Thursday, February 15, 2018

Move over Birds, Bears disperse Berries & other Seeds as well

Think birds are the primary dispersers of seeds? Think again. OSU researchers in Alaska found another animal that might disperse more seeds.
Pixabay / MGN
New research recently released by Oregon State University shows bears in southeast Alaska may be the best contributor for spreading berry seeds. Researchers used motion activated cameras set up in a study area about 30 miles north of Haines. 
“We checked the cameras and the status of the berry clusters approximately once per week.” quote from the study
Image taken on December 26, 2017 by Santee Lakes

Cedar Waxwings eating Toyon Berries @ Santee Lakes

Image by Danilo Carradori - (Fairy Wren)
We all know that birds consume tonnes of seeds, nuts & berries, etc and disperse these seeds to other locations by means of their poop. Just check any fence lines in the rurals or even in urban neighbourhoods of any city and you'll find out just what birds are fond of eating. For me as a landscaper it was annoying to see Brazilian Pepper tree seedling emerging from the bottom of chainlink fence borders. They are a nightmare to control if allowed to grow. Others who live in rangelands whose business is cattle may curse Junipers for spreading across their grasslands, but even here again it's the birds who are at fault. Maybe Cattleman should find economic ways to profit from the Juniper's presence, than blaming them for the invasion in their home territory. It's a common misconception to say that birds are the primary resource for naturally spreading seeds. There is an Oregon State University study that says it’s bears can ddo this through their scat (poop). I'd say both critters do this, but the bear factor is interesting. The Scientists concluded that’s largely in part due to the fact that brown and black bears could consume an estimated 300-400 berries in a single bite of a devil’s club cluster. Hopefully one day somebody renames beautiful things found in Nature which incorporate these otherwise vulgar words/terms "devil," "hell," etc. It's clear that there are a number of ways that seeds from plants in nature become dispersed. Another recent report from Cornell University stated that even Snakes act as 'ecosystem engineers' in seed dispersal. Well, that's what they said 😲 See, the idea is that snakes eat rodents like rats, mice, gophers, etc. These little critters eat seed and often store them in their cheek pouches and if a snake comes along and eats them, then the seeds are eventually released by means of snake poop. Whatever 😏 Anyway it's interesting and a little scary too when you consider the way humans have "reverse engineered" (Oops, recently got in trouble from someone for not using another science-based religious metaphor, "evolutionary degeneration") our planet Earth. It's like slowly dismantling an automobile to see how many parts and components you can remove before the vehicle is incapable of functioning anymore. How's that for this world's settled science? 😒

Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
“In search of the nutrition in devil’s club fruit, we estimate that a single bear can consume over 100,000 devil’s club berries per hour of continuous foraging, and brown and black bears can collectively disperse an incredible 200,000 seeds.”quote from the study
Image by http://hookedonflyfishing.net
The Oregon State researcher's data also showed black bears were more likely to eat berries late in the season when Grizzly Bears were trading in the berries for salmon. 😅
Got Kids ? Teach them about Nature 😸


Here's the full article on the interesting study:
The primacy of bears as seed dispersers in salmon-bearing ecosystems 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Southern California: Breathtaking Natural Wonders that will one day Disappear

My Postcard World

In the old days back in the 1950s, animated post cards for travelers were everywhere like this California Natural Wonders postcard. I've always loved the map card's artwork and this one of California is really kool with all the little animated cartoony characters. This map card shows all the different natural wonders throughout California, like the giant redwoods, Death Valley and of course Yosemite National Park, just to name a few. California was always promoted and advertised as a land of wonders and rightly so. But I want to focuss on Southern California and many of the wonders which are now either gone or will be going soon. Did you know that Southern California boast one of the largest Lodgepole Pines ?


Photograph - Bryant Olsen - June 19, 2010

ebay.com - prefab log cabin kit
Most of us when we think of the lodgepole Pines, we may think of those dense woodlands in the northern reaches like Yellowstone where 80% of forest there is Lodgepole pine. We may also think of where their name comes from because these were used by the Native Americans there who did use them for lodgepoles for the typical Indian Teepee. The density of a Lodgepole Pine forest is such that because of the phenotypic plasticity scenario they often are associated with, competition is so incredibly extreme that all these trees can do is grow up as opposed to out. Hence we get a pole that is so perfect, that many prefab log cabin kit companies use the Lodgepole Pine for this very purpose.


Photograph - Jim Peaco - Yellowstone Sept 1998


Another name for a Lodgepole Pine forest is a Matchstick Forest. Not only because they actually do look like a book of matchsticks, but they are also known to go up in an explosion of fierce forest fire like matchsticks when ignited. Whenever the subject of wildfire comes up together with Lodgepole Pine, you almost always get an associated headline that reads, "Fire Adapted Forests & Fire Ecology." Fire Ecologists are passionate bunch when it comes to wildfire, so much so that they sometimes seem to almost worship fire as the only means for saving a plant community. This doesn't mean that fire cannot be used for good. Because it most certainly can. I know because I've used it on my own  land. But the question is, "Is fire really all that necessary in every and all circumstance and with what frequency ?" Opinions and beliefs among fire ecologists vary. Some say the necessary interval between wildfires should be 30-50 years, other say 70-130 years. Trust me there is no real united consensus among them. How often do you hear or read about them bickering amongst themselves for position as to each one's expertise in the public eye through various journals ? Now take a look at this megafauna dude below known as a Mastadon. He was mainly a browser. Can you imagine what effect he had on keeping forests and chaparral bush habitats open and airy ??? Or what about the giant ground sloth ???



No matter who you wish to believe or follow, almost none of them will acknowledge the benefits of grazing and browsing animals as a means of healthy ecosystem maintenance. Megafauna are almost never mentioned as part of the term "Natural" for no other reason than they no longer exist. Yet we often hear the term, "Pristine Wilderness." This term most generally means untouched pre-European white man landscape. But this also most often gives the impression that the Native American is somehow considered as having a sub-human status. Like a sort of animistic conservation force guiding nature. Indeed, the Native Americans are much revered and worshipped by fire ecologists and even environmental groups because of this ongoing romantacized myth that these people were the ultimate ecological land stewards. When we listen to their public lectures or read their articles in journals, the conversation almost always comes from the standpoint of the methods used by the Indians as land stewards. What has always bothered me is that I know for a fact that the Native Americans were and still are equal to all other human beings. They are prone to mistakes as everyone else. So are we to believe they only lit fires for conservation purposes ? What about mistakes with fire like lighting fires during a Santa Ana wind event to cook supper or deliberate acts of war utilizing fire against other hated enemy tribes ? The list is endless, but apparently if they made stupid mistakes, are we then to believe this too is a part of natural because they were natives??? Now consider this item below.
Champion Lodgepole Pine in San Bernardino National Forest
"Champion Lodgepole Pine"

image - bigbearlake.net
Wow, now that's not exactly what one thinks of when the image of a Lodgepole Pine comes to mind. The world "Champion Lodgepole Pine" (discovered in 1963) is a magnificent, double-topped tree that towers above the surrounding forest reaching a height of roughly 110 feet. It's age is estimated to be older than 450 years, which means that it germinated about the year 1560 CE. You really have to stand back at a distance to get the full view from across the meadow up there in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear. The trail getting there features a wet meadow and other mature conifers including this largest recorded Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) in California! But some puzzling questions come up about the fire ecology dogma we are force fed about what is "natural" & "normal" when it comes to fire ecology. Take a look at those low hanging branches on this massive Lodgepole in the photo taken by Walter Feller above. Are we to believe that no fire blew through here and used those low hanging branches as a fire ladder at any time in it's 450+ years of life from 1650 onward ??? Clearly when this tree was young, the dense branches would have been from the ground up for a 100+ years anyway, with time and age naturally pruning off lower branches eventually. But still, these other giant dead limbs are almost touching the ground, how did all those fires miss this tree ??? There has been some remarkable work done on fire history and it doesn't really jive with all the blind faith dogma we've been fed. Back in February 2017 of this year, the Smithsonian Magazine printed an article about research done which stated that 84% of wildfires in North America were human caused. Interestingly, on the west coast of the United States the percentage is actually 90%. Here's the article below:
SmithsonianMag: Study Shows 84% of Wildfires Caused by Humans
Now back this past September, ScienceMag, did an interview with one of the researchers of that original study, Jennifer Balch, a wildfire ecologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Surprisingly, California itself is up around 90% higher than nationwide average of human caused wildfires:
"Nationwide, humans are responsible for starting 84% of wildfires, according to a paper co-authored by Balch, published this past March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In California, the eastern United States, and the coastal Northwest, people are behind more than 90% of wildfires."
Now here is a breakdown on highest reasons in order of highest stupidy just why many wildfires come about:
"So the breakdown: Of the approximately 1.5 million wildfires in the government record, 25% were burning of trash and debris; about a quarter (22%) were unknown human causes. The next biggest category is arson, [then] heavy equipment, campfires, children, and smokers. Those are the seven biggest categories.  Fireworks didn't rank in the very top for the whole year, but it does pop on July 4th. It’s the day with the most fires. Over 7000 events started on July 4th alone. They were predominantly started by fireworks. It's unfortunate that our Independence Day didn't fall in January or December when it's cooler and wetter.
So now we have to assume that out of all these wildfires, natural wildfire only accounts for a mere 10% which might translate to lightning storms (rarely volcanoes). Most of these occur within the middle of the country along either side of the Rocky Mountains all the way west to the Pacific Ocean. That 10% is still not a lot of wildfire if we want to label something natural in the forest maintenance department. When researchers study wildfire and proclaim it's hallowed importance to mantaining a healthy vegetative ecosystems, rarely do any of them ever account for the historical presence of large animal herds (herbivores like deer, elk, antelope, etc) and possibly even still farther back, the one time extistence of the herbivore megafauna presence which would have kept forests and chaparral bush habitats with well pruned understories.

But it was when Native Americans (also real human beings) finally arrived on the scene, that they then would introduce their reasons for utilizing wildfire, like running buffalo (bison and/or other megafauna) off cliffs and gradually putting pressure on slow moving megafauna species towards extinction through hunting, then yes everything did change. But some are still clinging to this Indian Burn dogma as natural phenomena for no other reason than ideologically driven religious dogma and politics. I'll move on and put other references at the bottom of this post. The final point here is that environmental components and other natural mechanisms now have changed for the worse and unfortunately this Champion Lodgepole tree's good fortune for avoiding catastrophe has run out. No doubt the end is nearer than we think for this tree also. If a catastrophic forest wildfire doesn't take the Lodgepole Pine tree, then perhaps it'll succumb to another fate like that of the last ancient Ponderosa Pine tree in Idyllwild California earlier this year 2017 which finally died and was professionally removed.



Image from myidyllwild.org
I wrote about this very tree in 2013. In all my searching while I lived up there this was the biggest Ponderosa Pine in all of Idyllwild and before that early logging in the area, such large trees were very common. But here is the last final documentation I am aware of. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. 😞
Saturday in Idyllwild viewing it's most gigantic Ponderosa Pine
Image is mine from 2013 - Idyllwild California
One sad thing for sure we can count on is that this mega-drought is not over and this despite many eco-groups & government officials proclaiming the drought over and all is well, offering proof through photo posting on social media sites of a record year of wildflower abundance. And most bought into that. Scott McLean, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal-Fire said this in June 2017:
“Everybody’s excited about the drought being over but all that moisture enhances the grass crop. It’s denser and higher, and it catches fire very easily."
(Source) 
Yes and the 2017 wildfire season turned out to be another record year of destruction. But lo & behold we are hearing again the drought was not over as propagandized last year. The death of trees will now only escalate. Previous news reports had estimated that 100 million trees in California had died thus far as a result of the 4 or 5 year mega-drought, but now a new report has that firgure at 129 million trees. As a news report just today stated, the warmer temps, lack of rain and snow are allowing more bark beetles to survive, when the normal cold should be killing and reducing their numbers. But that's not happening right now.
"Unseasonably warm and dry winter giving Bark Beetles in the Sierra a second lease on life" ABC30 Action News


More Bad News for another natural icon, Torrey Pines 😬
Photo: Scott Davenport/Flickr/Creative Commons (2013)
Major decline in Torrey Pines & SoCal Forests in general
Sad to imagine decline and general death in Torrey Pines, but it's true. The top photo is a favourite viewpoint for 1000s of photographers, both professional and amateur. Take note of the beautiful iconic scene in the top photo from 2013. Below is a photo of this same geological location as it exists today. Notice the dead trees ? Many blamed drought, but oddly enough down the road at Torrey Pines Country Club and Golf Resort, 66 trees planted many decades ago in association with massive networks of golf course green lawns are dead as well. This is a strange anomaly because the golf course setting creates a wetter climate scenario which is the extreme opposite of the State Reserve circumstance just to the north. Thus far no one is really taking note of the difference.


Broken Hill Sunrise by Phillip Colla (2015)

Other examples are just plain devastation of natural areas by wildfire. In San Diego County, the 2003 Cedar Fire almost completely obliterated the entire Cuyamaca Stat Park. For those who don't know this region in the San Diego Mountains, it was like the Yosemite of Southern California with numerous square miles of no development, just raw unbridled wild old growth forest. It's all gone now and numerous generations after generations will never see Cuyamaca's old growth splender with the exception of old photographs. Go ahead and google it for yourself. Mankind is debating back and forth about whether or not humans are the cause of climate change. No one now disputes climate change is upon us, but rather the argument appears to be who or what is at fault for the climate change. Presently, the Scientific Orthodoxy is fingerpointing at the whole of mankind as fault for climate. Oddly enough there is an element of truth to that.


This Lemming animation above is well known. The animals themselves have often been the subject of overpopulation and mass suicide myths. Interestingly back in 1951, there was a science-fiction piece published entitled, "The_Marching_Morons" which depicted an over-populated planet run by a handful of Elites who viewed the rest of humanity as nothing more than unintellectual morons (compared to themselves) who needed to be controlled. You see, the morons over-populated (prolithic at having babies) Earth as compared to the intellectual elites who didn't procreate as much. Sound familiar ??? Sounds like much of the scientific environmental talking points from scientists who blame global climate change on everyone else but themselves. The sad reality fact is that mankind only follows the bad leadership it has been given. People have been conditioned and trained that way from birth. Secular Science has truly further created a mainly materialist minded human being who only wants more and more THINGS (TOYS) like the wealthy among them have. Mind you, this same materialism infects the conventionally religious among mankind who also have been material minded for many centuries as opposed to anything spiritual. And science for the past 150 years has oblidged their hunger for materialism with their technologically advanced products. Unfortunately these products and other wares demand raw materials taken from Earth's dwindling easy to get natural resources and science has oblidged there as well by providing more efficient technologically advanced destructive means by which these raw materals could be extracted. In so doing they have reverse engineered vast ecosystems across the globe, much of which provide weather and climate controls, clean water filtration and food production by incredibly complex and sophisticated mechanisms for countless 1000s of years which other more responsible parts of science are now only beginning to understand. Yes the average poor slob human beings are viewed as those moron Lemmings and Big Consensus Settled Science represents the Elitists who now attempt to run things and fingerpoint at everyone else as the problem. Really guys ??? 😔😕

I'll add more examples as I have time, but clearly many many more major natural attractions in California will continue to be in decline, despite so-called proclamations from environmental groups that all is well.

Other References on Reason for Decline
What's the real connection between Droughts & Wildfires ?
Burn Baby Burn - Fire Ecologist Celebrate Fire Season