Friday, March 14, 2014

Ongoing Mismanagement of Earth's Forested Ecosystems

The latest Burn Notice episodes:
I'll simply post a few of the usual outrageous quotes often parroted by an otherwise ignorant public who rely on out of touch with reality officials to do their outdoors thinking and study for them.
(1)"Prescribed burns reduce wildfire threat"
“Some plant communities and animal species rely on periodic fire for their existence. The prescribed burns also reduce the amount of potential wildfire fuel and protect a parks’ resources and neighboring areas if lightning, arson or carelessness sparks a wildfire.”
This is insane. These ongoing pulpit parroting of religious affirmations insisting that plants and animals need Fire in order to propagate. Yes, life goes on after fires, but plants and animals also have other ways of carrying on if no fire is present. An explosion of growth strategies with plants and wildlife encoded within their DNA as a direct response to a catastrophic events work well to get things back on track, but even these become null & void if such events are repeatedly experienced. Don't ever count on the Public to get any of this if Officials are out of touch with the reality of how most ecosystems actually work. 
“The point of this fire was to reduce the threat of wildfire. We’re burning it on our terms so a wildfire can’t burn on its terms,” Walker said Tuesday. “Our goal is to reduce small fuels by consuming them with fire. There will also be some benefits by reducing hardwood competition and making a more park-life appearance with general aesthetic quality.” 
That is nothing more than a "Palms to Pines" Mandate for recreational aesthetic appeal in mind for the Public's approval. The expression used here as, "reducing hardwood competition" is a code word for decadent brush or chaparral which are considered an invasive species, even though they may be Native to the area. The terms endemic & invasive have also become redefined.
(source: News Herald - March 4th 2014)
(2) "The answer to forest-destroying fires is more fire, researchers say"
The Southwest Fire Science Consortium, which held a three-day meeting in Tucson this week to address forest resiliency in the face of climate change and megafires.  More than 100 scientists, land managers and firefighters from government, academic and nongovernmental agencies gathered to brainstorm strategies for making forests resilient as big, hot fires threaten their very existence.
“More fire, not less” is one answer, the researchers said.”
“Treating and burning the landscape regularly, and using natural fire to accomplish those same ends will allow those changes to occur gradually." 
(Arizona Daily Star - February 28 2014)
In other Breaking News:
 "Ghenghis Khan was the Earth's 1st Eco-Warrior"
This absurd story floated around a few years back about the mass murdering of an estimated 40 million people by this Thug and how good it was for the planet back then because farmland turned back into forests. Along with this, other propagated myths and fables of the "Black Plague", Conquistadors destroying Central American Civilizations, etc were equally as beneficial to those ecosystems. These absurd asinine hypothesis of mass die-offs of human beings being good for Nature and Climate Change makes the 20th Century's Social Darwinism Eugenics programs look like Pollyanna & her friends playing "The Glad Game". Personally I find such crackpot theorizing to be nothing more than Parable of the Broken Window Fallacy if you know what I mean ? Okay, so I didn't really want to go there, but there was another updated article which came out on 11th of March 2014 with a climate related story where the theory has always been that this Mongol Thug and his hordes who lived in a barren dry wilderness was the reason for spreading their mighty Empire to wetter greener pastures just wasn't the case based on tree ring studies. The period of around 1200 C.E. was actually the wettest on record for Mongolia. In the Bloomberg article in the Energy, Resources and Sustainability section, the article about the Mongolian Empire had one interesting point in it which relates to fire history within the record of ancient tree rings. In fact, I think most people missed this point, which basically said there that fire was extremely rare or lacked fire altogether based on what they discovered in the tree rings. Here are a couple of the article quotes which I believe no one picks up on:
Amy Hessl, a physical geographer at West Virginia University, and her colleagues stumbled on the evidence for this ancient episode of unusual wetness by accident. In 2010, she was part of an expedition looking to understand the fire history of north-central Mongolia. The researchers were looking at tree rings, which represent a tree’s annual growth layers and show charring from ancient fires.
En route to the study site, the team was driving past an old lava flow, when Hessl noted a stand of pine trees amongst the rocks. She convinced the team to stop on the way back and take some samples. 
“They sat in the lab for four or five months,” co-author Neil Pederson, a scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’sTree-Ring Laboratory, said in an interview.
When Pederson finally got around to analyzing them, he found they were much older than expected. One went all the way back to the 600s, and others to the 1100s.  Pederson didn’t find any evidence of fire, but he was surprised to see a series of unusually thick growth rings representing the years 1215–1226. 
(Story Source - March 11 2014)
The trees they mainly took samples from were mostly Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris. It's incredible because all we hear today from the Experts on Fire Ecology is how Nature needs fires and how fire creates evolutionary adaptations, which is bunk. Fire does NOT create, it destroys, but Nature does have built in programs for dealing with a recovery from just such a natural catastrophe. Now this isn't to say fire has never been around in past history or that it does not create opportunities. However it's importance to the natural world has always been overblown and such cultural religiously motivated dogmatic views which are generally well entrenched are tough Brazilian Nuts to crack. Too much fire and those so-called amazing rebound mechanisms go out the window and that is what we are experiencing now. I won't elaborate anymore on this, but you can read and even bookmark some of these Tree Ring Lab studies and other research papers about Mongolia from the following links:
Timelines in Timber: Inside a Tree-Ring Laboratory
Fire, Climate, And Forest History In Mongolia
Reconstructing fire history in central Mongolia from tree-rings
Mongolian Climate, Ecology & Culture

Photo: Neil Pederson

The Logo Tree, a dead and likely ancient Siberian pine.

Interestingly, they found areas where fire had occurred in specific locations, but also other locations within the same geographical location had not had fire for hundreds of years. Incredibly, these ecosystems have done fine in the absence of fire which flies in the face of most of the fire ecology doctrines. But the single most important factor you will never once find taken into consideration either about the history of any region or as a solution for managing forested systems is real viable options for rebuilding an ecosystem is to consider utilizing animals like herbivores & predators as a complete complement package. Or how about using domestic animals responsibly with a hands on guidance management for mimicking the specific behavioral movements of creatures like wild herding and roaming herbivores ? No such luck where FIRE is considered King of maintenance. I have touched on this previously in my last post regarding the importance of studying the historical  herbivore effects with browsing on vegetative ecosystems such as the Yellowstone example of the Elk & Wolf combo. 
What is meant by the word "Natural" when it comes to Land Management?
Did you know ? Earth was once a much Crappier place to live than it is NOW!

Modern Day Field Research
The facts show that animals have a more positive impact on vegetation than fires. Not that fires don't provide some measure of environmental benefits, but those benefits are overblown in the propaganda department, especially when there are politcal-business agendas to be addressed. Along similar lines regarding the Elk-Wolf Combo environmental impact at Yellowstone and the effects Elk had on vegetation clearance, there have been articles floating around the Internet recently demonizing the Yellowstone Wolf impact study with regards to improved Forest health. As par for the way modern day research is generally conducted, tunnel vision and peripheral vision always seem to be at conflict with one another. Once again lack of common sense prevails. While some individuals have a natural ability view certain target wildlife within the context of an entire ecosystem, sadly the majority are incapable of this gift. For example criticism has been lodged against those who would call the Yellowstone Wolves heroes of the ecosystem improvement. For example, an article yesterday from the New Your Times had this to say in response:

"Initially, scientists suggested that wolves alone were responsible for this recovery. But ecology, as with all sciences, advances as new information comes to light, and recent findings indicate the Yellowstone story may be more nuanced than previously thought." 
New York Times (March 9, 2014)
The above article's author, Arthur Middleton expressed negativity was about another article Hunting Habits of Wolves Change Ecological Balance in Yellowstone in which he thought that the other author Jim Robbins and the Scientists who were cited tended to celebrate the Wolf contribution a little too much and neglected to credit other biological components within the Yellowstone ecosystem for the vegetation recovery success stories. This is untrue, I never once got that impression or found where they failed to credit other living components. But there even appears to be other researchers with their own slant and take on the subject who also take potshots in criticizing the original accounts and public information which in their opinion celebrated the wolf contribution way too much. Again, I never arrived at those conclusions. What I see more here and with other studies is a competition between egos motivated by envy, covetousness and jealousy which are in the long run counterproductive. But this immature behavioral phenomena can been seen in most scientific studies in any field these days. It is after all the nature I guess of not our modern day's intellectualism, but also a character flaw throughout history with regards human beings. For me the Yellowstone Ecology is like a brand new finely tuned complex Rolls Royce. Let's say the timing within the engine was off or one tire was missing and someone had the lame idea to use a ski plate to substitute for the missing wheel. Proper functionality would have been grossly missing. But replaced with the missing original parts designed within the system and the entire mechanism runs like a top. Everything else in the system would fall into place.
The biggest problem for me is that all this deflects attention away from more important issues like practical application in other areas of wildlands maintenance. Instead we're all treated to some jealous clown climbing a soapbox and hand waiving for attention. This application of animals in replacing Prescribed Burns could be used in correcting something else that has been in the News as of late. For example, from Cornell University came this article: Deer proliferation disrupts a forest’s natural growth . The Deer enclosure above right is an example of Deer eating too much plant biodivsersity on the one side of the fence as compared to the other side. But the ironic thing about this terrible environmental impact of large numbers of Herbivores (Elk & Deer) being demonized for conducting excessive house cleaning in Forested understories is because it prevents healthy biodivsersity of plant life (see the NPR story: Growing Deer Population Hurts Survival Of Forests ). Nevertheless this completely contradicts the two articles at the top of this post where other Ecology Scientists and Forest Researchers insist that fire is needed on an ongoing basis because dense biodiverse understories are bad because they harm more desirable trees and create fire hazards. Prescribed Fire or Control Burns they say would clean house and take care of all of that decadent brush. But is a clean Forest understory a bad thing or a good thing ? Depends on which church you attend I guess. If then Fire is a good thing after all, then why are they not considering more animal introductions into the trouble spot locations to be considered ? Or how about domesticated livestock more closely monitored like Joel Salatin's forest model of one month of disturbance followed by 11 months of rest and repair ? Actually, none of these options are ever on the table for official discussion. 

image: Marion Fayolle
I have to admit that what I found most interesting in the Wolf studies and impact in Yellowstone was the behavioral changes they actually created among the Elk. The painting above showing wolves hunting Elk and Deer with guns is supposed to illustrate that hunting and killing is what brought numbers of Elk down. Less Elf means Less Browsing. So the theory goes. Clearly there was more to it than that. This past January 2014 articles of studies showing just the mere presence of wolves within an area causes weight loss in Cattle and also some miscarriages. See Wolf predation of cattle affects calf weight in Montana . Could that also have contributed to Elk number declines ? Like Cattle, the pre-wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone would have created a sort of Elk with domestic livestock characteristics which without fear of predators, allowed them a comfortable carefree attitude to mow down all manner of vegetation without a care in the world and with such over abundance of food be more inclined to produce more offspring. This is often seen within insect populations in either your landscape or Agriculture where pesticides also kill natural predators to plant chewing which over populate and create needs for more pesticides because of an abnormal imbalance. Rather than reestablishing a previous balanced setting, home owners and farmers opt for quick mass kill fixes for which they have been marketed to do by large Commercial Corporate Interests.

With all the supposedly superior understanding of how Nature works by all the Experts out there today, very little Biomimicry which is replicating how nature works in land management is ever used or even considered as an option in the first place. The justification for utilizing more and more regular fire burns for maintenance in woodland areas is said to be justified because Indians did it to benefit herbivore wildlife who just love meadows and grasslands. But  clearly this has being proven a lie in the light of what Deer and Elk have been doing to Forest understories. Are we to believe that Native Americans over 100s of years never once observed any of this ? Do you realize that most people who envision Buffalo, Elk and Antelope out on the plains never once research and consider that they at one time made migrations through many dense forested areas in the eastern half of the United States with researchers telling us that at one time with all these species they numbered into the 10s of millions ? One or the other of all these Researchers & Scientists are lying in all these studies. So which one is it ? Again, it's that pick your favourite Church Preacher phenomena who tickles your ears the way you like it. Natives may and did use fire, but for reasons other than the popular Romance novels wants you to believe. Here is an interesting video which explains differences between having Tunnel Vision and the ability to view things in context called
 Peripheral Vision !
Next News Item up: Earthworms are invasive, cause climate change and deforestation. See the post below:
Global Weirding (climate change) & stories that make it a tough sell

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for putting this together Kevin. Common sense negates a single strategy for different places. Species, terrain, and history vary across short distances. And who needs a "park-like" forest? Timber harvesters, cattle, picnickers?


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