Monday, March 24, 2014

Parasites, Ecology & the Goldilocks Principle

Would you have ever in your life considered parasites as “tiny, hidden architects” of biodiversity that run a service business for a sustainable global ecology ? The biggest problem for the Earth's natural world is that ever since human beings arrived on the earthly scene, as caretakers of the natural world, they've mucked things up so horribly by introducing parasites where they can & will cause not only the most harm to other living organisms within any and all ecosystems, but where they will cause pain and suffering to other human beings. Let's be totally honest here, as environmental stewards Humans stink at it. There are a number of fascinating studies which have been published recently over the past couple of years which shed light on the positive as opposed to the usual negative aspects of various parasites and their healthy function in the natural world when that world is in a stable balance. I'll simply list a few and you can follow the articles. A parasitologist name Tommy Leung, suggests that parasites don’t just rob and steal; they usually do good as functional players in an ecosystem.
“Parasites are thought of as free-loaders, but many contribute as much as they take,” “They service the ecosystem. From an ecological perspective, they are more like tiny, hidden architects that are overlooked by most people.”  - “Some parasites do have a negative impact on an ecosystem, especially when they are introduced to a new and unfamiliar environment.” (source)  
Credit: haquintero

The parasite a cricket’s nightmares are made of
"But the very act of forcing crickets to their watery grave actually functions as a kind of fast food delivery service for the fish living in those streams. Cricket do not normally jump into streams and a drowning cricket is usually a rare treat for any fish. But thanks to the hairworm, these fish get to feast regularly on these large insects and it has been calculated that this straight-to-your-stream food delivery service accounts for more than half of the trout population’s energy intake in some watersheds."
Watch this creepy but very kool video below here of what happens when the cricket is forced by it's parasitic hitchhiker to jump into water and drown itself.
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Credit: Tommy Leung

(source) When microbes cause ants to become zombies
"Usually the enemy of an enemy is a friend, but that is of no consequence for a zombified ant. To these fungi the ant is but a stage upon which they play out their lives and conflicts, as they have been doing for millions of years."
Can you imagine the possibilities in dealing a blow to the out of control Argentine Ant Super Colony over-population of California and other areas of the west ? BTW, Mycologist Paul Stamets has brought this up before.
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Photo: Andrew DunnEuropean Mistletoe (Viscum album) attached to a
silver birch (
Betula pendula)
"Plant parasites can also affect ecosystem processes. While most people associate mistletoe with Christmas, it is actually a parasitic plant that has special root-like structures called haustoria that burrow into the host tree to suck out water and other nutrients. But for all that it draws from the host, this parasite returns it to the ecosystem in the form of enriched leaf litter."
"A study published in the Proceeding of the Royal Society B shows that when mistletoes are removed from a forest, more than a quarter of the birds species also disappear. The enriched leaf litter allows the forest to support a richer community of insects, which in turn bring in more birds." 
(source)
I previously wrote about Mistletoe on January 3, 2013, but so did many other people. It was the same link above, but it was worth bringing up the subject again as a great reminder.
Mistletoe: Former Demonized Plant Turns Out to be a Great Helper 
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Image: SeaFoods.com

New Zealand Cockle (Austrovenus stutchburyi)

Credit: Tommy Leung
There was a story of a parasitic fluke that infects shellfish helps deposit them on seashores where birds can eat them, and barnacles and limpets and live in the shells – increasing the biodiversity of a shore that would normally have only sand. To the right here in the photo image you can see the Cysts of Curtuteria australis (tagged with fluorescent dye) in the foot of a New Zealand cockle. As more and more parasites accumulate, the presence of those cysts causes the cockle’s foot muscle to degenerate. With a mangled foot, the clam loses its ability to dig and is left stranded on the surface of the mudflat, exposed to hungry shorebirds – just what the parasite Curtuteria australis wanted. The nature of the seashore changes from one covered mostly with mud and sand, to one paved with hard shells. This actually increases the overall level of biodiversity in the area since the shells of the stranded clams provide habitats for other animals like limpets and barncles.
Parasitism as a determinant of community structure on intertidal flats
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Credit: Alvesgaspar/Wikipedia

Grassopper of Acrididae family: Anacridium aegyptium
"Scientists have known for some time that P. locustae infections in individual locusts leads to less swarming in locusts around them. What was not known was how it happened."
"The researchers are still puzzled as to why P. locustae would "want" to cause less swarming, as doing so would seem to lead to more difficulty in spreading from one of the insects to another." (No Kidding, why ????)
Team uncovers how microsporidian parasites prevent locust swarm behavior
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Credit: Vittorio Baglione

A carrion Crow brood parasitized by a great spotted Cuckoo
"Most everyone knows that cuckoo birds are the ultimate free-loaders. Mothers lay their eggs in the nests of birds of different species, leaving them to raise their young for them. What many may not realize however, is that different kinds of cuckoo birds behave differently when they hatch. Some famously push all the other eggs out of the nest, leaving themselves as the sole survivor and beneficiary. Other's however, don't do that, instead, they leave the other chicks alone and share in food the mother brings, acting as an adopted sibling, of sorts. At first glance it would appear that the host birds gain no benefit from this arrangement, but upon closer inspection, that assumption has been proved wrong."
"The researchers in Spain were studying the relationship between cuckoos and host carrion crows. In so doing, they were surprised to find that survival rates for crow chicks in nests shared by a cuckoo, were actually higher than for cuckoo-less nests. Looking even closer they discovered that the cuckoos had a survival mechanism that crows did not—they gave off a stink when threatened that caused predators such as feral cats to stay away. The stink, the researchers found, was caused by a chemical mix of repulsive compounds that included indoles, acids, sulfur and phenols. Taken together it proved too much for cats and birds of prey which typically find chicks in a nest easy pickings when the mother is away gathering food."
Study shows some cuckoo birds may actually help their hosts 
The major sad thing here is that in most of the television documentaries (where the majority of people get their science education) which reference the Cuckoo or Cow Bird as a parasite that robs and steals from others, we almost never see this side of the story. 
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Wasp parasitizing Gypsy Moth
Carepiller
So once again, how does it go ? Parasitism is bad. Parasitism is evil. Parasites wage war against innocent hosts. This is normal human  mindset. But what if parasites can actually do good ? If they are only suppose to be doing harm to the host, why do some biologists find that there are “positive benefits” which seem to be maintaining their hosts ? Ignorance has caused us to create an imbalance in nature by means of our horrible science-based agricultural practices which destroys both beneficial parasitic insects along with the bad. Our mind's naturally have a tendency to classify what we consider bizarre phenomena out in nature into moral categories: good kitty, bad doggie, so forth & so on. We do that with parasites all the time because we know how often some of them annoy, harm or kill us. I certainly don't want to suggest from these above articles that there is anything good about Mosquitos, Ticks, Fleas, Leeches, Roundworms or Malaria. But who knows how even these things behave when in a balanced system ? The majority of us have no clue as to what such a system would be like. I have found over the years that many things considered by humans to be plagues, cause famines and/or Pestilences are most often times the results of human ignorance, environmental sloppiness, lack of hygiene, etc. 

"Survival of the Fittest"
What’s instructive about many of these stories is that many of these research teams start with an assumption that parasites are bad. They are at war with the host, using the host’s resources for their own good. The evidence gathered above suggests the opposite; they might really be beneficial after all. Another organism we often demonize & insert into the “bad” category are Viruses. After all,  they do invade a host cell, hijack and use its replication machinery to make copies of themselves. Why, then, do only a small fraction of viruses cause disease ? What are the others out there doing ? Interestingly, many of them kill bacteria; that could be a good thing, couldn't it ?  Maybe we should take a fresh look at what we consider the creepy icky things of our natural World. In biology there are many pushes and pulls. But these pushes and pulls are not necessarily good or bad; they are simply opposite forces that maintain any ecosystem's homeostasis. Maybe by learning how nature really operates in a complete context, we can come to some conclusions of how to better deal with what has come to be termed invasive. These so-called invasive plants, insects, animals, birds, fish, etc are only a problem of ecosystem imbalance which resulted from some historical stupid decision made by humans which  created the problem in the first place. Nature had zero to do with it. Such findings by these researchers, do lend themselves to new ways of thinking about our natural world's parasites as designed mechanisms originally intended for health of the entire global ecosystem, a few of which have subsequently gone bad. For readers who cannot accept that, the story is a lesson about not trusting metaphors as reliable guides to understanding our natural world. You know many of these metaphors, some good and instructive, but some of these are horrible like "Survival of the Fittest". Okay, everybody for the most part completely understands how the best & healthiest seeds out perform sickly seeds and so forth. But people like Prof Suzanne Simard have revealed how bad and outdated that metaphor is from her research about "Mother Trees" in a forested Ecosystem where all the biological components have been observed working together to help each other survive as opposed to selfish competing individuals. This goes a long way in explaining the inept reforestation practices where the chaparral plant community is viewed as an enemy as opposed to an ally which actually insures a forest's natural rebuilding program. The reality is, this terrible religious metaphor has actually hindered our understanding as opposed to educating mankind by instilling respect for the natural world. A little over a decade ago, there was a great article I have never forgotten which puts things into perspective. It was called, Natural Enemies: Metaphor or Misconception ? ( in other words, is that a reality, or just another  metaphor ?), by Matthew K. Chew and Manfred D. Laubichler in the July 4, 2003 issue of Sciencemag.org , an online journal which discussed the usefulness and dangers of metaphors in the language of science. You know, like, "Survival of the Fittest" ? Please click and read the link below, but here are the two concluding paragraphs which I'll post here:
"What troubles us is that biology's metaphorical abstractions all too easily become concrete objects and substitute for specific, describable processes. Maximal diversity becomes evolution's telos instead of its tendency. Biogeographical frontiers become prescriptive and enforceable, rather than descriptive and conceptual. Seasonal “disturbances” such as floods interrupt normal ecological processes, instead of exemplifying them. Biological “productivity” and “diversity” become not only measurable, but virtuous."
Matt Chew's & Manfred Laubichler's essay provides many excellent metaphor examples like; ecology speaks of predator and prey, but these suggest one is good and the other evil. Hence we have Wolf versus Elk, Mountain Lion versus Big Horn Sheep, etc. You may also remember that metaphors have been used for describing the signalling and machinery that are used in cell biology, as well as being used to explain what goes on within DNA such as “coding” and "development". But for me personally, I find that bad metaphors associated with parasites have hindered us from viewing them in a way that helps us to better understand their roles in the Natural World. In conclusion, Chew & Laubichler warned: 
"Perhaps we cannot avoid metaphors altogether in scientific language. But scientists must be aware of the potential problems inherent in invoking the familiar as a convenient way for describing their ideas. At the very least, we should be concerned about what the frequent use of “natural enemies” (and the notable absence of “natural allies,” describing an equally familiar set of ecological interactions) reveals about the ways in which we interpret nature through metaphorical lenses, especially in the current historical situation."
(source: "Natural Enemies--Metaphor or Misconception ?")
BTW, Matthew Chew has an updated version from 2011 called, The Rise and Fall of Biotic Nativeness: a Historical Perspective 
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So what really is this Goldilocks Principle ?
Well, we've all heard of the classic fairytale 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' which tells us the story of a young fair golden haired Girl who wanders into a strange house in the woods. She finds one bowl of porridge too hot, another too cold and the third just right. Many Scientists sometimes apply the tale to a planet's ability to sustain life as we know it. In our own star system for example, Venus is too hot and Mars is too cold, but Earth is just right. But there's far more  here on the Earth itself which is loaded with the Goldilocks Principles. Hence even the subject of parasites. These ideas  haven't always been very popular, because it smacks of fine-tuning and the Earth being special and unique among other known planets and so forth. Broadly speaking, the Goldilocks Principle applies to any situation where only a particular range of conditions is acceptable or agreeable for a healthy ecosystem. The Earth's ability to perfectly recycle and maintain itself is now seriously being called into question. Here was an interesting read from just last week on this very subject: 
Goldilocks principle: Earth's continued habitability due to geologic cycles that act as climate control 
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 So Parasites, Ecology & the Goldilocks Principle ?
File under: "Religion & other Metaphysics"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Global Weirding (climate change) & stories that make it a tough sell


Image: The Daily Scoff

More like, C'MONNNN Scientists, quite pulling our legs!
In 2011, 2012 & early 2013 There were so many reports of how Dinosaur flatulence warmed the Earth and may even have caused their extinction. Conservation articles in the past about Ghenghis Khan butchering 40 million people , Black Plague killing millions and even the Empire building Spanish Conquistadors butchering people & destroying Central American civilizations by eliminating millions more people are said to have been a healthy thing environmentally speaking. Headlines such as these are more of a turn off to the public as opposed to getting them to take anything serious about Earth's environment. I actually don't wish to even elaborate on or discuss this as something deserving of consideration, but it is illustrative of where such off-topic storytelling masks the real serious issues. Indeed, Swamp Gas and flatulence of Livestock have also even seriously been attributed to climate change. Hey, even trees giving off natural aerosols, something which they have done for 10s of 1000s of years are now said to be partly to blame for Ozone pollution because they mix with man made pollutants and give us hazy skies. *sigh*




Update: March 24, 2014 Live Science: 

"Dinosaur Era Had 5 Times Today's CO2"
"Dinosaurs that roamed the Earth 250 million years ago knew a world with five times more carbon dioxide than is present on Earth today, researchers say, and new techniques for estimating the amount of carbon dioxide on prehistoric Earth may help scientists predict how Earth's climate may change in the future."
These studies coming out lately wreak of religiosity. File this under: 'Blind Faith'. The total tonnage of what these researchers don't understand or will admit they do not actually know is astounding. As time goes on and more and more science journal entertainment pieces come out, the less people will believe anything they say. One small paragraph reads like this:
"During this time, the Earth's interior was not standing still; rather, the supercontinent Pangaea had started to split into two smaller landmasses, called Laurasia and Gondwana." 
Unbelievable. The story here starts out reading something like this, "Once upon a time in a land far far away . . " I’m thinking about proposing a new Post title here above: 
Not Even Wrong: "Why Science Doesn’t Even Pretend to Be Truth" (Much Less, A Way of Knowing)  
I have never ever once observed Nature to be out of balance or at fault for this planet's problems. Generally it has always been inept decision making of humans ignorance which puts themselves and other living creatures in harms way. See the latest article from an online UK journal, The Guardian
Is this all humans are? Diminutive monsters of death and destruction? 
Subtitled: "New research suggests that there was never a state of grace. We have always been the nemesis of the planet's wildlife"
Although I do believe the present ecological mess can be attributed to the inept human leadership (political/religious/scientific-Business), the Earth truly has experienced such mismanagement from mankind's first real appearance (irrespective as to how or when anyone believes that appearance started) to the present. Something else out there in the Natural World though has come up which deserves a defense. Actually there are many things that deserve a defense in Nature, but let me start with the myth of Earthworms contributing to global warming and forest decline in North America. Over the past few years as I've read the stories where the reported research, rather than thorough scientific study, has become more and more storytelling fantasies. Once again, the Race Horse Blinkers remain glued to many researchers heads as they seem to still have a strong lack of peripheral vision. Many today, and perhaps this is where the public gets it, seem incapable of looking at any specific subject within a broader environmental context. To illustrate, we all know how the meaning of a specific written statement of text is best understood when we consider the context of paragraphs that surrounds it. So why shouldn't this also work when considering the environment ? (more on this later with a future epigenetics piece) 

This came out in 2012 in the UK Guardian based on this scientific study here written in Nature's climate change section:
Greenhouse-gas emissions from soils increased by earthworms 
"The presence of worms affects how much carbon dioxide is produced in the soil and how much escapes to the atmosphere. Scientists are concerned that earthworms increase greenhouse gas emissions - and that earthworm numbers are on the rise."
You might also take special note of UC Davis report on this:
'Global worming': Earthworms contribute to climate change 
 Incredible, so earthworms and other soil organisms are also at fault for greenhouse gases. This sounds more like something written by Mr Watts Up (if you know who I'm talking about). More later on the silly reasons it is believed earthworm populations are on the rise. There are a couple interesting quotes in that article's page, the first two showing stupidity in choice of words and the third quote was from one person in the comments section which made a great observation as to what such irresponsible reporting does to climate change education of the public in general. Here is one dumb quote first.
"Bacteria in the earthworms' gut produce nitrous oxide and emissions from worm-infested soil can be three times as high as from soil without any worms," the paper says.
I'm sorry, worm infested soil ??? Okay here is the other quote which is a real gem:
"The growing use of organic fertilisers increases will provide more food for earthworms, the study says. On top of that, the move away from conventional land cultivation could also boost numbers."
Unbelievable. So organic gardening and use of compost is an evil thing which helps these invasive earthworms thrive and increase. Wow, all this time people who have criticized Monsanto and Dow Chemical have had it all wrong all along. Those synthetic chemicals the Industrial Behemoths were manufacturing were actually helping stave off population explosions of earthworms and other beneficial soil microbes which also give off other deadly gaseous greenhouse emissions. And the reference to the move away from conventional land cultivation is alluding to a practice which is beneficial to soil called No-Till soil cultivation. Evidently the mechanized plowing of the land grinds up excessive invasive earthworms which actually saves the planet, if I'm to understand their reasoning here. Here is an interesting perspective from one commenter about the lack of any value coming from such an article being printed and used as fodder from Climate Change denialists. 
"If, as the Guardian writer above admits: "the vast majority of global warming is caused by human activities", then why on earth do you bother printing another uninteresting excuse story, probably originating from the desks of the rabid Daily Mail denialists !??"
(article source)
That article was in early 2012, and referenced a review of more than 200 published studies by Ingrid Lubbers of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and colleagues who concluded that worms increased CO2 emissions from soils by a third on average. I think the above speaks for itself. Actually a later article has come out later in a 2013 New Scientist post Worm turns from zero to climate change hero showing Earthworms can actually help store carbon within the soil. Certainly they also refine & break down the nutrients and make them more readily available to all manner of plant life who otherwise would miss out on such thorough nutrient uptake opportunities without them. But there was another side in the above link which touched on the subject about these creatures I've read on and off before as earthworms being invasive and destroying northern forests in the North American continent. There is the supposed myth of a glacial period which destroyed all of the North American earthworms which were said to dislike cold extremes. Let me quote some of the comments under that article's last sub-heading:
Danergous aliens
"For instance, following wipeout during the last ice age, large parts of North America were earthworm-free until Europeans brought soil from home. Old-world earthworms are still migrating north. Some researchers, such as Paul Hendrix of the University of Georgia in Athens, see their presence as a dangerous alien invasion." 
 "Farming, including ecological methods like no-till farming, promotes the spread of earthworms, says Lubbers. And global warming will likely make them more active." 
Indeed many many fables insist that these invasive earthworms are consuming all the forest litter for which trees like Maple need for their future seedling germination. Recently I stumbled upon a site owned by a group called the Macoun Wildlife Field Club . This conservation group conducted their own field study regarding the over population of Deer and so-called invasiveness of earthworms killing forests by scouring the forest floor of all biological living and dead materials. As you can see from the illustrative cross section of soil photo to the right here, this is the typical soil profile most of us are aware of and familiar with. For me there were the usual narrow mindedness and lack of common sense issues in their report. Not that they aren't well meaning people, but more was needed than heartfelt reading of things on the surface is what was lacking. The report read like some TV commercial advertisement in which some giant industrial chemical brand name insecticidal product attempts to persuade an ignorant gardening public that the only good bug is a dead bug. In no way do these chemical giants inform you that the overpowering concentrated potency of their various line of chemical fertilizers attracts massive amounts of specific insect depending on whether that product is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. Like Mosquitoes drawn to and attracted by Carbon Dioxide, so specific high concentrations of any one nutrient element will bring differing specific pests to your garden. Then you have an infestation resulting from an imbalance in the system. Solution ? Kill them! In no way are you ever educated or informed through the Advertisement to look for an imbalance in the mini-ecosystem within your landscape. Hence blame and attack the symptom which is the lazy way out. So what if there is long term collateral damage, Industrial Scientists will find a way to correct that later. What this Group in the woodland study showed were before and after pictures of the same tree. Take a look at the same tree with and without forest liter a few years apart.


image: Macoun Field Club

image: Macoun Field Club
The link to their article here: Forests build soil. Ours is losing it! What's going on? . There are a few quotes I'd like to point out and then address. Like many of the major research projects undertaken by the professionals from many of the world's major Universities, they too have exhibited tunnel vision by simply focusing only on what appears on the surface to be the obvious. After explaining the complete removal of understory vegetation by Deer, which is in of itself a result of overpopulation and lack of predators for an organized behavior modification of the Deer, which they never address, they then focus on the earthworms. 
"We speak of worms invading because all earthworms in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States are alien, mainly European species. We don't know when they arrived in our Study Area -- it could have been in the 1800s. By 1989 they were numerous among our study trees, but for a few years to come, the leaf litter and duff were largely intact."
Okay, so this basically is how the story goes. Once upon a time North America was worm-free, there was a well functioning forest. But then there was a worm invasion from Europeans which resulted in the innocuous duff layer being destroyed below the leaf litter which further caused disruption of leaf litter (bare ground starts to show) with complete loss of leaf litter exposure, death, and disappearance of fine rootlets exposure of bare soil to rainfall with consequent erosion which continued lowering of the ground surface, exposing roots and rocks. I'll explain at the end here how those invasive earthworms which are of European origin function over here later. Now here is another quote:
"Earthworms, in contrast, chew their way through the litter and duff in a single pass. Gardeners and composters prize this speedy decomposition. But in the forest, the worms leave nothing for other forms of life, except bacteria."   
This quote was unbelievable and again I'm not making fun of these people, because after all they appreciate and love nature. But they have never ever been taught to train their perceptive powers of reason by actually viewing Nature in a wider context. Neither have most modern day researchers for that matter. Or for that matter, neither do many of the well known beloved myths & fables reflect this root cause analysis practice or they wouldn't still be with us. Never once are the subject of Earthworm predators dealt with regarding the system they clearly painstakingly study. For example, Moles! Don't they have moles back east and up north ? They thrive on earthworm abundance in ecosystems. Take a look at the video of a Mole eating an earthworm for breakfast here: Mole eating Earthworm . Nowhere in this Groups study did they even attempt to look for Mole activity or lack thereof. Funny, they must be back east, because they were even extremely abundant in Anza California up in high desert regions where I once lived. I had many on my property and unfortunately our cat took care of many of them. But Moles also eat grub and other insects as part of their diet. Unfortunately for the mole however, gardeners dislike them destroying their yards with their tunnels and eating their precious earthworms. Hence science has created a number of devices for the home gardener to rid themselves of this pest like traps and poisons. I highly doubt this was factored into these studies either.
image: Daily Express UK
But there is also another creature not mentioned which thrives on Earthworms, Badgers. Throughout central and north Europe there are loads of badgers in the countryside, though they also are not always liked by gardeners because of their foraging will often mess up a well manicured garden or landscape. Also they love earthworms, but so do gardeners. But badgers also love to eat snails as evidenced from shells in their dung, so there is a love/hate relationship with badgers & Gardeners. And that's where the problem comes. Like Moles, people will kill a Badger if they feel it is infringing upon their landscape sovereignty. Plus road kills are common especially at night. I use to see them around the open plains while traveling in early morning hours between Warner Springs and Lake Henshaw in San Diego County, so I know they are local to there. Once again, that group never looked at the absence of badgers nor any other predator. Here is a great reference link in the UK from a Badger organization regard Badgers & their earthworm diet.
http://www.badgerland.co.uk/animals/food/earthworms.html

Another animal over here in Europe is the cute little Hedgehog which kind of look like a mini-porcupine. Frogs are yet another Earthworm predator. Rather than continue with a long list of critters which were never considered missing in the target forest of abundant earthworms in that groups study, here is a gallery of things here in Europe which love those invasive earthworms. Take note how predators here keep the balance of Nature where forest floors remain intact. Funny, even toads & frogs if they find an earthworm outside of it's burrow in rainy weather which is common here will grab an easy bite. 

Common Shrew - photo Hania Berdys



image: Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group


image: Wiki Common


image: Pakshi Loka

Eurasian Magpie of Sweden
This Magpie is extremely common around Sweden, especially around the suburban outskirts and fringes of woodlands. As I walked to the Tram stop yesterday I saw a group of five Magpies foraging for earthworms and other grubs, but mostly I see them with earthworms. These birds are tough and determined little buggers with a mind of their own. They don't scare easily. They will as a group or even single bird tear up a person's lawn thoroughly looking for Earthworms here, which makes them a nuisance to many gardeners. The link above is a great post for Magpies in Sweden. They and the Black Bird below which is really a type of Thrush are determined and thorough ground foragers. The European Robin also is a major player and no doubt so is it's American Robin cousin in North American forests.

image: 10,000 Birds

The national bird of Sweden is the Blackbird Turdus merula, otherwise known as the Common Blackbird or Eurasian Blackbird, though, of course, in Sweden it is not known by any of those names but as Koltrast.  The Blackbird became the Swedish national bird as a result of a newspaper poll in 1962.  Beyond the charisma and song of the species it is unclear why the Swedish people chose the Koltrast as their national bird.  It is common in Sweden but so are many other species.  This bird's singing is the same background sound of the song Blackbird by the Beatles. It's beautiful in Springtime as it's singing echoes in the forest.
For the record, and in case some folks from the United States read this and don’t know, the Blackbird being referenced here is actually a thrush, like our American Robins. Sweden is one of at least three countries that has a thrush as the national bird (Malta and Costa Rica do as well), but Sweden is the only country to have so honored Turdus merula.   
In different parts of Sweden there are different regional names including Svarttrast, Svartstare, Gråstare, Svartklera, Buskstare, Solsvärta, and Muskvipa. (Corey)
There are other creatures over here which forage off Earthworms as well like the Jackdaws and so forth. I also am aware that many of these same critters are native to these same regions being labeled as attacked by Earthworms in northeastern America. None of these creatures were even factored in by that study group, or other studies that I am aware of for the imbalance found within those North and eastern forests in the USA & Canada. This brings me to another flaw of the myths and fables told about the invasive European earthworm. The story goes that these earthworms were never a problem for decades until Global Warming set in and with rising temperatures have allowed these nonnative invasive pests to infiltrate northern forests. Remember the Ice Age Fable killing off the earthworms who use to live in North America ? What flabbergasts me is that here in Sweden we have ten godzillion earthworms everywhere here and the forest litter is fine. The animals keep a perfect balance in populations and the idea that warming Temps has made them increase is a joke. I seriously hate the weather here where I live. It stinks. I hate the constant cold frigid icy snowy weather which seems to last 6 months here sometimes. So the Ice Age storying leaves me to be suspicious that someone is trying to gain notoriety in publishing some outrageous explanation without facts and when they do this, especially when trying to tie in global warming, it gives the climate change deniers fodder to use in debates. It just doesn't fit their version of truth. No one it seems has considered the importance of various predators in stabilizing earthworm populations. I haven't found anything over there in the literature to suggest missing predators other than lack of common sense and close mindedness when it comes to reporting a sensational story. The bottom line here is that if they don't start doing the real science as it's supposed to be done, then why should anyone care or take them seriously about the real threat to global climate ? Clearly many leaders in the science industry are dropping the ball on this one. I'm confused as to why a story of fiction is opted for as opposed to real hard cold facts backed up by evidence. There may even be other factors I have not even considered, but the ones I've listed are clearly visible to anyone, let alone some elite researcher. I'll say one thing, I'm going to be curious after this years 2014 Arctic Vortex if these so-called earthworms have died off, because such cold and worse has never effected them here.

illustration: Albert Suckow

Every Researcher should be required to take a course
in Cause Mapping or Root Cause Analysis

What will happen as it always does is the solution will be to find a way to kill off the abundant populations of earthworms. You know, the old quick fix, like so many of the crackpot solutions being proposed for turning climate change around. Maybe conducting aerial drops of some kind with some science-based chemical invention by Dow or Monsanto to deal with  quelling the symptom as opposed to actually fixing the underlying cause as they almost never do. Home gardeners and Landscapers take their Que from the Experts and I have to tell you, they far out number all the Industrial and Government entities combined and will do far more damage to the landscape in the long run. Who knows, maybe all those public trappings and poisonings have created the problem of earthworm over population in the first place. But one thing you can count on, if history in research tells us one thing, a look at the underlying cause and rebuilding balance back into the system will most likely not be an option.
Update: University of southern Denmark (03-25-2014)
Pesticides make the life of earthworms miserable 
"Pesticides are sprayed on crops to help them grow, but the effect on earthworms living in the soil under the plants is devastating, new research reveals: The worms only grow to half their normal weight and they do not reproduce as well as worms in fields that are not sprayed." (science-based agriculture could be the answer to ridding North American of these invasive pests - sarcasm alert)
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Sarcasm Alert!
Apparently, there are some old Soviet programs out there where misused and abused science has found a solution to invasive earthworm and other micro-organism over population problem:
Forests Around Chernobyl Aren’t Decaying Properly 
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/forests-around-chernobyl-arent-decaying-properly-180950075/?no-ist 
 Quote from end of article:
"According to a new study published in Oecologia, decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil. Issues with such a basic-level process, the authors of the study think, could have compounding effects for the entire ecosystem."
Wow, so microbiological life including insects and even critters like Earthworms can be completely obliterated in almost an instant of time. Well, hey, at least the forest litter is untouched. It's beginning to look like this could be the situation across the globe with a slower process called overuse and abuse of chemical fertilizers.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Climate Change: Should we put our trust in Computer Models ?

Neither do I, that's why I opt for Personal Observation & Common Sense
An  article came out the other day which reveals just how rural folks and those native indigenous peoples have a deeper connection to the landscape from a personal hands on observational and practical applications point of view. They have not had any need of Scientific Studies, Computer Models or any stupid worthless debates found on any number combat discussion forums in Cyber Space to understand something is amiss with the weather. Below are a few great photos and I'll post the link here for you to follow the entire story from the Washington Post:
"Age-old indicators under stress in high Bolivia" 
Photo: Juan Karita, AP
In this Feb. 14, 2014 photo, farmer and traditional meteorologist Francisco Condori measures rain water with a flow meter in Cutusuma, on Lake Titicaca's southern shore in Bolivia. Condori is a well-heeded font of ancestral knowledge for fellow farmers in these treeless climes frequently punished by frosts, hailstorms and drought.
Photo: Juan Karita, AP
This is a photo of farmer and traditional meteorologist Francisco Condori looks at his notes on changes in climate in Cutusuma, Bolivia. Bio-indicators are catalogued in what are known as Pachagrama, registries whose name derives from “Pachamama,” the native Andean word for “Mother Earth.” Communities compile and share the registry information, which is especially crucial from September to November when the dry season ends and farmers need to know how soon to plant, when the rains will begin and how long they will last. Condori says the "bio-indicators" he follows most closely have helped reduce agricultural losses 40 percent in Cutusuma and surrounding communities. Scientists, however, stress there are no empirical data to support the beliefs. 
The indicators are catalogued in what are known as Pachagrama, registries whose name derives from "Pachamama," the native Andean word for "Mother Earth." Communities compile and share the registry information, which is especially crucial from September to November when the dry season ends and farmers need to know how soon to plant, when the rains will begin and how long they will last. 
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My favourite picture is the last one in that series. There are 1000s of these types of simple observations everywhere around the globe, which unfortunately in most developed countries have been lost by a disconnected modern industrial public. Hence debates from ignorance is the new normal. This example below is so simple, even a child could get this. 
Photo: Juan Karita, AP
This same farmer and traditional meteorologist Francisco Condori measures last year's nest made by a small bird known as quilli quilli, inside his home in Cutusuma, Bolivia. It's in that season they look for guidance to the southern lapwing, a long-legged plover that likes grasslands. If the female drops her eggs on the crest of a furrow, a lot of rain is expected and farmers will plant potatoes rather than quinoa, which requires less water. But if she deposits them inside the furrow, it supposedly will be a dry year. Condori measures the height of the nests from the surface of the lake water determine how much rain is to come. “This year they initially built their nests about 40 centimeters (1.3 feet) above the water level. Then they dismantled them,” Condori says. Twice, in fact, did the birds dismantle nests before finally reweaving them at nearly twice their original height. “We knew it was going to rain a lot,” he says.
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The Fallacies of Computer Models
I have to admit that I never been impressed by most of the modern day computer models we hear about for whatever reasons they have been created. I do however tend to have deeper appreciation for historical charts and graphs than these future electronic prediction fortune telling schemes and they are numerous and for varying reasons. But just to focus on the climate change debate, I think these have hurt more than help in the cause of educating the public. How many times since this whole political GW debate mess has started have these scientists continually had to revise these models because of sudden dramatic unexpected change blew former religious assumption and assertions right out of the saddle ? I'm using the term "religious" in the true sense of the word because what we really have here is "blind faith", not actual facts. I have no problem with the word and need for faith. But I like faith based on facts. For example, almost every human on Earth has faith every night that the very next day the sun will rise and do so even if it's a cloudy day. That's because in the experience of single human being the Sun's rising is an every day common occurrence No one ever gives it another thought that day will always without fail follow night. Called, faith based on fact. But again, I hate blind faith because this is where various components of this world's leadership has it's death grip on the majority of mankind. 
These Climate Models are made with simplifications and assumptions about the real world. Some aspects are discounted as insignificant while others make it into the computer model based on the personal bias of the particular research in charge of programming. The problem I have observed over the past decade is that every single year since this mess has been debated, they find it necessary to discard what they previously insisted upon as fact and replace it with newer assumptions based mostly on the worsening problems which threw water on their previous climate model campfire. How many of these futuristic fortune-telling prediction models went from how bad things would be at the end of the 21st Century, then downgrading to 2050, 2030, 2020, etc ? Roy Kalawsky, Professor of Systems Engineering at Loughborough University had this to say about the problems associated with computer modeling:  
“The model can never be the real thing because there are things you haven't taken into account in the modelling process that could have a tiny but still important impact later on,” 
“One of biggest challenges I feel in the modelling process is being able to validate and verify the model you've created," says Roy, "The modelling process doesn't finish when you've made the model, because you've got to compare the outputs from the model or what you observe in the model against what you can see in the real world. If it doesn’t comply then you have to try and understand why that is so you go back and refine the model."

The computer models for the average human being are generally right over their heads and mostly used by politicians and journalists to manipulate some ideologically driven agenda. While some importance could be obtained, mostly they fail. Seriously, read the daily News and nothing around the planet ever seems to improve despite all their self-promoted enlightenment of how things work here on Earth. I'm not talking pilot programs or localized success stories being exaggerated or being embellished to propagandize a cause or obtain further grant funds. I'm talking nothing is improving anywhere from an environmental standpoint. Mostly what I often find disturbingly wrong with the way which much of science attempts communication to the average person is often times they exhibit a total lack of common sense. For all the understanding that is out there archived over the past 100 years about how nature really works, very little of it gets put into any meaningful context in the form of biomimicry when it comes to ideas, solutions or technological innovation. What they need to do is follow the lead of people like Alan Alda who created a program for teaching Scientists to communicate in meaningful terminology by  dumping the "Intellect Speak" they are so fond of amongst their peers, but generally alienates the majority of the public. Take a good of one paragraph along with the link below: 
"You don't think of knowledge as a curse, but it's a curse if I think you know everything I know and I talk to you in ways [where] you can't understand me," Alda said. "So that's not only the public, that's policy makers like Congress, who have told me over and over again they cannot understand scientists who come in to talk to them."
(Source) 
Then there are those science research paper abstracts which mostly are never meant for the Public's eyes, but have you ever wished that peer reviewed publications were written in plain, easy to understand language, without intellect speak jargon and hidden meaning technical terms? Wouldn't it be great if the Scientists were held under the same standard of communication rules as the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires of Government ? Not that it would make any difference! Then there is this from Adjunct Professor, Matthew Russell of South College in Knoxville Tennessee and his new Venture called Abtract 2.0. He says:
"A majority of published scientific research is federally funded by taxpayer dollars in the U.S. yet most taxpayers have no idea why the research findings from these funds are important or how they contribute to a better society.
What if the article abstracts, laced with big words and jargon, were rewritten to a level where most people could understand; an abstract 2.0 if you will? By reading a short summary of the work, anyone who wanted to know could actually understand the problem studied and the results. Maybe more importantly, the reader would not have to rely on interpretations of the research from popular media sources that have higher priorities than educating the public."  
(Source: Abstract 2.0)
This is certainly true not only of climate change, but also other areas of import regarding other topics about of Earth's environment where models and studies are unfortunately incorrect because of personal bias and priori judgements motivated by various biased heartfelt assumptions. This is beautifully illustrated in a post by Prairie Ecologist, Chris Helzer who made an interesting admission about many of his assumptions which later turned out to be incorrect. Here is how it works according to him. Actually, I believe we all have had this experience on and off throughout our lives. I certainly have. 
"Unfortunately, observations are inherently biased. When I start to notice a pattern through observation, I construct a theory to explain it. That’s good science. However, once I have a theory in mind, it influences the way I see things – and I tend to interpret my observations based on my theory.  That means it’s pretty easy to start telling myself a story that sounds good, but isn’t actually true. Sometimes, I figure out that my story is wrong through repeated observations. More often, however, what causes me to stop and reconsider is cold hard data. Here’s a recent example of my data showing me that I need to reconsider a theory based on observations."
Please read the entire article which is actually very interesting and illustrative in how and where things can go wrong in research, although unlike Chris, most researchers are reluctant to backtrack and admit errors. Here is the link to the entire post on Canadian Rye grass.
The Prairie Ecologist: "Just When I Think I’ve Got Something Figured Out…"
Here are some further concluding remarks from his post;
"I take two major lessons from this. First, I need to be more careful in my assumptions about how our management is impacting prairies. That’s nothing new – I fall into that trap all the time, and frequently have to remind myself not to overgeneralize. In this case, I had constructed a logical story explaining why Canada wildrye was abundant in our well-established (old) restored prairies but rare in ungrazed plantings such as CRP fields. There are, of course, many possible explanations for that phenomenon (differences in soil types, plant diversity, seeding rates – particularly of warm-season grasses, fire management, etc.) but I grabbed one simple explanation without adequately considering all those other factors."
"The second lesson is that it’s dangerous to rely solely on observations when trying to figure out natural systems.  This is not a new lesson either, and it’s why I try to collect as much data as I can. Observations are really important, but are easily biased by what we think is – or should be – happening. It’s natural to see what you expect to see."
Admittedly, the Science behind climate change computer models are just as loaded down with persional biased assumptions and assertions. Mainly because the researchers themselves are as equally mistake and error prone just as any other human being on Earth. However, the average person shouldn't really need a Scientist, Politician, Businessman or some Religious Cleric to tell them something is perverted and wrong with our planet's daily functions in the natural world. Watch this video below about the caution which should be taken in trusting any computer models. Most computer models are shackled to the prjudice, biases and flaws of the one inputing the data into them. This is because scientists are humans equal to everyone else on the planet, although admitting this is rarely done.


Can Computer Models accurately predict what the climate will be decades from now? What evidence is there that these models are any more reliable than fortune tellers? Not much. In fact there are many real-world examples of computer modeling failing miserably while working on issues that are much, much less complicated than climate. These indigenous natives peoples from Bolivia are no doubt considered illiterate by today's intellectual standards practiced by the majority of the world's elites. But this same leadership are themselves irrelevant.


What about those Inuit (Eskimo) Elders above the Arctic Circle who for centuries learned to navigate by the stars and geological terrain markings on the horizon, but have noticed the skyline has change, infering something wrong with the Earth's tilt ? Everyone else is going to have to make a decision as to who or what they are going to believe and live with the consequences of that choice. Burying one's head in the global weirding sand can go either way.




Saturday, March 1, 2014

Old Growth Tree Roots are far far more than Nature's Climate Thermostat

www.fragmentedforests.org
In fact I'll go well beyond the article that I am going to reference Here from Oxford & Sheffield Universities which was mainly about tree roots up in mountains. You know how it is, mostly the popular subject is rainforests, but there is far more to climate mechanisms than that. In my own personal biased opinion, all types of plant community rooting infrastructures offer this service where ever they may be found or located together still in one very functional piece. Very little is actually left anywhere with regards Earth's original functioning biological cloud formation weather mechanisms otherwise known as an old growth forested habitat. And what is left is a fraction of it's former glory. Proof is the fact that our planet's finely tuned well oiled machine for sustaining all life is in serious need of an overhaul. Rebuilding and replanting these once pristine forested ecosystems calls for actual understanding of the various components within the system, the various roles differing plant species play (not to mention animal shaping of plant systems) and the complex multitasking phenomena role played by these various structures within each plant. In other words there is more to reestablishment than merely having Boy Scouts volunteer to plant trees just anywhere that looks and feels good. 


credit: Mine - Foothill Pine (Pinus sabiniana)
Things have to be well thought out and prepared for. Specific Plants need to be selected and the intact wild infrastructure left in place. Knowing the rooting depth and role each species of wild plant may play a major part in remote out planting when it comes to seedling survival. Though I haven't done any habitat creation or establishment in several years, in Spring 2014, I did so up in Ranchita California where my brother lives. He has several acres and a hillside on the eastern side over looking his home which could be landscaped utilizing California Native trees for a northeastern Santa Ana wind break. This area is very windy and dry and so many of the conventional nonnative ornamental plants from the coastal city retail nurseries below will mostly fail up there at 4000'. The trees I chose were an often under used (in my opinion) pine tree called Foothill or Gray Pine (Pinus sabianiana) which is actually pictured above here. This picture was emailed to me in October 2013. The tree was remote planted with no irrigation system whatsoever installed as an life insurance backup. All the trees (which also includes the Engleman Oaks) are doing well and I look forward to going back there this coming May/June 2014 to see and also document their progress. 


by Bob Harms - University of Texas
The first thing I did was walk the hill looking for specific species of chaparral plants which would select for the perfect host as a Mother tree or Nurse Plant depending on their size and knowing something about their root depth penetrating ability. This is more important because you want a species of chaparral which will work as a great facilitator of Hydraulic Lift and redistribution of water from deeper layers of wet sub-soil regions to dryer surface layers where your shallow rooted seedling will be inserted in the surface soil. I look for a Chaparral species that is particularly well known for having root hardware design structure which is called a Lignotuber. This is common with many chaparral plants which have a large burl with multi-branched stems above ground and several major and secondary taproot infrastructure networks underground. The picture at the top is a fantastic illustration of the perfect Lignotuber. While I have used the often demonized Chamise or Greasewood (Adenostoma fasciculatum) with it's potential subsoil rooting depth at more than 60', I actually prefer it's relative which is the common small tree-like Redshank or Ribbonwood (adenostoma sparsifolium) because it has a much tougher and far deeper root structure. Anyone who has tried to dig one of these small trees out by hand with shovel and pry bar knows that each downwards plunging branching taproot is like trying to extract a wisdom tooth. You'll also notice that with a very large and old healthy specimen that of all the chaparral, this plant even during times of drought, the soil within the immediate vicinity of it's roots will be as damp as early Spring soil at the end of a normal rainy season. Since my brother's hillside had no Redshank, I opted for planting the Foothill Pine in between a Scrub Oak and a Mountain Mahogany which also worked fine. The tree doesn't have to be under the canopy of the chaparral, but near the canopy drip-line where the edge of the surface feeding roots will be located. Actually the ecto-mycorrhizae I use will head out away from the seedling looking for just such rich moisture catches. It doesn't necessarily have to directly interconnect with chaparral roots. Once tapped into this system, the tree is setup for increased survival chances, given any herbivore predation from Squirrels, rabbits or Deer doesn't take your tender prize while it's in it's early delicate years of growth. In the photo I found some great chicken wire cages for putting around the tree which appear to have worked out. Below are some of my successes with both chaparral Redshank & Greasewood where I planted the Counter Pines in open spaces between the chaparral in remote planting, with no irrigation and a must inoculation of Pisolithus tinctorius ecto-mycorrhizae. All those things have to be in place. The ecto-inoculent is necessary or the trees will not succeed as well. On a side note, if planting near a scrub oak, the PT Mycorrhizae will also colonize it and tie in together both plants. You will always notice a very marked improvement in the Scrub Oak foliage the following season after the start of Spring after winter rains. You should also find large truffles as well. Now, pay close attention below here.


Photo: Mine
Believe it or not, this tree was a two year old planted in the winter of 2000/2001. It was watered regularly the first couple of months to simulate a wet period, then left to it's own. It stayed small for 3 or four years then shot up like a rocket. The tree is almost as tall as the old growth Redshank which is in the background. Burnt Valley and Lookout Mountain are in the background. You should also take special note that this soil here is extremely shallow with broken decomposed granite rock. I did break through this rocky layer when I created the original planting hole with a heavy steel bar at about two foot down. I reused the same soil as back fill without ANY amendment material added. I never ever use amendment, just fungal inoculum and mulch on the very surface. The soil for me was not a problem as the chaparral was itself old growth and it's massive height indicated it's roots had spiraled through the fractured rock with ease into deeper moister soil layers. The picture below is of the larger Jeffrey & Coulter Pines planted in between the Redshank we planted at Dawson's old place in Terwilliger which is also much hotter and far more lower in elevation than my place on top of Table Mountain. Still, notice the success. Inoculated with PT ecto-mycorrhizae, irrigation in early to middle 1980s and left alone thereafter. Once again, the Redshank Chaparral is the real hero here.
Photo: Mine
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Shifting Gears Here

Microbial breakdown of
rocks magnified
The article from the Oxford and Sheffield Universities was interesting, but it left out so many important details. It narrowly focused on large tree rooting ability to go deeply into subsoils and weather and/or degrade rocks, making more soils. Sure enough, a healthy determined root system can do just that. This is why I have no problem planting trees in what would otherwise be normally viewed as nothing more than horrible unproductive rocky soils. For me those are the best types of geological situations for forest and/or other native vegetation establishment which after maturity should be left entirely alone and untouched. Many things besides an extensively engineered complex root system assist in this mineral breakdown process. First, most notably, both endo & ecto mycorrhizae which are actually colonized on the actual plant root systems are the main players here, along with other beneficial soil bacteria. The roots also will supply water deep into the soil as they move downwards by means of hydraulic descent. Roots alone however will not do this rock breakdown into finer soils. For further information how sub-soils allow for life and breakdown of nutrients which are otherwise locked up and unavailable to plants, please read the information here on the link http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243026 . I'd post the Abstract and some pertinent bits, but it will be boring for most of you. 

The main message found at that site is that beneficial fungi, algae, bacteria and other microbes can actually unlock nutrients like Nitrogen and Phosphorus which are locked up in a structural form which makes them unavailable to all plants. By taking advantage of already existing cracks and other fractures, this actually leads the way for tree and shrub roots to actually intrude into deeper layers of sub-soils. This in turn allows plants with exceptional ability with regards a phenomena known as Hydraulic Descent to be able to pump water from the surface during the rainy season to these deeper layers to be utilized later during the hotter summer months. Any excess water will be added to deep underground aquifers which have suffered as a result of human misuse and abuse. Aquifers mean higher water tables for which even deserts may thrive with certain plants like Mesquite or Palo Verde designed to withstand those harsh environmental conditions. Below is a beautifully illustrated animation of what takes place all the time within rocky soil structures.



One thing is for sure, we truly don't know the extent to which hydraulic descent of moisture through deeper large old growth roots into much deeper layers of sub-soils actually works and which plants perform a better job at doing this. Still, knowing such valuable information would in of itself be invaluable to the re-forester when selecting just the right plant components for making a success of any ecosystem reestablishment. As stated at the beginning, most of the valuable old growth woodlands of most all ecosystems have only remnants of their former glory and it's a pity because observation is key to any understanding how such plant mechanisms function. We know what happens to geology when vegetation is severely removed. Rains come and wash away much of the valuable topsoil with it's healthy biological components. Soils develop into desertification in many areas and the soil pores close up so tightly that they just seem to fossilize into a type of rock. Any badlands are a prime example. In many cases rebuilding of such an area with re-vegetation in mind requires drastic measures. Perhaps it would be necessary to apply organic matter to the topsoil layers, but only after you perform a soil fracturing task otherwise utilized by those who drill deep holes for planting small explosives for percolation improvement through otherwise impermeable rock/soil layers. Rain alone is not going to percolate into deeper layers of Earth's sub-soil all by itself without the assistance of vegetation. References for last resort of soil impact fracturing: Here 


credit: Greenbelt

Hydraulic Descent during plant dormancy


Add caption
Once a healthy complex infrastructure of plant roots is in place, then other plants may be inserted into the landscape. Understanding these basic fundamentals will make any attempt at ecosystem reestablishment a much greater success. Mostly it is about showing respect for what already exists and following a strict guide line of natives within that particular system. For myself I am mostly familiar with drier climate systems, as opposed to where I find myself presently. If we once again take a journey into the past and view so-called great civilizations which collapsed as a result of drought, we find some amazing similarities as to what is happening today around the globe, but on a far grander scale. A week ago I wrote yet another post on the many romanticized myths about Native American conservation. Now there is no doubt that such peoples had a great deal of knowledge about living off the land, but also many of these cultures made terrible mistakes. One example of this is the mysterious disappearance of the pre-Inca Nazca Civilization of Peruvian deserts.  These are the same peoples many of the crackpot pseudo-scientists claim ancient aliens helped. Mostly they deforested this sensitive desert forested landscape of it's prized variety of Mesquite, the Huarango Trees (Prosopis pallida). This tree is considered a "Keystone Species" because of it's foundational structure within it's environment as the dominant tree. As the photo above reveals, this type of Prosopis had some huge rooting infrastructure capabilities as evidenced by the men who are dwarfed by this rare old growth specimen's immense size. If Arizona's Velvet Mesquite's taproot can bore deep into the earth at record depths between 150' and Africa's Acacia Tortilis on the Savanna even deeper to 200'+, then think what Huarango is capable of. One thing that does fascinate me is that this Nazca civilization along with those of Easter Island people, the Yucatan's Maya Empire, the Colorado Plateau Anasazi and the Cahokia Pyramid mound civilization of the Mississippi River in Illinois all seem to have disappeared much around the same time period. Now these peoples were said to be advanced, but even with their stone aged tools over several hundreds of years, they deforested and destroyed a complex weather creation mechanism which led to their downfall by means of prolonged drought. Now presently at an accelerated pace with an industrial steel mechanized human society, we have in a little over 100+ years brought almost a complete breakdown of an entire global weather mechanism and nobody can seem to agree on anything when it comes to making a correction. None of this is really rocket science here. The picture below taken by Geologist Wayne Ranne on a trip he made through Rajasthan outside Jodhpor India is an excellent example of how desertification could be reserved by even stabilizing drifting Sand Dunes with species of trees like Acacia or Prosopis.


Credit: Wayne Ranne - Jodhpor India, Acacia tree stabilized Sand Dune

Now you can go ahead and read the article from the link below on how Tree roots 'are natural thermostat' (which is a little vague) about how deep roots of trees are carbon sinks in sub-soils, or how Mushrooms are going to save the world, but none of the wishful speculation (though interesting) backed by patents and grandiose hopes of making a fortune with these schemes is going to replace REAL OUTDOORS education and Practical Application of what is observed. Below here is a further explanation of the actual heroes of bedrock breakdown and soil creation along with how they all work in conjunction with all other components within every ecosystem.
Climate News Network: Tree roots 'are natural thermostat'
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Of Further and Related Interesting Note:
Credit: Greener Ideal (February 24, 2014)

Can Mushrooms Fight Climate Change ?
The link attached to the illustrative animation to the right here is an easier read for most folks. I like the illustration and the constructive mechanisms which are being conveyed in the picture. For most folks such animations along with simplistic paragraphs which speak in glittering generalities on a subject are enough to satisfy. But do such posts really get as much needed information to the public and wet their appetite for more deeper meat and potatoes material ? Does it actually motivate anyone to make personal application with what they read, or is the information considered nothing more than of mild interest and something other people like Scientists will take care of eventually ? There was a better piece published earlier on the same subject which came in January 8th 2014 which also had a similar title: Why Some Mushrooms May Be Magic for Climate Change . This comes from Time magazine's online journal and here are some important quotes from the author of the article, Bryan Walsh who summarizes a good explanation of the processes at work in our forest soils:
"Plants sequester carbon dioxide, but when they die, that carbon enters the soil—a lot of it. Globally, soil is the biggest single terrestrial reservoir of carbon, far more than the amount of carbon contained in living things and in the atmosphere combined. (On a planetary scale, the oceans hold by far the most carbon.) As the dead plant matter is broken down by microbes in the oil, that carbon is released back into the air. The rate at which that carbon leaves the soil can obviously have a major impact on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, which in turn helps drive climate change."
Of course when you first read this, it seems like the blame for carbon release is by the decomposing of vegetation which causes the CO2 gases. But the real damage is man made synthesized unnatural aerosols into our atmosphere, not swamp gases from nature which have been going on for 10s of 1000s of years with no problem until now. Lately, I have seen some articles blaming trees for the release of their own VOCs (natural aerosols) which mix with industrial particles and cause hazy polluted skies. However, trees have been doing this with no problems until humans stepped up to the plate.
"One of the limits to the growth of those decomposing microbes is the availability of nitrogen in the soil. Living plants and soil microbes compete for nitrogen, and the less nitrogen is available to the microbes, the slower decomposition is—and the more carbon remains in the soil, instead of outgassing into the atmosphere. This is where the fungi come in. Most plants have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi: the fungi extract the nitrogen from the soil, and make it available to the plants through their roots. But according to a new study in Nature, one major type of the symbiotic fungi can extract nitrogen much more quickly than other types—and that in turn slows the growth of the competing microbes and leaves much more carbon locked away in the soil." 
Keep in mind also that even if fungi and bacteria are real heroes, they are also subject to the same deadly chemical pollution which kills other living things. Acid rain from industrial regions is also a killer of these organisms. As tough as we all would like to believe the microbial world is, they too have limits as to what they can withstand, often times it's the negative pathogenic microbial types which flourish as a result of the imbalance. This in turn creates the unfortunate and unfair bad reputation against all things microbial.

Researchers from the University of Texas, Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute ran computer models on data from more than 200 soil profiles from around the world. They found that soils dominated by ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal (EEM) fungi contain as much as 70% more carbon than soils dominated by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. That’s because the EEM fungi produce more nitrogen-degrading enzymes, which allows them to extract more nitrogen from the soil. They essentially outcompete the soil microbes, which slows down their ability to decompose dead plant matter and return carbon from the soil to the atmosphere. “This analysis clearly establishes that the different types of symbiotic fungi that colonize plant roots exert major control on the global carbon cycle, which has not been fully appreciated or demonstrated until now,” said Colin Averill, a graduate student at the University of Texas and the lead author of the paper.
That relationship between the different types of fungi and plants is so important for the carbon cycle because it’s independent of temperature, precipitation, soil clay content and all the other variable factors that can influence plant growth and soil content. Perhaps unfortunately for us, though, AM fungi symbiosis is far more common, occurring in approximately 85% of plant families, while just a few plant families have a symbiotic relationship with EEM fungi. That could change as the composition of forests change, however, but we wouldn’t know the effects until scientists add the role of the different kinds of symbiotic fungi into global climate models, which they have yet to do."
“This study shows that trees and decomposers are really connected via these mycorrhizal fungi, and that you can’t accurately predict future carbon cycling without thinking about how these two groups interact,” said Averill. “We need to think of these systems holistically.” 
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Some Conclusions
"Planes, Trains and Automobiles"
Most of the articles coming out these days start out with a flashy sexy headlines to capture the imagination of an otherwise disinterested short attention spanned public with severe "Nature Deficit Disorder". Sensational phrases or words/terms like, "For the first time . . " or "Mushrooms can save the world" are meant to entice the reader into believing there actually are newly invented quick fix materialistic approaches which are so simple, as if they have just been under our noses all along. Most articles never really address or actually stress that the irresponsible stupid behavior of human beings has be STOPPED first, before any correction being implemented if there is to be any success at all. Much like the Doctors I interview who have patients who refuse to stop living a Chain Smoking or Boozing lifestyle, all the time believing and insisting there is just some magic pill the Doc's can prescribe to make the consequences go away. The photo above I have used before where John Candy and Steve Martin get stopped by the Police Officer and provide an otherwise humorous, but at the same time idiotic excuse as to why they should be allowed to be on their merry way. From an environmental point of view, the scripted conversational text between out of touch human beings with no clue and Researchers who see where the Natural World is headed could read like this: 
Humans: "Top of the morning to you Researcher, is there something we can help you with ?"
Researchers: "What the heck are you doing to your environmental surroundings ?"
Humans: "Well we've had a few disastrous industrial science mishaps happen recently ?"

Researchers: "Do you have any idea how accelerated you've pushed the natural world to the point of total breakdown ?"
Humans: "Well It's hard to say with any degree of accuracy just exactly how far we've run things into the ground."
Researchers: "Do you feel this planet is still safe enough to live on ? You've pushed things to the limit, are almost out of fuel and there are no foreseeable Services for the next 100 years"
Humans: "Well, yeah. we can buy that. Sure. You'd know better than us, especially since our weather mechanism thermostat's been melted down with global warming."
Researchers: "Do you feel this planet's life sustaining mechanisms are intact and still safe enough for sustaining life  ?"
Humans: "Yes, we do. The Earth's no longer as pretty as it once was, but it will get you where you want to go."

Researchers: "You've got no rainfall, no clear skies, failing economies and no properly functioning weather mechanisms, is that about correct ?"
Humans: "No not a one, However our Laptops, TV and iPads still work. Funny as that may seem, and also on that weather thing, we've been told that GMOs and Geoengineering are going to save everything. And you, anyone who doesn't believe those things will problem solve for us are, well, just anti-science" 
Okay, Okay, enough of the snarky superciliousness!  
Well, I'd post other references, but you know, it would be water off a Duck's back!