostoma sparsifolium
Old growth Chaparral also can accomplish the same task and I know because I've personally witnessed this many times. One of the best at doing this at my home on Table Mountain in Anza California was a chaparral shrub or small tree called Redshank or Ribbonwood. In fact often times because of my elevation, which was almost 500 foot higher than 4,000' Anza, I would be high up in the thick of clouds while Anza valley itself below had clear visibility under this dense Marine layer which wasn't a storm at all, but a mere May and June cloud phenomena of southern California. In Anza Valley below, there was no mist other than clouds over head, but often when I would go outside at my house much higher up during these heavy Marine Layer events, being that high up in elevation, the winds were far stronger than anywhere else and would push and shove that dense marine layer into the Redshank and I would hear what sounded like rainfall dripping from the trees, but no rain. At least there was nothing hitting me other than the heavy damp fog pushed along by strong winds. Once after 3 solid days and nights of this type of weather, I decided to make some exploratory tests to see just how much wet had occurred under several of the largest old growth Redshank small trees over the period. Now first of all, we had not had any rain for about a couple of months, since this was June. It was a clear day and none of the ground surrounding the large open spaces on the property was wet at all. Even digging down, it was fairly dry. However under numerous Redshank perimeter canopies, I dug down an average 10" and it was wet. Now if I recall, on average in good to fair soil, an inch of rain from an actual storm event will soak downwards about 10 inches. So this phenomena over three days was like the plant community receiving an inch of rain. This is something that is never ever gets recorded in the rainfall record books. And yet it's very real. This is why all vegetation cover is so important irrespective of the type of plant community or ecosystem. 
Officially, this type of weather phenomena is called in the science books by the name "Occult Precipitation" and I hate that reference. Other preferable names are "Fog or Mist Rain", but here is the definition from Oxford Dictionary:
"Precipitation arriving at a location by processes that would normally go unrecorded by a standard rain gauge, e.g. the condensation of mist and fog on foliage." 
  (Source: Oxford Dictionary)
Photo: Mine
The Canary Island pine tree has extremely long needles which  helps to make a significant contribution to the islands water supply, by trapping large amounts of condensation from the moist marine air or low clouds coming off the Atlantic with the prevailing north eastern wind (locally called "alisios"). So, like Ascension Island way to the south, though the Canary Islands do get proper storms and some even with snowfall on the Pico Del Teide volcano, a very large unrecorded amount of precipitation is received as this fog-drip ("occult precipitation"): accumulation of fog droplets on vegetation and other obstacles or horizontal interception. (Oddly enough, most of my Anza rain was almost always from horizontal as opposed to vertical, with exception of Monsoons). These long pine needles act like a sieve to strain out as much moisture condensation as possible which then drops to the ground and is quickly absorbed by the porous volcanic soils, eventually some making it's way deeper by percolating this moisture down to the underground aquifers which benefits the island inhabitants. 
Still, I often wonder if there are perhaps other mechanisms at work here. For example take a look at the above picture of a cut out along the roadside where exposure of vertical roots of a Canary Island Pine are present. Previously on a number of occasions I've written about a phenomena called Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution which a handful of excited and dedicated scientists like Todd Dawson are really only scratching the surface and learning about. This phenomena is where it has been discovered that many deeply rooted trees and shrubs tap into underground aquifers or moist subsoil layers during the dry season and hydraulically lifting large amounts of water for their personal use and also redistributing large amounts to other plants nearby. Now take a look at these root infrastructure mechanisms here in the photo on the left. The ectomycorrhizal fungi colonized on pine roots increase water and nutrient absorption by 200%. They colonize only the area around the rooting tips where the finer pine root absorption regions are anyways. The fungi when providing water to their host, do so at their furthest extended reaches by capturing minute water molecules and in the process of pulling them back towards the main pine root plumbing infrastructure, gradually link up within the fungal grid to other mainline branches of the fungal network itself. Closer and closer to the main pine root these smaller water molecules become clustered as they move through the mycelial network and become actual true droplets of water for hydrating their host.
Hydraulic Descent
Now, think of Hydraulic Descent, which is the reverse of Lift. This is the plant's ability to pull water from damp wet surface areas and pump them deep into the ground as far as their roots extend below. Many plants like Honey or Velvet Mesquite which go dormant in winter and loose their leaves actually perform this service during dormancy while they are basically asleep from all outside appearances. I have to be honest here, the researchers do not discuss this phenomena of descent as much as lift, but it could well be in the realm of possibility that this is how historically more water infiltrated aquifers and facilitated springs in the past than at present. It makes sense that water would have a faster conduit downwards through a major network of old growth root systems as compared to light slower percolation through volcanic soils which are however admittedly open and porous. These Canary Islands have become my new favourite place. Not only do I feel more at home here than where I originally hail from, but I walk away with more and more questions on just how, what, where & the why of everything. I spend more and  more time with the camera away from the car at almost every turnout looking for signs of truffles  within the pine woodlands, until I got hollered at with things like, "Let's go, come on, what are you doing ?" *sigh* Now some great views of some relics of old growth still standing on this island. This was a treat as this is the first time I ventured on this newer unexplored highway for me. 
Some Ancient Forest Relics still in existence despite historical  clear cutting
Image: Mine (February 2015)
image: Mine
The trees to the right here are from an area which contains the most giant old growth Canary Island Pine trees I've ever seen in all my visits. These were cut down close to the ground to create a park type of setting around some giants, but they clearly refuse to die. California's Coast Redwood does the same thing which is why timber operations grind out the burls to prevent the suckering for next generations harvest. Pine trees where I come from simply do not exhibit this type of behaviour. If they are cut down to a stump at ground level and they are finished for good. These cut down trees in fact are just a few meters away from the huge tree with my wife standing for scale in the top photograph which is near one of the rare traffic turnouts on this extremely narrow steep roadway. There is also a Ranger Station just to the left and behind the camera angle. Other giant mammoth trees also are all around this one in the canyon and it is a new sight for me as I have never seen such large relic trees here on previous visits. But clearly in cutting some of these smaller trees to the ground, they meant to open up the area here around these immense giant Canary Island Pine remnants or relics of a past which no doubt were what the first Spanish explorers most likely saw  as a common sight everywhere.

image: Mine
Although it no doubt is evident that though fire was a continual threat on such a large volcanic island, even in this old growth area it no doubt increased with the presence of humans. This is seen here from the charred outlines on the trunk of this tree just about ten meters away from the large one at the top. The country of Spain first discovered the islands in 1402 and took an entire century confirming their position as rightful sovereign, even though as with other discoveries, there already were an indigenous population of people here. Over the next couple of centuries the history is a broken record of other land grabbing nations trying to evict the Spanish who prevailed in the end. What a surprise, nothing ever changes, even today.

image: Mine
There was another giant tree there across the road at the auto turnout for viewing and was opposite the other large tree, but extended further down into the steep canyon and was impossible to get a complete picture. Still the massive multi-trunks are impressive. As I previously mentioned under the subtitle under hydrology, these trees are merely a small remnant of the former glory that was most of this island. Of course this type of history has repeated itself over and over again and again throughout throughout the  globe. But apparently humans simply have never learned a lesson. Even now armed to the teeth with abundant knowledge of how nature really works, we still are dealing with complete destruction issues on a grand scale. Nobody seems to want to get the major importance of old growth trees and all types of healthy old growth vegetation play in climate creation and weather moderation. More Laws don't appear to be the answer as small scale criminal operations and huge industrial corporations seem to view such further Laws as newer opportunities for more corruption & Loopholes. See, nothing changes. Now take a look at this photograph below which I took along another turnout with a great view angle of the ridge line to the north.

image: Mine
This picture I took from a pullout I couldn't resist taking. The tree clearly stands out from the rest of it's neighbours. It reminded me of an immense old growth picturesque Big-Cone Douglas Fir tree I use to always spot driving home from work on Hwy 74 from Hemet California and looking south just at the right location through the South Fork of the San Jacinto River canyon. It was always so beautiful and stood out so well in contrast to the surrounding steep topography of the canyon walls. The US Forest Service did some irresponsible control burns in this can which were totally unnecessary and this tree unfortunately and surprisingly paid the ultimate price. It's now gone. I took another picture of a similar view from a Cafe we stopped at of two other old growth trees which stood out in contrast, but this was my favourite. These were always the kinds of anomalies that made me explore actual ground location of things in the past. Now I just don't have the power and luxury of time to pursue every whim and notion for exploring.
 Quick Update on Ascension Island Cloud Forest called Green Mountain
image: Ascension-Island Government

On a Remote Island, Lessons In How Ecosystems Function

Lanzarote National Park of Timanfaya
The Ascension Island is near St Helena in the Southern Atlantic Ocean between Africa and South America. Right west of Angola if that gives some reference for you. The island wasn't always looking like the big green lush photograph you see above. When Charles Darwin visited Ascension Island in 1836 on his voyage with the ship Beagle, he declared it to be "naked hideousness". But it was British Botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, who had the bright idea of planting trees on the mountains which would bring more rainfall. His idea or scheme is what we call "Terra Forming".  The raw canvas both men saw was much like the smaller photo here to the right with mere volcanic rock, lifeless looking soils and very little life other than maybe biological soils crusts. That pic by the way is one of the Canary Islands closest to Morocco. Mostly lichens, mosses, algaes and ferns. No indigenous or introduced & naturalized shrubs or trees anywhere. I wrote an article about another article on Ascension Island which I will reference in a link below of this beautiful green island picture at the top. What appalled me were the critics of Fred Pearce's article on lessons we can learn as far as ecosystem function. You see in Ascension's early history, there were no ponds, springs or streams. There was no real fresh water source anywhere for the British outpost set up on the island. There was one small spring, but it was remote and couldn't support any human settlement. Most all water and other supplies had to be brought in. In this time of dire climate change, it was a golden opportunity for scientists and other researchers to come and study mechanisms on what creates cloud formation, moderates weather and causes precipitation. Keep in mind that this island's transformation has taken place in little over 100 + years. However very few people were interested in studying this transformation and weather mechanism, why ? 

Stroud finding a supposedly extinct Fern
Mostly the vicious criticism came from ideologically driven researchers freaking out over they couldn't block from their minds as Invasive Species which totally fogged the real issue at hand and that is how to reverse climate change and repair the earth. There is no argument that invasiveness and a screwed up planet in general can be found everywhere. Numerous things were done many many years ago which we can not do nothing about, but what these people were missing was the climate driving mechanisms through the artificial forest foot stomping hissy fit they were throwing. The other argument was that existing endemic species had disappeared or were going extinct. The photo to the left here is of Green Mountain's Conservation Officer, Stedson Stroud, who found what was insisted upon to be an extinct fern. The volcanic island prior to human influence was once sterile from a visual point of view other than biological soil crusts. But it's this artificially applied vegetation growth that apparently offends many of this world's Ideologues for principal reasons. Once again, prior to these plants, it was mostly a collection of Biological Soil Crusts [bacteria, lichens, mosses, algae, Ferns, etc]. But you cannot communicating anything with these types of people whose view of themselves are only they are keepers of all knowledge and any understanding on their precious revered topic (biological diversity) is generally considered their prerogative. Any understanding must go through them. I once got myself in hot water about a year and a half ago when a person from a desert protection ecology group posted a photograph of their favourite outback Badlands spot at the Anza Borrego Desert. I made an innocent comment about how many people would view such a place as nothing more than a wasteland, but I see it as having great future potential. I merely meant potential of creating an environment of desert plant community which would further benefit all manner of other desert wildlife. But the commenter was outraged and I was chastised. In their view, it was perfect as is and any thought of even desert plants, animals and birds thriving there was repugnant. Whatever people!  It wasn't even worth giving a response. Things are not as bad on the Ascension Island as the outraged scientists want us to believe, who would rather the plant life be removed. Seriously, you have to read it to believe it. Actually, I've written Stedson and he has been busy with tough job of keeping under control one of the native plants from the Southwestern United States, Mesquite, which has spread by seed by wild feral Burros. He also has had to keep up with capturing and removing over 500 cats which were killing off the native sea birds and their young on the plains below. So clearly some things need correcting. I wrote to Stedson a message and thanked him for his hard work and to keep it up despite the vicious criticism they received. He responded with this: 
"Thank you kindly for those words above, I sometimes feel let down and used by the very people I have helped and trust. But as a committed conservationist, I keep going, earlier this year I discovered a new algae and a new to science fungi in a sea vent on the South East coast of Ascension."
Of course not all is lost as much of the alarmist fear mongering insisted would happen. Below is a short paragraph from another article about Ascension Island back in December 16, 2010
"Beneath the summit ridge on Green Mountain, on the lawns of a small garden, Mr Stroud nurtures indigenous plants. He discovered one fern only a couple of years ago—a species hidden for centuries. He plants the successes under a huge fig tree on the ridge. When they flourish he takes them further out into what on other islands would be the wild, but here is the artifice, returning occasionally to check up on them and take more seed. While he and his successors are here, those ferns and grasses will be safe from extinction. And a few are taking the initiative themselves. Xiphopteris ascensionis, a tiny endemic fern, had never seen a tree before the Victorian planters came. Now it lives in and on them, nestled in their moist bark, pioneering the epiphytic way of life familiar from ancient forests around the world and discovered afresh in their youngest cousin. Life, with helping hands, adapts."
(Source: BBC) 
Below are a couple examples of the Endemic Natives successfully mixing and taking better advantage provided by the non-native invasive plants which have provided further opportunity for them to excel and thrive more so than previously. I know some ideologically driven purists  don't want to hear or see such things, but apparently, to quote their own belief system, "life found a way". 

Fern (Xiphopteris ascensionensis)

Growing on invasive giant Bamboo


Fern (Xiphopteris ascensionensis)

Growing on what most likely is an invasive Laurel tree branch
Another interesting paper co-authored by Stedson Stroud of the Conservation Depart. of Georgetown on Ascension Island and David C Catling from the University of Washington
University of Washington, Seattle, Wash: "The Greening of Green Mountain, Ascension Island"
So where does all of this leave us now ?
The subject of Climate Change is all over the Global News, but what isn't in the News other than short story accounts of Nature successes as Ascension and Canary Islands which give mere token acknowledgement as something of local interest and then shelved away, are those interesting biological mechanisms which make the whole climate thing a success. This subject should be in the main stream news. But it's not, other than the political back biting and positioning one team over another. The questions that are not being asked here are, "What are the mechanisms which make the global climate function, what creates clouds and moderates the weather, how does rainfall and other precipitation really occur and what do plants have to do with that ?" But we don't get such questions. There are plenty of examples like Easter Island where uncontrolled deforestation hurt the population in the end. Other examples of desertification in Africa and the American southwest as the result of plant communities being obliterated for short term profit potential could be helped once again to recovery by researching and further understanding how these mechanisms function. If vegetation removal causes less rain and mega-droughts, shouldn't replanting reverse that ? In the dictionary definition given on "Occult Precipitation", which defined the mist or fog rain phenomena as a form of precipitation which cannot be measured, then just how much of that mystery water have many areas actually lost during this climate shifting ? If most of the measurable rain records show major declines, how much more so of this un-measurable precipitation has been lost if we could actually put a number on it ? Nobody seems interested enough to ask. Clearly, some of these Fog or Mist capturing devises should be transformed into remote weather stations for monitoring in certain areas for measurements of marine layer precipitation.
Myths, Fables, Storytelling & What in the world is the real Truth ?
Throughout the 20th century, there have been many stories or legends about natural phenomena which were written or spoken about in ancient times by various cultures and peoples who for the most part have been regarded as mere superstitions, myths, fables, etc by today's various intellectual elites. But I have always been really intrigued by and curious about what real natural world phenomena they were first hand eye witness observers to and from which they could only explain things based on their limited knowledge of things like science. For example, about a month ago I watched a science documentary about the first discovery of many of the new animals originally found and documented by scientists in Australia when Europeans first colonized. There was debate over whether Duckbilled Platypus actually laid eggs or gave live birth. The Aboriginal natives had told the White Europeans that the Platypus laid eggs, but this was discounted as a fable and myth, because these peoples were illiterate, ignorant, primitive savages and what could they possibly know that a white European scientist couldn't discover and verify. Until that happened, such a thing was ridiculous. As it turned out such official verification and discovery was up to British Scientist William H. Caldwell. Click on this link and read the first short paragraph under introduction. It verifies what the BBC documentary I watched said: 
"The central narrative of this paper is the 'discovery' by British scientist W H Caldwell that monotremes (platypus and echidna) lay eggs. The famous telegram 'monotremes oviparous, ovum meriblastic' (monotremes lay eggs of the same sort as reptiles), sent to the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Canada in 1884, put to rest a debate about whether platypus laid eggs or had live young that had raged throughout the century. The story reveals much about the imperial shaping of scientific knowledge. Observers in Australia and Aboriginal informants, who had asserted that platypus laid eggs, had been disbelieved. 'Discovery' was reserved for Caldwell, a British scientist of impeccable scientific lineage."
Another interesting phenomena which doesn't receive much press or given much acknowledgement is the incredible phenomena of mushroom Truffle formation by mycorrhizal fungi almost immediately after Lightning Storms. The Romans and Greeks both recorded such observations, but these have been discounted by most scientists as myths or fables if you've tried to research the literature. The accounts have been categorized under what are a part of the Roman and Greek Mythologies. Then of course there are the Bedouins of the Negev who call these desert truffles ‘the thunder fungus’ and so do other African peoples who search for the Kalahari Desert Truffles after lightning storms. However, I knew of this from observation back in the 1980s when I would go out to search for Pisolithus tinctorius mycorrhizal truffles. Certainly many would appear in Spring, but especially after the Monsoonal Rain season hit Anza starting around the first of July. Almost two weeks after the heaviest Thunderstorms over my favourite specific collection areas occurred, I would go and collect the dried mature truffles. The are edible and sometimes they would still be a fresh white colour, but I wanted dried truffles for their spores for inoculation. So I waited a while for them to age. The main point is, while I always new the where, I never knew the when until after Lightning Storms. Here are two of Tom Volk's references giving some legitimacy to what others label myths about truffle formation after lightning storms.
Terfezia and Tirmania, Desert Truffles (terfez, kama, p/faqa) Delicacies in the sand or manna from Heaven?
Tom Volk: "The Lightning and the Truffle"
Then of course there are what many would call the biblical creation myths. I get the argument and dislike Science has against Christendom, I don't care for many of their beliefs or their  historical atrocious conduct either, but the newer 20th & 21st century enlightenment movement hasn't exactly managed the world's affairs any better either then they did. Pushing that baggage aside for the moment, take a moment and look at the referenced verse below and read it.
 Genesis 2:6 Amplified Bible (AMP)  
 "But there went up a mist (fog, vapor) from the land and watered the whole surface of the ground"
This scriptural text has always intrigued me since the early 1960s when it was first read to me. Why ? Because it's odd, not normal, sounds crazy and out of touch with reality as I understood normal back then when it comes to hydrology. In other words, rainfall coming from actual storms off oceans, moving over land masses and dumping rain. Still, in view of how other peoples have been treated in the past by so-called intellectuals which were proven wrong, could there really be any shade of truth to this, if only as an observation ? So I asked myself, could this original writer have also been recording information as he actually observed it back several thousand years ago ? Was he recording phenomena occurring as it was normal and common to him thousands of years ago ? Ultimately I really have no idea for sure. But the location where this information was written down was in the Sinai Peninsula which is right next door where moisture is observed hydrating the various ecosystems within those western Saudi Arabia Mountains today next to the Red Sea. Once again I still have no real clue, and this puzzle got me interested more and more in just how plants could hydrate an entire community through a mycorrhizal fungal network under pristine healthy vegetative conditions which would have been more common then in ancient times thousands of years before the planet held our present 8+ billion humans who have mostly defoliated this planet. We can acknowledge that the present mist or fog precipitation phenomena didn't always occur on Ascension island prior to the introduction of Trees, Shrubs and other plants. But now it does once those trees and shrubs took over and created a cloud forest. Also we know now that desertification does indeed occur when vegetation is removed from an environment. Given the fact that far less humans existed at that time period and more healthy vegetative systems were most likely in existence 1000s of years ago than today, it could be reasonable to assume such a common hydrological system was real at one time. Even Austrian Forester and Physicist Viktor Schauberger (1878-1958) who often tried to describe a phenomena of upwards movement of water within healthy old growth forests by attributing such phenomena to some sort of mysterious energy, had scientific community establishment critics who thought he was a crackpot. How could he possibly have known about old growth forests incredible ability at Hydraulic Lift and redistribution ? He did however make observations of pure clean water springs and brooks disappearing after old growth forest trees were cut down. He attributed it to the sun having a negative effect of draining power away from the naturally occurring energized water as he called it. Today however we know far more than he did and yet he was correct that such a phenomena did indeed exist. The main problem with today's intellectual movement is that they will automatically discount such phenomena for no other reasons than they hate who the messengers might be. That's irresponsible, but clearly throughout time, this has historical precedent. How many important discoveries have been stifled because of condescending arrogance by the ruling elite in our world ? At least for the people who know me and what I am talking about, this phenomena and other intriguing complex networked functions which move and sustain ecosystems, this gives hope and promise that based on many of these facts, that the earth can be biologically repaired and made a more sustainable place in which to reside. The only thing that stands in the way is proper leadership from all ruling sources. Off hand the present leadership fails here. Still, for the moment, people can still decide what to believe and make practical application where important.
Now, getting back once again to Pinus canariensis
image: Mine (June 2014)
Last year when my wife and I visited Southern California in May 2014, where we treated to the familiar news reports of wildfires everywhere. Especially in San Diego County. I wrote an article called: "Should Firefighters be expected to save Homes which are located in fire trap geography and where the owner cared less about landscape hygiene ?" where I pointed out many of the landscape mistakes up in San Marcos California the average landowner made in managing their land. I photographed one Canary Island Pine across the street from one of my relatives house. The intensity of the heat from that fire was so very high that although their house didn't burn, the window blinds inside all melted. They were fortunate. So was this Canary Pine in the photograph here to the right. The tree didn't actually burn up, but was heat scorched as you can clearly see in the photograph taken last year here. I wanted to find out when deciding to write this post, just how that tree had faired at this point in time, given it's remarkable recovery capability. So I called up and requested a new photograph of this same tree across the street for an important comparison. BTW, this is Coronado Hills up above Cal State San Marcos.

Can anyone here spot the rather large glaring mistake that was done by the home owner ? Yes, that's right, the home owner had tree trimmers come in and top this Canary Island Pine tree. Had the tree trimming company actually known their business and knowledge of trees, they would have advised the customer to wait and see what happens. Of course maybe they did know and opted not to recommend waiting as that would have lost the account and some business. Clearly after topping this tree, we can see the lower part did come back with a fresh coat of new needles. Had the homeowner also known what the Tree Trimming Company should have known and informed them about, the entire tree would most likely still be intact today. Of course, even I haven't always known many of these things, but now I do, and so do you if you're reading and share this info with others
And Now Finally - Canary Pines recovering in San Gabriel Mountains - Photo by science writer Charlie Hohn
image by Charlie Hohn - San Gabriel Mtns 
Some further reading References on Canary Islands
Fire Adaptations in the Canary Islands Pine (Pinus canariensis)
Local variability of serotinous cones in a Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis) stand
Canopy transpiration of a semi arid Pinus canariensis forest at a treeline ecotone in two hydrologically contrasting years
Some Further Reading Reference on Ascension Island
On a Remote Island, Lessons In How Ecosystems Function
The Economist: "Another green world"
(2012) Team Member Stedson Stroud – Saving Ascension’s wildlife
Ascension Island - plant restoration

Now some references of interesting note, biological soil crusts - Desert & Boreal Forest
I actually wrote two posts about these. One for the common biological soil crusts in desert regions which are most talked about and second, I wrote about my observations about the same species of organism which inhabit forests, since the average person has a hard time appreciating Desert crusts. The organisms are the same [Lichens, Mosses, Fungi, Bacteria, etc], but display mere epigenetic changes in how the function & have progressed within a woodland environment. Brace yourself here -> Desert Biological Crusts are patiently waiting for the system to improve and provide a foundation for the success of higher lifeforms. Soil Crusts were the foundation lifeforms on Ascension Island which made the larger plants a success. Deal with it!
Biological Soil Crusts: What Are They and Why Should I Care ?
Biological Soil Crusts: Boreal & Temperate Forests ???
Links I made reference to in the above post:
Should Firefighters be expected to save Homes which are located in fire trap geography and where the owner cared less about landscape hygiene ?
Climate Change and "Ascension Island"
Marine Layer Fog or Mist Water Harvesting Ideas 
Collective Scientific Genius: "Incapable of Identifying Weather Mechanisms Through the Cloud Forest" !!!
Climate Change and "Ascension Island"
 New Study Links Clouds to Microbial Processes in Soil for First Time
UC Santa Barbara: "New Study Links Clouds to Microbial Processes in Soil for First Time –– and Shows Ways that Climate Change Could Affect Entire Forest Ecosystems " 
Finally, References regarding biological influences on cloud Formation & Rainfall

Stay tuned here. I will comb through my blogs and select some of the most relevant posts [too numerous to list] which I have written on cloud formation, weather creation and climate moderation