Thursday, August 27, 2015

Human mistreatment of the Natural World is a mirror of the way they treat each other

Credit: Xiann Melegrito

The collage above I found by accident accurately illustrates what humans have done to each other throughout history. Often in the name of championing a cause and almost always for power over others. World empire after world empire from the beginning have spread their own personal version of what the Romans later coined, "Pax Romana" which is the Latin for "Roman Peace." Although clearly it didn't always work that way for those whom the Romans  forced into subjection. Still, the human usage of mutilated language [words/terms/phrases/slogans] has served humans throughout history who were ambitious with obtaining power and dominance over their fellow man by any means possible. Fast forward to the beginning of the 20th Century just after the industrial revolution and especially since the year 1914, mankind has indeed "dominated his fellow man to his injury." The Germans used mutilated language like the sign over the Concentration Camp gate entrances saying, "Arbeit Macht Frei" which was used to obtain power and dominance over other human beings by the most heinous means possible. Believe it or not, they used the prevailing consensus science of that time to justify their right to world domination ideology which in their minds gave them a sense of moral [though perverted] justification. 

Today the same exact strategic usage of word mutilation is used to justify industrial business models and all cloaked under the imaginary protective umbrella of none other than "scientific consensus." The most notorious of examples today are the attempts by the industrial biotechnology people to mutilate the meaning and definition of an actual real legitimate term called Genetic Modification. Their version goes something like this: "Mankind has been genetically modifying plants and animals for thousands of years", which is nothing more than a lame cowardly attempt to equate gene manipulation in a Lab by bought and paid for industrial scientists with farmers and ranchers breeding plants and animals for thousands of years. Even the original dictionary definition meaning understands the true original meaning behind the terminology:
"Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology."
But somehow such industrial public relations marketeers believe if they say their definition version of "genetic modification" long and loud enough in the echo chamber, that somehow it will just get sucked into people's brains and later be accepted as fact. Admittedly I'm not a real fan of the Biotech Corporate industry, especially since I once worked for one such company and found major flaws in their safety data sheets one of their major flagship products and after reporting my findings, was told two weeks later my contract for working for them would not be renewed. Well, neither did their product work out, which BTW was an excellent  one, but neither did it stay very long on the market. Must be why I enjoy interviewing doctors on possible side effects of manufactured  drugs by pharmaceuticals at the work I do now. The Nazi ideology did this public relations word mutilation for over a period of almost 20 years prior to the justification for War. Had they come clean in the beginning, they never would have acquired the power to carry out their plans.

Credit: Fred A. Bernstein of New York Times
I recently read an article from Michigan State University which spoke about using what it called Marginal Lands [lands considered worthless for conventional science-based agriculture] for the bio-fuel business ventures. The photograph at left appeared in a New York Times real Estate section that had the title: "High hopes and Worthless Land". The New York Times article's author, Fred Bernstein, was relating a story of how his father had been conned by some real estate huckster back in the early 1960s to invest in land that would one day be worth far more than it's present value as the city of Albuqueque in New Mexico would be expanding to the north in the future. In the past, other such landscapes with wetlands, rocks and boulders, woodlands with what many considered valueless trees etc were all considered marginal and not fit for anything of commercial value. That's all changed now. For a couple decades there has been another assault on the Natural World cloaked under the guise of Alternative Energy. Deserts have been used for such Industrial Solar and Wind projects because they are deemed worthless [no doubt in monetary terms] because this world's leadership finds no other uses for them from a business standpoint. Over the past couple of years we have heard of a new term called, "Green Grabs" which is the 'business as usual'  of taking land from poor people in poorer developing countries for the business interests of nations in the industrial world. Never mind that countless poor farmers have been displaced and land is taken out of food production only to be converted into Eco-Biofuels for Industrial countries. For example take the first line in that article's title I alluded to above which starts off using the expression, 'MARGINAL LANDS'  and a quote from the first paragraph of that piece really says it all:
"Marginal Lands -- those unsuited for food crops -- can serve as prime real estate for meeting the Nation's energy production goals."
Somehow the term or phrase 'Marginal Lands' struck a nerve in me. I'm finding lately that the use of many terms and phrases are being used in a negative context when describing any living organism on Earth that impedes human materialistic pursuit or perceived comfort zones where such living things need to be either subdued or totally eliminated. In other words, a specific landscape could be labeled as 'waste' or a 'worthless' piece of real estate with no real attached economic value. Again, keep in mind, people have also  been doing this for centuries to each other, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that nature itself also takes the hit. If they don't respect each other, how in the world can anyone expect them to show respect and proper custodianship for the natural world ???
Prime Examples of Misleading Terminology used for Justification of Irresponsible Land Management Models

photo by Cody Sheehy

 Burrows Ranch near Redding Northern California
"This valley has a high fuel load of decadent brush. It is an ideal place to remove this brush to create fire breaks. If done correctly, this valley could return to a more natural fire regime that supports greater biodiversity and protects property"
Cody Sheehy (Video Coordinator at The University of Arizona)
Now seriously, when I look at Cody's photograph, I'm not seeing what he sees. There is nothing decadent here and I can see that there is indeed great biodiversity. The authoritative champions of land management who are major proponents of prescribed or controlled burns within the chaparral environment often cite reasons for such prescribed fires as the landscape desperately needs a mosaic pattern to allow for biodiversity. Does anyone else besides me see the lack of any ecological mosaic pattern which is preventing biodiversity from happening in Cody's photograph ???  If he is in fact referring to the appearance of brown colouration in the shrubbery as justification for his flawed landscape worldview, he apparently is ignorant of the fact that this is summer and the brown colour is only dried flowers of Chamise chaparral. It's what is known as NORMAL. His photograph is actually one of my favourite examples of landscape biodiversity where trees making up small woodland pockets in the chaparral make sort of biodiverse islands of life within chaparral. These trees are Foothill Pines (Pinus sabiniana) which like other trees like Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii) and Big Cone Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) thrive and prefer such ecological niches. The surrounding landscape in the hills west and south of Temecula California where I originally come from have many areas like this. I actually went to Cody's YouTube page and found many of his videos interesting, but why and where did he come up with such terminology and misunderstanding of chaparral wildlands ? Once again, the photograph he referenced in his comments shows none of the imaginary problems he was describing. Human constructed firebreaks on mountain ridgelines are not natural and serve only to waste money, time, effort and divert attention away from the real issues involving wildfires. They also make certain special interests lots of money. But no doubt Cody's misunderstanding comes from inexperience of youth and probably from reading what others have written who label themselves as the fire ecology experts. Take a look:
"The fire ..... decadent chaparral fuelbeds" (Minnich 1983, Byrne 1979)
 Source: US Forest Service - Cost-Effective Fire Management for Southern California's Chaparral Wilderness: An Analytical Procedure
The inciweb site this year, 2015, has reported about state fires of  Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California, especially in the northern part of the state which has had a terrible time with countless lightning and human caused fires. In comments on one of the fires burning in northern California, the Cal Fire website also said this about the conditions.
"The Fire is burning in heavy decadent brush . . "
Cal-Fire: Details on the Jerusalem fire Aug 2015
This next usage example of the word/term "decadent" actually comes from a resident biologist, Anne Poopatangapong, assigned to the US Forest Service in Idyllwild California who oversees the San Bernardino National Forest in the San Jacinto Mountains and commenting on the July 2013 Mountain Fire which also had a human cause.
“Some of the fuels out there are really, old and really decadent, and have changed the forest” said Anne Poopatanapong, district biologist for the Forest Service. “So what you’re seeing is not necessarily the way the fire would naturally occur.”
Tarleton University in Texas, on a page describing California Chaparral had this to say about why the word decadent chaparral is used. While commenting on a mosaic pattern of Manzanita, Ceanothus, Chamise and Digger Pine shown in a photograph, they had this comment.
"Note the so-called “decadent” (meaning high proportion of dead plant material) characteristic of this fire-type. These scene illustrates why California chaparral burns so readily during the long, hot, dry summer of the Mediterranean climate.Mt. Diablo State Park."
Source: Tarleton University - California Chaparral and Related Shrublands
"So it is a carpet of gasoline, and it should be viewed as such, and people should think if it in those terms" 
Richard Minnich (University California Riverside Fire Scientist)
Frankly, I strongly disagree and find it highly irresponsible for so-called fire ecology experts to be using such purposeful derogatory terminology and definition shell gaming to demonize any plant or any other plant community on Earth in the promotion of some less than accurate management agenda. When I was a kid in the middle 1960s, at elementary school we learned through documentary films about how Brazil was constructing a new capitol carved out of the rainforests called Brasilia because that ecosystem was considered worthless Amazon swampland which they were going to educate others on how to reclaim such land for productive human purposes. My how that opinion has changed. Now let me just focusing here on California's native chaparral system when it's in a healthy old growth stage. I personally have never seen first hand the type of description as they are attempting to lay on the public by the usage of the words/terms "decadent" or any other vulgar adjective. Now I have seen such areas of heavy deadwood, but more often than not, it was the result of terrible ignorance on how the plant community's ecosystem really functions which resulted from previous land mismanagement in the first place. The word decadent is more traditionally and appropriately applied only to human beings and that's how most of us historically have understand it. To illustrate, here is the dictionary definition usage of the word and how and why it is normally applied:
"Adjective - characterized by decadence, especially culturally or morally: a decadent life of excessive money and no sense of responsibility."
"Noun - a person who is decadent - characterized by a marked tendency toward the artificial and abnormal in content."
Synonyms: corrupt, immoral, degenerate, debased, debauched, self-indulgent 
(Source -
I know there are those out there who recently attempt to say plants are sentient beings, but seriously, do you really think and believe plants are schemers, corrupt, immoral etc etc etc ??? The deliberate irresponsible usage of the words/terms like "decadent" for Southern California's chaparral plant community doesn't even come close to illustrating what the chaparral plant community is all about. The usage is not so much to educate humans, but rather to provide a negative connotation in justification of it's removal [no doubt for profit by a number of special interests] and championing terrible land management policies [again, no doubt for profit] which actually offer no value whatsoever in any long term fire suppression goals [real or imaginary]. The other derogatory words/terms, "fuel loads" & "gasoline", are meant to assign blame on why we have these later day mega wildfires in the first place. By their very own cherished definition, should we not also be considering things like homes in housing tracts as "fuel loads" since they also burn as well ??? I mean, they always seem to be in the way and allow fire to pass on through ? Take a look at this example and Union Tribune newspaper comment below.

Union-Tribune; photo John Gibbins

Cedar Fire: Scripps Ranch subdivision, San Diego,

California, October 25, 2003
"Almost 3,000 homes were lost in the Cedar Fire, leading to improved access to fire insurance; increased focus on firefighter training; and better warning, communications, and evacuation plans. San Diego County homeowners are now required by law to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around their houses."
Does it at all seem reasonable to blame the vegetation in this photograph for this home's demise ? Is there some type of forest crown fire going on here or hundred foot high wall of flames within  the shrubs which are causing this house to catch on fire ? Why is the house the only main thing burning while the vegetation seems so untouched ? While there appears to be some small mulch and weeds burning a foot high as undergrowth, the only time this vegetation will burn or even get singed is if it's too close to the burning house. Here's another example. Recently there was a wild fire along the Interstate 15 Freeway in the notorious Cajon Pass area of Southern California in which the fire burned 20+ cars and large trucks. Should we also now be assigning Cars and Trucks blame as "fuel-loads" utilizing their own cherished definition ? 

Image: ABC News
Cajon Pass @ Interstate 15 Freeway - July 19, 2015

Well, they were after all on a concrete freeway which acts as a sort of fire break barrier. Could it now be argued that the mere presence of these cars and trucks be seriously considered as a "fuel load" [even containing gasoline] allowing the fire to breach that concrete barrier which allowed the wildfire to advance farther up the mountainside and therefore they shouldn't be allowed on the freeways anymore ??? Of course not, that's ridiculous, but it's the same exact argument given by the usage of other such flammable materials, but which are merely biological. Truth is, anything organic will burn, especially these days with climate change and more severe weather conditions. Look at wet Boreal, Temperate and Tropical Rainforests for example ???

As I previously alluded to before, deserts are considered worthless and waste, but not for alternative energy schemes which are parked in nobody's backyard. Well, nobody deemed important. The picture below is of a flawed scheme to manufacture giant CO2 eating machines to vacuum the air and *cough-cough* save the planet. Such industrial projects are already in many places across the deserts southwest, so why not use fake artificial trees to do what real trees, the ones humans have mostly destroyed, use to do ??? True, real trees not only eat up CO2s and provide oxygen, but there's no money in them like these artificial schemes which will provide jobs and help the economy. Any time some leader or business interest wants something approved, they always through in jobs and economy into the plan. Below is one man's opinion of the Mojave Desert, but he's not alone.

'Carbon Trees' Would Suck CO2 Out of Air

"A solar panel 100 miles by 100 miles in the Mojave Desert (USA) could replace all the coal burned to generate electricity in the entire U.S." 
Louis A. Del Monta, Physicist, Author and CEO 
To view further my opinions and thoughts on alternative energy schemes, please click the following link I recently posted:
The World's Catch 22 with Alternative Energy Schemes


Chaparral Broom (Baccharis sarthroidea)
A final example comes from  the Chaparral Biologist, Richard Halsey who not long ago exposed a government release of a Forest Land Management Report, for it's usage of the words/terms like 'boring and mundane' as applied to the native chaparral plant community of Southern California. These descriptive derogatory terms were being purposefully applied to the most productive and prolific native flora of California to justify land management policies which favour big business interests such as those of the construction/development and Timber industries. Such policies have destroyed perhaps millions of acres of chaparral habitat deemed rangy looking and worthless as well as promoting  the very idea that it's very existence is specifically responsible for the latest decades round of Mega-Fires. Of course these are all lies. On the other side of the argument made by the opposition is that  there are certain other plants like Pines, Firs, Cedars, Oaks and others being considered as having far more value and worth as to an economic benefit. Quite often however from a human viewpoint, those plants are also considered as having far more value and worth for no other reason than they were judged by mere appearance and in doing so, they are reflecting how human beings have judged each other since their first appearance on Earth. One thing is for a certainty, such flawed judgement is not the result of good responsible scientific study and research. Even demonizing plants and animals as invasives doesn't solve what went wrong. As a rule, humans are mostly unwilling to admit flaws and imperfections they themselves engaged in which brought about the imbalance in nature which opened the door for the demonized invasiveness. Here is an excellent article just published from Harper's magazine on attitudes towards invasive species and the flawed science they promote and allow in dealing with it. Mostly, everything is done for a price tag, not because it's the right or correct thing to do. People tend to forget that is what got the world in trouble in the first place:
“David Theodoropoulos, a California naturalist, seed merchant, and the author of Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience, is blunt about what he sees as a deadly inversion of environmental priorities."
‘Thirty years ago,’ he told me, ‘the greatest threats to nature were chain saws, bulldozers, and poisons. Now the greatest threats are wild plants and animals. And what do we use to fight them? Chain saws, bulldozers, and poisons. Who does this serve?’” 
… I asked Peter Raven whether his efforts to protect the natural world didn’t clash in some way with his support for something very unnatural: GMO technology. ‘What’s natural anymore?’ he replied. ‘If we’re going to play God, we might as well be good at it.’” 
Harper's magazine: "Weed Whackers Monsanto, glyphosate, and the war on invasive species" 

Credit: Marsha Elliott
Many today will insist that such irresponsible conduct is all in the past, we've moved on. We're more socially responsible now and we are now living in  the enlightened age. Seriously ??? Things on Earth are far worse ecologically, politically, economically and socially than at any time in history. Many of the latest social experiments here in Europe have turned into a joke. Here in Sweden they have a social program called "dagis" which is a type of preschool for all kids and their working parents. The rule of law here is that teachers can not use the pronouns "hon" (she) or "han" (he), they can only use "hen" (gender neutral pronoun). One parent had a boy come home confused wondering whether he was a boy or girl, he was told he was neither. I understand their socialist indoctrination, but 3 and 4 year old kids ??? (I won't even go into what else they have been feeding these 3 and 4 year old kids as far as sexual matters) I can understand the need to introduce people of a conventional religious background into an atheistic secular society because when I went to SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) classes here, a big part of assimilating immigrants [my classmates were all Muslim] into secular culture was to show movies where sex was being acted out on the screen. The first movie I put my head down on the desk so as not to watch, the second one I walked out and said I was only interested in learning the language, not the politics of a free spirit ideology. Over in the USA I often follow news articles from SF Gate. San Francisco has always been at the forefront of social experiments. I remember back in 1999 when the city of S.F. were going to show the rest of the country how to take care of homeless people properly. One of the things they did was purchase shopping carts for homeless so that they wouldn't have to steal one. It was said this would dignify them. Seriously, these folks need a hand up not a hand out. Homeless people have come from many places across the USA to be in San Francisco, but now the SF leadership  want those same homeless people gone while the Super Bowl is in town as there appears to be a major problem with urination and defecation in public. It's so bad that even the street lamp posts are falling down from corrosion. If things like that are not bad enough, New York city is thinking of actually decriminalizing public urination. So how does all this happen in our modern times ??? What's changed ??? Apparently the new science has a majority of people believing that we are all nothing more than animals anyway, so if dogs do it, and the pigeons do it on the outside of a building's window, why not human beings ??? If we really are just nothing more than some other species of animal, offered up by an evolutionary process that attaches no significance to what makes us different and exceptional, then the reasoning is that animal behavior on the part of human beings should hardly be something to be censored. Collectively speaking, humans have spent more time playing World of Warcraft, than they have at responsible custodianship of Earth. Don't ever expect the natural world, the earth and human society as a whole to ever improve for the better with a worldview like this. You know what the really scary or spooky thing is here, if evolution is true, it means that well meaning efforts at helping nature, one's fellow man and this so-called sustainable living cannot even be considered the right thing to do. But even more so, it also means that the bad abusive animal behaviour on the part of human beings over the centuries that has screwed everything up is not even wrong. It really question begs here beyond "What is natural ?", but seriously: "What is Truth ???"

Friday, June 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Paintbrush Integra
(Castilleja integra/
Artemesia frigida)

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


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

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

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

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Strange Encounters of the Spore Germination Kind ?

Image: Mycologist Paul Stamets

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

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


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

image: Penn State University

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

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

credit: Xi Chen/Columbia University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

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

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

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

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

image - American forest

 Seedlings planted at Rancho Cuyamaca State Park

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

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

Logging and Sawmilling Journal

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

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

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

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