Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lessons From a Mesquite Dune Project

Years back in the middle 1990s, I use to travel California Highway 78 to Highway 86 Junction south  to El Centro California from my home up in the San Jacinto Mountains which was to the northwest of this Highway Junction. I worked down there and the drive was approximately two hours one way. Before getting to the Junction 86 however, on the right hand side driving east just a mile from the junction I noticed there was some sort of planting project going on. Southwestern Native Desert Plants were being installed and remote irrigation techniques were being experimented with. 

California Hwy 78 Looking West towards San Diego County Mountains

 Here is a link to the website of the group responsible for this Mesquite Dune Experiment. It was conducted by the San Diego State University SDSU - Soil Restoration Group.

The reality is that I never really paid this project no mind other than slowing down once or twice and passively giving it some attention. I did stop once and gave a closer look. I was wondering of course what specific species of plants were used and what was the purpose of these plantings. I never saw anyone as I went past to stop and ask. Never the less I was curious, but I have to be honest that it wasn't till some years later it took on more meaning when I thought back on their project.

The SDSU Soil Ecology Restoration Group's purpose
of these studies have included evaluation of the nature of disturbance, soil remediation, seed collection, processing, and storage, dustfall and erosion control, plant production and outplanting techniques, remote site irrigation, plant protection, direct seeding, and the re-establishment of mesquite mounds along the San Felipe Creek watershed region of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The primary goal of these studies has been the mitigation of off-road vehicle damage, road construction, and mining. Once again , you may read further about this Project which was created by San Diego State University's Soil Ecology Restoration Group.
Here's an interesting map that gives an idea as to actual location. The area is about a mile or so from the Hwy 86 Jct on Hwy 78 and just north of the San Felipe Creek Ecological Reserve in Imperial County California. This map is from the California Department of Fish and Game and just about where you see on this map at about the green Hwy 78 sign is where the Project Habitat Restoration Site is located.
Let me give you an up to date visual of just what the place looks like as of last year June 2011. My wife and I stopped there on our way back from Brawley CA with my brother Lance going back to his home in the Mountains at Ranchita and I took a number of photographs. Some spots not doing so well and other trees were very impressive.
Coming from the Jct 86 east to west with
Mesquite Site on left

photo: Mine
Ignore that masked man behind the Tamarisk Curtain! On a cautionary note: beware of the soft sand road shoulder off the south side of Hwy 78. The US Border Patrol regularly grades it to track illegals. No low clearance vehicle should attempt to park on the experiment side of the Highway.
Notice not all made it but this one is still going as 
are others in background

photo: Mine
As you an see, this little seedling was still hanging on but just barely. Considering this project started in 1995, that's Kool.

photo: Mine
To her left notice what is left of the built up mound structure ? The basic frame was a straw bale covered by the native soil. Not sure why they built them this way other than ease of workload and cutting costs. As time went on the bales would deteriorate. The idea is that blowing sand would catch under the Mesquite tree and build it back up naturally.
photo: Mine
I'd say half the project didn't make it but this experiment was about restoration in remote areas with minimal interference at the beginning for establishment and then letting nature take over from there.
photo: Mine
Now there were some areas where there were great successes as you see here.

photo: Mine
One of the things I noticed about these particular successful tree locations were the fact that they were not in a mound or dune situation. These were in lower water catchments where Thunderstorm Summer Monsoonal Rains coming up from Mexico in July/August running off the road and collecting here in small basins which filled to capacity. This was noticeable by the dried mud cracklings all around the ground.

photo: Mine
The area is fenced mainly to keep people out and I was surprised by many of the Herbivore Protective Guards still left on most all of the trees since the website said these were removed in 1999. Still, some impressive looking trees for an area that receives less that 3 inches of rainfall a year. The the road runoff here may more than double that rainfall table totals. This may effect some accuracy rain data for the remote site location, but if these had the ability to tap into underground water table, then any lack of rain or low rainfall amounts would not be a factor. San Felipe Creek wash is only a couple hundred feet away.

There are some important techniques employed in the way of irrigation they used that I totally agree with and some not. I'm not really into the idea of drip irrigation here on this site location. It's a remote site, they had water tanks up on wooden foundation towers which I actually did observe personally. My problem with that is water being heated up by the desert sun and the research done by Viktor Schauberger (Austria - 1885-1958) who revealed the sun's negative impact on water's molecular cluster structure and it's lack of ability to revitalize and properly hydrate a plant properly. Again, as they themselves stated, these studies have included evaluation of the nature of disturbance, soil remediation, seed collection, processing, and storage, dustfall and erosion control, plant production and outplanting techniques, remote site irrigation, plant protection, direct seeding, and the re-establishment of mesquite mounds along the San Felipe Creek watershed region of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The primary goal of these studies really was restoration and the best available techniques for success. If that is true then some of the results should bare this out.
 Things the Mesquite Dune Experiment did correct & things not so good.
Deep Pipe Irrigation
The very best techniques I saw them using was PVC Pipe driven deep into the ground near each Mesquite Seedling which actually forces the water very deep underground instead mostly remaining on the surface where Desert heat from the Sun further cooks the water in the tiny drip line system and the majority of it evaporating anyway near the surface. I wrote previously here in this blog about this basic natural phenomena of the Mesquite's natural ability even when dormant in the wintertime to take surface waters and pump them deep down into the subsoil layers of the Earth which has technically been given the new term "Hydraulic Descent". This is actually the best storage treatment to use with regards water. Where else will it go but to be used by the Mesquite tree ?
The reference link for this phenomena is found here:
Below is a link to a PDF on the Irrigation techniques used:
Here are some examples of the deep pipe irrigation's ability to facilitate water into deeper soil layers which in turn encourages deeper root growth and movement down into the subsoil.

photo: Mine
 These same techniques can be utilized with deep rooted native bunch grasses and other desert trees and shrubs. Notice also the technical mechanisms for preventing animals, insects and other debris from entering the pipes ? A solid white PVC cap may also be used.

photo: Mine
Another method would not only allow the plant to stimulate it's taproot downwards, but also protect against hungry herbivores like Rabbits, Squirrels, rats or mice.
Let me offer an illustration of how a hole drilled beneath the root level would be better adapted to not only providing water at deeper root layers, but also creating the best area of water storage to be used by ONLY by these plants. You've got to put your thinking cap on here for a moment and imagine just how viewing elements of nature can be replicated in an actual implementation by human mechanical means to give a great head start at success, which is what everyone wants in the first place. So just a little extra effort for those enthusiastic about a project shouldn't be a problem. See Below:

Take a look at the root zone level deep down. Ideally this is where you want the water to end up and remain stored in the deeper surrounding soil layers for the plant to utilize to the full potential. The Gopher hole beautifully illustrates how this can be done, though maybe not at such a diagonal angle. BTW, I used these exact methods described above back in the late 1970s and they DO Work!!!
Clearly there are a number of means of which are available to humans to make this task much easier and more efficient. There are of course mechanical attachments for smaller garden sized or bigger tractors. In many cases this could be used not only for posting large hollow PVC Irrigation Pipe into the ground, but also for long drilling much deeper slender holes for planting the actual seedling grown in another unique container method which I'll allude to further down.
Some of this may even seem a bit radical, but if the project is important enough and quick success is of the utmost importance, then certainly nothing should be over looked. Humans have excellerated the destruction of our planet's environment. Clearly it is entirely proper to speed recovery along and in the most efficient manner possible and available. It also calls for the need to set aside certain almost religious sacred ideological philosophies of allowing nature to work on it's own. 
Yes, to a degree I also like this point of letting nature do it's work, however humans have excellerated a climatic change of events on our Earth. The normal behavioral patterns of  historical weather patterns cannot be counted on any longer. Removal of vegetation and disruption of plant community ecosystems Earthwide has almost destroyed the cloud formation mechanisms of many ecosystems by result of plant community removal. As already posted in this blog on some of the side pages along the lefthand side, there is major scientific evidence to show that plants regulate cloud formation around the globe even locally. Fast establishment of these plants, getting their roots deep into the earth to tap into it's energy and deeper layers of water and negative electrical conductivity will help to heal what has been lost. We DON'T need half-baked artificial means of fixing horrific weather events that WE (Humans) caused. We DON'T need the inventions of geo-engineering or low-tech weather modification devices  as such has been championed down in Dubai. If they actually understood the mechanisms for which plants create weather and have attempted to replicate these through innovations, then you don't need to create a faked counterfeit. What we need is the authentic original. Start dumping the sub-standard science-based money profiteering technologies and go with what will work the best in the environment and that is nature based high-tech methods. Negative Ions emitted by plants grounded deeply in the Earth and simultaneously releasing into the air volatile organic compounds we call Aerosols which create cloud formation are what we have to bring back. Seriously here, nature doesn't give a crap about anything left or right winged and as long as these two failures bicker back and forth with spitting and poop throwing contests then count on the ecology to continue it's downwards spiral.
Techniques I didn't like, but it's not their fault.
Long time traditional methods of propagation and conventional containerized methods long used are another hindrance to some desert or dryland trees and shrubs re-establishment. I understand this has been the tried and true standard for decades and ALL conventional Retail Nurseries still practice these and successfully. But most of these nurseries are selling to a novice rookie public who most likely will not be replicating nature no matter how many times you preach it at them on how things actually work in the real world. Even if certain gardeners would argue they are NOT novice or rookies, the facts prove they have been doing things in a conventional science-based technological manner for decades and any radical suggestions are going to be water off a Duck's back anyway. Here's what I mean.  Take a look at the outdated conventional ways of growing Mesquite Seedlings for out planting. This may be okay for Joe/Jane weekend Gardener, but not remote planting.

image: Valley Permaculture Alliance

So what's wrong with the picture above ? Is anyone aware of just how a Mesquite Tree root system develops out there in the real world and what step by step observations you would see if you had X-Ray vision to pear into the underground and actually watch how the taproot develops & functions ? So what happens first to seeds from most members of the Pea Family ? Take a look:

 This is Coyote Scat to the left. You may not realize it but Coyotes also eat quite a bit of vegetative seeds as part of their diet. I've seen this same scenario with Holly-Leafed Cherry up in the mountains. Many seeds need to go through the digestive tracts of some animal so that the acids break down the hard outer coating which protects the seed from drying out completely. This later allows rain from winter season's water to penetrate the seed and swell the seed for germination. In the USA, Cattle and other herbivores perform this necessary function. Funny thing is Ranchers never think to blame their own cattle and bad ranching practices for Mesquites spread across the landscape. It's even labeled invasive in it's own habitat.
 Same goes for the Umbrella Acacia or Fever Trees (Acacia tortilis) which I just wrote about in a previous post. They need the same breakdown action of the very hard polished seed coatings in order for water to penetrate and stimulate the germination processes.
Below here is an experiment I have done in the past. Although I have used USA southwestern natives Mesquite and Catsclaw Acacia before, I'm hoping these other members of the Pea Family like Palo Verde will offer the same results. I will keep updating this portion of the article as time and seedling development progress to the point of specialized unconventional plant container implementation which I believe will be a better habitat fix and which will accelerate results and success rates. We'll see!

So what do we do first ? Here's what I have done exactly two days ago from this writing here. We went to Tenerife in the Canary Islands in February 2012 this year. I walked around local neighbourhoods and collected seeds from Poinciana (Mexican Bird of Paradise, Paloverde and other seeds from the pea family there. I wanted to replicate a propagation experimental illustration I have performed many times since the late 1970s.  I actually had this experiment in mind for when I came back from our trip earlier this year, but I've been putting it off until now. To replicate the acid etching necessary for the breaking down of the hard seed coatings, I used two sheets of sand paper with the seeds in between. I then pressed and rubbed back and forth to create scars on this outer coating  which is technically termed scarifying. Take a look. 

Inside my kitchen
After I perform this task, I take a glass and put all the seeds into the bottom. Then taking boiled scalding water I pour this over the seeds and let them soak up as much as will make them swell up. I do this head start method with almost everything I germinate anyways, even for gardens. Let the water cool and set for exactly one day or two. You'll even notice the water tint a little from some tannins that may be present, then it's time to plant, but in a very unique way for this experiment.


First we've got to get out our observational thinking caps and get our replication act together. With the method I use here (glass &  paper towel school boy experiment) this allows the plant itself to illustrate just exactly what the DNA or genetic informational instructions are communicating to us as to it's needs and wants in step by step processes which are in order of importance as to what comes first. This is exactly what I do, but first, what do we know about a Mesquite's needs in such a hostile environment and what allows it to survive such unforgivable extremes in climate ? Take a look:
The above animation is exactly the process you
 observe between the glass jar and paper towel.

Bursage Nurse Plant
In the wild a Mesquite seed will put ALL of it's instructional energy & resources into building a long deep root system. It has a very strong deep penetrating taproot in the wild as do African Acacias and other dryland successful plants. The glass experiment will illustrate and communicate to you what exactly is most important to it. Obviously any lateral side roots will be less important because IF this tree seedling does NOT  first make it to deeper layers in the native soil where at least some element of moistness is available, then it fries when summer heat makes it's appearance which comes rapidly as the season accelerates. Many of the more successful ones will be under some small nurse plant which will shade it that first year. Those in the open have less chance of surviving when Temps are at 40+ C (100+ F) and of course the ever present danger of hungry herbivores. Many plants you see in the wild (like the Bursage above) that look as if they are of little account to you because they have no ornamental horticultural value in your eyes are in reality nothing of the sort. They usually are the necessary process for succession of higher plants to get their start in the environment. The plants in the open are definitely at risk.

Mesquite Seedling emerging from soil - (Musings from Tucson 2012)

The Experiment
 Okay back to next step after soaking seeds. I have an almost two foot tall clear glass vase I used. I pour in warm water into the bottom then lined it with the papertowels which was a bit tricky. You need a fairly even towels placement all around the perimeter and it has to be damp. Only then can you place in and insert the seeds where you want them near the top. I also put a plate on top to allow the atmosphere to be relatively in a constant humid state. Air pockets are okay here. Remember you want to observe everything these roots do. When I first did this experiment with Catsclaw Acacia, the most important thing these plants did was to grow a taproot to the bottom and it proceeded to spiral numerous revolutions around the bottom before any small sprigs of leaf appeared from the actual seed. What does this tell us ? At the time of planting up on Rattlesnake Mountain in El Cajon CA above my mum's place, I had to drill by hand a meter deep hole because that is how long the taproot was. The actual plant with leaves were no more than an inch or two in height when I planted. Again I ask, what does this tell you about container innovations ? Here's are the results so far after seed insertion just less than 24 hours ago as time of typing here. Keep in mind that this rapid germination is a part of the genetic informational instructions which is guiding things from within this plant's DNA that prevent this plant from following  around and wasting time producing leaf growth in an environment that is otherwise hostile and merciless. 

Can you believe this ? 
Again what kind of communication is going on here ?
I'll update this page here as time goes on with more photos. I'll write up a separate page on the side of what I believe will be a superior containerized process for nursery applications for outplanting in a remote environment. Home city situations are not the same for a one gallon root spiraled bound plant. At home a gardener is like a nurse taking care of a patient on life support until the patient can make it on their own. Remote planting has no such pampering privileges. So stay tuned! Special Note Here: I'm going to create a special page and update that on this desert seed germination and propagation experiment. It will be located with the other resource pages in the upper right hand side of this blog. Seed are really taking off now and this should be fun.
Swedish Mesquite Seed Propagation Experiment: What can we Learn from the Plant's DNA Communication ? 
Below here are some projects ongoing and in a way associated with the restoration projects for this area of Tamarisk removal and Mesquite Bosque and other native Riparian Habitat restoration. Besides plants, other wildlife are generally taken into consideration. The Mesquite Dune Experiment also offers ideas and innovations for replacing ALL Desert Agricultural Windbreaks which mistakenly continue to utilize an introduction of Mid-East & North African Tamarisk Tree species which have rapidly gotten out into the wild and taken over many stream, lake and river habitats and decimated whole native plant & animal populations.  Future article already on the draft board for that. Stay tuned and enjoy the photos and links below of things most are not aware of.

One of the sad things to have taken place is the almost disappearance of the once abundant Desert Pupfish ( Cyprinodon macularius ) which had a historic range which included the lower Gila River basin in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. It inhabited the Gila, Santa Cruz, San Pedro, and Salt Rivers as well as the lower Colorado River from around Needles California, to the Gulf of California. Apparently there are remnants of them in the Agricultural drainage of Imperial Valley.

The Deserthas been replaced in many areas by the Sailfin Molly ( Poecilia latipinna ) which is originally found in fresh water habitats from North Carolina to Texas and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Preferring marshes, lowland streams, swamps, and estuaries, the sailfin molly is very common in peninsular Florida.

San Sebastian Marsh
The above link deals with the restoration of the San Sebastian Marsh Delta of San Felipe Creek. The Creek it self upstream has three major tributaries with San Felipe Creek coming from the west out from the mountains around Julian California. The other two are Fish Creek and lower Carrizo Creek and upper Carrizo Wash from Ocotillo California. Just a couple of other links to the San Felipe Creek delta which empties into the Salton Sea. Incredibly in a miniature way it mirrors the delta of the once mighty Colorado River into the Gulf of California, but now is almost nothing more than a dry alluvial fan with a few puddles of marsh. Take a look at these three photo & their links and scrutinize the vast size by clicking the magnifying glass tool on that link. Locals will remember when Hurricane Kathleen came through in September 1976 or 1977 that dumped several feet of rain into the Imperial Valley with Ocotillo receiving 6 inches an hour at the storms peak. The resulting tributaries converging on the San Felipe Creek Delta would have destroyed and wiped out ALL those Farmlands you now see in the picture. The Salton Sea itself rose by several feet which should illustrate the vast amount of water from that storm.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Acacia tortilis: Poster Image of African Savannas

Seriously, when you think of those Savanna grasslands of Africa, what panoramic horizon iconic view comes to mind ? What living organism aside from animals do you visualize ? Is it not the Acacia which stands out as the foundation of such a beautiful habitat ? All the Hollywood movies and nature film documentaries ever made have this major iconic African as a major componant of what Africa is. Even if you've never pondered it before.

For people over the in the deserts southwest in the United States, our Mesquite and Paloverde trees might recall to our minds similar images from your green living deserts. Plants from the families of  Prosopis, Cercidium, Olneya, etc are also members of that same Pea or Legume family with many of the same characteristics and background as the Acacia, some of which are also native to the Southwest. Like Acacia tortilis, they all have in common a very deep taproot for which may go down into the soil almost 200' or more to tap into the water table for which the conventional rain cycling pattern becomes unnecessary for it's continued survival. A number of other natural features and physics phenomena are also associated with this tree as their North American relatives.
Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution
Hydraulic Descent
In the Sonoran Desert we know that the Sonoran Desert Plant Community as a whole is dependent on one another. For example, many plants and other Cacti like the mighty Saguaro are dependent on Nurse Plants to guide them along through youth, This is usually provided by a Mesquite or Paloverde tree. These are deeply rooted, taping into sub-soil water sources, pulling these up through a process we know as Hydraulic Lift and then proceeding to redistribute this water via the horizontal lateral root system which itself is inter-connected to a healthy vigorous mycorrhizal grid or network which has the ability to connect unrelated species via their root system networks. Take a view of the animation below. It speaks volumes.

The Acacia tortilis of the African Savanna has been the subject of study in recent years for it's amazing ability with regards the phenomena of "hydraulic lift" which is said to benefit most all other plants within it's sphere of influence in the ecosystem. Most notably it's ability to increase grasses and other plant growth through it's root system which in turn benefits wildlife. AS you can see in the illutration here to the right. This "hydraulic lift" is defined as:
"Hydraulic Lift" (HL) in plants is defined as the redistribution of water from wetter to drier soil through the plant roots in response to soil water potential gradients. Water is released from the roots into the dry soil when transpiration is low (night) and reabsorbed by the plant when higher transpiration rates are resumed (daylight). 
On the other hand, the "Hydraulic Redistibuted" (HR)lifted water released into dry surface soil can support growth and survival of the lifting and neighboring plants. Soil and rhizosphere microorganisms and the soil fauna could also benefit from HL-derived water, which eventually increases the availability of nutrients to other plants.
But the kicker is the redistribution of that deeper subsoil lifted water to the surface soil layers to be utilized by more shallower rooted plants such as bunch grasses. There are almost 800 species of Acacia shrubs and trees inhabiting the Earth's warmer climates, especially temperate parts of Australia, where the trees are called Wattles. Because of their usefulness in wildlife ecosystems, Ornamental Landscaping and some Commercial Applications, these Acacias are cultivated in many areas where they are not native.  But Acacia tortilis would most certainly be their King. So many other plants, including numerous bunch grasses depend on them during drier hot periods of the year by it's ability at utilizing this mechanism called Hydraulic Life & Redistribution. Now take a look first at some components influencing this tree's life cycle and the various animals ability to shape it into various necessary habitats for their own survival.

As noted above, the Acacia starts out life traveling through the various digestive tracts of other animals. This allows the stomach digestive acids to break down the hard seed coating which allows water to finally penetrate. This hard coat however keeps it viable for long periods of time. Most commonly it is found sprouting from an Elephant's dung as the seedling below illustrates. This is the same scenario for Mesquite seed germination in the deserts and savannas of the warmer regions of the Southwestern IUnited States and Northern Mexico. Cattlemen curse the spread of Mesquite, but their own cattle love to fine on the sweet pods and therefore help spread the seed in their dung.

At this point it is easy to see how vulnerable such a young tender seedling can be. With all those millions of African Herbivores, how can any of them possibly survive ? The most obvious first line of defense of course are those nasty looking spines. But then in most plants of the world's more arid regions need such defenses to protect themselves from herbivores. But the younger Acacias also have Allies - Acacia Ants. One particular ant is very aggressive and  an extremely good partner for the plant. This is a Cocktail Ant (Crematogaster mimosae) who provides regular patrolling and rushes to defend the plant when it is disturbed.

There are other examples found around the world with regard other Acacia species & Ant relationships as the example below clearly illustrates. Take note also of an L.A. Times article on this very subject:
Tree's weapon against elephants? Ants!

Image - Los Angeles Times

Let's take an example of the symbiosis found with another type of Acacia and Acacia Ants in Central America. Sometimes called the Bullhorn or Cow Thorn, this plant has a symbiotic relationship with an aggressive and painful species of Ant  (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea). The ants live in its thorns and protect the tree from encroaching plants, trying to grow near its trunk or leaves high in the canopy. The ants also emerge from the thorns to attack other insects, humans and animals that come in contact with the tree. Take note of the enlarged Acacia thorn with the Ant hole entrance below.

Beautiful Update (January 15, 2014)
Ants Protect Acacia Plants Against Pathogens
Researchers discover an additional level of this insect-plant symbiosis 

But now once you get past those young tender years, there are all manner of large Herbivores ready to take their turn on these trees. In an unending ocean of bodies, one has to wonder how any of these trees at all make to a majestic beauty. One way of accomplishing this is by use of bitter poison chemicals sent into the leaves when browsed and they are also able to send an Ethylene Gas signaling message to other trees within a certain 50 yards range to trigger them to produce these same chemical defenses. Though the Herbivores get some foliage before the chemicals do their job, the amount of foliage taken is a mere necessary Barber's trim. How do you think they get that picturesque shape they are so well known for ?

Image - Kruger National Park
That picturesque shape of the Acacia tortilis is created and eventually maintained by giraffes who can still eat the leaves of the Acacia tree, even though the tree has thorns. How ? Because the giraffe's saliva has an anti-bacterial property that helps heal wounds in the giraffes’ mouths that may occur from eating thorns. But clearly the Acacia would not be the same without the regular pruning and branch thinning done by these animals. Like so many ecosystems which have long lost their megafauna as a result of agressive human hunting pressure, the Acacia Tortilis would probably be a giant ball from the ground to great heights. Other creatures most likely would not be able to benefit as much from resting under the shade of it's large high umbrella-like canopy.

Image: Adam Romanowicz
If any or all of the elements for which these amazing foundational trees were eliminated, do you realize what would happen to all the other dependent lifeforms that would simply go missing and disappear forever ?? The rules of nature are changing and humans changed them.
Leopards would have no homes for which to use as a lookout post.

African Weaver Bird Colonies would have to go elsewhere

Even those Communal Weaver bird colonies would need to look elsewhere. Many prove to be extremely large colonies, almost like bird cities. Now do you really want this artificial human artifact to become their new adaptation ? The birds building their nests within human infrastructure like a network of telephones poles just don't have the same romantic wildness about then as an acacia tree. Sure they could all adapt, but they would have to move elsewhere. The greatest benefit still starts with the phenomena of hydraulic lift and redistribution of valuable water resources to all other plants within it's root network of influence. Even in Southern California where I come from, there was an area near Warner Springs CA where in the grasslands where there are  single Oak specimens that had the ability to provide moisture to the bunch grasses and other low growing plants within their sphere of influence under their canopy that you see with your own eyes, so it's not that difficult to visualize. 

In 1981 when I first moved to the Anza California area, I had the privilege to ask questions of the descendants of the very first early ranching pioneers who homesteaded the area who themselves were in their 90s. These people are now long gone now, but not without first telling me something about what the Anza area's natural original landscape was like when their folks first came there to the Valley. The pictures they described were as if from another world. Certainly not what exists there today. They described mostly Oak Woodland Savannas interspersed with various pine species, but mostly Oak on the northern and eastern ends of this extremely large valley. Now presently there is nothing but annaul plants and some native and non native grasses. The reason is that these early pioneers looked upon trees as impediments to their ranching operations which needed grasses for feeding beef. That is how you made a living back then. If they only knew back then the true value of what they had for their livestock foraging under and around oak woodlands.

Fotmer Prosopis pallida habitat
Like the Oaks of North America, these Acacia tortilis provide an important role as a foundational ecosystem tree. Africa now has a horrible deforestation problem which is causing the present problem of desertification of the Sahara Desert moving further south in Africa. The cutting down of all and any trees in some areas for the production and sale of charcoal to be sould and  used by citizens of industrialized Europe for a weekend Bar-B-Q.  Africa's  poor are very desperate the sme as Mexico's poor who also provide Mesquite charcoal from Sonora for Bar-B-Qing  Americans is another major problem. Same scenario in the now moonscape desert regions in South America where the Hurango, Tamarugo and other trees of the Acacia and Prosopis familes once provided an old growth bosque type habitat which better moderated the desert climates and privided water, food and shelter for both people and wildlife have long since disappeared.

Eventually the entire Planet will have this  Problem !

For those unfamiliar with African outback and bush ecosystems, there are at least some Wild Animal Nature Theme Parks around the globe in other areas which offer glimpses of what such ecosystems look like. Truly such an experience which will inspire anyone to look at the negativity brought to us by media outlets like CNN or BBC News items on the ongoing African plight much differently than they may have considered previously. Then by all means if in San Diego CA, go to the Safari Park.

Thorntree Terrace - San Diego Safari Park
This is an example of an Acacia tree at the San Diego Wild Animal Park or Safari Park as it may be called now. This area is called Thorntree Terrace and is very popular Cafe with the visitors. Incredibly if you watched the development of this tree from it's beginning when it was first planted, you noticed that human hands were necessary and directly responsible for the forming, shaping and sculpting it into what you see today. If in an ecosystem devoid of animals out in the African bush with no interference it may only grow into a more rounded shrub-like in appearance, but let's hope not. Not one of us can imagine the various old growth forested systems the early European exporers first saw prior to the industrial revolution where the misuse and abuse of science was used to exploit the Earth's natural resources. The mighty old growth Hurango (Mesquite family) forests of  South America have only mere remnant specimens to provide us with clues of what such ecosystems once looked like.

Image - BBC News

Hurango Tree (Prosopis pallida)
[A type of Mesquite tree]

One of my favourite places to walk through at the San Diego Safari Park is a meandering pathway called the African Loop. It offers visitors a glimpse of a world they are extremely far removed from and may never in their life ever visit. The entrance begins here at this map location. Eventually it will take you through the examples of African Savanna Woodlands and all the other companion ecosystems plants of the Savanna on a trail which leads to the theme park's African Oravanko Outpost. As you walk this trail, take photographs, jot down notes or at least take some mental notes of scenes which could be replicated within your own urban landscape.

Pathway of the African Loop Trail
One word of caution, like Africa, San Diego County backcountry has any of a number of nature things that will stick you, stab you or bite you. Notice this common critter my wife & our friend almost stepped on in the photograph at right here ? Seriously it was right between her legs and this photo was taken just after she passed over it. I just happened to see it right before my eyes at time it happened because I was right next to her and yelling or panicking would have actually created an encounter that would have for sure brought injury. I do often ponder that if I'd said something in a startled manner if they would have jumped up and accidentally stepped on the baby rattlesnake. That would have been a disaster.

African Savanna Loop Trail Gate Entrance
Below are some scenes we took from our walk. I actually wish I had taken more. This is one of my favourite place to be, even more than viewing the animals. Sorry, but the scenery here is lovely.

Personally I look forward to a day when all of this world's failed Politics, Religions, Economics (Science) and the general irresponsible dominating of man over their fellow man are done away with. I hope everyone reading here will be able to enjoy a pleasant lifestyle as a result of practical application of healthy values, principles and standards which will truly make this planet a New Earth. That's why the actually blog address here is "Creating a New "Earth."  There is no amount of materialist fix here for it to become a reality, no amount of Eco-Conferences or Green Innovations to be forced and implemented on mankind by hard nosed rules & regulations for  bringing this necessary change about. This is something in human behavior that will have to be addressed by every individual. In the mean time visualize yourselves enjoying a unimaginable Earth wide Paradise. Try working towards that goal everyday and not just a dreaming about it. The hope is that even peoples of the world's poorest nations will also be able to enjoy on an Earth with more paradisaic conditions!

Enjoy !!!