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)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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.

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