Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Santee's River Walks: Mast Park & Walker Preserve

San Diego River Restoration: The successes, failures, & lessons for restoration of the El Monte Valley Riparian Preserve.
Artist picture of Walker Preserve entrance  (Walker Preserve Trail Santee)

Image - Google Earth
My wife and I visited and hiked this beautiful Walker Presere trail back in April 2018. We actually came into the Preserve's trail from the backdoor direction of the Lakeside area off Riverford Road and walking west towards Magnolia where this beautifully crafted cobblestone foundation and ranch-styled entrance is located. A lot of effort and talent have gone into this trail layout and design which is rather simple and easy to navigate. We saw quite a few families out walking that day. The temperature was perfect, sunny warm, but with light cool breeze. The sky was clear and blue without haze. All in all a very pleasant day. I wish more municipalites would excercise more forethought by identifying other abandoned industrial properties within the boundaries of the cities which are presently nothing more than wastelands of collateral damage and make Nature Preserves out of them. Access to nature would be closer to residents and this would ease some presure off the National Forests and Parklands which are often times overwhelmed by visitor traffic.

Image - hikingsdcounty.com

One impressive feature I liked along this public walk was the design layout and materials used in the construction of the trails. A lot of forethought, care and great physical effort on the part of paid workers and volunteers went into this project. I love the post and lodgepole fencing. The walk has a remarkable cleanliness about it, something unusual indeed in our modern times of tattered run down public places. There are dog watering stations, poop bag dispencers at no cost. Bicycle tire pump stations for emergency.

Image - City of Santee

Image - East County Magazine
The East County Magazine journal published an event that marked the fourth consecutive year that the Takeda Pharamceuticals company again partnered with the City of Santee and The San Diego River Park Foundation to beautify the Walker Preserve trail with over 6,000 native trees. Along with the help of locally recruited volunteer helpers, they planted a mix of important native habitat trees and shrubs. The project's goals were to support many necessary vital ecological functions with the correct plants along the trail, which included specific native plants which would provide the local wildlife with food, shelter and nesting areas, attract pollinating insects, filter the areas water runoff during rainy season storms to prevent soil erosion and sediment from being transported into the San Diego river bottom. As a plan it all had many great goals.

Image - Walker Preserve Trail Santee (February 2018)

Workers from Habitat Restoration Sciences Inc. are doing irrigation work

Image - Walker Preserve Trail Santee
Back early this year in February 2018 a large portion of irrigation infrastructural design and installation work was accomplished by the people from Habitat Restoration Sciences Inc. These photos I'm using above & right are from the Walker Preserve Trail Santee's page on Facebook. They appear to be setting up the drip irrigation pipelines which utilizes recycled effluent water I assume from Santee Lakes. The tubing used is much larger than normal dripline. I'm hoping they have a plan for later removal or perhaps installing some strategically permanent located deep pipe irrigation portals which will direct water deeper into the earth and away from the surface for the more water loving trees like Sycamores & Cottonwoods higher up away from the river bottom. Both trees will send rootsystems to a little over 20' deep, but that will take some time. It is also necessary that mulch be applied (which they seem to have done here with the drip) generously on top of the soil to prevent evaporation and allow for more rootsystem surface soil cooling which is necessary for proper rooting & above ground tree or shrub foliage development. 

Deep-pipe irrigation is a no brainer and would not be that complicated to duplicate from many of the commercial designs available on the market today. I'm certain the city of Santee has capable employees who've got the intuitive talent for inventiveness to replicate such designs from raw materials available from any irrigation supply depot. It will also be imperative to stop the use drip irrigation as a permanent feature which does nothing more than keep plants on a form of life support. Left too long and any attempt to remove the drip from the plants which will lack the deeper mature root infrastructure in a hot dry climate will be fatal. I wasn't overly impressed with the layout I saw in some places. I did however see some attempts at the deep pipe irrigation which were the simple hand bucket watering tubes along the pathway (like the illustration above), but these had mostly failed as 80% of the Coast Live Oaks and Canyon Live Oaks had died. More on that later on down the page. 

Image - Mine April 2018

I certainly applaud the effort of installing proper irrigation, but it needs to be done in the right way and not be a permanent fixture with native plants. Most of this setup was on the south side of the trail between the fence and river channel below. Also commendable is the use of grey water for the irrigation, although that too depending on quality may cause too much salt build up over time which is something most plants (not just natives) will not like. Unfortunately one of the bigger problems I saw was the puddling from too much water or it also may have been a problem of soil compaction because of years of heavy truck travel by the heavy construction machinery by the old sand dredging operations which required dumptruck movement long before trail preparation prior to the tree planting a few years back. Some type of surface deep till may have be necessary to break the soil concretion. As it stands now, this has caused bad soil percolation for the water infiltration. Most of these native plants I saw were developing root rot as a result of the standing puddles of water which could be seen by how many plants had dead or moldy foliage. Plant root systems need to breathe. While they do indeed exhale oxygen, their roots breathe in oxygen. The other nonsense thing you can see above is where someone actually put a prickly pear cactus on drip irrigation. Never never EVER put any cactus on drip or any other irrigation. Just dig a dry hole and partially bury the cactus pad or cholla joint in the ground and walk away until next rainy season. There is enough energy and moisture within the succulent cacti tissues to trigger a root growth response. It does not matter if there is no water present in the soil, because the cacti's genetics will trigger an App to get started with the stored food and water already present within the pad long before rains come. When they do come the plant will be ready. Watering simply encourages rot at planting time.

Troubles with their California Sycamore  Identification
Image Mine 2018

This is a real life image of a true California Syamore


Image - Mine 2018
Yup, this is a genuine close up of the  California Sycamore's leaf pattern. Not all Sycamore leaf patterns are identical, even though the characteristic puzzle pattern of their bark can seem similar. This is why I'm holding out my hand with wide spread fingers in the top photo next to the leaves to illustrate the point. Both of the native Southwest's Sycamores, the California (Platanus racemosa) and the Arizona (Platanus wrightii) Sycamores, have this characteristic spreading finger pattern which sets them apart from other Sycamore with more maple leaf patterns. Although a main difference between the two is that the Arizona often will have a larger leaf size. This placement of the incorrect or wrong type of tree within a native plant sanctuary (which is supposed to be for educating the public) has always been a major annoyance to me. I've written about this previously regarding the San Diego Wild Safari Park near Escondido and the Padre Dam location west of Santee in the Mission Trails Park. The gross negligence at the Wild Animal Park is actually inside of the California Coastal Sage Scrub and Chaparral exhibit. You may read about their blunder (HERE). I guess I expect more from a group of professionals who are hired because they no doubt claimed to be experts on their resumes as having credentials and initials behind their names like some business card. Here below is a Walker Preserve mistake.


Image - Mine 2018

Image Mine from 2014
The location of this photo above is almost exactly 100 yards east of the spot where the true California Sycamore was planted near a wooden bridge. This tree above is not a California Sycamore, but rather more likely the hybrid known as London Plane Tree, which is a cross between American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) from the eastern USA and the old world Eurasian Sycamore (Platanus orientalis). It's own scientific name is Platanus acerfolia, 'acer' meaning maple and 'folia' from where we get the english word for foliage. So it's a Sycamore with mapleleaf-like leaves. BTW, the photo of Sycamore leaves to the top right was taken in 2014 at the Wild Animal Park within the Chaparral exhibit. The photo below was taken in April of this year 2018 at Padre Dam and there are many more of them which were planted in the parking area, even along the old former Mission Gorge Road through the gorge.


Image - Mine April 2018

Misssion Trails Regional Park - Padre Dam

I suppose I expect far more from the hired people who are supposed to be Biology Experts who were to provide restoration oversight on this and other official area project areas. The mis-identification of plants was not the only gross error. Below is a Coastal Live Oak where I'm holding up the sign which someone pulled up or kicked over. While this particular oak tree looks healthy and doing well, the majority (perhaps 80%) of the other oak trees are dead from improper installation placement at planting time, no thick layer of mulch provided at planting time and maintained year after year to provide protection from the sun's intense summertime effects. Even this healthy looking Coast Live Oak should have a regular generous layers of fresh mulch provided on a yearly basis. This would not be difficult to come by and could be acquired for free.



Image - Mine April 2018


Image mine from July 2014
While it was commendable that they did originally place a layer of bark mulch within this planter at time of planting the Coast Live Oak, this should be a regular maintenance practice which should be done every Spring because the bark will degrade as it should. As it does, the nutrients are also fed back to the oak by the microbes digesting these materials. This region's tree trimming companies have to come past this point either by way of the Santee Landfill to the west or by the eastern route to a composting business off Hwy 67 at the mouth of Slaughterhouse Canyon near to the San Vicinte Reservoir. They must pay a fee to dump their loads, but dumping on the trail system's maintenance yard site (where ever that is) would be perfect & free (for both parties). Let me explain why the root system cooling is so important to the health and vigor of native trees. In nature an Oak's acorn is taken by a scrubjay and purposely planted underneath shrubs of chaparral. So it has shade and cover. While people may look at so-called Oak Savannas up in central and northern California or even locally in areas of Santa Ysabel or Mesa Grande and find them rather a romantic setting, those older oaks did not start out on bare hot dry soil or in grasslands. An acorn and it's seedling would never have survived the intense summer heat. Those areas were once chaparral covered or at least interior sage scrub covered when those oak acorns germinated. The American Indians later came along and often burned off the chaparral sage scrub, later the Spaniards did the same thing for their cattle to graze and even later the white Europeans from the British Isles who started their own cattle operations kept the area cleared out from shrub encroachment, hence grasses moved in. Most of those grasses are non-natives annuals (as opposed to deeper rooted native perennials) with most being non-mycorrhizal when it comes to their root zones. This scenario works against oaks becoming established. They require mycorrhizal soils.

Image mine from 2014
Oaks need a microbiological soil profile rich in ecto-mycorrhizal fungi. In the particular truffle photo above, this came from an area just south of Julian off Hwy 79 at the Desert View Overlook. Take note of the scrub oak's leaves in the photo. These truffles were colonized on the scrub oaks, Cuyamaca Cypress, possibly Manzanita and even the Chamise or Greasewood. Tough to see the truffle in the top photo isn't it ? I was deliberately looking for them and found it. Most people would have stepped over it. This was along a narrow trail pathway created by tourists exploring the viewpoint and the second photo was taken after I cleared a little of the surrounding debris away from the truffle so it could be more clearly viewed in another photo. Otherwise they just look like rocks. This species of truffle is called Pisolithus tinctorius or just P.T. Mycorrhizae. For me it's the single most important fungi to use in colonizing any oak or pine at planting time and I highly doubt the volunteers who were organized for the Walker Preserve Project were told anything about this. This particular fungi will help an oak tree survive hot dry sites. In fact they are designed for that specific purpose. It's like putting Hooker Headers on a 1960s Muscle car. They increase water and nutrient uptake anywhere from 200% to 800% depending on the soil. Now pay very close attenton to reasons for mulching with bark.
Importance of Soil Temperature & the effects on Plant Root Systems


  • 140 degrees, soil bacteria die
  • 130 degrees, 100% moisture lost through evaporation and transpiration
  • 100 degrees, 15% moisture is used for growth, 85% moisture lost through evaporation and transpiration
  • 70 degrees, 100% moisture used for growth
  • Image - Mine April 2018

    Image mine from 2018
    Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, I crossed over into the Planet of the Apes forbidden zone into the *cough-cough* sensitive habitat area, except there was nothing there that was sensitive unless Yellow Star Thistle has suddenly become a protected endangered plant species. Out of maybe several dozens of oaks planted, there were maybe three or maybe four that have survived and even these were in pathetic condition, just barely hanging on. The data on soil temps & root interactions up above are no joke. Soil temperatures will dictate how your plants will use the water you provide them. Doesn't matter if you irrigate regularly, it's soil temps that matter. I found this out back in the 1980s when I planted pines and oaks in areas where soil was shaded and others where nothing but bare soil surrounded the saplings. Foliage often looked droopy and dull at the peak on a hot day in the exposed sites and the trees where soil was always shaded seemed to out perform those in sun. Even when I tried to compensate with more watering of the expose trees, nothing changed because the bare exposed ground still heated up. It wasn't till I trucked down free pine straw and oak leaf mulch from people's yards up in Idyllwild where regulations forced people to rake up debris because of fire hazard, did I see a complete turn around with the trees in the full sun. Now look at this Canyon Live Oak below.

    Imafe is mine from April 2018

    Image - Mycorrhizal Applications 
    This oak sapling is a Canyon Live Oak, (Quercus chrysolepis). There were signs identifying them, but the photo I took had glaring sun so I won't post it. I could actually clear away the weeds and other competition around this tree's trunk, drill several three inch deep holes around the tree within the rootzone close to the stem and pour in a small amount of powdered spore dust formula from MycoApply (endo-ecto) and mix in with it the chocolate brown powder from the wild truffles of the P.T. Mycorrhizae I just showed you up above in summer along with water and by next Spring, this tree will have at least a foot and a half new stem growth on it's central leader bud (half that on branch tip stems) and the leaves will be triple or more the size you see here in the photo. The reason I use the MycoApply powder is because it contains humic acids (derived from Lignite extracted from Brown Coal) which are good at root growth stimulation which is needed for spore germination. There are several species of spores in the powder, but I also add the fresh wild P.T. spore dust powder because I've found I have better chance of colonization and truffle formation will usually appear one month after application. The first truffle will only be the size of my thumb and you will not notice any difference in foliage until next Spring. But at least you know it has been colonized. Then by next Spring season you will see softball sized truffles near the tree. Sometimes as far away as 10 or 15 foot away. 

    Image by KFMB San Diego

    What I would like to see is an ecology teaching signage tool  like the one above, for helping the public to understand how things work for real out in the wild. That's why I think a sign explaining the planting and microbiological activity going on under the ground would be perfect. Maybe it would encourage the locals to replicate these techniques in their own yards with native plants and dumping the scientific indoctrination of using synthetic chemical junk science pushes for maintenance and care found at the local Lowes or Home Depot down the streets. I'm tired of experts blundering and getting things wrong at these public funded Parks. You folks do know what an Expert is right ? An Expert is someone who use to be PERTinent, but no longer is. Hence Ex-Pert. No longer relevant, no longer germane, etc. That's why our planet looks the way it does because leadership has soured. And for the record, I'm not just being critical to be critical and point out flaws. I understand on social media sites many people do this for the sake of sport all day long. I actually applaud the great effort of the volunteers and all their hard work, but I don't want their efforts to lose, I want them to win. Really I'm not all that mean if you get to now me, I'm really just a soft warm fuzzball. Okay, but just one more critical note about cottonwoods at Mast Park.
    Santee's section of Riverwalk known as Mast Park 
    Picture of Mast Park Trails by Russel Ray

    Russel Ray: "A stroll through Mast Park in Santee, California"

    City of Santee
    The link above under the beautiful trail photo are from the same author and photographer, Russel Ray. He really captures the nice layout and construction of those who planned this part of the San Diego Riverwalk. And it's not cheap, it took a lot of skilled craftsman to do it all right. One of the things I love about most of the riverwalk pathways is that they are very easy for anyone to walk and not tire out. The place really is beautifully done. However as usual, I tend to critique things based on the plant choices used. In this era of strict native plants only and intolerance for anything exotic, I'm actually surprised and blown away by the glaring mistakes by the so-called native plant experts. There are as I mentioned above, two main foundation or cornerstone tree species historically along this river floodplain's river course. Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) & again California Sycamore (Plantanus racemosa). Let me just focus now on the Fremont Cottonwood trees I saw at Mast Park. To be truthful, the only Freemonts I saw were in the riverbed and along the pathway at the riverbed's edge. The others which were planted within the park's infrastructure and recreational sport areas are a back east cottonless hybrid known as Carolina Poplar (Populus x euramericana) - which is a hybrids of of both Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) from eastern USA and the Black Poplar (Populus nigra), which is native to Europe. Of course they are also male, hence no cottony seeds in Springtime.


    Image - Wiki-Commons (Devindad 2012)

    Image - Sam McNally
    The photograph above is a bridge at the entrance from the parking lot which takes you into Mast Park. The photo is facing east and as you walking across the bridge and look to your right in the dry wash, you'll see hundreds of little cottonwood suckers which have come off the roots of the large Cottonless Cottonwood hybrids which travel 50 feet or more looking for water and suckering with new sprouts along the way. Same type of underground suckering habit Quaking Aspen have as they form acres woodlands from the same single tree. I never liked that about the Cottonwood hybrids when I lived up in Anza California. Back in the early 1980s when I was first introduced to them, neighbours everywhere in the surrounding area cut 10' branches from a friend or neighbour's tree and stuck them in the ground with drip irrigation and they rooted easily. Many people back in the 1970s were purchasing these mail order miracle trees which turned into giants in just a few years with the other selling point being they did not produce cottony seeds which was marketed as an annoyance. One way I found to tell the difference between a native cottonwood and the the one's from the back east hybrid was that the Cottonwood leaf galls were present on native Fremonts, but never the hybrids. The insect itself is an aphid called Pemphigus which creates the gall at the leaf stem. I never saw any harm to the cottonwoods ever and apparently there is a measure of chemical hormonal communication between the aphid and host which helps create the structure and increases more water and nutrient uptake. It may also trigger a boost to immune system, much the way certain species of mycorrhizal fungi do in their hosts through chemical message signaling. Believe it or not, it's the same with our gut bacteria.

    Image -  Sarah Turner 2012

    When I came out for a visit in April of this year 2018, I noticed the  defoliated state of the hybrids as compared to the healthy looking native Fremont Cottonwoods by the river like the photo above and the one below. This is one of the other reasons I never liked the Cottonless Cottonwood hybrids out west, they just don't do very well and are on average from my experience short lived, about 30 years. Fremont Cottonwoods can live 130 to 150 years old by comparison. Unfortunately most of the Anza residents who wanted instant tree later found this out too late. The cottonless tree is great when young, but as it ages so do it's water requirements and out west water is an issue. The cottonless hybrids are also more suscepitble to various blight and other rot diseases which will sometimes cause half of the tree to die off. Take note of all the crown gall infections in these foreground cottonwood hybrid trees beyond the basketball hoop.

    Image - Leslie Pantazis 2014

    But even looking here through these trees and beyond the basketball court, can you see the big contrast between these hybrids in the foreground and the lush foliage of the native Fremont Cottonwoods well into the distance ? The other issue with these Cottonwood hybrids is they are more susceptible to the agrobacterium tumefaciens (same organism used by geneticists to fabricate GMOs) which causes the tumor-like features on the trunk known as Crown Galls. This may be another reason for the lack of foliage where the grotesque gall formations may be restricting water and sap flow to the upper higher reaches into the tree's leaf canopy. I've never seen this with the native Fremont Cottonwoods. 

    Image - Central Arizona Land Trust

    Image from River Partners
    This scenery above is the W Diamond Ranch in Skull Valley Arizona. This region is one of my favourites for huge Fremont Cottonwood specimens. There are numerous ancient specimens of this native tree which are giants over there in Central Arizona. You can see in the above photograph the size of the trees by comparing their size scale to the cattle. Very few such large examples of Fremont Cottonwood exist along the San Diego River corridor today and it wasn't always this way. Interestingly, if you ever view old historical photographs of Santee or Lakeside (especially Lakeside) you'll see an entirely different reality. For one, the water table was closer to the surface than today. In fact if we take the Walker Preserve as an example, the surface of the riverbed was much closer to the present hiking trail, with water being only a few feet from the surface instead of 30+ foot below. There were no major population centers sinking wells, damming river valleys etc to capture and take water at will. Remember in those old western movies where a pioneer family would stake out a claim for land to homestead and aside from land clearing, the father/husband would dig a ten foot pit and line it with stone or brick and call it a well ? You couldn't do such a thing today. The photos of Lakeside which have flashed around the internet lately intrigue most people who are interested in the settlements, the Lakeside Inn and Lindo Lake or old photos of where the railroad once existed. Those things are kool, but I'm generally more intrigued with the extensive native riparian forests which existed there. The trees (Sycamores & Cottonwoods) stand out as giants with dense stands of willows along the river's edges. The older original riparian forests would have been much greater than the old photos reveal because much of these photographs were taken long after farmers and ranchers came into the area and started to eliminate the native vegetation in order to grow crops, plant orchards or graze cattle. The graphic at the top right here illustrates just how far down a Fremont Cottonwood giant will go down in search of water. Take note that under ideal floodplain alluvial soil conditions, they may grow to a depth of 10 meters or 32+ feet down into the soil. And the same depth average is with Sycamores, but the average for both is probably 20+ feet. Further east however into the El Monte Valley a controversy is brewing over a proposed sand mining operation.

    Video capture image by Billy "Lakeside" Oritiz

    This pit was dug up by heavy equipment the last week of October 2018 by the owner of the Sand Mining operation for sand sample testing. They went way down fairly deep, maybe 20 feet, but notice there is no water ? All the historical mining operations between El Monte Valley westward to the Mission Gorge Dam have greatly reduced and lowered the floodplain's water table. Large trees will find it tough to establish within such a changed environment. The only vegetation that even remotely makes it in the El Monte Valley's artificial channel created after the1980 floods are the non-native Tamarisks. However there is a way of bringing that water table up close to the surface and creating a lush riparian valley wide ecosystem along with an efficient effleunt water recycling system which would also benefit Lake Jennings water supply. More on the mechanics of how this could be accomplished in a later post. πŸ˜‰
    Some fun Links by others who've hiked the Walker Preserve.
    GEOCACHING: Walker Preserve Trailhead
    Hiking San Diego County: Walker Preserve Trail
    GrahamCrackers: Hike #6 San Diego River Trail (Walker Preserve & Lakeside River Park)




    Image - Tim Robertson
    And finally they have placed a piece of industrial history (Iron Dino relic reallyπŸ˜‰) into the Walker Preserve Trail landscape decor as part of the region's heritage. Indeed, those series of dredged and gouged out lakes carved into Santee's floodplain were mined of their 1000s of years old sand for San Diego County's 1950s/60s construction boom which started after World War II. There's even a signage board explaining the sand mine history of the area. But the miners aren't through yet unfortunately as the image and links below will attest.
    El Monte Valley Sand Mining Controversy 😟
    Photograph by Billy Ortiz - January 12, 2015

    Lakeside River Park Conservancy
    https://www.lakesideriverpark.org
    Industrial forces and big business interests are moving in to turn the El Monte Valley into another large industrial construction materials apocalyptic landscape. The El Monte Valley is one of the last almost unspoiled large floodplains in all of San Diego county and certainly the last one with regards to the San Diego River. West of El Capitan High School the entire river course to the Pacific Ocean has been butchered by sand and gravel mining operations for the past 100+ years. My next post is about the latest controversey and where to go for the most accurate info and who you should be listening to.
    Stay Tuned! Okay as promised!
    El Monte Valley Sand Mining vs Nature Preserve Controversy


    Friday, May 11, 2018

    Science-Based Herbicides vs Holistic Grazing in Weed Management of National Forests

    Forest Service to cut hundreds of ponderosa pine trees near Sisters killed by the herbicide "Perspective."
    (Ryan Brennecke/Bulletin photo)

    photo by Jim Anderson
    Recently back on May 4th in the News, there was a sad report of a tragic event which took place along many of Oregon's Highway right-of-ways where conventional science-based weed abatement practices of spraying dangerous herbicides, like Bayer's toxic weed product known as "Perspective" which was supposed to target broadleafed weeds and other fire flamable vegetation, some unintended consequences took place. Apparently, this has been the practice by Oregon Transportation Department for some time as it is also around the country. While the target may have been the broadleaf weeds and other flammable weeds through a seemingly easy no break a sweat approach management version provided by science-based toxic chemicals and hopefully acquiring immediate results, the chemical apparently made it's systemic way underground, perhaps further facilitated through the mycorrhizal grid network to the Ponderosa pine rootsystems which eventually later led to the Ponderosa Pine's succumbing to the toxic effects a few years later. Interestingly it does seem that there were warning labels on this side effect on non-target trees and shrubs which were totally ignored. Without further explanation, here are the two links. First is from August 2016 and the second from May 2018 a few days back.
    The Nugget Newspaper (Sisters, Oregon) "The warning bell is ringing!"
    The Bend Bulletin: "Forest Service to cut hundreds of ponderosa pines near Sisters killed by herbicide"
    ===============================================
    A more viable & responsible Solution and one that Perfectly Biomimics Nature
    Photo: Washington State DOT Flickr Photostream

    (Photograph courtesy Texas DOT.)
    This photo above is of goats clearing grass and weeds near Olympia area highway interchange. Something seriously needs to change for the better. Herbicides need to be shelved and never used again. Of all the grazing & browsing animals, goats are basically biological mowers/browsers and can perform a similar function as mechanical mowing but without burning fossil fuels and generating carbon emissions. Another advantage is that some weed seeds are sterilized as they pass through a goat’s digestive system, allowing for more effective weed control than mechanical mowing or chemical herbicide spraying. Goats can also easily access steep and uneven terrain along highway shoulders and cutouts. Of course there are the usual concerns over the use of grazing in highway applications which may include higher costs associated with fencing, watering and supervising the animals; liability; and potential distractions to drivers, but I think much of these costs could be a non-factor if the Highway Departments did not try and manage this themselves and awarded grazing rights to responsible herdsmen who could provide a better professional hands on project of oversight. We're not talk just throwing the animals out there and seeing what happens. They do have to be responsibly managed and not left on their own. Clearly areas like this region in Oregon where 1000s of large Ponderosa Pines must now be removed could have benefitted by this holistic approach as opposed to the conventional science-based practices which have been used for decades. Most all roadside landscape plants should be natives to the areas the roads are located which eliminates watering and benefits wildlife, especially the native pollinators. Below are some links to sites which further explain the benefits.
    Roadside vegetation management in the Netherlands
    https://environment.transportation.org/"Invasive Species/Vegetation Management"
    Roadside Best Management Practices that Benefit Pollinators Handbook for Supporting Pollinators through Roadside Maintenance and Landscape Design
    US ARMY: Unconventional Sustainability Method using Sheep & Goats in Hawaii Nabs Award
    https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/THE USE OF GRAZING ANIMALS IN ROADSIDE VEGETATION MANAGEMENT
    ===============================================
    Grazing to Reduce Wildfire Risks also Biomimics Nature
    Photo by johndeerefurrow.com

    Another interesting article in John Deere's online journal, "The Furrow," provided interesting feedback on experimental practices of Fall grazing of invasive annuals like cheatgrass to reduce wildfire risk and helping to provide nutrients to the soils. Here is that link:
    https://www.johndeerefurrow.com/2017/09/01/forage-not-fuel
    Also, remember my last post on the environmental effects of the presence of megafauna (large herbivores) and the roles they all played in forest and prairie health and almost total absence of wildfires ??? 😲 Yes, studies showed that fire while being naturally present was not the major destroyer and killer it is now. Well, here it is again:
    Megafauna were the "Ecosystem Engineers" not Wildfire

    National Park Service / Neal Herbert

    Now, one would think that the environmentalists and government agencies would all be for such a holistically sustainable approach to weed management which actually replicates Nature through Biomimicry, right ??? Wrong! The modern day environmental movement has a murderous hatred of ranchers and as many of the leadership in this movement have admitted, they want this industry to go extinct. This is a really sad video.
    The Eco-Activist Movement's rejection of utiling grazing and browsing animals for any Vegetation Management

    In this video posted by journalists from the Wall Street Journal on March 30th 2018, "The Last Cowboy at Pine Creek Ranch," they discuss one ranching family, who, after a 40-year battle, was wrecked by government agency rules designed to make ranching unprofitable and impractical. Wayne Hage won his case in court numerous times, proving his grazing and water rights were his legally, not publicly owned and controlled as the government insisted. Yet each victory was appealed by the heavy hand of government, moving the case to the next court and the next judge in the system, forcing Wayne to spend more and more on legal fees. The government plan was simple and obvious. Destroy him financially until he was forced to give up. Now the the government and environmentalist's viscous tactics have finally forced this family to give up the fight as they prepare to move off the ranch and let the ecoactivists and government have their spoils in the war over the rangelands. The Federal land managers were aided in this travesty by the environmental group known as Western Watershed Project (WWP); the program’s director, activist Mike "Buffalo Man" Mease, who was interviewed in the video had this to say.

    A cow is a non-native species to Amaerica and when we set them free on the wildlands of the west, they don't know what they're doing out there. As they will walk and eat every blade of grass in front of them, as they walk Cattle hoofs are not cleft. They are one single pallet which compacts the soil, unlike native animals which have cloven hoofs which aerate soil.”
    Amazingly, most all the Government agencies and environmentalist groups including Mike Mease's Western Watershed Project & Buffalo Field Campaign, etc generally know full well that grasslands developed under intensive grazing from large herds of bison (pre-1800s saw 60+ million Bison according to stats) and other wild animals (millions of Elk, Deer, Antelope, etc), which through co-dependency became necessary for both soil and plant health. Yet in practice however, most of these militant groups have become more and more hostile to the presence of cattle or other domestic grazing/browsing animals presence on the land, which they variously blame for native species loss, range degradation and forest destruction, erosion, pollution, global climate change and even labeling ranching operations as public theft. In justification of this warped thinking, WWP’s spokesman, Mike "Buffalo Man" Mease, claims cattle harm grasslands because they are not “native.” He provides a nonsense explanation about cattle hooves compacting land by calling them "single pallet" as opposed to the native animals like Antelope, Elk, Deer, etc which have cloven hoofs which aerate soil. If any animal could be labeled as single pallet, then would that not better describe such animals as Horses which have a uni-hoove (or single toe). Cows have cloven hooves with dewclaws. Interestingly, both horses and buros were present in larger numbers centuries ago and had positive effects on the land. But take a look at the differences below.

    Images - Mother Nature's Tillers


    Mike "Buffalo Man" Mease's knowledge here is confusing as you listen to the very words leaving his mouth given the fact that he labels himself with the knickname, "Buffalo Man" which should leaves folks puzzled. Bison (Buffalo) and Cattle have the same identical hooves. Once again, there were once over 60,000,000,000+ Bison in pre-1800s in North America. So by his definition when using the hoove design argument, was Nature in trouble when such vast numbers existed just a century ot two ago ??? And if so, then why does he champion more and more buffalo on the landscape ??? Surely from his outdoor experience and credentials he must know what is right ??? Oh wait, he doesn't have any biology or conservation credentials. Mike Mease has a B.A. in Radio/Television and Psychology from the University of Montana. This is almost the same identical credentials of another infamous eco-activist, Kieran Suckling of militant Earth First fame and co-founder/director of the Center for Biological Diversity out of Tucson, Arizona. Neither of them are biologists. Like Mease, Suckling wants ranching to go extinct:
    “Ranching is one of the most nihilistic lifestyles this planet has ever seen. Ranching should end. Good riddance.”
    CBD director KierΓ‘n Suckling to the Washington Post.
    In the interview with the journal High Country News, when he was asked if his lack of any science degrees were a hindrance to his work. He responsed:
    "I think the professionalization of the environmental movement has injured it greatly. These kids get degrees in environmental conservation and wildlife management and come looking for jobs in the environmental movement. They've bought into resource management values and multiple use by the time they graduate. I'm more interested in hiring philosophers, linguists and poets. The core talent of a successful environmental activist is not science and law. It's campaigning instinct. That's not only not taught in the universities, it's discouraged."
    Well that's wonderful. Learning how nature really works and pursuing degrees in environmental conservation and wildlife management are totally worthless. Civil disobedience, eco-terrorism and psychological warfare thru sue and settle are something to be admired. Kieran Suckling once boasted that he himself engages in a kind of psychological warfare (which for a fact he is credentialed with his degree in Philosophy) by causing stress to already stressed public servants when he bragged, "They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed -- and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules." 
    (Source: High Country News)
    I'll never understand the murderous hatred eco-activists openly display towards ranchers on the part of the environmental movement which is in fact killing nature, not preserving it. So much about ecology movement these days has become like a fanatical version of a religious Jihad or kind of animist holy war. While there were clearly practices within traditional ranching that were irresponsible in the past, that is not the case with many ranchers today who see great worthwhile value in helping to preserve wildlife and restoring the land's vegetative ecosystems. It's not just a matter of their livelihood for profit, but also their love and passion for conservation which has also become their hobby. Rather than demonizing all ranchers and lumping them onto the Bundy Bandwagon, they should embrace and ally themselves with the more responsible ranching land stewards. But thus far they have refused to do so.


    Image - Cow Hooves

    Take a close look at both photos above and below here of both cattle and Bison (Buffalo Hooves). Both cattle and bison hooves are split. The two animals are so closely related (same 'kind' of animal) that they can actually interbreed. They are roughly the same size and weight. Whether on a forest floor or on grasslands, when cattle herds are hands on managed and grazed in a way that mimics bison herds in large numbers, timing and behavior, their physiological effects on the landscape are similar to the bison. Under these conditions cattle can stimulate plant growth like grass and the native weeds (which cattle won't necessarily eat), but which in turn benefit creatures which like the weeds like the pronghorn and deer and the native insects necessary to sustain grassland birds like quail and grouse. In so doing cattle and bison sequester carbon and add organic humus to soil, which increases its fertility and water-retention, thus improving watersheds. But given Mike "Buffalo Man" Mease's lack of understanding that there really are no physical differences of cattle to buffalo, are we to assume ancient historical buffalo herds of 60+ million were a bad thing within the pre-1800s environment ??? πŸ˜• Hardly!

    Image - Bison Hooves

    When you look at the various hooves and their imprints, you should be able to notice that they closely resemble chisels. They have the ability to cut into the soil, churn it up, break up crusts and clumps, create pockets to hold moisture, trample old vegetation into the ground. Humans have terminology for this action. We call it tilling and cultivation. Of course animal disturbance on the land done the right way only disturbs the top few inches, not feet like science-based mechanized innovation. But grasslands, forests and wildlife have steadily declined since the massive bison herds were wiped out over 150 years ago. So to offset this horrible ecosystem decline, these so-called defenders of Nature, which apparently also includes many in government, academic and the general conservation bureaucracy seek to banish cattle completely off the landscape. And yet Cattle properly managed through a hands on holistic approach are the only true substitute for those missing keystone grazers, the (Bison herds). What's worse, environmentalists have no idea of how, why or what other animals to replace the Bison with out on the landscape. They never offer any real world viable solutions other than promoting the need of reducing mankind through science-based abortion, eugenics and hospital oversight over euthanasia programs. After that, they want to turn everything into their version of wilderness and Nature will just fix the problem all by itself.


    Interestingly, regarding these chisel design patterns of hooves: the  Rodale Institute has developed a crimper-roller that’s designed to trample green manures and old stalks into the ground. The tines work like chisels. Vineyards have available to them a smaller, even more chisel-like adjustable “eco-roll.” And Ames Lab at Iowa State University have also produced an imprinter-roller that tries to imitate the hoofprints of passing buffalo, to be used in Colorado prairie restoration. All of this is about bomimicry when it comes to the ecological management of the landscape that went on for thousands of years with 60+ million forest and prairie Bison. Keep in mind, such innovation is necessary in the absence of herbivore animals. Animals are the original ecosystem management component [tool] and that's by design.

    In conclusion, this information and news items are for people who do own land and who want to manage that land in a holistic manner which will enhance ecosystems and wildlife. There are numerous services that grazing and browsing animals can perform if properly managed which would negate the using of more science-based toxins. As for all these enviromental groups which lay claim to being the only solution for representing Nature, run the other way folks. There is a Proverb 24:21 which states the danger in associating with these types of groups, it says, 
    " . . and do not associate with those who are calling for change [or allegiance with, and are dissenters, rebels, revolutionaries]." 
    Our world today is characterized by militant activism against anything and new ways of being offended, angry and outraged seem to be invented or fabricated now on a daily basis. Save your money folks and pursue rescuing and rehabilitating nature under far more peaceful responsible circumstances. My wife and I just recently visited my hometown from Sweden which is San Diego California this past April 2018. Everything there seems to have taken a turn for the worse. California is literally riddled with misdirected people who are looking for any reasons to become activists for whatever cause. People now days seem to be at war with whatever is popular on social media that outrages them and considered trendy to participate in. Very few seem to have a normal life anymore, whatever normal life once was. In the mean time, being credentialed with regards to environment issues are ultimately meaningless when these so-called credentials conflict with common sense and reality on the ground.




    Sustainable Dish with Joel Salatin


    Monday, April 9, 2018

    Who has the right & authority to Name Nature ??? (& What's up with Species?)

    Anybody else have a Love/Hate Relationship with Taxonomy and Taxonomists ??? πŸ˜’
    To answer this question in the Post's title, People Do! πŸ˜‰
    Image - Psychology Today
    No really, it's true. People have that right. Well, just suppose half the people believe what is said at Genesis 2:19-20 where Man is given the assignment of naming the animals, birds, seas creatures, etc. Then of course there is the present day secular gang who adamantly insists there is no God and deem it their responsibility not only to name, but classify Nature. And voila, we now actually have two opposing ideologically driven sides who are surprisingly on the same page with something. Who woulda thunk it ? 😲 Yeah I know, but like I've always said, both sides are the mirror image of each other. Much to the irritation of the Sciencey gang of course. πŸ˜‰ Giving common names to living things can run into the hundreds of names on a single organism alone, given all the various languages, cultures, ethnicities and historical civilizations over centuries, etc. One of the strategies that was supposed to simplify things and fix the confusion so that identity of a specific living organism could be universally assured worldwide was to provide scientific names in Latin. Okay that made sense, as long as all peoples agree. But I've found long ago that not even that works. Which brings me to some other puzzling terms & labels in english like, "species," "sub-species," "speciation," "breeds," "races," "cultivators," "hybrids," etc, etc, etc. Different terms, but ultimately in each instance still require all the same mechanisms for which provide changes. How many of you know that there can be upwards of 16 different definitions for the word "species" and that there is no universally accepted answer among scientists and other researchers ??? How many knew there are such things as different species of molecules, chemicals, etc ??? How many of you knew that there is no universally accepted idea on what accounts for "speciation" (which refers to the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution) ??? Take a long hard look at our natural world going down hill and you'll soon realize that science clearly does NOT know everything about Nature as they promote themselves as the only authorized keepers of knowledge & truth. I'll provide more examples of more things that bug on this subject down below.

    Image - Amazon
    But first, Biologist Carol Kaesuk Yoon, who wrote the book, "Naming Nature," which delved into the historical tensions between evolutionary biology and taxonomy. Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist, who formalised the modern system of naming organisms called binomial nomenclature. But even Linnaeus struggled in the eighteenth century to define this sciencey word/term "Species" in light of living things tendency to change (mutate) over time while still relying on the usual imperfect human gut felt intuitiveness & common materialistic propensity with making purely visual judgments by mere outward appearances. Later as taxonomy modernized by moving into the laboratories, the results appeared counterintuitive to humanity’s innate predisposition for order in the world. In otherwords things became more muddled and fuzzier than previously thought. But by conceding scientific authority to taxonomists, Dr Yoon then argued, that mankind contributes to their own alienation from nature. No surprise here since the average human being has been indoctrinated into allowing the credentialed (politics, religion, business, scientists, etc) to do all their intellectual thinking, research and personal study for them and accept blindly whatever makes their own personal worldview feel good.

    People are no longer interested in going outdoors. It's as if they've been possessed by some alien force, we'll call technology and social media. Who needs a real life when you can have a virtual life with 100s of make believe friends. If they want to see Nature then they Tech companies invented Pinterest, Google Plus, Facebook, etc. They can look at all those pretty doctored up photographs with no titles or description. I'm just not that way, I've got to find out things for myself and verify that they are true. I can't just take some narrator's (David Attenborough, Robert Redford, etc) word or ideological take on the subject. Take my biggest pet peeve here on plant classification manipulation.
    What the heck is up with all these Plant Name changes ? πŸ˜•
    Image - Pacific Horticulture

    My number one interest is how we've come by the names given to plants (& how we classify them), since plants are the biggest influence regarding my love and passion for nature. Over the past few years there has been some major upheavals in the scientific name change department. This photo above of a California shrub from my home town is known commonly as Deerweed (Acmispon glaber), but it was formerly known as (Lotus scoparius). Other reclassifications have taken place. Cupressus stephensonii, the species known as Cuyamaca Cypress, which is endemic to the Southern California county I come from, San Diego, has also been reclassified as Hesperocyparis stephensonii. And the list of reclassifying is endless. Rather than rant on this subject anymore, here is an article in Pacific Horticulture: "Why Plant Names Change" which provides a fascinating account on why there have been so many changes. The interesting thing is that it just begs more questions. Take a look at a few of these questions below from a Nursery industry business perspective when it comes to things being labeled accurately that would be of great interest to the home gardener, professional landscaper, and commercial farmer.
    The Future of the Taxonomy of Cultivated Plants
    "In agriculture and horticulture, at least 80% of taxonomic problems are related to the cultivar. In particular, questions such as (a) “Am I really dealing with a new cultivar?” (b) “To which species does a cultivar belong?” (c) “How can I recognize a cultivar phenotypically, especially if it is a hybrid?” and (d) “Does the cultivar-group system always work?” continually impact on the work of those dealing with the classification and naming of cultivated plant material."
    (Source) 
    Okay, those are common sense logical questions anyone would ask. Now in this same link above and just below the the abstract which I've partially quoted here above, the article also brings up yet another term to further muddle an already challenging task of separating things into scientific ordered categories and that was the subheading title here:
    IS THE INTEREST IN CULTONOMY EQUALLY DIVIDED? 
    Cultonomy ??? Yes, Cultonomy focuses more on the classification of cultivated plants or 'cultivators' using only few classification categories. Still, what we really are discussing here are varieties of the same "kind" *cough-cough* "species" of wild parent plant and the various well known vegetable varieties we all know and love from the grocery store. Even though we would never come close to guessing that the varieties listed below all come from the same single cursed invasive parent Mustard plant many gardeners, landscapers, conservationists curse, we should still be amazed at the great "variety" that has resulted from a single plant. The other thing that should impress is the massive amount of informational content within the this wild Mustard plant's DNA for which the epigenetic mechanisms play a major role in accessing Apps, Files, Programs, etc (formerly known as Junk DNA) by turning on or off switches in genes allowing a certain gene or combination of genes to be expressed in various specific ways. 



    Whaaaaat ??? You mean all those veggies come from one common ancestral plant we call wild mustard ? Yup it's true! So how is all this possible ? Well, apparently, about 2500 years ago, Brassica oleracea was solely a wild plant that grew along the coast of Britain, France, and other countries around  the Mediterranean. That wild form which still exists today as do other familiar ones known as wild mustard which looks like the one here in the photo to the right and is also a well known weed to most Western Home Gardeners. Yup, this plant has taken over many parts of the southwestern United States on slopes which were once chaparral and especially coastal sage-scrub covered. But what's interesting is that the change within this plant are itself incredibly fascinating. And more incredible are the mechanisms within the genetics (epigenetics) which allow such changes to occur. These changes occur whether dumb luck by changed environmental cues which created the changes or whether they were intelligently directed by humans. Which leads us to more questions. If intelligent humans can purposefully direct and choose for changes in plants and we label to result as a "cultivator" or "variety," how come we don't label (bare with me here) them different species, brees or races ? Why not call different humans "cultivators" (since two intelligent people can make an intelligent choice to have children) or maybe "breeds" like we do with animals ? So we can call we humans collectively a "species," but would different races be "sub-species" ??? Amazing how nonsensical things can become when you layout in the open ? 


    You see, nobody here is arguing there is no change out there in Nature, but rather what exactly are the mechanisms for change and why do we humans label things the way we do. I mean is it really dumb luck or rather incredibly amazing complex responses within an organism's genetic makeup to outside environmental cues, purposed or otherwise which result in these changes ??? And why do these changes created by the same mechanisms really constitute all these different labels like a "Species" ??? "Sub-Species" ??? New "Breed" ??? New "Variety" ??? New "Cultivator" ??? Or ????????? πŸ˜• A while back in 2016, there was an article in National Geographic about the change of feather colour in a bird known as Northern Flickers. It was noticed that some yellow Northern Flickers were sporting feathers which were mysteriously changing to a reddish-orange plumage and the theory was that the western Red-Shafted Northern Flickers were mating with the eastern Yellow-Shafted Northern Flickers creating the orange variety. But both these birds live so far apart from one another. So how did this change happen without such cross breeding ??? It was discovered that in some areas the yellow variety of Northern Flickers were eating the red berries of an introduced non-native invasive Honeysuckle. Whatever was in the pigment (rhodoxanthin) within the berries of the Honeysuckle, it had an effect on the colouration of the plumage. It's kind of like when a person eats or drinks too much carrot juice and their skin can turns a bit yellow orange, otherwise known as Carotenosis. 😲 Still, no one has yet placed a new species label on such an effect. At least I've not yet heard of an Orange Flicker species label. But the Northern Flicker story is fascinating and illustrates part  of what makes or causes changes to occur. Here is what Matt Chew, Research Professor of Arizona State University, commented on to the Auduban Society about the term they used, "invasive" (Matt hates this term with a passion).
    "The basic finding here is that flickers that eat honeysuckle berries transport rhodoxanthin to their feathers, and ornithologists finally figured that out. Ockham's razor should have been applied to this morphological problem long ago, and at last a simple, obvious solution was recognized. But it's embedded here in a pretty thick matrix of nativist ideology." (Source - Auduban)
    Matt Chew referred to William of Ockham (Ockham's Razor) who taught that entities should not be multiplied without necessity. Seriously, dumb luck is said to always be King in creating change. The Science textbooks have always told us that changes over long deep time through random unplanned purposeless mutations (copying errors) coupled with Natural Selection (A label invented for an idea that says randomly generated variation, would be poorly designed (i.e., hindering reproduction capability) and wouldn't get propagated) are what give us different successful species. Except of course when it doesn't work that way. There are numerous well known evolutionary icons out there which are said to illustrate speciation. Darwin's Finches, Stickleback Fishes, Ciclid Fishes, Blind Cave Fish, Peppered Moths (now we have peppered snakes), etc. On the subject here of the Peppered Moths, the classic story goes like this. The peppered moths went from being mostly light-colored to being mostly dark-colored during the industrialization of 19th-century Manchester, England. The phenomena was called “industrial melanism,” and they attributed this to natural selection. The theory went,  that dark-colored moths were supposedly better camouflaged on coal soot polluted-darkened tree trunks and this is what likely helped them to survive predatory birds who couldn't see them. But then later after air quality improved because of clean air legislation in the mid-20th century, the lighter-colored moths became more common again. We are told this is how new species develop. I once had conversation with guy who insisted this is how speciation works. You couldn't convince this guy otherwise. I gave him an illustration of an Earth populated with human beings, half the population being white people and the other half black people. I said what if something caused all the white population of people to be killed off and totally eliminated, this does not mean that suddenly all the black population become a new species. They're still human. Like water off a duck's back folks. And you will still find this story in most all of the biology textbooks teaching this icon of Darwinian evolution. 
    Images - Eawag/David Marques

    Here's another example above with these three-spine sticklebacks which were introduced to Lake Constance in Switzerland around 150 years ago (a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms). Since then, the fish have apparently begun splitting into two separate types: one that lives in the main lake (pictured above left, female top, male in breeding colours below), and the other that lives in the streams that flow into it (above right). So I guess if the environmental field changes, as in the case of Stickleback fishes, Darwin's Finches, Peppered Moths, Blind Cavefish, etc, all which seemingly changed overnight when the environmental changes occured dramatically, it just question begs why would it occur 10,000 times faster within one or two generations on certain occasions when we were told it took 1000s or millions of years for the lucky development to happen in the first place ??? For example there have been experiments which have shown blind cavefish acquired functional eyes and eyesight in one generation of cross breeding with other different cave fish. They've now discovered that the loss of eyes in fish living in dark Mexican caves was not due to genetic (copying error) mutations, but rather due to genetic regulation or what we call epigenetics. Specifically, methylation of key development genes which originally repressed the eye expression, but which the later experiments revealed could be reversed to express once again the eyesight program. So to bring things up to a level of nonsense again for illustrative purposes, why don't we call blind humans another species ??? I know I know. Matt Chew also hit on another interesting point:

    "Importantly, no one has ever justified calling plants "invasive" by any scientific method. That's because it isn't a scientific claim. Although widely endorsed and regularly deployed, it is an egregious metaphor, intended to incite negative sentiment. It is a powerful figure of speech, being used to indoctrinate, not educate. Codified into laws and regulations, it supports a significant chemical biocide industry."
    Yup, sure enough, the term "invasive" being used here is a human construct and implimentation of the term really only helps to serve certain specific industrial science business interests for killing an unwanted evil invader. (plant, animal, bird, fish, whatever) πŸ˜’ So the manufacture of and use of terms can be used to manipulate meaning and justify a religious belief, polictical strategy, environmental agenda, etc. But now what about these Northern Flickers ???


    Image - Michael S. Quinton, National Geographic Creative
    Two uniquely different birds, same "kind" or "species" of the Northern Flicker. The one above is northern yellow-shafted flicker with normal coloration flying out of its nesting hole. The red-shafted northern flicker below lives in western North America, far from where the new strangely red-orange northern yellow-shafted flickers live. So for the yellow-shafted northern flicker, “you are what you eat” has proven freakishly true. They ate red berries and pigment changed feather colouration. Same could be said of identical human twins separated at birth. Both live and grow up under radically different environments and although both have identical DNA, the outward appearance & changes can be dramatic. See and watch the video:
    How does Epigenetics work ??? 
    Image - Michael S. Quinton, National Geographic Creative
    The Religious Icon Known as Tree of Life

    Illustration - NewtonsApple.org


    You may remember from your school science textbooks that iconic Tree of Life proposed by scientists to explain the origin of every living thing ? Classification and labeling within this tree was supposed to hold so much promise in our understanding of life, where it all came from and how it all works. Except that something happened along the way in how we now understand things. With the field of genetics getting past that facricated roadblock called Junk DNA, we've discovered multiple amazing things about the way the genomes of life work and operate and it has dashed many old long cherished scientific myths. For example this iconic Tree of Life no longer looks like a tree, but rather a messy tangle of a black widow spider's web. Now there is more confusion rather than clarity and those begging questions that come along with it. Once again, Matt Chew exposes some uncomfortable flaws with word semantics.

    "Words matter. Invasion is a coordinated, purposeful activity. It isn't just a way of expressing how we feel about something showing up where we didn't expect it. To demonstrate that honeysuckle is invading, we need to show that honeysuckle knows where it is, knows there is somewhere else to be, knows how to get there, and intends — as a species, mind you — to take and occupy territory that it does not presently control. Not an easy array of tasks."
    Good point on the real meaning of this word/term invasive within the context of blaming an organism for planning, scheming, knowingly intending to accomplish something selfishly evil as any sentient being would do. Unfortunately for the promoters, plants are not sentient beings. To utter such words could actually be considered heretical to Darwinian thinking. But getting back what Matt Chew said about using words/terms being utulized for one's personal agendas:
    "a powerful figure of speech, being used to indoctrinate, not educate. Codified into laws and regulations."
    It's Matt's words here which inspired me to write about a subject of terminology being used in Science for promoting political, religious or business agendas. A website I sometimes follow, but only rarely comment on is A NEW CENTURY OF FOREST PLANNING. The site for me holds some mild interest with regards to forest management and ecosystem health. Generally there is some interesting discussion on practical management of National Forests which includes a wide array of uses by the public for recreation and commercial usages. The site is often used as a platform of debate between two competing ideologies with opposite worldviews, mostly between a handful of the same regular characters. One side championing Timber Industry business interests and the other Environmental Industry business interests. A post was introduced back on March 1st 2018 by the site's Admin, Sharon, who brought up some outstanding points on what exactly qualifies as a unique species. The subject was about Extinction on the National Forests. If anyone is familiar with the Environmental Movement's tactics on how they go about getting what they want, you'll understand they first need to locate and find a specific subject (animal, bird, amphibian, reptile, plants, etc) to champion and save from extinction. This is where the fuzziness and muddled nature of the definition shell game (word semantics) with regards Species comes into play. In the New Century article on extinction about species in National Forests, an example was provided on a rare "species" *cough-cough* "variety" or "sub-species" of the San Gabriel Mountains Blue butterfly (Plebejus saepiolus aureolus) and this lawsuit was going forward to punish and hold accountible the US Forest Service who apparently allowed this critter to go extinct. Or so we are led to believe. The accusasions came from none other than the Center for Biological Diversity. This professional environmental business organization is known for it's talent in a gaming strategy called, "Sue & Settle." Nobody plays it better than they do.

    Greenish Blue Plebejus saepiolus (Boisduval, 1852)

    This isn't to minimize the importance of conserving and saving unique animals or plants on Earth, but rather when something is said to go extinct, is it really extinct given the information we now have on genetics or is this just a ploy ? Have these environmental folks actually searched every square hectare of land area to see if it may reside elsewhere ??? Take this butterfly example. What made it distinct from all other butterflies of this same species ??? Was it's unique differences something similar to the dietary changes in the Northern Flicker ??? Or was it some other environmental anomaly which actually made it break off from other butterflies of it's "kind" - "family" - "species" - whatever ??? Interestingly it was never proven or actually listed as a species, but at best seemed to be a "sub-species." An article came out last month (March 2018) in the online journal, Daily Mail, which provided a number of bullet points on this present species crisis and the sixth extinction. It wasn't exactly helpful in enlightening the public about how science defines species. And it was extremely mysterious in informing the public how they arrived at their conclusions. Again, just more murkiness. Here are a few relevant bullet points on the subject of species as they used the term in the article. 

    • "Two species of vertebrate, animals with a backbone, have gone extinct each year"
    My Thoughts: The definitions of what exactly constitutes the process of speciation is a mess and lacks clarity in my view. Matt Chew's reference to the deliberate use of the term "invasive" as being politically useful is the same here regarding species going "extinct." In this case, environmental groups will use specific terms which are especially useful for fundraising more money from followers or their political allies who have access to government coffers. But if we apply the above bullet point to the discussion at Forest Policy Planning site, who gets to decide that life forms like the San Gabriel Mountains Blue butterfly (Plebejus saepiolus aureolus) was a species and it went extinct ??? We don't have clarity on what species really means and in the case of this butterfly, it was wasn't exactly classified as a separate species, but at best a sub-species. So when the Center for Biological Diversity says that they have “gone extinct,” how do they know that these butterflies did not simply mingle in with the larger population of the same kind of butterfly somewhere else where they may have hybridized and later separated ??? I’m not trying to make light or fun of the situation here, but just what exactly we are talking about when it comes to species ??? Who'd like to read a fun Butterfly naming species story ??? 


    Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

    In the above photograph,Tom Emmel displays the set of Cyllopsis tomemmeli that he collected as a 17-year-old in 1959, but suddenly today almost 60 years later it is given a name as a new species. But is it really a new species or variety of the same kind of organism ?? Who knows, but the article is interesting and should create more questions about how we arrive at conclusions:
    FloridaMuseum: New butterfly species discovered nearly 60 years after it was first collected
    • "There are an estimated 8.7 million plant and animal species on our planet"
    My Thoughts: How exactly did they arrive at all these numbers and stats, especially before today's genome mapping tools came out ??? And if these genome mapping tools were used, what were the cutoffs used for determining a new species ??? How exactly are they made & determined ??? Are they applied specifically or broadly across the board ??? It's a lot like reading other science articles with all these deep time dates dealing with millions or billions of years. Mainly we have to take it on faith that the researchers know what they are doing for no other reasons than because they are said to be credentialed.
    • "About 86% of land species and 91% of sea species remain undiscovered"
    My Thoughts: How do they know what has or hasn't been discovered and that these percentages are correct ??? I can't do that, so how can they do that ??? I mean these numbers are so specific, but what really is the underlying foundation for them ??? The real percentage numbers could be higher or lower, but how would they even know ??? This reminds me of another dubious science discipline, Astrobiology, and something I read in an online site about extraterrestrial life being out there somewhere in the universe.
    “We know there are exterrestrial aliens out there, we just haven’t found evidence for them yet”
    If you want to read more of this, here is the link to the DailyMail Online sixth extinction article (HERE). Oh and one final bullet point from the article about this mystical future event alluded to about the coming Sixth Extinction. 
    • "Earth is enduring the sixth mass species extinction which is plunging the planet into 'global crisis', scientists have warned."
    My Thoughts: Today, Science has become the head of a modern day doomsday cult. They fingerpoint at the rest of humanity for the present climate change and never once accept or attribute blame to themselves for leading mankind down this path through their own inept scientific understanding and technology built on such ignorance. Traditionally in the past, we've all known of these various oddball religious groups who were often labeled as Doomsday Cults. But now appears the present secular belief system has caught up and have created their own version of a modern day academic Doomsday group think. You cannot read anything these days without this incessant love affair with the celebrated Sixth Extinction. I'm not minimizing the dire downward trend of the planet's ecological health. But I have no need of a scientific paper to tell or inform me that things are changing out in Nature everywhere across the globe for the worse. Take note below of an area of Switzerland, where Trachycarpus fortunei (Chinese Fan Palm) is spreading on the southern side of the Alps in moist forests and building self-sustaining populations.

    Image - Vinvent Fehr
    Here is a video from the photographer of this photo above
    Trachycarpus fortunei (Chinese fan palm) spreading in southern Ticino
    There's really nothing more here to explain about the ongoing continual mass confussion of life classification on the part of the Scientifically credentialed. One day proper classification of all living things will come about, but not at the hands of the present Scientific Orthodoxy. I believe scientists have only barely scratched the surface about the informational content of DNA and the infathomable future potential possibility for providing further future change which can give mankind interesting observations for all eternity. I believe that most of the past extinct creatures are in a sense probably still with us today in one form or another. My last post on the extinction of Megafauna well illustrates that many are still with us. Remember the extinct Giant Ground Sloths, well we still have Sloths that exist today, just not giant ones. Remember those Mammoths and Mastodons ??? Yes, these are also gone, but remember scientists have found that the frozen fossil DNA is actually the same almost identical DNA that still exists in today's African & Asian Elephant populations and that at one time they all interbred with one another. If future environmental conditions improve and go back to what they were when Earth was heavily vegetation from Pole to Pole, then the possibility of their gradual return could be a reality. Who knows. Of course we'll need another type of major climate shift. What about Dinosaurs ??? Remember Juarassic Park's sick Triceratops ??? Did it strike anyone else as to the uncanny similarity in it's skin, legs and feet, face, etc to present day Rhinos ??? While many have proposed Rhinos come from a type of Triceratops, I'm going way out on a "Just So Story" limb here and propose that Triceratops actually came from Rhinos. Is it really all that far fetched ??? I know, the Triceratops looks so much more elaborate and complex in it's development. But so does Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Kale and Kohlrabi when you compare them to their unremarkable lowly weed parent plant the wild mustard (Brassica oleracea). Maybe like the exotic more spectacular looking cultivators, the various Triceratops were also the dead end hybrids of Rhinos. Pay close attention to this spellbinding talk in the video below, as paleontologist Jack Horner tells us the story of how iconoclastic thinking revealed a shocking secret about some of our most beloved dinosaurs.


    So it turns out that many of these different dinosaur species fossil discoveries, were never new species after all, but were mere adolescence of the adults. Go figure! 😊 See how easy it is to create a just so narrative ??? Like Jack Horner said, Scientists love to name things. He also said Scientists have egos. Let's face it, there's a lot of fame, glitter and glory out there to be acquired if one can get their name up in lights for a new discovery. Also, future funding and notoriety are great motivation drivers to taxonomic exuberance. Believe it or not, most Evolutionary Biologists admire and follow Rudyard Kipling's lead in this "Just So Storytelling" tactic all the time, so I would encourage you to please read the Wiki article link below on Mr Kipling's Just So Stories children's book. Be careful folks about what and who you're donating your hard earned money to for scientific research. Species ? 😏


    Wikipedia

    "Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling

    No need for any references, you've got enough to chew on, think about, meditate and ponder on for a while πŸ˜‰
    “Sure, you can name a tree, categorize it, safely identify it. But that tree exists, living the fullness of its quiet life, even if in its long history no man ever stood before it and labeled it "Pine." It knows itself already and mysteriously encounters the sun each day, nameless.” Ivan M Granger (poet)