Thursday, June 27, 2013

Science which was once Curiosity & Discovery driven, now replaced by Corporate Science - So What Happened ?

(AP Photo/Jaime Henry-White)
Back in the 1960s with the development and movement of everything Ecology, it seemed our natural world with it's various ecosystems were more in trouble than ever. Most kids my age then were so in tuned with caring and wanting to change things for the better out in Nature. So what ever happened to outdoor field activities which encouraged observation of everything ecology ? I think I know what the problem could be, take a look here above left in the photo. Kids are more and more disconnected with the reality of the outdoor Natural World now than ever before. They have no clue what the Natural World is all about and yet, we humans are so tied to it and dependent upon it for life. And without life, even electronics which can be valuable tools in their proper place would have no meaning. I remember the old days when kids were at summer Nature Camps, Indian Guides, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorer Scouts along with all manner of private summer camps, etc. Of course,  I do understand that many of these groups are made fun of now days and put down for several ideological reasons, but I'm mostly focusing  specifically here on the aspect of their ability to get kids to appreciate and respect Nature irrespective of ideological concerns today that seem to be the driver behind much of this world's hatred of others. Nature is something almost totally missing from the life of today's child, with the exception perhaps of Rural kids. Not just kids, but even adults are more out of touch with the reality of the Natural World around them than ever before. Here is a short few paragraphs from that article about the new modern day Summer Camps.
"The 12-year-old from Florida is spending two weeks at a summer camp in a program that teaches programming skills to young people."
Of course such a youth camp seems to be beneficial and of course may even be productive as far as developing skills early in life which will enhance further learning ability. But then there was the real motive further down the article which was given as to future career moves on the part of these youths who were given this head start. Our modern day world is obsessed with getting ahead and climbing the corporate ladder. Acquiring many material possessions are  advertised as the key to happiness in life. But such has not been the case and such goals, which are propagated by this push for consumerism, have required a fair amount of raping the Earth for it's natural resources. Indeed, most of our globe's National economies are based on this industrial worldview of dominating markets through competition. But this philosophy is also killing our planet. Many of the promised job market promoted in the article will not even be there for the majority when they graduate. 
"There will be 1.4 million computing jobs by 2020 but only 400,000 computer science students by that time, according to, a nonprofit with a list of who's who in the tech world on its advisory board including Twitter creator Jack Dorsey and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston."
"And the jobs pay well. The median annual wage for a computer programmer, for instance, was $71,380 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, jobs for network and computer systems administrators are growing at double the national average, with a median annual salary of $69,160." 
(Source: Yahoo News)
"Coding Camps for Kids rise in Popularity"
This is not just a kids only issue. The countless modern day social media outlets which compete for the average adult's online obsession and multiple companies who provide electronic devises which have made addicting people to a virtual world where advertisers of consumer goods can be exploited on a constant basis is also another issue. 
I don't really want to spend any time debating that article from Yahoo and/or the adult addiction issues, other than kids and adults need to get off their backsides more and understand what Nature is all about and how things in the natural world actually work-function and how we can and must maintain all those Natural mechanisms. That article in Yahoo actually reminded me of something else I saved awhile back, but had forgotten about until now. There was an article in the University of Arizona News which brought to the surface something that has truly been really missing with many Scientists and other Professional Researchers themselves who rely too heavily on Electronics and the Lab in their work assignments. They rarely venture out into the field anymore, with the exception of a few notable field trip adventures. I have to assume that their thinking is that everything is now archived on the Internet and that all experiments and observation can be done from a Lab now. See what electronics does. It mentally handicaps and shackles one to a life of indoor prison. The article from the University of Arizona was called:
 "Back to the Future: A New Science for a Changing Planet"

Photo: R. Anderson

"Science is passed on through
- Rafe Sagarin
This article had some great quotes in it which illustrated what's wrong with the way modern science conducts research and the laziness with which is evident by many of it's failed programs for carrying out most any kind of policy for rebuilding ecosystems and replicating Nature as far as technological innovation through biomimicry. Everyone should really read this article from the link I've provided above. But there are some relevant learning quotes which illustrate the importance of physically getting your back side out in Nature and finding out the truth of a matter for yourself as opposed to taking on faith what someone claiming to be Authority thinks, wrote or read about. There is one important subtitle in the article which talks about the Scientific Method and why it fails today. I'll quote this section in it's entirety and than comment on it afterwards.
When Existing Scientific Methods Fall Short
"The scientific method as it is usually taught to college students works by formulating a hypothesis, then devising an experiment to test that  hypothesis, do the experiment and either reject, accept or modify the hypothesis depending on the outcome. But this approach, the authors  say, falls short when tasked with untangling the myriad of factors that influence global process such as climate change or changes affecting  entire ecosystems."
 “You have to break your experiment down into very small pieces to  make sure there aren't any confounding factors,” Sagarin said. “You  have to focus on a very small number of variables to obtain statistically valid results, but of course climate change and other big environmental  changes involve huge numbers of variables.”
In other cases, it may be unethical to test a hypothesis by performing  experiments, for example when studying how changing temperatures  shift the geographical distribution of organisms.“It would not be ethically acceptable to do the experiment you want to do to test this, which is transplanting species outside of their range and then see if  they survive.”
 In contrast, simply going out into nature and observing might lead to unexpected and valuable discoveries, as Sagarin learned during his time as an undergraduate student at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station at Monterey Bay, Calif. In his effort to learn what animals inhabited the tide pools just outside the institute, he had to dig deep into the library and dust off a scientific publication from the 1930s.
“All I did for my undergraduate thesis was repeat exactly what this guy in the 1930s had done – looking at every square yard along a transect line traversing the shoreline, counting the animals and comparing that to what he had found 60 years earlier.”
His observations, belittled by his fellow students as antiquated  biological “stamp-collecting,” turned out to have a profound impact." 
 (Injecting my personal opinion: this is also very illustrative, not only of the youth immature behavior which would be expected, but often in our modern times this same exact type of conduct is exhibited by supposedly Adult Academics)  
 “We found that the numbers and varieties of species had completely  changed,” Sagarin said, “and when compared to long-time records of  water temperatures, our findings were consistent with the idea that the  warming climate was affecting these populations. It was one of the first studies showing that climate-related change in animal communities was something that is happening right now, not something out of a computer model that may or may not happen in the future.”
The beauty of looking at archived references is that quite often the present system lacks what evidence that there once was in the way the Natural World once operated, no matter how detailed, specific or what subject you may be researching. Presently, I'm reading once again both dairies and/or journals of Juan Baustista de Anza and two of those of his traveling companions on his trek from Yuma to San Jacinto Valley. Many of the things he wrote about as far as geographical regions and observable plant communities which existed back then were right on accurate, even though many of those features today are either completely gone or so altered as to be completely changed. But by a comparison I did when I first read these dairies, everything was pretty much the way he said it was as far as the ecological bio-diverse richness of these areas. Admittedly, when I first moved to Anza Valley and read a Chamber of Commerce Brochure of the area and quotes of Juan Bautista de Anza describing the area as a lush paradise, I originally considered it a joke or an economic PR campaign of the local business enterprise community. But I was dead wrong. Though the region has gone down hill ever since like so many other areas of the globe, what it once was could be rebuilt, if only studied and replicated. I then  compared his Diary record to the accounts told to me when I did interviews with people in their 80s & 90s back in 1982 up in Anza California who came from families that were the original homesteaders of the area in the late 1800s and this was further clarified, confirmed and authenticated when I actually went out into the field and found some remnants of various plant indicators which told of a far different climate environment than we have at present. Or perhaps I should say at least at that time period back then of 1982. Since then things have further deteriorated and the area's forest timber line has further retreated up higher elevation slopes. 

Fortunately there are others who are Field Workers so to speak, like the Chaparral Biologist Richard Halsey, his staff and followers who see for themselves how Nature actually works through hiking , exploring and hands on rebuilding techniques in Habitat Restoration Projects. Such a hands on education almost becomes burned into a person's very own DNA by means of recorded information inside brain cells. Want to learn about something and retain that information ? Then get off your back sides and get physically out in the field and observe things. Don't take my word or Richard Halsey's, Bert Wilson's, Roger Klemm's,or Rafe Sagarin's word for it, get out there and see things for yourself. Below is a photo illustration of the Chaparral Institute's program of educating people at a very young age to instill appreciation for the Chaparral Plant Community and even that in itself is a lesson for parents and/or other adults.  You need to actually start from infancy training these kids while young. Parents need to stop using the Television or Internet Video Games as a baby sitter.

Image -
Chaparralian extraordinaire Richard Halsey leads village church kids on a Chaparral Lands Conservancy Nature Walk on Carmel Mountain

BTW, while visiting the USA a couple months back, I went by an old neighbour's place a block over from my old place. His name is Duncan Harkleroad and a real outdoors man involved in observational learning from way back at the old school of learning. He learned his observational ability from his father Carl Harkleroad who at one time had the largest amassed collections of Native American (especially Cahuilla) artifacts for which he donated most to the San Diego Museum of Man before his death. Much of this collection came from exploring the Bajadas along the ancient Sea Level line of the once massive former Lake Cahuilla. Many of the boulder rock outcropping piles were the perfect Food and Water Storage places for Cahuilla travelers, hunters parties or fishing parties moving back and forth up and down the Santa Rosa Mountains. Most ALL of his Ollas collection came from these places. There is a saddle of land between Martinez Mountain and Santa Rosa Mountain  (El Toro Peak) which was one of the largest permanent Cahuilla encampments known. Most people do not even know of it because of it's extreme remote location. Duncan again showed me some of the collection of his beautiful still intact clay bottle Ollas wrapped in a sling type netting hanging from his ceiling. They looked almost identical to the one pictured above. But he learned most of his knowledge from countless physical exploration treks with his dad. Anyway, he has written extensively about Bighorn Sheep and it was he who discovered the Bighorn's diet changes during drought in which they will eat Desert Agave flower stalks emerging from the center of the plant. This is the only time they will do this and he actually caught one on camera. This was sent to an Biologist Acquaintance of his up in Montana who actually got Duncan's paper published, but with the Biologist's name on the Paper, otherwise it's apparently meaningless to the Peer-Review boys. Don't get me started. Duncan did show me the original paper. He's often been at odds with Biologists over the years regarding Bighorn Sheep whom he and his father observed and studied long before such Conservation Groups & Biologists exclaimed that only they have such knowledge dissemination privileges on this subject. Remember what Rafe Sagarin of the U.A. article said about that ??
"In the 18th and 19th century, Science was curiosity driven; now we are in an era of science-driven by need - the need created by massive global change that is forcing us to move away from the small-scale, highly controlled experimental data approach. We are forced to use any data we can get to understand this very complex, multi-scaled, global phenomenon."   
"Increasingly, scientists find themselves going back to old records, such as vintage photographs of glaciers that reveal how they have receded" 
"Science is becoming far more open to ways of observing the world that haven't typically been a part of academia," Sagarin said, "such such as traditional knowledge of Native Americans, local knowledge of fishermen, or loggers, or the collective efforts of citizens who count birds in their neighbourhood. In the 1930s, more people in the U.S. A. went to birding parties than to professional baseball games in their neighbourhood."

Actually, Duncan Harkleroad is one of those human story books from which if you respect an older persons experience and background knowledge of the past for which you may actually learn something. Much of the Natural World as it once was and behaved ecologically, no longer exists. This is what was meant by Rafe Sagarin when he spoke of going back into historical records and archived photographs. Some of those Archives are actually people and they are quickly disappearing. Duncan Harkleroad is one of those people. But you'd better hurry if you want to meet him. He must be in his 70s by now. You can purchase his book through Amazon, or write him as I did from the address below. You may even write directly for the book at: Duncan Harkleroad, PO BOX 390234, Anza, CA, 92539-0234
Reading References:

What's Killing the Evergreens in Sweden ?

What ? Okay I don't actually know, but that's why I asked. Went to the Göteborg Botanical Gardens yesterday with my wife, but no one there knew either. In fact they were cutting down many trees and shrubs and removing them. I alluded to this problem in yesterday's post Here . But I have all the photos for a gallery of sorts and at least it will be documented. I went out today in another part of the city and the same thing. Wholesale death of anything Cypress, Juniper, Cedar or Thuja. I mentioned that it looked very much like "Fire Blight on Steroids", or perhaps a type of "Sudden Conifer Demise Syndrome". This is bizarrely reminiscent of what took place last year here when most all fruits trees and fruit bearing shrubs in both the wild and urban landscape had zero fruit or at best very little with blight on the skins. Most all of the Deciduous trees were attacked one way or another by disease or insect, bot in gardens and the wild forests. Gardens I understood, but out in the wild ? This is almost unheard of from my own experience. Plus, that phenomena last summer was NOT localized to here, it was all over the northern hemisphere Boreal Forest locations in Europe Asia and North America. I know because I researched it. Anyway, below here is the gallery of the dead trees almost everywhere in and around Göteborg Sweden. Neighbours who have traveled to other cities and regions south in Skåne tell me the same thing is taking place elsewhere. This was taken on one day only on a specific trip to Botanical Gardens and back home. Understand that all along the trip there were literally hundreds of other examples. These were taken as close to my route as possible. Something will be said about this in the future I'm sure, but I have some suspicions.

Photo: Mine

This photograph was taken outside of my door yesterday morning. This plant is actually my neighbours, but I'll offer to remove it. There is also another just on the other side of this next to their front storage shed and front door.

Photo: Mine

And here it is. They look to be a type of Leyland Cypress, if you in So-Cal remember them. Such plants there is was common for them to exhibit this sad behavior once older. They didn't do well in heat. But this circumstance and climate situation is entirely different.

Photo: Mine

This is an Apartment complex and every planter where there were Cypress or Junipers were dead or dying. This Trolley Stop which I had to make along the way was at Vågmästaregatan. 

Photo: Mine  

This is the next Trolley stop at Jalmar Brantinsplatsen. This is at the left side entrance of a Pedestrian Tunnel which is under a roadway leading to the Trolley Station.

Photo: Mine

This is on the other side and the same completely dead condition. All four corners of this tunnels municipal landscape are identical with the dead miniature low spreading Juniper.

Photo: Mine
Believe it or not I did read the identity label on this particular tree and this is an Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens). There were many surprises that such a blight or pattern of disease would specifically hit anything of a resinous type of cone-bearing tree, with the exception of Juniper berry producing trees.
Photo: Mine
These are other larger trees nearby the last one.
Photo: Mine
This is a close up view of the foliage of a tree not yet dead from this disease whatever it is. The circumstances here are wet and I don't believe beetle related like in the western USA.
Photo: Mine

This is what is scary. The Scots Pines are also in danger of losing out like all the other resinous trees and they are the largest of population of wild trees here.

Photo: Mine

Here is another tree fully developed with the disease or whatever it is and almost completely dead. The grounds keepers were busy this day cutting down and hauling off the dead limbs, branches and trunks of these trees. Even trees not fully engulfed by this fire blight type of condition.

Photo: Mine
Another example from everywhere we went in the Botanic Gardens
Photo: Mine

And this was just one of the workers busy cutting things down and hauling dead material off to the maintenance yard where they dump and process all this stuff. I'm actually curious whether they will grind this up for mulch and reuse or burn it and dispose of it. Not sure how please this guy was of me photographing him.

Photo: Mine
Even tree species in the Redwood realm have succumbed. In the upper right corner of the photograph are the native Swedish Junipers found through the forest on rocky open areas where larger trees won't grow. They are everywhere dying. This is just one small example of 1000s of examples I could photo.

Photo: Mine
This is interesting here. We actually walked over to Slottsskogen Park for a Coffee at Björngårdsvillan Cafe. Upon leaving, we walked by way of the Crab Apple Trees I wrote about a couple weeks back. These trees here are directly across the street from those Crab Apple Trees. They are Thuja trees (which look like exact miniature replicas of Incense Cedar - Leaves, bark, cones and all) Even the Crab Apple Tree leaves are looking pathetic with very little fruit this year.

This particular public corner planter is at our Friskväderstorget Trolley Stop. The bizarre thing here is the street side which is also the northern side is fried on both trees. This led me to speculate maybe it was some sort of winter Street Salting effects, but that has to be ruled out as all trees everywhere, even deep in the woods are succumbing to this Sudden Conifer Demise Syndrome. It's also not anything to do with freeze as everything here is engineered for freeze and this past winter was not that cold, nor was there more than a couple of inches when it did snow and then quickly melted off. I walk past here almost everyday from the Trolley Stop and it's sad to think they'll be gone some time soon.

Photo: Mine

This is taking another route to my neighbourhood by way of a northern entrance. Here the neighbours with all manner of conifer are losing everything and it doesn't matter the species of Resinous evergreen tree or shrub.

Photo: Mine 
Finally here is another Thuja which is totally dead. In the background is the infamous iconic 1960s architectural design water tower. (ugh) But to walk through here and elsewhere in any neighbourhood and see all this is just so incredibly sad.
John Banner as Sgt. Schultz
I honestly don't know what the answer is here. I see nothing written by any officials or other experts, only neighbours and citizens discussing the problem. Obviously the Göteborg Botanical Gardens are aware of it as they are doing a wholesale clearing of many of their former beautiful trees. I'll have to go back next week there and ask. It could even be acid rain and I suspect perhaps some of the junk being used in cloud seeding. Clearly the Garden Officials  know something since they are conducting such a major house cleaning of the conifers throughout the Park. Still one wonders if they actually know on what scale this is happening even well beyond their Park Gardens ? There was no one available to speak other than workers who knew nothing and were only following orders. Hmmm, where have I heard that before ? Oh yeah, 'Hogan's Heros'I'll keep even one posted and if anyone knows of anything on this subject or has heard of this phenomena elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, please comment.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My personal ongoing fascination with anything Sycamore

Restoration Puzzle ?

There are so many logical common sense reasons for replication of Nature in the practical applications department of Human needs. Unfortunately, in our present 'critical times hard to deal with'  world, if something doesn't make some Corporation a $ or put some Politician into positions of power, no amount of responsible Earth Stewardship is going to get done. Sadly, even things like Rich Folks Legacy building like Philanthropy and/or other personal Foundations named after themselves, often come with a price. Often they don't address what's really needed in terms of environmental improvement  The good news is, the average person doesn't have to wait or depend on any of these legal entities to change things for the better, you can do so yourself. Even if it's little by little. If your numbers are large enough, you just might accomplish far more than any of those insisting they be put in charge of such responsibilities. Evidence for ideas from Nature are all around us, but often times ignored. For example, I'm sure people with busy commuting lives rushing along Highway Route 52 from Santee to San Diego have missed this remarkable Sycamore tree seen in the photo below. Actually there are several, but I took this opportunity to stop and photo this one while on my trip over there this past Spring. It's not a very tall tree, but nevertheless survives in a hot dry location where you wouldn't expect it to be. In reality, if you are perceptive enough, you will notice this tree is in a dry Chaparral Plant Community location which are throughout Southern California and not in the usual water rich bottom land locations where you expect to find them.

Photo: Mine
This is along side the west bound lanes of Route 52 almost to the Junction of Interstate 15. The Miramar Naval Air Military Reservation fence is to the right and you can see the evidence still visible of the 2003 Cedar Fire. If you remember, everything in that fire's pathway was completely destroyed. So at the very least, the growth here is 10 years old. There are a number of educational things here of personal note here which can be observed, though no doubt never thought of before by most passers by. First, this tree is not in a riparian habitat and there are no Road Department Irrigation infrastructure here. I know because I looked. So what's keeping this otherwise water loving tree alive ? Look at the plants in the fore ground. Chaparral - Lemonade Berry and Laurel Sumac. Both are deep rooted into moister subsoil layers and through the process of Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution have created a natural hydrating system which supports other plants which would otherwise fail.

Photo: Mine 
Now with the above example in mind, take a look at this next photo. This is my mum's backyard after I've started some tree trimming activity and general cleanup the second week there in April 2013. Notice the spreading green plant under the Canary Island Pines and Tecate Cypress ? This is Catalina Island Currant or Evergreen Currant (Ribes viburnifolium). Without the cover of the trees above, this plant would fry. Yet in the shade, it does great AND it is never watered. It's actually originally a single plant, but it's spread out around the ground under the shade canopy. But notice over on the right hand side of this photo another plant. Actually it was a surprise to me as I never expected to find a young California Sycamore seedling. But low and behold, there it was. I know the six mature Sycamores to the right of this photo which are out of the picture were already producing heavy seed balls, but I never gave it a thought that any seedlings would ever germinate in her yard. 

Photo: Mine
Here is a close up shot of that small Sycamore from the above photo. While I thought the whole thing was kool, I also knew I couldn't keep the plant where it was and I didn't want anymore California Sycamore in that yard. But I knew my sister in Lakeside had a large piece of land off of Moreno on San Vicente Road. In fact, her property line runs right at the old creek bottom which was dammed upstream almost a century ago. San Vicente Reservoir. So I took a five gallon orange Home Depot plastic pail and hauled it over from El Cajon to her property while she was evidently at the Colorado River. Interestingly many Sycamores have volunteered on my mum's property since this time.

Photo: Mine
This particular Friday I chose to plant it I also went up to visit my brother's place in Ranchita. That exact day the high temperature was 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 Celsius). I know, you're not supposed to transplant during outrageous unfavourable conditions. You'll fail. Yes in the past I did regularly, but that was when I did things conventionally. You know, Science-Based & Peer Reviewed habitat restoration techniques approved by various government agencies under the guiding hand of the USDA ? 

Okay, here is what I did and didn't do. In the old days I'd use some type of Vitamin B-1 transplant shock magical elixir sold at most local Landscape and home garden centers. My favourite which said it had rooting hormones and vitamin B-1 which roots supposedly loved was called - Super Thrive  Actually it truly does work in some applications IF you follow instructions of just a couple drops to a gallon. But like most folks, the flawed thinking of "If a little works, more must be better". No it doesn't, not that it necessarily hurts anything, it's just that the plant does simply nothing as far as growth. In fact sometimes I'd notice the plant would stay stuck in neutral and go nowhere until the next growing season. My favourite choice now is MycoApply from Mycorrhizal Applications Inc. You may remember I wrote about this earlier with my Mum's volunteer Pecan Tree which was going nowhere until I inoculated it with Ecto-Mycorrhizal spores. I've never had a failure and I no longer have spent money on commercial chemical transplant Shock prevention liquids. One of the other things I did after planting and inoculation was to place the Home Deport five gallon pail over the plant after I left the well water run in the planting basin for a good thirty minutes, to create a humid atmosphere and prevent direct sunlight which I thought would most certainly desiccate the leaves.

Photo: Mine
Okay, so planting was on Friday in that intense heat and when I came back through Lakeside on my way back home, I stopped by on Tuesday to check on the health of the plant. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to find only two top leases burned or dried out. The leaves under those were still healthy and green and the hard stem was in great shape. I knew that the plant would revive in no time at all. After all, it's a riparian plant and with enough water, anything is possible. 

Photo: Mine
This shot was taken a week after the above photo and clearly the little tree is in full recovery mode with new bud growth and leaf production. At this point deep watering is still once a week which replicates a heavy rainfall pattern cycle for Riparian establishment. This technique actually works well with most differing ecosystem groups in the wild as well.

Photo: Mine
This shot here was taken the day before I left on June 3rd. The two top leaves are almost completely shed now and though the other older leaves were also set back a bit, but look at that brand new healthy and rich bud growth. So apparently all was well after all. I couldn't have hoped for more, but now I was leaving and a key was to keep deep watering this tree at least once a week for the first year or two and then tapering off allowing the tree to grow up and mature on it's own. In fact, this technique for me anyway was the inspiration from my experiences which Bajada or Alluvial Fan observations during those late 1970s to middle 1980s heavy rainfall flooding years which proved how floodplains establish large tracts of riparian forests in cycles.

Photo: Mine
So now, here is the photo of the same little tree which volunteered over at my Mum's place, transplanted on an extreme heat wave weekend, which goes against all known Landscaping rules and it's more than flourishing. Again, I never even seriously expected this much. It really made my day when my sister posted this pic. One of my other biggest fears were all the gophers on this river bottom soil. This soil is so soft and delicate. It's a very soft fine sandy-loam. Water would percolate in that planting hole all day long if you allowed it to. It's just that porous. Sparklets Water Company is just the next property over across her street. They've been pumping water from this area for decades now, so there is definitely a wealth of water under here. Knowing that bit of info helps. That tree like many of the native large Cottonwoods on here property and others along that Creek, will no doubt reach the water table and then as far as height, the sky is the limit as to what this tree is capable of.

Pinterest Image

Musings from the Roost
Sycamores are amazing wildlife trees, especially for nesting. Take these hummingbird nests made of Sycamore leaf fuzz. Not only do they build nests within small twigs, but they commonly build on top of the seed balls. Tall majestic old growth sycamores are great for soaring birds like Eagles and Hawks which prefer to be well above everything else. Restoration projects of riparian woodlands should take adding Sycamores into restoration instead of always narrowly focussing on Cottonwood and willows. I have also previously written about the downstream issues of the San Diego River and the chocking Tamarisks which are clogging it and strangling the native vegetation. They are also a very real fire hazard as I have seen fires race through many thick and dense Tamarisk Bosques. Fortunately for Lakeside and Santee beyond, that 2003 Cedar Fire front had not reached the El Monte Valley floor along the San Diego River bottom where large dense stands of mature Tamarisk Bosque are just on the east side of Wildcat Canyon Road. Once in that dry river bottom among those nonnative invasives, it would have been like a Fire Freeway all the way towards Santee. The Hwy 67 would have been no real barrier as the fire would have blown under it. At that point even southern end of Eucalyptus Hills would have been in danger. And I'm still amazed they halted it from that area. River bottom clean up and eradication would be the toughest job, but the replanting of Native Riparian Woodlands would be the easy part and the quick returns or rewards wouldn't have to be necessarily decades away as I've shown at this post of my mother's yard transformation in 7+ years -
Wildlife Habitat transformation in my Mum's front and backyards 
Lessons Learned from the Bajadas (Alluvial Fans)  
Restoring Southern California Riparian Ecosystems
Best wishes on Your restoration projects!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Restoring Southern California Riparian Ecosystems

I do follow the work being done by the San Diego River Park Foundation, but perhaps I can offer some personal experience in restoration techniques for which I have done before in Riparian restoration. This sign below is where I have on example seen my trip the chocking of invasive plants like Tamarisk in places like the San Diego River in Lakeside California. Although I must say that I have neither heard nor read about any programs to eradicate this riparian habitat menace. I've previously written about this plant Here , but I in no way blame it for the problems facing southwestern ecosystems problems. I put it squarely on the shoulders of those responsible for the present fiasco, humankind.

Photo: Mine
On my stay for two months in Southern California, almost every single riparian area I crossed over on a bridge somewhere  whether it was the San Diego River, Sweetwater River, Santa Ysabel Creek, San Luis Rey River, etc,etc, etc & almost every single waterway period, had areas choked by the invasive North African/Middle-Eastern tree we call Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) which was the unfortunate & ignorantly brought over as a Desert Windbreak tree and not just one variety, but several which now have infested just about everywhere in all the southwestern United States. What I should have done is include all these pictures in with my post on Climate Change, Warming, Shifting ????  which dealt with the native tree Palo Verde's movement into coastal chaparral plant community and California Sycamore tree successes at higher elevations where they formerly had remained stunted at best as a result of late cold snaps, but clearly have started to succeed with the climate changes. The two trees are native and I have no issues with these improvements, but Tamarisk successes where I had not seen them as prolific before, although present in the past, do pose a more serious problem. Below are some photos which expose the real problem of this invasive plant which crowds out Cottonwoods, Sycamores, Willows, Velvet Ash, Mexican Elderberry and possible Oaks along the outer fringes of riverside bordering. I actually have seen from even Satellite photo imagery these invasive trees all along the entire San Diego River. Another major invasive in many hydrological channels in coastal San Diego County and even with the city limits where rain run-off channels utilize existing washes are the Baja Native, Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtomia robusta). Maybe I wouldn't be so sensitive against these had the been California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera).

photo: Mine

photo: Mine

Both of the above photos are of the view from the Hwy 67 bridge in Lakeside California looking eastward towards El Capitan High School and the El Monte Valley beyond. The Tamarisks are very heavily growing even on the the east side of Ashwood St where it crosses the San Diego River and before it turns into Wildcat Canyon Road.

photo: Mine

Looking west towards the direction of Santee California from the Hwy 67 bridge in Lakeside California.  Mostly we are looking towards Cowles Mountain way off i the distance, but also the backside of Rattlesnake Mountain over on the left side of the photo.

photo: Mine

photo: Mine
The two photos above & left not only exposed the problem of Tamarisk, but also the increasing intrusion of Red River Gum Eucalyptus which is an Australian Native tree. Sadly, both Africa & Australia do battle with one of our southwest natives, the Mesquite Tree. Eradication and continued prevention of Tamarisk would involve many challenges. First and foremost like anything that is a natural problem disaster issue, it has a human cause component. It would almost become necessary to outlaw Tamarisks to be planted in either city municipalities or in County Rural areas. I say challenge because in our world's modern day culture there is this obsession  with freedom on the brain and rights. The problem with most Rights Activism is that often times some of those rights demanded by whatever rights movements often times infringe upon the rights of others or in this case the natural world. Single tree Tamarisk tree specimens will always be a source of ongoing seed origination  which will easily blow in the wind and be a constant menace or threat to reintroduction. But again, the mentality of modern humans is to resent authority and fight against any restrictions no matter how beneficial they would be for everyone in the long term. The prevailing attitude is, "Don't tell me what I can and cannot do" (or plant in my garden)

Also, timing of eradication would have to coincide with Seed dispersal which fortunately has only a small window of viability for germination to be successful. (I believe no more than 30 days) This could actually be an advantage. The other problem I see with Tamarisk woodland thickets which crowd out riparian natives is that from what I have observed, they are a greater mega-fire risk  than pure riparian species which often act as a fire barrier and if nothing else at least slow an advancing fire down as far as it's rapid progress. Anyone who has ever witnessed a Tamarisk woodland burn knows that it burns with an intensity generally associated with Chaparral. This makes for another reason it needs to be completely eradicated. Mechanical removal and possibly burning the stumps out through a charcoal method in wintertime when they are dormant may be the only way. But you cannot leave any live roots which will re-sprout. I would definitely forbid the use of chemical treatments with products like Roundup which already contain  warnings for usage in and around Riparian areas anyway. The root systems easily sprout back as they do when fire pushes through an area, so it is imperative to destroy as much of that infrastructure as possible. Other trees like removal of Eucalyptus and Fan Palms would be a no brainer. However, once removal is completed, there must be a rapid rush towards replacement with native species and quickly. This is where proper planning and acquisition of 1000s of various plants would have to be on the ready.  Now take a look below at some places where specimens could be obtained.

Photo Credit: Mine
These suckering aggressive sprouts are of California Sycamore  on the north side of California State Route 74 leaving Hemet towards Idyllwild. The Power Utility Edison has been battling with these poor trees for decades. In the early days, these two specific trees still had large trunks and were topped off just under the power lines, but passing by a few weeks back I noticed they were aggressively dealt a heavier blow all the way to the ground. So every year thereafter, the maintenance crews come along and butcher these poor trees in the Chop Shop fashion of many a commercial Tree Butchering company who are subcontracted to do nothing more than remove living vegetation away from anything utility. There is no care given to aesthetics, it's strictly what's necessary only business. I could name the well known companies, but you folks out there already know who they are.

Photo: Mine
There is a chain link fence next to these trees with a Utility Maintenance gate. This location along the Route 74 is where the North Fork  of the San Jacinto River merges with the main channel of the San Jacinto River canyon. The South Fork canyon and branch is further east up the road. The first time I saw the utility company severely top the original trees, I remember months later while passing along this spot and seeing the luxuriant growth fighting to come back with a vengeance, what great cane pole specimens they would make for transplantation out directly into an area for rapid riparian recovery. Well now it looks as if this task  just got a lot easier.

Photo: Mine
Look at all those prized cane pole examples. Are you taking notes Robert Hutsel and Jim Platel ? Remember that location on Hwy 74 east of Hemet CA ?  Hey, I'm serious! 
Cutting inch to two inch poles for planting which is merely harvesting extremely long poles, can be a major head start of sorts if done correctly and babied with care that first year or two. Sycamores, like Willows and Cottonwoods have an amazing propagation adaptation which allows a branch to be broken off during high flood periods and become buried way down stream only to re-sprout a new tree somewhere else. They have a high growth hormonal content within their tissues. Some folks even make a tincture of willow bark as a natural rooting hormone for other unrelated plant cuttings for their gardens. While excessively large cane poles which may even require a boring agar with tractor may seem extreme overkill, I believe such techniques will become more and more necessary as time and deterioration of various ecosystems picks up the pace. If the present failed System of Things persists for very long, Mankind will become more and more forced into desperate & dire circumstances where such major forcing techniques will become necessary to accomplish things they should have done decades ago. One such rapid riparian establishment technique is being used in Arizona with both the Fremont Cottonwood  (Populus fremontii) and Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii) where surface water is 7 to 15 foot below the surface in dry washes,  but which have a moist subsoil layer.  They do recommend to cutting 20 foot cane poles, pre-soaking in water and planting at least two thirds of the pole in the deep drilled planting holes. Again, this may sound extreme, but the extreme countermeasures must be forced for a rapid repair of long ago destroyed former riparian habitats. Here's a link to some of the recommendations given by some government agencies.

Source: Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Arizona

"Plants may be propagated either by seed germination (see section on Germination Requirements) or by cuttings. The greatest results for cuttings are from one year old vigorously growing seedlings, for which there is a 66-80% success rate (Fowells 1965). Fowells (1965) suggests fall plantings of cuttings made close to the root collar that are 20 inches (50.8 cm) long, buried 15 inches (38.1 cm) into the ground. For areas in Arizona where groundwater is 7-12 feet (2-4 meters) below the surface, a new method of propagation has been tried that might be successful with Arizona Sycamore. Twenty foot (6 meter) long poles were planted in drilled holes with 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters) extending above the ground, leaving 14-16 feet (4.3-4.8 meters) below ground and penetrating into the groundwater. Poles were 2-3 inches (5-8 centimeters) in diameter. They showed a greater chance of survival if a portion of the poles were in saturated soils year around (Swenson and Mullins 1985)". 
Photo Credit:
This two year old Cottonwood above was planted as a cane cutting), was later excavated by a heavy flood and found to have five main individual roots that were each over 25 foot long. It shows the possibilities of aggressive root structural growing under the ideal conditions if large pole cuttings are properly installed and cared for the first two years and then left on their own. Isn't this a fortunate beautiful illustration of potential root infrastructure ? Here are some links below here showing the Colorado River Delta restoration going on and their pre-soaking cane pole techniques and seedling plantation & nursery in Mexico:
Collecting bundles of Cottonwood poles 
Pre-soaking Cottonwood poles utilizing an abandoned irrigation ditch 
Condensed planting fields which later can be thinned
Other Resource Material:
Riparian Restoration in the Southwest – Species Selection, Propagation, Planting Methods, and Case Studies
Some of the studies recommend applying a slow release fertilizer, but there is no way on earth now that I would recommend such a measure. Riparian habitats for the most part are extremely nutrient rich anyway as a result of flooding and silting from upstream higher elevation runoffs every year for 1000s of years, so nutrients are not an issue. However, I would definitely inoculate the pole cuttings at time of planting with a good blended mycorrhizal mix containing both Endo & Ecto mycorrhizal fungi. Many people still don't realize that riparian species like willows, alders and cottonwoods are actually both endo & ecto mycorrhizal. Sycamores are strictly endo mycorrhizal as I believe. Root growth potential no doubt will be rapid and healthy as long as plenty of water is maintained to replicate wild heavy rainfall cycling periods which are foremost in major establishment of riparian woodlands, especially those in areas which will later be dry with no surface running water other than underground water flow movement. 
These trees below here are two years old California Sycamores first planted in 2005 and this photo is 2007. They were planted from one gallon nursery pots purchased from Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery and also inoculated with the proper mycorrhizal mix (MycoApply) from Mycorrhizal Applications Inc. I never leave anything to chance by making the blind faith mistaken assumption that the fungal spores are just out there everywhere present in the air. I don't take that chance and neither should you landscapers or habitat restorationists. 
photo: Mine (2007)
Photo: Mine

Same are those same California Sycamore trees in May 2011 four years later. No further watering was required after 2007 and today they are monstrous. Watering is still absent, other than yearly seasonal rainfall. However you should know that my mother's property is location on an ancient alluvial fan at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain in El Cajon and has a water table with good moisture availability about perhaps six meters down or about 15' to 20' down which is easily accessable to deep rooting Sycamores, The soil is beautiful sandy loam all the way down.

Photo: Mine

And these are the same trees viewing from behind the small house on the left which was viewed from the front in the top two photos. This was taken on April 2013 this year. It illustrates the potential for dry barren riparian woodland habitats which have underground water close to the surface. These no longer receive water other than season rainfall.
With all the Cal-Fire money being loaded into worthless prescribed burning programs which scientifically offer no real lasting solutions and only exacerbates the problem along with habitat destruction for both plants and wildlife, one would think these funds could be more constructively utilized in worthwhile lasting ventures like Tamarisk Removal and Native Riparian Tree Species being reintroduced into formerly healthy hydrological systems. Even a labor force of Folks on Government assistance (welfare) who unfortunately having been on such programs for years or even decades and have no feeling of purpose or self-worth, could be greatly benefited and be paid for it. Nothing gives purpose more than worthwhile healthy surroundings like restoring things in the Natural world. And I'm not talking forced menial labor. Such attitude about physical work is merely flawed thinking. As I've stated in the past in establishing landscapes in cities or in the wild, a welfare system of handouts is a failed program. Offering a healthy hand up is entirely different and helps establish an independence in both humans and Nature. Same goes with plant establishment, don't welfare your yard on a permanent irrigation system. Wean them off the initial life-support irrigation system handout and allow them to grow & search for themselves with only minimal offering during harsh times until fully established. Works every single time. Only time will tell if the present human leadership will actually get a clue, but their window of opportunity at proving mankind does indeed have the answers towards proper Earth custodianship is rapidly disappearing. 
Here is yesterday's link on how I've personally learned & benefited much by observing Bajadas or Alluvial Fan Habitats:
Lessons Learned from the Bajadas (Alluvial Fans)
Other great references: