Friday, March 10, 2017

Basic Fundamentals of any successful Ecosystem Restoration starts underground

Understanding just how invasive Tamarisk trees suck the life out of native Fremont Cottonwood ecosystem, may help us in rebuilding all other various types of ecosystems successfully without relapse
Mr Doug Fir's fake Facebook status account created with

In almost every discussion I've ever had about ecosystem &/or habitat restoration with various people and groups, the methods &/or techniques discussed have always been (removal = mechanical & toxic chemicals) followed by (solution = selected native nursery grown plants plugged into ground vacated by exotics) and viola it's restored. But of course it's not that easy as can be testified by the fact that they have to continue with numerous follow-up restorations until they feel they have attained a measure of success. Those continued follow-ups are the exact result of almost no one considering inoculating the soil around the plants with a healthy blend of plant specific mycorrhizal inoculum. When I bring this subject up because I usually always get those who aalways insist, "Oh you don't need to do that, because all those good fungal spores are just everywhere in the air." Yeah, maybe way back when ecosystems were more untouched, but not now in our modern times. I've written previously how many of my many years of favourite truffle collection spots have ceased to produce and mainly it came a few years prior to their host's dying. Why did this happen ? I have no idea. But there are a plethora of things scientists in general do not understand despite their putting happy faces stamped on their proposed solutions.

Image - Roeselien Raimond

"The answer my friend is isn't blowing in the wind"

When you look at and deeply ponder any type of weedy infestation within a former healthy native ecosystem which is almost exclusively exotic invasives, it's a pretty good probability that those beneficial fungal mycorrhizal networks most likely don't exist in that soil profile anymore. That's logical since the fungi need a viable specific host in order to actually keep alive and the annual invasive weeds (Ruderals or exotic shrubs & trees) have employed a phytochemical tool coupled with continuous human disturbance (Agriculture, Wildfire, etc), we can pretty much assume a bacterial soil profile has taken it's place. The conventional theory is, disking & blitzing the weed infested area in question with Roundup, then following up with planting a native seed blend version of "Meadow in a Can" isn't going to cut it. You have to restore the underground mycorrhizal soil profile with inoculated perennial native plants like Lupines, Poppies, etc for the restoration to succeed. Same is true with restoring native trees & shrubs. Logically, if we observe above ground failure of an entire ecosystem, it's a pretty good bet that something may not be functioning normally under the ground on a microscopic level. In my own experience with planting various pine specimens I collected for my own 3+ acres up in Anza, California, I'd often find that nearby healthy looking scrub oaks really came to life with heavier foliage and larger leaves the following year after planting my inoculated pines with Pisolithus tinctorius. The fungal system which colonized the pines moved underground, also formed a bond with the scrub oaks and truffles appeared in the Spring just outside of the oak's dripline area. What puzzled me was why this specific fungi not been already present  before when large tree areas on the other side of Hamilton Canyon always had them ? Apparently we cannot count on the air being our friend. Take this picture below. A recent discussion on "California Invasive Plant's" Facebook page motivated me to address this subject and finish this post that I originally started as a draft some months back.

Image - R.R. Alexander in 2010

California Poppies - Diamond Valley Reservoir south of Hemet

Image - Jeff Schalau via
This photograph above is in western Riverside County where I lived and worked for 20+ years. In all that time I lived in western Riverside County California, especially in the early years, this area was one of the richest native California wildflower places I've ever witnessed in my lifetime. But that was then. Today these regions are almost totally gone because of development. Diamond Valley Reservoir never existed in the early days. It was originally called Dominegone Valley. This photo of the wildflowers at Diamond Valley Reservoir above caught my eye because of a couple intriguing elements. On first glance it would appear that the native wildflowers (Poppy & Lupine) have choked out and smothered the Mediterranean invasive Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) as represented by the skeletal remains of last year's annual Mustard crop. But more than likely new Mustard plants have already germinated, still very small and will over take these wildflowers in another month. This photo on the right is Yellow Starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and like the non-native Mustard is a non-mycorrhizal annual from elsewhere. Most of the other annual invasives are also non-mycorrhizal and can change the underground soil makeup from a mycorrhizal system to a bacterial system which favours ruderal weeds. Where I have observed Star Thistle in a population explosion scenario is on a landscape which has been mechanically disked or burned over multiple times killing native hosts to mycorrhizal fungi. In that instance they will form entirely pure stands of mixed non-mycorrhizal invasive annual plants. At that point the native plants will have a tougher time coming back or maybe never gaining back a foothold without human intervention. But here is where talk and planning of restoring any type of native ecosystem should always include a quality multispecies blended mycorrhizal inoculum. But this subject in discussion is almost never heard. Take this study below about suppressing Star Thistle:
Reduced mycorrhizal responsiveness leads to increased competitive tolerance in an invasive exotic plant
After acknowledging and providing info on how Star Thistle grows unsuccessfully where soils are Vascular Arbuscular Mycorrhizal (VAM) coupled with the presence of perennial bunchgrass Stipa pulchra, take note in the later part of this sentence in the first bullet point under the Summary:
" . . , although this remains poorly studied."
Now notice this other study on how invasive Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) has been shown to change soil microbial dynamics by suppressing mycorrhizal fungi and changing the underground system to a bacterial one and take a look at this last sentence:
The invasive plant, Brassica nigra, degrades local mycorrhizas across a wide geographical landscape
"There is a need for additional research for more informed agricultural decisions over large spatial scales to avoid potential negative impacts of members of the Brassicaceae on native plant communities."
Here is yet another example study done on a different European invasive called Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) which has invaded North American forests suppressing mycorrhizal networks which have effect all hardwood seedlings. 
Invasive Plant Suppresses the Growth of Native Tree Seedlings by Disrupting Belowground Mutualisms

"Nevertheless, experimental data on species-level impacts of exotic plants are still limited."

"Further research in these directions is needed to better understand the effects of this invader on natural ecosystems and the mechanisms involved."
Finally, moving away from non-mycorrhizal ruderal weeds and looking at ability of an aggressive non-native tree, Tamarisk, to change underground soil biological mechanisms, here is the research on how invasive Tamarisks suppress mycorrhizal connections for Freemont Cottonwoods along aquatic habitats. Notice some of the same wording of where little is known and more study on the subject must be researched. 

Disrupting mycorrhizal mutualisms: a potential mechanism by which exotic tamarisk outcompetes native cottonwoods

" . . . yet our understanding of this mechanism's role in exotic species invasion is still in its infancy."
This next link from the United Nations agricultural department get's to the heart of the matter in utilizing Endo & Ecto Mycorrhizal fungi in restoration projects regarding cottonwoods & willows with regards riparian habitats high in soil salinity, especially where massive invasive of Tamarisks have exacerbated the problem to higher salinity levels. They recommended two types of mycorrhizal fungi, Hebeloma crustuliniforme and Paxillus involutus, which have the best qualities of eliminating the negative effects of high salinity in soil. But once again, take special note of the disclaimer they have on more research needed.
United Nations: Forestry Department - Cottonwoods & Willows
" Although the current data are very fragmentary, they suggest that inclusion of mycorrhizal management in reclamation strategies of salinity affected land may increase the success of such measures. It is obvious that more information is needed on the interaction and possible ameliorative influence of mycorrhizae for poplar under salt stress."
Photo - Michael Wood & MykoWeb

Again, in almost every single study I've ever read and or researched, you'll notice in the concluding comments where they admit how little effort has been put forth into investigation of mycorrhizal fungal research as much as Scientists has been obsessed with putting more focussed resources into studying those negative microbial elements such as pathogenic fungi Fusarium oxysporum which they admit has been researched for over 100 years. But why ??? Because there is far more money in the continual fight against pathogens with science-based synthetic toxins year after year, than creating an ecological equilibrium which is perpetually sustainable. Any Tamarisk eradication project I've ever seen is mostly about mere removal. That's great, but you need to replace with natives which provide an ongoing mycorrhizal (ecto & endo) soil system. Like fungal spores, native riparian tree seeds won't magically blow in on the next wind and heal the system. The system doesn't work as it once did. The misuse and abuse of various science disciplines have reversed engineered ecosystems so badly, that many need a hands on approach. Otherwise the Tamarisk comes back which as I've stated before is job security for some. Clearly from the above links, you can see that many in Science have done the research and revealed how nature really works. But unfortunately that's not the type or kind of Science that rules academia or big business. Why ??? Ever read this quote before:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” 
Upton Sinclair
Image - Go.Nature,com

Well, they can make the determination to do research

 & inform mankind about how Nature really works.
Or yield to the demands of your Corporate employers.

Like the Hebeloma crustuliniforme mycorrhizal fungi referenced in the Cottonwood vrs Tamarisk research paper, another mycorrhizae, the Paxillus involutus, also forms ectomycorrhizal relationships with a broad range of riparian tree species and not just cottonwoods. According to that research, if there are healthy populations of these ectomycorrhizal fungi in present within Fremont Cottonwood groves, the Tamarisk apparently has a tougher time dominating.  There are clearly multiple benefits from these symbiosis as the fungul partners reduces their host's intake of heavy metals, high soil salinity and actually increase their host's resistance to the pathogen fungus like Fusarium oxysporum. These and other important varieties fungi and beneficial bacteria need to be employed within the blueprints of any riparian restoration planning.  

Tamarisk Control at Coachella Valley Preserve, Southern California
"Most areas were cut by hand, thereby selectively cutting out the tamarisk while leaving the native shrubs unharmed. Only a 7.5 acre (3 ha) section that was heavily infested (> 95%) was cleared using a bulldozer." "In the 7.5 acres (3 ha) that was bulldozed, natives established much more slowly than in the hand-cleared areas."   
"In the 7.5 acres (3 ha) that was bulldozed, natives established much more slowly than in the hand-cleared areas."
This quote from the article is fascinating. So areas cleared in a large scale mechanized way by bulldozers in the heavier infested area with large trees provided a clean slate upon which to rebuild and restore native vegetation, but it recovered more slowly compared to other area cleared by hand. An area cleared by hand would be more carefully methodical and surgical in it's approach to not disturb other native shrubs. This faster recovery of the later site makes sense because no matter how unseen mycorrhizal networks are to the naked human eye, they never the less do exist under the ground. This same phenomena of hand removal vrs mechanized on this project was also reported and commented upon by the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. But beyond the acknowledgement of the outcome (mechanized removal vrs hand tool removal), not one of the Authors commented on improving techniques for restoration through biomimicry by utilizing a surgical proceedure of hand tool clearing as opposed to using big machinery and stripping eveything of the surface of the land. Clearly mechanical stripping completely destroys the mycorrhizal grid underground and it takes plants much longer to establish themselves. It was also interesting about the revitalized Spring reappearing mere hours after Tamarisk removal.
"A Spring Reflows"
"Remarkably, the spring in Thousand Palms Canyon began flowing again for the first time in years just hours after the first large tamarisk cutting effort there. Revegetation of all the cleared areas occurred quickly and inexpensively. Seeds were collected from nearby shrubs and trees and strewn onto the cleared areas after the tamarisk was removed. In the area that was bulldozed, natives established much more slowly than in the hand-cleared areas. Native inkweed, saltbush, quailbush, and alkali goldenbush are now growing in dry areas, and the desert fan palms, willows, cottonwoods, and common reed are well-established in wet areas."
Sierra Club: Persistence and herbicide eradicate thirsty tamarisk (2005)
Some major roadblocks to  Tamarisk eradication and native Riparian plant restoration
Photo - U.S. Geological Survey
There has been some controversy lately with some eco-groups who now say they don't want Tamarisk removed along the Colorado River because they insist that the trees now provide nesting habitat to the endangered Willow Flycatcher. Originally this bird was in trouble because the Tamarisk invasion crowded out their prefered nesting habitat (dense willow bosques) within riparian ecosystems, the willow & Cottonwood forests. This appears to have changed as some Flycatchers have adapted to nesting in Tamarisks. It should also be noted that these Flycatchers also will nest in other types of dense vegetation as you can google and see for yourself.

Robert Browman/Albuquerque Journal (2013)

Image - Cornell Lab
The picture above is known as a Riparian Bosque ecosystem in New Mexico which generally in the dry desertlands in the Southwest incorporate Fremont Cottonwoods, Willows and Velvet Mesquite. Bosque is Spanish for woodlands. Bosques Forests are generally a gallery of native riparian trees found along permanent water courses or where water is close to the surface even if unseen. Many Bosques have been destroyed in the early days because of the rich bottomlands they once inhabited for which agricultural business interests who coveted those nutrient rich floodplains took them over. The term 'Bosque' will mean something different for everyone. Many business leaders will view them as worthless impenetrable brush or scrub barriers to their various business schemes (sand mining, agriculture, housing or country club development, etc). Others who are more ecologically minded want them preserved in keeping that dense understory laberynthine wildness intact much like it was with the old Grizzly bear mazes in coastal riparian woodlands of times past in California that early Spanish explorers may have stumbled upon and wrote about. Bosques are structured in the deserts with willows being adjacent to the wetter areas (river banks, sand bars, etc), then huge majestic Cottonwoods, Box Elders, Arizona Ash (possibly Arizona Sycamores) and finally on the fringes away from the river an extensive Mesquite woodland and all of it mutually cooperating to manage these regions which are flood prone and holding the system together. Interestingly, riparian trees are both endo & ecto mycorrhizal and work exceptionally well as a water shunts for transporting water away from the actual river water source through the mycorrhizal network to farther ecosystem plants away from rivers and streams. Another important reason for native riparian habitats to be restored properly as opposed to simple eradication. 

Jay Calderon The Desert Sun
Back in the days of the old west, the pioneers came along and misused and abused the habitats by their various agricultural schemes in stripping the land of vegetation for wide spread farming. When the normal seasonal flooding came along it caused terrible erosion problems and/or ruined crops. Further disastrous decision making (science-based for the times) brought in the infamous Tamarisk and Arundo (type of cane bamboo) to hold together the river and stream banks which became badly eroded. Much like the photo here of the New River near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley. Later dams and reservoirs were constructed to hold back floodwaters and this too helped eliminate the Cottonwoods and willows by stopping the natural flooding cycles which are important to riparian woodlands or forests reseeding themselves. This flood elimination also facilitated the aggressive invasiveness of the Tamarisk which has taken over most all riparian woodlands in many areas of the Southwestern United States. It was then that Tamarisk invaded and created the present monopoly foothold by chemically changing the soil profile which disrupted the mycorrhizal mutualism. Restoration Projects have to deal with this change in soil profile or the time spent is wasted. Some people and organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity are getting in the way of responsible entomological biological controls, such as the introduction of the Tamarisk defoliating beetle which has had great successs in many areas. Their reasoning is that while Tamarisk originally destroyed nesting habitat for Willow Flycatchers, these birds are now using them for nesting sites. Frankly, if you google Willow flycatcher nests, you'll find the birds do nest in a variety of healthy thick vegetation. I'd much rather have they and other birds nesting in restored Fremont Cottonwoods and Willows ecosystems, than in invasive soil salt infusing Tamarisks systems.
Lawsuit Filed to Save Endangered Southwestern Songbird From Habitat Destruction Caused by Invasive Beetles
Feds nix bugs for tamarisk control on Colorado River
Some references on successful restoration and other observations
One of the most outstanding anomalies from removal to me was the response of the long dried up Spring at the 1000 Palms Canyon Oasis reappearing and flowing on the surface again just mere hours after Tamarisk removal. There has been some intellectual criticism by those wanting the Tamarisk to be left alone arguing that native riparian vegetation also creates evapotranspiration just like Tamarisk. So ??? Nobody would dispute that, but clearly the Tamarisks do suck down more water because the native vegetation which has replaced them still allows these springs to flow freely. It's a given that any riparian plant ecosystem with trees would evapotranspirate, but clearly not as bad as a massive Tamarisk infestation. In this age of dwindling fresh water supplies, why would hydrologists everywhere not be looking at this ? Remember what was observed by the 1000 Palms Oasis Tamarisk removal site ? Springs flowed again within hours of removal. The native vegetaton never suppressed the Spring and now even the various native critters can all benefit as a result of surface waterflow. Major win win all around for everyone and everything. Where have Roger C. Bales (UC Merced) & Michael Goulden (UC Irvine) been all this time when we really needed them ??? 🙄

Image .Gifloop 2011
"Remarkably, the spring in Thousand Palms Canyon began flowing again for the first time in years just hours after the first large tamarisk cutting effort there."
Okay, the photo GIF above is not the actual 1000 Palms Canyon Oasis spring referenced in those articles. I merely used it here for an illustrative purpose. Clearly however, Tamarisk do use massive amounts of water when compared to other native vegetation as evidenced by this restoration program's outcome. That's not say riparian trees don't use water, they do. But their effect is not as dramatic on the ecosystem. Below is a link to the NASA website's Multimedia Invasive Species page where they use various animations to illustrate this tree's aggressive ability by means of a deepermassive root infrstructure and phytochemical warefare to outcompete the natives and eventually creating an almost entirely Tamarisk monoculture. No room for left for other plant biodiversity. Apparently this goes totally unnoticed by the Center of Biological Diversity who now wish to coddle and cuddle this plant.

Credit . National Park Service
"Experts estimate that one large tamarisk plant has the potential to absorb up to 200 gallons of water per day – that’s twice the amount the average person uses in the same timeframe."
Credit: NASA
Wow, 200 gallons of water per day ? Well, let's compare that with a couple of native plants which are often heavily demonized in Texas by the Cattlemen's Association. These would be Mesquite and Ashe Juniper. Both of these shrubby trees are natives, not invasives, but labeled invasive noxious weeds by those with a vested interest in something that provides a living like grasslands. In this case grasslands are the desired plant community. 
Arizona Daily Independent

"Mesquite trees, for example, have lateral root systems extending up to 50 feet from the tree, greatly increasing their ability to absorb available moisture. A mesquite trees eight- to 12-feet tall can consume 20 gallons of water per day; ten such mesquites can use as much water in one day as one Texan does."
Interesting. So compared to a Tamarisk tree, a Mesquite tree uses only 20 gallons of water per day as compared to 200 gallons per day. And apparently 10 Mesquite trees suck 200 gallons per day just like your average Texan. Here is another demonized tree, the Ashe Juniper. Like the Mesquite, it too is a native to Texas.

"A large juniper can consume 40 gallons of water per day during the midsummer with moderate soil moisture. Six junipers, then, use about as much as one Texan does daily."
Interesting again, but of course this tree is said to use 40 gallons of water per day. It takes six of them to equal one Texan whom like the Tamarisk consumes 200 gallons per day. Seriously though, I would have guessed that the Juniper would be using less water than the mesquite tree. But there is an interesting reason as to why these two trees are being demonized below. Cattle Ranchers only want grasslands for their personal business interests to thrive. Take a look below from the same website where this info came from and their reasoning.

Image - Cedar Eaters of Texas
Junipers have a deep root structure and a dense mat of fibrous roots near the soil surface that allow them to absorb moisture from the driest of soils, to the detriment of grasses, creeks and springs. Mesquite and cedar have no ability to conserve water and will throw off  what ever amounts they absorb. Other trees conserve and limit their water usage during the heat of the day, controlling their water loss or output.

Now the only thing I'm walking away with here in the reading this article is that probably both Tamarisk and Texans are what really need to be eradicated. Okay I'm kidding. Well, at least on the part about Texans😉. Again, the link above under the NASA photo of the Tamarisk tree along with it's critique on Tamarisk water usage, also provides good animation of just how aggressive the evapotranspiration of Tamarisk is when compared to a Fremont Cottonwood. There are those that will dispute the 200 gallon of water per day figure. For example the other government site, US Geological Survey site disputes the higher figure. Ultimately the scientists behind the research (one way or another) are motivated by personal bias, compensation by those funding their study and they are also prone to mistakes. The Tamarisk removal and restoration of native plants at the 1000 Palms Canyon site in Coachella Valley is a prime example of what is more likely true as a result of the resurfacing of the stream within hours when water sucking Tamarisk was removed. The key here is figuring how much  was used can be easily assessed by the fact the water resurfaced within hours. Had it been many days or a week, then maybe not. This animation below illustrates what happens when the wrong vegetation exists along a river or creek bed and much further away inland from the surface waters.

(Illustrations from Alley and others, 1999)
Diagrams of groundwater movement in relation to streamflow

If you notice the top illustration we see a normal surface flow with the native Fremont Cottonwoods, Willows and Mesquite. Logically the Cottonwoods & Willows would be closest to the water course, while Mesquite would form large Bosque woodlands much further away as a result of a very high water table. No ill effects of dense Mesquite thickets would be experienced if the 20 gallon per day usage per tree were true. Also by means of the capillary action of water from the higher water table far away from the river or stream and actually moving up higher than into the banks and foothills in the floodplain. This would be further enhanced by the hydraulic lift and redistribution of deep subsoil moisture towards those higher surfaces by the native trees and shrubs. I have yet to find any similar phenomena with Tamarisk in any literature. On the other hand if the thickets were invaded by Tamarisk with a higher need for water, then the seond illustration would go into effect with a lowering of the below ground water table. At this point the surface water is not dependent so much on volume of water from the water table as it is forced to give it's reserves from the upstream intake down into the water table causing the surface flow to shrink. In the third picture the stream is totally separated from the water table and in our desert scenario it would be bone dry as the water table would be maybe 3 meters or 10' below the floodplain with river bed surface being dry in a desert scenario. To further counter the new Tamarisk love affair by researchers who now say it's not such a bad guy after all when it comes to being thirsty, here is a video below of how the huge extensive infrastructure of Tamarisk Windbreaks are maintained in the Coachella Valley along I-15 & the Railroad right-of-ways.

Why and how Windbreaks are needed and maintained with massive water flooding in the Coachella Valley
Image - CS

Tamarisk Windbreaks along ATSF track right-of-way in
the Coachella Valley between I-10 and Palm springs

I can verify for a fact that there is a massive water wasting by the railroad in irrigating these Tamarisk windbreaks. In actual fact when I was on the ground down by those tracks in the earlt 1980s and walked the right-of-way, I saw those heavy duty irrigation pipes just pouring out water from 2" openings in between each tree. There was no drip system. I further verified this wasteful massive need for water from the Desert Water Agency's, Ronald Baetz, who said massive amounts of water were required for the Tamarisk to heal itself from the constant sand blasting it receives from high intensity winds through Windy Point. He insisted it was the only plant that could rapidly regenerate itself, but I had seen the same thing from various native dune Mesquites out there. It's true, the winds are insane and sands storms are constant here and need for permanent windbreaks can be seen from the picture of this railroad track right of way in the Namibia desert in Africa. But perhaps building a permanent large berm structure from local natural materials (sand, rock, etc) and heavily planting this structure with multiple diverse native desert trees and shrubs is the way to go. I previously wrote about this with regards UCSD's old Mesquite Dune Project.
Lessons From a Mesquite Dune Project

Mesquite Dunes: Practical Solution to Tamarisk Removal & Replacement
Finally in Conclusion
The studies on how Tamarisk changes soil chemistry and disrupts the mycorrhizal mutualism between both endo & ecto mycorrhizae and Fremont Cottonwood (not to mention how all other non-mycorrhizal invasive plants accomplish this) illustrates how important it is for restoration groups to inoculate at time of planting. In a year's time a sterilized riparian habitat could be dense enough to crowd out and kill Tamarisk seedlings which hate shade. 

Image - Stillwater Sciences (2006)
In many extreme cases, total stripping of landscape may be necessary depending on how heavily infested a site is with multiple invasive species. Admittedly, in such cases the mycorrhizal grid will be totally destroyed. Same with heavy ruderal weed thatch needing to be mowed and possibly deep plowed under before planting perennial native wildflowers and grasses back into the landscape. Generous mycorrhizal inoculation will be necessary for the restoration to succeed. Think of the underground and take necessary steps, it'll be worth it. The site above with bare soil is also the same location in the photo below after two years with cottonwood trees. Remember, Fremont Cottonwood will do best with a couple of good species of ectomycorrhizal fungi. It's imperative to do everything right from the start, otherwise you'll most likely need more major followups. Weeding might be necessary the first year, but shouldn't be that bad. Heavy mulch should also be applied. Remember that a dense canopy of thick riparian trees is imperative to shade out any newer Tamarisk seedlings. You can thin out later, remember that this is what nature would naturally do with massive amounts of competition after major flooding during the rainy season.

Stillwater: Bradford Island Riparian and Wetland Restoration

Image - River Partners
The above image shows Fremont Cottonwoods at two years of age. If enough water is present, growth can be rapid. Wet year rainfall restoration would be ideal. The photo at right is a Flycatcher nest within a two year's growth of willows. Hardly a loss if Tamarisk were removed. California Sycamores should also be included. My mother's home in the photo below in the backyard shows incredible height after two years and the amazing thing is that all six trees were six inches tall at time of planting. After that watering was radically tapered off to encourage deep rooting growth. Both the Freemont Cottonwood and California Sycamore would get a huge boost headstart if very long cane poles of both trees were obtained and planted in deep bore holes. The key also is to generously inoculate with a good blend of both endo & ecto mycorrhizal fungi. Especially is it important for Fremont Cottonwoods which are both endo & ecto as are willows. Sycamore is only endomycorrhizal. But the network grid created is imperative and interconnecting species is valuable from a communications and messaging standpoint for boosting the immune system.

Riparian Invasion Research Lab (RIVRLAB)
If you don't do this right, the Tamarisks will get a foothold again and it will have to be done all over again. Do it correct the first time and maintain it for a few years and your restoration will take hold. Same thing with native grasslands and chaparral biomes which have been taken over by non-native noxious weedy annual ruderals (African Fountain Grass, Mustard, Cheatgrass, Wild Radish, Starthistle, etc). The Sycamores at my mum's place in El Cajon completely tower over everything now. Amazing considering they no longer get irrigated other than rainfall and groundwater availability. The other major fascinating thing for me about the incredibly healthy mycorrhizal grid at my mother's place is that California Sycamore seedlings are germinating in the drier chaparral themed beds which are not riparian. Water is transported through the fungal grid from wetter areas and sustains these seedlings. A good healthy grid will stop ruderals in their tracks, but you still will get weeds. But we call them native tree and shrub seedling weeds. 🙌

photo is mine - El Cajon 2007

Two years old California Sycamores, planted in 2005 and all
six trees from one gallon containers. All were six inches high

Some other references regarding habitat restoration, especially riparian ecosystems
Restoring Southern California Riparian Ecosystems - Lakeside California & San Diego River
My personal ongoing fascination with anything Sycamore
US Forest Service: Riparian Restoration Techniques The Thirsty Tree
Save the Colorado River Delta Facebook Page

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Heavy Winter precipitation in the Western United States is apparently meaningless

Is the California drought finally over ??? Incessant rainfall and snowfall leads to terrific flooding in the Golden State as thousands of homes are evacuated 
Image from The Daily Mail
But officials also warned that though the rain has eased conditions, the drought isn't completely over

The average person falls for the big Media bluff that all is well when weather conditions take an apparent turn about from the long hard drought. Especially when it's an extreme turn of events like the massive snowfalls and rain flooding events presently hitting California and other western regions. In the back of people's minds they are telling themselves things are back to the good ol'days. But now after Californian's have been praying for rain for five years, now they are praying for a break in the rainfall. Perhaps they may believe what the UC Merced Hydrologist Roger C. Bales theorized was correct after all. Get rid of all those greedy water sucking trees and streamflows will rise. Less trees gulping water means fuller streams. Not so fast. Most of that so-called science about removal and thinning of Sierra Nevada Forest trees was more of a public relations stunt funded and backed by the giant Timber Industry and down stream Industrial Agriculture business interests which has a love affair with massive flood irrigation methodology. The imaginary myth was theorized that less forest trees gulping down water would translate more water in streams and rivers filling up reservoirs. While I looked for research on any type of documentation of millions of dead trees actually proving this reverse phenomena to be true a couple years ago, I hadn't found any until now. Apparently the research had been there a little over a year ago, but got very little success in attracting Media attention. Not as sexy as Roger Bales and Michael Goulden's theories I guess.
Recent tree die-offs have had little effect on streamflow in contrast to expected increases from hydrological studies
Images from

Clockwise from top left the photos are Spain, Colorado, New Mexico and Argentina.

We've all read the stories and seen all the horrific  photographs of what Mountain pine beetles have done to the western forests over the past decade due to hotter temperatures and drier summers. These bark beetles have infested and killed  thousands of acres of not only western pine forests, but other forests around the globe are now also in trouble as well. Researchers like Roger C. Bales (UC Merced) and Michael L. Merced (UC Irvine) have previously predicted that as trees died or were mechanically removed by logging and thinning, streamflows would increase because fewer trees would be greedily gulping up water through their roots and transpiring it up into the atmosphere. In the imaginations of the Hydrology boys, less trees equate more water runoff for agriculture down in California's Central & San Joaquin Valleys. Back in December 2015, a study by  the University of Utah geology and geophysics professor Paul Brooks and his colleagues in Arizona, Colorado and Idaho, found that if too many trees die, then compensatory processes would kick in and might actually reduce water availability. This is the exact opposite of what Bales and Goulden speculated would happen. But what Brooks and others discovered is that when large areas of trees dieoff, the forest floor becomes sunnier, warmer and windier, which causes winter snow and summer rain to evaporate rather than slowly recharging groundwater. In fact in describing what happens with the snow which usually melts and slowly percolates into the ground, what actually happened was a phenomena called "sublimation." This process of sublimation is where snow and ice change into water vapor in the air without first melting into water. The opposite of sublimation would be "deposition", where water vapor changes directly into ice (such a snowflakes and frost). So what happens with much of that heavy snow we've seen in recent photos does not all melt and infiltrate into the subsoil layers, but rather a good percentage of the snow evaporates up into the drier warmer atmosphere. What is interesting is that the regions studied were much of the high elevation headwaters areas for the Colorado River which fill down stream reservoirs like Lake Powell and Lake Mead which have been experiencing rapidly falling water levels. This effects water potential for Arizona and Southern California.
"Recent bark beetle epidemics have caused regional-scale tree mortality in many snowmelt-dominated headwater catchments of western North America. Initial expectations of increased streamflow have not been supported by observations, and the basin-scale response of annual streamflow is largely unknown. Here we quantified annual streamflow responses during the decade following tree die-off in eight infested catchments in the Colorado River headwaters and one nearby control catchment. We employed three alternative empirical methods: (i) double-mass comparison between impacted and control catchments, (ii) runoff ratio comparison before and after die-off, and (iii) time-trend analysis using climate-driven linear models. In contrast to streamflow increases predicted by historical paired catchment studies and recent modeling, we did not detect streamflow changes in most basins following die-off, while one basin consistently showed decreased streamflow. The three analysis methods produced generally consistent results, with time-trend analysis showing precipitation was the strongest predictor of streamflow variability (R2 = 74–96%). Time-trend analysis revealed post-die-off streamflow decreased in three catchments by 11–29%, with no change in the other five catchments. Although counter to initial expectations, these results are consistent with increased transpiration by surviving vegetation and the growing body of literature documenting increased snow sublimation and evaporation from the subcanopy following die-off in water-limited, snow-dominated forests. The observations presented here challenge the widespread expectation that streamflow will increase following beetle-induced forest die-off and highlight the need to better understand the processes driving hydrologic response to forest disturbance."
Tree mortality is increasing worldwide which also includes Canada
Image - Natural Resources Canada
Tree mortality is increasing worldwide including Canada
"Tree mortality will likely increase in areas where extreme weather events become more frequent. Climate change projections indicate that in some parts of Canada, droughts and other extreme events are expected to become more frequent in the future. These changes could trigger increases in tree mortality and episodes of forest decline in affected areas, posing challenges for forest management and the long-term supply of forest resources and services, including carbon balance."
So just how well are all these forests regenerating on their own without mankind's help and interference ??? Despite Environmental Activist insistence that this is the only way Nature can heal, in almost all cases the natural world is failing!
Image - University of Colorado Boulder

Researcher Monica Rother at the site of the 2000 Walker Ranch fire in Boulder County.
Eighty percent of plots surveyed there contained no new trees.
The studies and observations by the researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder exposes the bleak reality. It makes sense though. Trees under extremely high stress from drought, pine beetle attacks and catastrophic wildfire events will dump most of what's left of their energy resources into defensesive strategies (Survival) and very little towards offensive strategies (seed production). Here are a few excerpts from the report:
“It is alarming, but we were not surprised by the results given what you see when you hike through these areas,” said Rother, who earned her doctorate from CU Boulder in 2015 and works as a fire ecologist at Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, Florida. 
Among the most barren sites were those of the 2000 Walker Ranch fire in Boulder County and the 2000 Bobcat Gulch fire in Larimer County, where approximately 80 percent of plots surveyed contained no new young trees.  
“This should be a wake-up call, that under the warming trends associated with human-caused climate change, significant shifts in forest extent and vegetation types are already occurring,” said Veblen. “We are seeing the initiation of a retreat of forests to higher elevations.”  
Previous research has suggested that hotter, more severe fires make it harder for the forest to bounce back by killing mature trees and reducing seed stock. But the study found that even after lower-intensity fires, presumed to have had less effect on mature trees and seed stock, seedlings were still scarce. Hotter, drier areas at lower elevations or on south-facing slopes had the fewest seedlings.  
“Fire severity is definitely relevant, but climate appeared to play the greatest role,” in limiting forest recovery, said Rother.  
“I don’t want to present this as being entirely negative,” said Veblen. “For me, the negative aspect is what it indicates about the future.”
So the main thrust of the message from this report is that it now seems that Nature is no longer able to restore itself in many areas. Humans have done so much extensive damage that it is also necessary for them to actually intervene and mechanical help Nature. The protesting and politically motivated wilderness designation or Nation Park status will never work. Unfortunately most people (& this includes Scientists) do not have the full understanding of how the natural world functions and operates. Much of our understanding and progress has been held back and stuck in neutral because of of silly ideologically driven worldview as mandated by this world's Scientific Orthodoxy which controls the prevailing scientific thought which has infected all Academia. Way too much time and energy has been spent by Academia and environmental organizations on religious concepts such as (Argument from Poor Design) to battle against what they call religious fundies. The argument basically trashes numerous components of our planet's natural world as being flawed, imperfect and badly designed. The argument then promotes the lame idea that this is proof there is no creator because an intelligent designer would never have created or engineered things in such & such a way. Hence, instead of creating technological innovations which apply biomimicry or biomimetics (replicating natural designs when it comes to technological innovation by observing designs found in Nature), our world's intellectuals have instead pursued innovation based on flawed human reasoning and understanding. This is what has brought us much of the genetic engineering in agriculture and a plethora of dangerous toxic synthetic chemicals to deal with the imbalance in pest invasion that humans ultimately caused in the first place. Nature have never worked that way and nature has kept balance for countless 1000s of years without human interference. Suddenly now there are some Biomimicry organizations who are on board with replicating natural designs, but they have to first undo deprogram all the people who have been fed the prevailing secular koolaid and then re-educate people as to how nature really works. This is not so much a slam against the worldview obsessed as it is a wake up or shake up call for people everywhere, irrespective of your belief system, that nature no matter how one believes if origined, has never been flawed, imperfect or badly designed. This is where flawed thinking brought California the inept theory of tree removal bringing us more water. Do you see how this has now backfired ??? Here is another example of how Forest ecosystem failure and collapse needs human intervention from India:
In order to restore tropical rainforests, it is not enough to simply set up protected areas and leave them to their own devices. In particular, tree species with large fruit and seeds distributed by birds will have to be actively planted. This is one of the conclusions of a large-scale study by scientists from ETH Zurich in the Western Ghats, the mountain range running along the western coast of India. 
“For rainforest restoration projects to be successful, you have to give special attention to these trees,” says Kettle. “If you want to encourage them to spread, the only option is to collect their seeds, set up tree nurseries and then actively plant out the saplings at a later stage.”

Nature is becoming less resilient and no longer able to sustain itself as it has done for countless 1000s of years. One disappointing thing about the study of dead trees not increasing stream flows was the silence on the phenomena known as "hydrological descent" in which living trees (also shrubs), even when dormant, which pump excess surface water during the rainy season down into deeper layers of the subsoil layers helping to recharge the water table aquafirs. That should have been included in this study and it wasn't. Can you imagine what low percentage of this California rainy season's (2016-2017) precipitation has actually percolated into the California landscape and how much has blown out back into the Pacific Ocean through massive flooding runoff ? After years of drought a lot of bare ground will almost fossilize to where the soils pores will close up tightly and the phenomena of capiliraary action needs time to heal properly. The state of California has no infrastructure in place to funnel massive amounts of this excess freshwater back towards the interior desert riparian habitats. Think of aquatic environments like Mono Lake, Owens Lake and further south the Salton Sea which already has a major ecological water problem. Or how about any of the other maze of dry lake beds throughout the Mojave Desert. Could such filling of these large natural basins have a moderating effect on the state's regional, if not statewide climate and weather ? Not to mention benefits to wildlife ? According to all of the above studies we just briefly touched on, humans are going to have to actually intervene now and make the necessary corrections. Instead of dumping money and manpower into ineffective angry protest and destructive civil disobedience, people need to go beyomd clicking "LIKE" on a Facebook page article about environment and physically get out doors and start restoring ecosystems based on natural design which was never ever flawed. However, how well historically has that been working out for us ??? 
Can collective groups among mankind  really work together to reverse these trends we've just read about ???

We all know how well it turned out for Humpty Dumpty. All the King's horses and all the King's men were unqualified and ill equipped to fix anything back together again. Governments, Business Leaders, Scientists & Religious leaders likewise do not have the answers nor the management skills we need for a real world viable solution either. The common people around the world are taking to the streets in a last desperate resort in protest and they too are likewise ill equipped to put anything back together again. The people protesting are often not exactly sure of what they are protesting about when interviewed by some in the media. It doesn't matter what they are protesting, or what message is on their signs because they are usually are nothing more than hollow slogans. And this is taking place most everywhere globally. Fixing and correcting things takes real cooperation and working peacefully together. That's not how this world we're all forced to live in works presently. Even today's angry environmental movements seem to have no answers other than protesting something or someone they hate. They never really offer any viable alternatives other than kicking other people off a piece of some sacred real estate and saying, "Nature will just find a way" to heal itself. In the studies above that will not happen. Each and every day, Salman Rushdie's word in that CNN interview ring true:

"Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we're asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?" 
Salman Rushdie
There really are some decent organizations out there that actually go beyond hate motivated protesting. They also demonstrate how energy is better spent educating the public in following natural design and in participating in hands on habitat restoration work. One of the main organizations that comes to my mind is the group, (Back to Natives Restoration) who actually provide a valuable service to local urban communities and in education work to the public. Same can be said for other native plant nurseries like (Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery) and (Tree of Life Native Plant Nursery) who offer not only healthy viable native plants, but also extensive educational programs to help enlighten their customers and general public as to how nature really works and replicating installation and care with less water and no industrially manufactured science-based synthetic (fertilizers & pesticides) chemicals. All these organizations are strictly founded and identify themselves based on something they truly love, not something they hate or what pisses them off.
In Conclussion
At the very least we know where things really stand concerning our Earth's environment when the media attempts to paint a rosy picture of things not being all that bad as we first thought. It's worse folks. We also now know for a certainty that all those Politically motivated and Industrial Business interest funded hydrological studies conducted at several California Universities were dead wrong from the start. In fact their flawed schemes were never close to the truth, but many of us already knew that.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Plants use a chemical 911 & know specifically which Emergency Service to contact

This is not a general message, "Calling all Predators." But rather more specific chemical signals being sent out to specialized predators depending on who or what herbivore is munching on the plant
image -

We all understand what the 911 Emergency Protocol is. When we call 911, we are usually specific about which particular emergency we are experiencing. We may need the Police, Fire Department or an  Ambulence and with the right communication the correct help is on the way. Recently, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig did a study about what happens when plants are attacked by herbivores (insect, animals, etc). Apparently most plants call in emergency reinforcements. They proceed by emitting specific chemical aerosol signals. These aerosol signals attract the right specific predatory wasp that parasitizes a specific host insect pest which is attacking the plant. The wasps lay their eggs into the caterpillars, thereby killing them. This means fewer butterflies and hungry caterpillars in the next generation. An international research team tested the effects of twelve types of herbivores on a field mustard (Brassica rapa). The researchers found that the plants consistently adapt the odours they emit upon attack to the characteristics of the respective herbivore. This helped the plant to specifically attract a certain specific natural enemy that feed on the herbivores eating them. Among the twelve different herbivores that they tested, there were caterpillars, aphids and a slug. The herbivore selection included specialist and generalist, sucking and chewing, as well as exotic and native species.
Plants smell different when they are eaten by exotic herbivores
Photo - Nicole Van Dam
Professor Nicole Van Dam sees the results as "spectacular proof" of how specifically plants respond to their environment. 
"The plants may not have a nervous system, eyes, ears, or mouths, but they are capable of determining who is attacking them. Based on this, they can transmit reliable information to specialized parasitic wasps that can learn the odours to find their preferred host. What I find truly amazing is that they're even capable of distinguishing between a native and an exotic herbivore."
Department Molecular Interaction Ecology at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Professor for Molecular Interaction Ecology at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU)
Trees recognize roe deer by their saliva: Smart defence mechanisms against browsing
Image: Town Mouse & Country Mouse Blog
Mule Deer browsing foliage of native 
California Coffeeberry

Photo - Bettina Ohse
Animals also can be foliage damaging herbivores to plants. The photo above is of a California Mule Deer browsing the foliage of a native chaparral plant called California Coffeeberry. While we are told fables of Native Americans setting fires to improve grasslands for grazers like deer, what they really like is browsing shrub and tree foliage. As I've previously asked on this subject is, what is it that gardeners most generally complain about when it comes to Deer ??? Is it that they graze their lawns or rather damage flower beds, shrubs and trees ??? Another question would be, Are plants also programmed with a similar chemical signalling defense mechanisms to thwart animal browsing and if so, how does this defense work ??? This was another study done along the same lines as the insect herbivory study above. Notice the photo at right here where a central leader of a Maple was cut with metal shears, but a deer's saliva was applied to the damaged area which sent a signal message to produce more chemical components like tannins which make the foliage taste bitter to the deer. Also triggered were growth hormones to encourage the plant to make up for the lost growth. The plant also can apparently tell the difference between deer browsing and wind storm damage of a branch. Very kool stuff. Here are a couple of paragraphs:
In order to protect themselves against roe deer browsing, trees purposely put up a fight. By studying young beeches (Fagus sylvatica) and maples (Acer pseudoplatanus), biologists from the Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have now found out that trees are able to recognise precisely whether a branch or bud has been purposefully nibbled off by a roe deer – or just randomly torn off by a storm or other mechanical disturbance. The saliva of the animals gives them the signal. If a deer feeds on a tree and leaves its saliva behind, the tree will increase its production of salicylic acid. This hormone, in turn, signals to the plant to increase the production of specific tannins. It is known for some of these substances that they influence the feeding behaviour of roe deer, with the result that the deer lose their appetite for the shoots and buds. In addition, the saplings increase their concentrations of other plant hormones, growth hormones in particular. These hormones enhance the growth of the remaining buds to compensate for the lost ones.   
“On the other hand, if a leaf or a bud snaps off without a roe deer being involved, the tree stimulates neither its production of the salicylic acid signal hormone nor the tannic substances. Instead, it predominantly produces wound hormones,” explains Bettina Ohse, lead author of the study. The scientists reached their conclusions by outsmarting the saplings: They simulated a roe deer feeding on them by cutting off buds or leaves and trickling real roe deer saliva on the cut surface from a pipette. Shortly after, they recorded the concentrations of the hormones and tannins in the saplings.

Previously, other studies have shown that plants detect predation from pests like the same cabbage caterpillar through vibrational waves from their chewing. Perhaps plants detect things in a combination of sensory ways. Clearly chemical defenses are depensed in a variety of messaging, either by being sending chemical text messages through their the root systems and continuing into the fungal network grid to warn other plants through their root systems to manufacture more bitter tannins. Or as this study revealed by means of released message specific aerosols to signal just the right predator to deal with a specific pest. We now know that plants are capable of communicating with each other via extensive and complex networks, and can warn each other of the presence of pests. In response, these plants are able to mount natural defenses against various types of infestations. This interconnectedness between soil, microbes, plants, pests, is a fascinating area of study. Unfortunately Industrial Science has lost much of what used to be common-sense farming and gardening knowledge which was based on simple observation. This was the very thing science was supposed to be about. The industrial Scientists are now forced to look back at what they once made fun of as far as age-old wisdom which reveals that nature is apparently far smarter than they were in the past willing to give it credit for. This is where biomimetics can become an important part of gardening, urban landscaping and sustainable agriculture. Science doesn't need to combat pests by inventing more and more synthetic chemical warfare. That's not the type of chemical biomimicry needed. As mentioned before, science has been influenced by irresponsible philosophical dogma brought to us by such things as  Arguments from Poor Design which has done more to hold science back from understanding how our natural world actually works more than anything else. Instead of spitting on Fundies with time wasting lame arguments, they should have been busy creating sustainable ways for optimal growing conditions so that plants could have responded with their own built in programmed defenses. Instead, we've been given this ill conceived "Green Revolution" which was anything but green and there are still large corporate entities who  want to keep this status quo. It's really unfortunate that this type of scientific discovery referenced in the above links are still not the science that rules our world. Many are catching on now, but are they too late to make a difference ???
Article written about attracting predators
California Coffeeberry: Biodiverse Insect Magnet for Pollinators & Predators (Think Hedgerows)