Sunday, March 1, 2015

Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) Ecology of Fire & Water

A tree once harvested almost to annihilation over some 5 centuries is now a saviour of sorts when it comes to creating water resources for the island's inhabitants
Photo Mine taken February 2015 on Mount Teide

The Fire Ecology
The Canary Island pine tree is fascinating in it's almost tough insistence on survival, not only on what appears to be jagged, sterile looking volcanic rock with almost no organic matter & water, but also under the constant potential for wildfire threat either by some future eruption or careless of humans. For the most part, fire often does not kill it, but in some cases not even logging it to the ground seems to stop it's persistence as a living organism. I actually have a picture of that below in the subheading section of Tenerife's ancient forest relics. Most all pine trees that I am aware of from where I come from simply do not stand up to being thoroughly thrashed by fire or even sprouting back from their trunks with a vengeance. The only exception of course is the tough Bigcone Douglas fir which is almost always associated with Chaparral often at lower elevation, than in higher located forests, though there are pockets of them there as well. So with human development encroachment and constant threat of a cigarette fire, the potential this tree's demise is ongoing. Still, it's a tough organism and a hostile world.

image: Nicky vB - 2010

Jonkersberg, Outeniqua Mtns
South Africa
Now seriously, when was the last time you ever in your life saw a Pine sapling completely burn up in a wildfire only to sprout back with an explosion of newer branches from each of the whorls around it's trunk ? This one was photographed in the Jonkersberg in Outeniqua Mountains in South Africa where they were introduced and have successfully naturalized in places. For most of us who have life experiences with fire, we've never heard of such a thing. Oh yes, there are numerous chaparral plants which re-sprout abundantly from a deeply rooted burl and maybe oaks and some other deciduous trees, but never a pine tree. Even the tough tree species like oaks will start to spring back long before the next rainy season begins, but even with available water, pines never really do. There are however those rare occasions where intense heat may scorch all the needles, but leave the tender delicate living tissue under the bark or at bud ends intact. In that case, new growth from sprouting isn't an issue. Yet, this isn't the case with the tough Canary Island Pines. They are capable of complete burn and intense regrowth afterwards. Anyone familiar with Canary Island Pines in their area should take some time and closely examine the bark of any of these incredible pines. I've always noticed a thick sponginess about the bark which seems to well insulate it from such disaster. The bark is unique in construction and if you view any healthy tree, you may observe that they continually have several small twigs or sprouts growing right out of the bark, especially in the lower areas where their first branches have been self-pruned decades previous. One interesting note here about fire. While the volcano potential fire is a given, this only occurs as very long intervals when and if the volcano emerges from it's lengthy centuries of dormancy. Other potential for fire historically in most forests is the common scenario for lightning strikes, just like the western USA, However, in the Canary Islands, did you know that lightning storms and strikes are rare, with fires started by lightning said to only be less than 0.5% ? I've linked at the bottom of this Fire Ecology subheading the paper on Pinus canariensis and fire adaptation which is an interesting read. 
Pinus canariensis and Fire for regeneration ?
This subheading is an important footnote dedicated to all the "Burn Baby Burn" people who promote the continual ongoing over zealous usage of Control or Prescribed Burns & justifying such practices by using the flawed argument that many trees and shrubs cannot reproduce without Fire. Of course this is a mere mask or cloak in disguise for wanting to reduced supposed fuel loads. As I have written previously, yes there are many trees and shrubs which have a strategy encoded within their DNA which allows them to mass reproduce in a sort of numbers game after a wildfire event. However, this strategy is not a magic bullet for justification for control burns every few years. Even in nature if this truly happened on a regular interval basis as they insist, the trees and/or shrubs would go extinct. It's simply an emergency backup plan to perpetuate the ecosystem. 
Previously I have written about my experiences regarding seed germination especially in regards to the chaparral plant community of Southern California. For over two decades of exploring and observation out in the wild, I suddenly began reading some of the fire ecology literature for the first time [believe it or not] around the year 2001 which insisted many trees and shrubs in fire pro-prone regions will not regenerate unless their ecosystem is obliterated by fire. One of these was Tecate cypress which is a tree that has what are called seratonious cones. This simply means that they will not open unless by some type of intense heat like that of wildfire or extreme temperature heat waves. But they will also open if a branch breaks or an animal or bird opens them up. It is these later example scenarios which I had always observed in the wild and I always saw Tecate Cypress seedlings [some dead some alive] within all of the old growth chaparral and Tecate Cypress Forest environments I explored prior to my reading of the literature by Fire Ecologists who wrote otherwise.      
But it was this dogmatic view or opinion by these fire ecology experts which threw me, because I had never experienced what they were writing to the public about how things worked out in Chaparral ecosystems. I had never once experienced what they were saying. I had always witnessed seedling emergence every single time I visited. After reading such literature, I took one last visit before moving to Sweden up on Guatay Mountain and sure enough there were the seedling underneath old growth chaparral. So I for the first time paid close attention to any and all clues for how these cones were releasing seeds and that is where I viewed small broken branches from windstorms and birds actually pecking on the cones to get at the seeds. But getting back to Pinus canariensis. They are listed in that paper I've referenced below as having seratiny and yet that is also not my experience with them as a Landscaper & Head Gardener. 

image: Mine

Here's rather large Canary Island pinecone
and for scale, I've added a one Euro coin 

image: Mine (May 2011)
In my own personal landscape experience, these Canary Island Pine Cones open every year, seed is thus released and readily germinates. Clearly from these two photos above & photo at left, you can all see this is true. The three photographs above of the Canary Pine seedlings & cone were taken in the old growth forest section on Tenerife this February 2015. I've created a separate subheading further on down in the post where a few giant remnants still exist below the south rim of the volcano. Two years  before leaving California to come to Sweden, I planted a raised landscape bed and used to bring mulch over from where I worked to apply around the Tecate Cypress and other native plants I installed in the landscape. I finally brought over some pine straw mulch from around the Mobile Home Park pool area which had some Canary Island Pines which should not have been planted there. Within the pine straw, were also bark, cones and other pine litter, but unknown to me were also pine nut seeds. Several volunteered immediately among all the other plants only a couple months after placing all the pine mulch down. I decided to leave many of them, but had to thin out others. There are now just three large trees. This photo from 2011 shows the scale of seedlings which emerged from germination in late 2005 which would make them at this time (2011) about 6 years old, however presently you should know that in 2015, they are more than doubled in the height you see here. What can I say, they are a remarkable tree. No fertilizer has ever been added, other than the first initial inoculation with a well blended species mix of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria which moves throughout the soil to other plants. No weeds grow here, with the exception of some stunted weeds which cannot compete in a mycorrhizal soil setting.

image: Jeff Ollerton (April 2013)- one year after wildfire 2012
I remember hearing about this fire after we visited in February 2012. It was sad to hear about but nevertheless a part of what goes on in our modern times. I had not traveled this part of the Highway prior to this past month so I do not remember what it was like. Fortunately, this explorer, Jeff Ollerton has visited quite often over the past 14 trips and was able to photograph the aftermath of what the wildfire did and the regeneration that was then just beginning to kick-start this forest system all over again. In this photo you can see the resprouting from the trunks from bottom to the top. At the top of that pointed hairpin curve in the highway you see in the picture there is a turnout where we stopped and I photographed the greener picture you see below, but first another angle of Jeff's picture from the bottom of that grade facing this direction south. 
image: Jeff Ollerton - 2013 Burn however was in 2012
In my photo below you can just see that same white patch of what looks to be something like gypsum which is the same patch as you can view it above. That is the bottom of that canyon where the road turns and travels upward again. The viewpoint where I photographed shows a much further advanced greener forest area. Below you can see the hairpin which crosses the dry wash where the above photo was take in 2012. It is the same exact location referenced above a year after the 2012 wildfires. Any wildfire which would do this in the southwestern United States would have surely killed all those trees and these ugly debates over harvest logging would be the order of the day. 
image: Mine - February 2015 - Canary Island Pine regeneration

Canary Island Pine forest regenerated again around the perimeter of El Teide Caldera's outer rim

Excellent Canary Island Pine Fire Ecology Reference
Fire Adaptations in the Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) 

Wildfire References for Canary Islands (2012)
Al Jazeera (Aug 2012) "Canary Islands fire forces mass evacuation" 
Unique Volcanic Island Hydrology
Image: Mine - The other island to the South here is La Gomera

image: Mine
In the above picture, you can clearly see another island which is called La Gomera to the south. Also notice how we are under the cloudy marine layer. Now the picture to the right here is also La Gomera, but you can clearly see we are above the cloud marine layer high up in Tenerife's El Teide's volcanic mountain ranges within it's immense caldera. From this vantage point we can also observe La Gomera's volcanic mountain tops above the same cloud layer. The forest around the giant caldera rim is almost always slightly above and below this moist layer and though it does rain and snow here above this marine layer, it has less influence from the low clouds and fog as the lower steppes receive. But quite often the marine layer is large and heavy enough to spill over these mountains as well and that is where an incredible phenomena of Canary Island Pines acting as a sieve to siphon off or tap into as much moisture as possible. The Pines have exceptionally long needles for this fog or mist capture. The abundant forest cover on Tenerife is clearly recovering from past over-cutting. Really big trees are rare because of past exploitation, but enormous specimens are now mere 'monuments' for tourists to see at certain specific turnouts. But trees in all stages of growth in extensive forests now occupy the entire pine belt surrounding the Caldera on all sides of Pico del Teide on Tenerife. When you visit today, you will not find any evidence of commercial logging or private cutting or for that matter any recent fires. The last bad fires were in 2012, but that can always change as development and people move closer to the forests inland. The Spanish authorities are well aware of the importance of retaining forest cover on this extremely permeable volcanic 'soil' of the island in order to ensure water supplies. The exploitation of its timber [which probably lasted for centuries] has been banned and this ban is strictly enforced. Past decline has not only been halted, it has been reversed due to active management and protection since the tree planting programs back in the 1950s. 

Palo Colorado Canyon Road off Hwy 1
But this same phenomena I'll get into further here of fog or mist water harvesting is an important and probably more so in the past a more common phenomena observed by many, though probably not well understood from a mechanisms standpoint. I wrote about this phenomena when over in California when my wife and I drove down the California Central coast Highway 1. What was remarkable to me is that this region is listed on the drought maps as been above the extreme designation and listed as "Exceptional Drought" region. Little rainfall in this now fourth year of mega-drought and yet we saw streams and rivers running. The question was why ? For one thing, the California Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirons) is a well known marine mist and fog water harvester. I'll post the link at the bottom in references. However, it should be known that more and more observed phenomena is being replicated through the practice of Biomimetics or Biomimicry for ecological applications of innovations humans need to use desperately. Look below

Many may have seen or read about some places around the globe where conditions are highly favourable for water harvesting this way where water resources are scarce to none. Such places such as along the Red Sea in the areas of the mountains of Western Saudi Arabia and Yemen where the plants on the tops of those mountains mostly receive their moisture reserves from the methods I'll describe in some detail below. This is also how the Canary Islands receive their moisture, but through more natural biological mechanisms. More and more, humans are going to be forced to recognize much of the natural world does have many great design applications for replicating after all, irrespective how one believes they got that way. 
So how do the Hydrological Biological Mechanisms actually work ?
Photography By: Dominic Dahncke

Waterfall Of Clouds, Canary Islands
Now think about a phenomena called Rain Fog. You have all heard and experienced it at one time or another. Especially if you are from Southern California and have experienced "May Gray" or "June Gloom" and often woke up the next morning wondering if it had rained because all the streets and surrounding landscapes were wet. Or even Central or Northern California where the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) accomplish the same exact phenomena but on a grander scale. Once again, I wrote about this last year because despite Central California coast being in the middle of the "Exceptional Drought" designation, those forests still have running streams, even though the rainfall have been extremely low. The cloud flow phenomena above is also one many have seen throughout California. Trees like even the Torrey Pines can also accomplish this water harvesting strategy. 
image: Chuck Summers

Redshank Chaparral Adenostoma sparsifolium
Old growth Chaparral also can accomplish the same task and I know because I've personally witnessed this many times. One of the best at doing this at my home on Table Mountain in Anza California was a chaparral shrub or small tree called Redshank or Ribbonwood. In fact often times because of my elevation, which was almost 500 foot higher than 4,000' Anza, I would be high up in the thick of clouds while Anza valley itself below had clear visibility under this dense Marine layer which wasn't a storm at all, but a mere May and June cloud phenomena of southern California. In Anza Valley below, there was no mist other than clouds over head, but often when I would go outside at my house much higher up during these heavy Marine Layer events, being that high up in elevation, the winds were far stronger than anywhere else and would push and shove that dense marine layer into the Redshank and I would hear what sounded like rainfall dripping from the trees, but no rain. At least there was nothing hitting me other than the heavy damp fog pushed along by strong winds. Once after 3 solid days and nights of this type of weather, I decided to make some exploratory tests to see just how much wet had occurred under several of the largest old growth Redshank small trees over the period. Now first of all, we had not had any rain for about a couple of months, since this was June. It was a clear day and none of the ground surrounding the large open spaces on the property was wet at all. Even digging down, it was fairly dry. However under numerous Redshank perimeter canopies, I dug down an average 10" and it was wet. Now if I recall, on average in good to fair soil, an inch of rain from an actual storm event will soak downwards about 10 inches. So this phenomena over three days was like the plant community receiving an inch of rain. This is something that is never ever gets recorded in the rainfall record books. And yet it's very real. This is why all vegetation cover is so important irrespective of the type of plant community or ecosystem. 
Officially, this type of weather phenomena is called in the science books by the name "Occult Precipitation" and I hate that reference. Other preferable names are "Fog or Mist Rain", but here is the definition from Oxford Dictionary:
"Precipitation arriving at a location by processes that would normally go unrecorded by a standard rain gauge, e.g. the condensation of mist and fog on foliage." 
  (Source: Oxford Dictionary)
Photo: Mine
The Canary Island pine tree has extremely long needles which  helps to make a significant contribution to the islands water supply, by trapping large amounts of condensation from the moist marine air or low clouds coming off the Atlantic with the prevailing north eastern wind (locally called "alisios"). So, like Ascension Island way to the south, though the Canary Islands do get proper storms and some even with snowfall on the Pico Del Teide volcano, a very large unrecorded amount of precipitation is received as this fog-drip ("occult precipitation"): accumulation of fog droplets on vegetation and other obstacles or horizontal interception. (Oddly enough, most of my Anza rain was almost always from horizontal as opposed to vertical, with exception of Monsoons). These long pine needles act like a sieve to strain out as much moisture condensation as possible which then drops to the ground and is quickly absorbed by the porous volcanic soils, eventually some making it's way deeper by percolating this moisture down to the underground aquifers which benefits the island inhabitants. 
Still, I often wonder if there are perhaps other mechanisms at work here. For example take a look at the above picture of a cut out along the roadside where exposure of vertical roots of a Canary Island Pine are present. Previously on a number of occasions I've written about a phenomena called Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution which a handful of excited and dedicated scientists like Todd Dawson are really only scratching the surface and learning about. This phenomena is where it has been discovered that many deeply rooted trees and shrubs tap into underground aquifers or moist subsoil layers during the dry season and hydraulically lifting large amounts of water for their personal use and also redistributing large amounts to other plants nearby. Now take a look at these root infrastructure mechanisms here in the photo on the left. The ectomycorrhizal fungi colonized on pine roots increase water and nutrient absorption by 200%. They colonize only the area around the rooting tips where the finer pine root absorption regions are anyways. The fungi when providing water to their host, do so at their furthest extended reaches by capturing minute water molecules and in the process of pulling them back towards the main pine root plumbing infrastructure, gradually link up within the fungal grid to other mainline branches of the fungal network itself. Closer and closer to the main pine root these smaller water molecules become clustered as they move through the mycelial network and become actual true droplets of water for hydrating their host.
Hydraulic Descent
Now, think of Hydraulic Descent, which is the reverse of Lift. This is the plant's ability to pull water from damp wet surface areas and pump them deep into the ground as far as their roots extend below. Many plants like Honey or Velvet Mesquite which go dormant in winter and loose their leaves actually perform this service during dormancy while they are basically asleep from all outside appearances. I have to be honest here, the researchers do not discuss this phenomena of descent as much as lift, but it could well be in the realm of possibility that this is how historically more water infiltrated aquifers and facilitated springs in the past than at present. It makes sense that water would have a faster conduit downwards through a major network of old growth root systems as compared to light slower percolation through volcanic soils which are however admittedly open and porous. These Canary Islands have become my new favourite place. Not only do I feel more at home here than where I originally hail from, but I walk away with more and more questions on just how, what, where & the why of everything. I spend more and  more time with the camera away from the car at almost every turnout looking for signs of truffles  within the pine woodlands, until I got hollered at with things like, "Let's go, come on, what are you doing ?" *sigh* Now some great views of some relics of old growth still standing on this island. This was a treat as this is the first time I ventured on this newer unexplored highway for me. 
Some Ancient Forest Relics still in existence despite historical  clear cutting
Image: Mine (February 2015)
image: Mine
The trees to the right here are from an area which contains the most giant old growth Canary Island Pine trees I've ever seen in all my visits. These were cut down close to the ground to create a park type of setting around some giants, but they clearly refuse to die. California's Coast Redwood does the same thing which is why timber operations grind out the burls to prevent the suckering for next generations harvest. Pine trees where I come from simply do not exhibit this type of behaviour. If they are cut down to a stump at ground level and they are finished for good. These cut down trees in fact are just a few meters away from the huge tree with my wife standing for scale in the top photograph which is near one of the rare traffic turnouts on this extremely narrow steep roadway. There is also a Ranger Station just to the left and behind the camera angle. Other giant mammoth trees also are all around this one in the canyon and it is a new sight for me as I have never seen such large relic trees here on previous visits. But clearly in cutting some of these smaller trees to the ground, they meant to open up the area here around these immense giant Canary Island Pine remnants or relics of a past which no doubt were what the first Spanish explorers most likely saw  as a common sight everywhere.

image: Mine
Although it no doubt is evident that though fire was a continual threat on such a large volcanic island, even in this old growth area it no doubt increased with the presence of humans. This is seen here from the charred outlines on the trunk of this tree just about ten meters away from the large one at the top. The country of Spain first discovered the islands in 1402 and took an entire century confirming their position as rightful sovereign, even though as with other discoveries, there already were an indigenous population of people here. Over the next couple of centuries the history is a broken record of other land grabbing nations trying to evict the Spanish who prevailed in the end. What a surprise, nothing ever changes, even today.

image: Mine
There was another giant tree there across the road at the auto turnout for viewing and was opposite the other large tree, but extended further down into the steep canyon and was impossible to get a complete picture. Still the massive multi-trunks are impressive. As I previously mentioned under the subtitle under hydrology, these trees are merely a small remnant of the former glory that was most of this island. Of course this type of history has repeated itself over and over again and again throughout throughout the  globe. But apparently humans simply have never learned a lesson. Even now armed to the teeth with abundant knowledge of how nature really works, we still are dealing with complete destruction issues on a grand scale. Nobody seems to want to get the major importance of old growth trees and all types of healthy old growth vegetation play in climate creation and weather moderation. More Laws don't appear to be the answer as small scale criminal operations and huge industrial corporations seem to view such further Laws as newer opportunities for more corruption & Loopholes. See, nothing changes. Now take a look at this photograph below which I took along another turnout with a great view angle of the ridge line to the north.

image: Mine
This picture I took from a pullout I couldn't resist taking. The tree clearly stands out from the rest of it's neighbours. It reminded me of an immense old growth picturesque Big-Cone Douglas Fir tree I use to always spot driving home from work on Hwy 74 from Hemet California and looking south just at the right location through the South Fork of the San Jacinto River canyon. It was always so beautiful and stood out so well in contrast to the surrounding steep topography of the canyon walls. The US Forest Service did some irresponsible control burns in this can which were totally unnecessary and this tree unfortunately and surprisingly paid the ultimate price. It's now gone. I took another picture of a similar view from a Cafe we stopped at of two other old growth trees which stood out in contrast, but this was my favourite. These were always the kinds of anomalies that made me explore actual ground location of things in the past. Now I just don't have the power and luxury of time to pursue every whim and notion for exploring.
 Quick Update on Ascension Island Cloud Forest called Green Mountain
image: Ascension-Island Government

On a Remote Island, Lessons In How Ecosystems Function

Lanzarote National Park of Timanfaya
The Ascension Island is near St Helena in the Southern Atlantic Ocean between Africa and South America. Right west of Angola if that gives some reference for you. The island wasn't always looking like the big green lush photograph you see above. When Charles Darwin visited Ascension Island in 1836 on his voyage with the ship Beagle, he declared it to be "naked hideousness". But it was British Botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, who had the bright idea of planting trees on the mountains which would bring more rainfall. His idea or scheme is what we call "Terra Forming".  The raw canvas both men saw was much like the smaller photo here to the right with mere volcanic rock, lifeless looking soils and very little life other than maybe biological soils crusts. That pic by the way is one of the Canary Islands closest to Morocco. Mostly lichens, mosses, algaes and ferns. No indigenous or introduced & naturalized shrubs or trees anywhere. I wrote an article about another article on Ascension Island which I will reference in a link below of this beautiful green island picture at the top. What appalled me were the critics of Fred Pearce's article on lessons we can learn as far as ecosystem function. You see in Ascension's early history, there were no ponds, springs or streams. There was no real fresh water source anywhere for the British outpost set up on the island. There was one small spring, but it was remote and couldn't support any human settlement. Most all water and other supplies had to be brought in. In this time of dire climate change, it was a golden opportunity for scientists and other researchers to come and study mechanisms on what creates cloud formation, moderates weather and causes precipitation. Keep in mind that this island's transformation has taken place in little over 100 + years. However very few people were interested in studying this transformation and weather mechanism, why ? 

Stroud finding a supposedly extinct Fern
Mostly the vicious criticism came from ideologically driven researchers freaking out over they couldn't block from their minds as Invasive Species which totally fogged the real issue at hand and that is how to reverse climate change and repair the earth. There is no argument that invasiveness and a screwed up planet in general can be found everywhere. Numerous things were done many many years ago which we can not do nothing about, but what these people were missing was the climate driving mechanisms through the artificial forest foot stomping hissy fit they were throwing. The other argument was that existing endemic species had disappeared or were going extinct. The photo to the left here is of Green Mountain's Conservation Officer, Stedson Stroud, who found what was insisted upon to be an extinct fern. The volcanic island prior to human influence was once sterile from a visual point of view other than biological soil crusts. But it's this artificially applied vegetation growth that apparently offends many of this world's Ideologues for principal reasons. Once again, prior to these plants, it was mostly a collection of Biological Soil Crusts [bacteria, lichens, mosses, algae, Ferns, etc]. But you cannot communicating anything with these types of people whose view of themselves are only they are keepers of all knowledge and any understanding on their precious revered topic (biological diversity) is generally considered their prerogative. Any understanding must go through them. I once got myself in hot water about a year and a half ago when a person from a desert protection ecology group posted a photograph of their favourite outback Badlands spot at the Anza Borrego Desert. I made an innocent comment about how many people would view such a place as nothing more than a wasteland, but I see it as having great future potential. I merely meant potential of creating an environment of desert plant community which would further benefit all manner of other desert wildlife. But the commenter was outraged and I was chastised. In their view, it was perfect as is and any thought of even desert plants, animals and birds thriving there was repugnant. Whatever people!  It wasn't even worth giving a response. Things are not as bad on the Ascension Island as the outraged scientists want us to believe, who would rather the plant life be removed. Seriously, you have to read it to believe it. Actually, I've written Stedson and he has been busy with tough job of keeping under control one of the native plants from the Southwestern United States, Mesquite, which has spread by seed by wild feral Burros. He also has had to keep up with capturing and removing over 500 cats which were killing off the native sea birds and their young on the plains below. So clearly some things need correcting. I wrote to Stedson a message and thanked him for his hard work and to keep it up despite the vicious criticism they received. He responded with this: 
"Thank you kindly for those words above, I sometimes feel let down and used by the very people I have helped and trust. But as a committed conservationist, I keep going, earlier this year I discovered a new algae and a new to science fungi in a sea vent on the South East coast of Ascension."
Of course not all is lost as much of the alarmist fear mongering insisted would happen. Below is a short paragraph from another article about Ascension Island back in December 16, 2010
"Beneath the summit ridge on Green Mountain, on the lawns of a small garden, Mr Stroud nurtures indigenous plants. He discovered one fern only a couple of years ago—a species hidden for centuries. He plants the successes under a huge fig tree on the ridge. When they flourish he takes them further out into what on other islands would be the wild, but here is the artifice, returning occasionally to check up on them and take more seed. While he and his successors are here, those ferns and grasses will be safe from extinction. And a few are taking the initiative themselves. Xiphopteris ascensionis, a tiny endemic fern, had never seen a tree before the Victorian planters came. Now it lives in and on them, nestled in their moist bark, pioneering the epiphytic way of life familiar from ancient forests around the world and discovered afresh in their youngest cousin. Life, with helping hands, adapts."
(Source: BBC) 
Below are a couple examples of the Endemic Natives successfully mixing and taking better advantage provided by the non-native invasive plants which have provided further opportunity for them to excel and thrive more so than previously. I know some ideologically driven purists  don't want to hear or see such things, but apparently, to quote their own belief system, "life found a way". 

Fern (Xiphopteris ascensionensis)

Growing on invasive giant Bamboo


Fern (Xiphopteris ascensionensis)

Growing on what most likely is an invasive Laurel tree branch
So where does all of this leave us now ?
The subject of Climate Change is all over the Global News, but what isn't in the News other than short story accounts of Nature successes as Ascension and Canary Islands which give mere token acknowledgement as something of local interest and then shelved away, are those interesting biological mechanisms which make the whole climate thing a success. This subject should be in the main stream news. But it's not, other than the political back biting and positioning one team over another. The questions that are not being asked here are, "What are the mechanisms which make the global climate function, what creates clouds and moderates the weather, how does rainfall and other precipitation really occur and what do plants have to do with that ?" But we don't get such questions. There are plenty of examples like Easter Island where uncontrolled deforestation hurt the population in the end. Other examples of desertification in Africa and the American southwest as the result of plant communities being obliterated for short term profit potential could be helped once again to recovery by researching and further understanding how these mechanisms function. If vegetation removal causes less rain and mega-droughts, shouldn't replanting reverse that ? In the dictionary definition given on "Occult Precipitation", which defined the mist or fog rain phenomena as a form of precipitation which cannot be measured, then just how much of that mystery water have many areas actually lost during this climate shifting ? If most of the measurable rain records show major declines, how much more so of this un-measurable precipitation has been lost if we could actually put a number on it ? Nobody seems interested enough to ask. Clearly, some of these Fog or Mist capturing devises should be transformed into remote weather stations for monitoring in certain areas for measurements of marine layer precipitation.
Myths, Fables, Storytelling & What in the world is the real Truth ?
Throughout the 20th century, there have been many stories or legends about natural phenomena which were written or spoken about in ancient times by various cultures and peoples who for the most part have been regarded as mere superstitions, myths, fables, etc by today's various intellectual elites. But I have always been really intrigued by and curious about what real natural world phenomena they were first hand eye witness observers to and from which they could only explain things based on their limited knowledge of things like science. For example, about a month ago I watched a science documentary about the first discovery of many of the new animals originally found and documented by scientists in Australia when Europeans first colonized. There was debate over whether Duckbilled Platypus actually laid eggs or gave live birth. The Aboriginal natives had told the White Europeans that the Platypus laid eggs, but this was discounted as a fable and myth, because these peoples were illiterate, ignorant, primitive savages and what could they possibly know that a white European scientist couldn't discover and verify. Until that happened, such a thing was ridiculous. As it turned out such official verification and discovery was up to British Scientist William H. Caldwell. Click on this link and read the first short paragraph under introduction. It verifies what the BBC documentary I watched said: 
"The central narrative of this paper is the 'discovery' by British scientist W H Caldwell that monotremes (platypus and echidna) lay eggs. The famous telegram 'monotremes oviparous, ovum meriblastic' (monotremes lay eggs of the same sort as reptiles), sent to the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Canada in 1884, put to rest a debate about whether platypus laid eggs or had live young that had raged throughout the century. The story reveals much about the imperial shaping of scientific knowledge. Observers in Australia and Aboriginal informants, who had asserted that platypus laid eggs, had been disbelieved. 'Discovery' was reserved for Caldwell, a British scientist of impeccable scientific lineage."
Another interesting phenomena which doesn't receive much press or given much acknowledgement is the incredible phenomena of mushroom Truffle formation by mycorrhizal fungi almost immediately after Lightning Storms. The Romans and Greeks both recorded such observations, but these have been discounted by most scientists as myths or fables if you've tried to research the literature. The accounts have been categorized under what are a part of the Roman and Greek Mythologies. Then of course there are the Bedouins of the Negev who call these desert truffles ‘the thunder fungus’ and so do other African peoples who search for the Kalahari Desert Truffles after lightning storms. However, I knew of this from observation back in the 1980s when I would go out to search for Pisolithus tinctorius mycorrhizal truffles. Certainly many would appear in Spring, but especially after the Monsoonal Rain season hit Anza starting around the first of July. Almost two weeks after the heaviest Thunderstorms over my favourite specific collection areas occurred, I would go and collect the dried mature truffles. The are edible and sometimes they would still be a fresh white colour, but I wanted dried truffles for their spores for inoculation. So I waited a while for them to age. The main point is, while I always new the where, I never knew the when until after Lightning Storms. Here are two of Tom Volk's references giving some legitimacy to what others label myths about truffle formation after lightning storms.
Terfezia and Tirmania, Desert Truffles (terfez, kama, p/faqa) Delicacies in the sand or manna from Heaven?
Tom Volk: "The Lightning and the Truffle"
Then of course there are what many would call the biblical creation myths. I get the argument and dislike Science has against Christendom, I don't care for many of their beliefs or their  historical atrocious conduct either, but the newer 20th & 21st century enlightenment movement hasn't exactly managed the world's affairs any better either then they did. Pushing that baggage aside for the moment, take a moment and look at the referenced verse below and read it.
 Genesis 2:6 Amplified Bible (AMP)  
 "But there went up a mist (fog, vapor) from the land and watered the whole surface of the ground"
This scriptural text has always intrigued me since the early 1960s when it was first read to me. Why ? Because it's odd, not normal, sounds crazy and out of touch with reality as I understood normal back then when it comes to hydrology. In other words, rainfall coming from actual storms off oceans, moving over land masses and dumping rain. Still, in view of how other peoples have been treated in the past by so-called intellectuals which were proven wrong, could there really be any shade of truth to this, if only as an observation ? So I asked myself, could this original writer have also been recording information as he actually observed it back several thousand years ago ? Was he recording phenomena occurring as it was normal and common to him thousands of years ago ? Ultimately I really have no idea for sure. But the location where this information was written down was in the Sinai Peninsula which is right next door where moisture is observed hydrating the various ecosystems within those western Saudi Arabia Mountains today next to the Red Sea. Once again I still have no real clue, and this puzzle got me interested more and more in just how plants could hydrate an entire community through a mycorrhizal fungal network under pristine healthy vegetative conditions which would have been more common then in ancient times thousands of years before the planet held our present 8+ billion humans who have mostly defoliated this planet. We can acknowledge that the present mist or fog precipitation phenomena didn't always occur on Ascension island prior to the introduction of Trees, Shrubs and other plants. But now it does once those trees and shrubs took over and created a cloud forest. Also we know now that desertification does indeed occur when vegetation is removed from an environment. Given the fact that far less humans existed at that time period and more healthy vegetative systems were most likely in existence 1000s of years ago than today, it could be reasonable to assume such a common hydrological system was real at one time. Even Austrian Forester and Physicist Viktor Schauberger (1878-1958) who often tried to describe a phenomena of upwards movement of water within healthy old growth forests by attributing such phenomena to some sort of mysterious energy, had scientific community establishment critics who thought he was a crackpot. How could he possibly have known about old growth forests incredible ability at Hydraulic Lift and redistribution ? He did however make observations of pure clean water springs and brooks disappearing after old growth forest trees were cut down. He attributed it to the sun having a negative effect of draining power away from the naturally occurring energized water as he called it. Today however we know far more than he did and yet he was correct that such a phenomena did indeed exist. The main problem with today's intellectual movement is that they will automatically discount such phenomena for no other reasons than they hate who the messengers might be. That's irresponsible, but clearly throughout time, this has historical precedent. How many important discoveries have been stifled because of condescending arrogance by the ruling elite in our world ? At least for the people who know me and what I am talking about, this phenomena and other intriguing complex networked functions which move and sustain ecosystems, this gives hope and promise that based on many of these facts, that the earth can be biologically repaired and made a more sustainable place in which to reside. The only thing that stands in the way is proper leadership from all ruling sources. Off hand the present leadership fails here. Still, for the moment, people can still decide what to believe and make practical application where important.
Now, getting back once again to Pinus canariensis
image: Mine (June 2014)
Last year when my wife and I visited Southern California in May 2014, where we treated to the familiar news reports of wildfires everywhere. Especially in San Diego County. I wrote an article called: "Should Firefighters be expected to save Homes which are located in fire trap geography and where the owner cared less about landscape hygiene ?" where I pointed out many of the landscape mistakes up in San Marcos California the average landowner made in managing their land. I photographed one Canary Island Pine across the street from one of my relatives house. The intensity of the heat from that fire was so very high that although their house didn't burn, the window blinds inside all melted. They were fortunate. So was this Canary Pine in the photograph here to the right. The tree didn't actually burn up, but was heat scorched as you can clearly see in the photograph taken last year here. I wanted to find out when deciding to write this post, just how that tree had faired at this point in time, given it's remarkable recovery capability. So I called up and requested a new photograph of this same tree across the street for an important comparison. BTW, this is Coronado Hills up above Cal State San Marcos.

Can anyone here spot the rather large glaring mistake that was done by the home owner ? Yes, that's right, the home owner had tree trimmers come in and top this Canary Island Pine tree. Had the tree trimming company actually known their business and knowledge of trees, they would have advised the customer to wait and see what happens. Of course maybe they did know and opted not to recommend waiting as that would have lost the account and some business. Clearly after topping this tree, we can see the lower part did come back with a fresh coat of new needles. Had the homeowner also known what the Tree Trimming Company should have known and informed them about, the entire tree would most likely still be intact today. Of course, even I haven't always known many of these things, but now I do, and so do you if you're reading and share this info with others
And Now Finally - Canary Pines recovering in San Gabriel Mountains - Photo by science writer Charlie Hohn
image by Charlie Hohn - San Gabriel Mtns 
Some further reading References on Canary Islands
Fire Adaptations in the Canary Islands Pine (Pinus canariensis)
Local variability of serotinous cones in a Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis) stand
Canopy transpiration of a semi arid Pinus canariensis forest at a treeline ecotone in two hydrologically contrasting years
Some Further Reading Reference on Ascension Island
On a Remote Island, Lessons In How Ecosystems Function
The Economist: "Another green world"
(2012) Team Member Stedson Stroud – Saving Ascension’s wildlife
Ascension Island - plant restoration

Now some references of interesting note, biological soil crusts - Desert & Boreal Forest
I actually wrote two posts about these. One for the common biological soil crusts in desert regions which are most talked about and second, I wrote about my observations about the same species of organism which inhabit forests, since the average person has a hard time appreciating Desert crusts. The organisms are the same [Lichens, Mosses, Fungi, Bacteria, etc], but display mere epigenetic changes in how the function & have progressed within a woodland environment. Brace yourself here -> Desert Biological Crusts are patiently waiting for the system to improve and provide a foundation for the success of higher lifeforms. Soil Crusts were the foundation lifeforms on Ascension Island which made the larger plants a success. Deal with it!
Biological Soil Crusts: What Are They and Why Should I Care ?
Biological Soil Crusts: Boreal & Temperate Forests ???
Links I made reference to in the above post:
Should Firefighters be expected to save Homes which are located in fire trap geography and where the owner cared less about landscape hygiene ?
Climate Change and "Ascension Island"
Marine Layer Fog or Mist Water Harvesting Ideas 
Collective Scientific Genius: "Incapable of Identifying Weather Mechanisms Through the Cloud Forest" !!!
Finally, References regarding biological influences on cloud Formation & Rainfall

Stay tuned here. I will comb through my blogs and select some of the most relevant posts [too numerous to list] which I have written on cloud formation, weather creation and climate moderation

Friday, February 13, 2015

Attracting Wild Bees & Wasps to Landscapes & Farms is the best Insurance Policy

It's not only good business model, but a great insurance policy as well
Photo by Brett Blaauw

There are 420 species of bees in Michigan.
 The more pollinators attracted to farms, the better.

This is not going to be the usual save the Honey Bees story, although I love honey bees. But the problem is so much attention is given to the semi-domestic critter of Euro variety fame, that almost no attention of wild bees comes down line to the average person. I'm talking all manner of wild bees and beneficial parasitic wasps. While all bees will suck nectar, countless varieties are also parasitic and even carnivorous. What is amazing and exciting is that more and more farmers and small groups on their own are taking this to heart. Never expect any help from industrial agriculture which has no interest in ruining their business model. I actually started this post as a draft last May 2014, but you may wish to read the article on your own from the link below: 

Conservation Biological Controls

Habitat Management to Encourage Beneficial Insects and Control Pests

Vineyard Brands, Vermont, Biological Controls with Geese
Recently I stumbled upon a slideshow presentation from the, Xerces Society, which was set up by Wildlife Biologist Marcus Miller, who actually put on a beautiful presentation of photos with brief footnote comments which illustrated  various beneficial insects and exactly what they can do for your garden, landscape or farm. There are even slides of some Central Valley California Farmers planting rows of native flowering California Chaparral to facilitate this purpose of attracting beneficial insects further, but I'll reference it in another post. This Conservation Bio-Control presentation was again, created by Wildlife Biologist Marcus Miller, which referenced many types of beneficial insects for pest control as opposed to the conventional pest management control recommended and controlled by this world's Corporate Industrial Agriculture business interests. Sustainable management tips are given on Colorado Potato Beetle and European Corn Borer and many others are presented in this wonderful slide presentation. Presently, there are many small Farm operation Vineyards like the above photo, who are taking up the natural approach to pest control. Without me commenting very much, I'll let the slides do the work, with only a few comment interludes.
When you look back at many of the things you were taught in school from government approved textbooks on how they believed the way our natural world worked according to the then known Science, we are at a point now where people are realizing that Science wasn't always right after all. So you begin to question and become suspicious of blanket statements about this thing called "Scientific Certainty" as it's presented to us by the Corporate Industrial Science folks. The sad state and poor health of our planet Earth's natural world is a testament as to how scientific consensus has actually been more wrong than right. It's easy for the science type defenders to view such material as presented by Marcus Miller above and say, "Well see, Science is self-correcting". Except when it's not and then is glaringly wrong. The biggest problem has been not Science being used as a tool, but the people who have appointed themselves as being in charge of just how one goes about using that tool. The Industrial Science continually alleges only they have consensus in science, because it's been their prime way of bullying the people [the general public] into believing many things which are not true. Originally, wasn't the whole point of science that we have to question consensus, especially when we see it going in the wrong direction ? We all should have the freedom to debate on how to interpret evidence. But the question is, what exactly is real evidence, especially since both sides claim to have 'The' evidence ? 
"The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid . . "
All sides have what they view and claim as the evidence to back their version of what is the truth, but it's that interpretation & challenging of the said evidence that put's one at odds with the consensus as established by the prevailing ruling orthodoxy within Science. In the case of how to Farm, Landscape and Garden, Industrial Science claims all knowledge must come through them because only they have 10s of 1000s of peer-reviewed papers and the scientific consensus is on their side as a result. So they argue from authority and citation bluff their way into the pursuit of wealth. But how can the average person tell which evidence is truly relevant ? In a Court of Law the rules for relevant evidence are defined as anything that has a
"tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence"
You should also note however that for evidence to be evidence it need not compel a conclusion; it need only have a tendency to lead to the conclusion. Now I didn't really want to bring this up again, but take the GMO debate in December of 2014 at "Intelligence Squared" as a court room example of sorts. In the end if we are to believe the results of the audience polling, we could conclude that Team Organic had no evidence to make their case. At least this is what you read from readers all over the Internet who made this claim. Hence in most discussions after that debate, defenders of GMOs insisted that Team Organic lost because they had no evidence. That would be an ignorant conclusion. Of course there was evidence. It was a matter of not properly interpreting that evidence and showing the audience where it was relevant. However, the evidence they presented and the way they presented it just did not persuade the audience whom we could liken to a Jury in a court of law. In actual fact, I personally know that they did not use ALL of the evidence that was at their disposal, as I previously pointed out in another post. Their case was not professionally prepared which was irresponsible on their part. If this had been a real legal case, any defendant who lost as a result of poor judgement on the part of their lawyers, would have easily been allowed an appeal if that debate were a real court trail. That's why they lost, not because the Team Monsanto had better evidence. They didn't. They bluffed and definition shell gamed their way around the evidence which they twisted masterfully. It is however unfortunate that we and nature all have to be paying the high price for flawed evidence which allows the prevailing orthodoxy to control the world's food supply. Nothing under the present system will change that. However, there are several things people can do personally as individuals as to their own urban landscape or gardening project, or even small farm. I'll post some of those ideas from Marcus Miller again in my next post from the link below here:

How to construct the best Insurance Policy for your Agricultural Business Venture
Complete Reference from Xerces Society slide presentation:
 Xerces Soceity Marcus Miller Presentation on Biological Control Habitat