Friday, March 6, 2015

Uncovering the truth behind Ecosystem Management Studies by exposing the commitments of the Researchers

Not all researchers are committed and obligated to those who fund their projects. But a great many others whose research often effects business interests or official government policy out there are committed to those doing the bankrolling. 

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On February 20, 2015, there was an article published in Forest Research and Outreach titled: "Thinning is an effective tool for management of blue oak woodlands" It dealt with a topic of enhancing the wildscape to improve grazing, but it made some interesting statements. As always, the theory is, the landscape has to many trees which in these case were bad because grazing plants for livestock was more desirable. Often times in the past, Chaparral itself has taken the hit for not allowing grasses and other herbaceous plants from thriving for cattle forage. This time, Blue Oaks take the hit. After Oak removal, here is what was said about what they had hoped would happen and what actually happened. I'll quote two paragraphs:
“The Versteeg Ranch thought that, with more sunlight, the amount of native grasses would increase, but that wasn't the case,” Richard Standiford said. “The vegetation in all the plots was mostly grasses and forbs that were introduced after Europeans began settling California, as it is in most oak woodland around the state.”
This is interesting. First, because it agrees with what the California Chaparral Institute has been saying about the myth of California at one time being loaded with Oak Savannas everywhere. Actually, these so-called Oak Savannas were introduced into California by the Spanish and later American settlers for the Cattle business. Most all of the original Oak forests were within the chaparral ecosystems, the grasslands in such regions were almost non-existent, with the exception of low valley meadows which one would expect. Here below is another interesting quote with another invented term about "undesirable vegetation" which carries a lot of weight with the average landowner in California and the public in general. Small land holders tend to strip their land based on the uneducated propaganda created by so-called experts. It's to bad because it has provided an unfavourable message and viewpoint of the average person about the native Chaparral plant community. As a result, private landowners who number into the 10s of 1000s have ruined their land by stripping it of valuable native vegetation because they view it as dull and mundane and of little worth. But that opinion is based on gross incompetence and negligence on the part of the very scientific researchers who are shackled and committed to industrial business models. 
"For thousands of years, fire was an important part of California's oak woodlands. Native Americans and, more recently, ranchers set fires to improve habitat and enhance desirable vegetation. However, aggressive fire exclusion during the last 30 years has led to significantly denser stands of blue oak trees."
The key words or expression here convey the idea that habitat improvement is the result of removing what is deemed undesirable vegetation [traditionally Chaparral or now recently just having to many Trees], which prevents "non-native grasses" from expressing their full potential as cattle fodder. Oddly enough this was the same message conveyed in an Arizona Game and Fish Department mandate on removal of Manzanita chaparral which was posted last December on the Chaparral Institute pages in December 2014. 
"Most of the ridges and mesas are in an undesirable ecological state (dense chaparral), which requires a disturbance to transition to a more desirable state (oak-savannah grassland)."
Read the entire page without me adding more quotes here. You will find that not only are they obligated to the ranching industry, but even more heavily committed to the Hunting lobby which is apparent in the reasons given for what is defined as desirable from a Hunter's perspective. In the mean time the ecosystem takes a hit in having less function. However, there is one statement they made which is important and highlights the gross incompetence of the researchers knowledge of how the ecosystem operates. 
"As chaparral density increases, herbaceous production decreases, leading to more bare soil, increased erosion, and increased water turbidity."
image: Rick Halsey
This is really a nonsense statement. Chaparral does not in any way prevent weeds from competing for space on the ground, it's the under ground mycorrhizal grid or network colonized on the roots of chaparral shrubs and trees which accomplish this. That is actually a desirable condition to obtain in most ecosystems. For example, look at this Manzanita photo where members of the Chaparral Institute are counting how many varieties of Manzanita exist in this one area. Notice the clean pristine environment on the ground in front of them ? There is a major lesson here for industrial farmers obsessed with a chemicals ONLY approach to dealing with weeds. This bare soil is actually normal, not abnormal as the researchers insisted in that mandate justifying brush mastication. The other way weeds are undesirable, is from a wildfire perspective because fire spreads faster within any ecosystem loaded with weeds. The mycorrhizae will always outcompete plants that are ruderals [plants which thrive in a bacterial system, not mycorrhizal] for the phosphorus within the soils. That's why weeds won't succeed and why you should want more trees and shrubs. In the Arizona Mandate, the area in question for the chaparral removal were not the lower valleys or rolling hill country where you would expect grasslands to exist and thrive, but rather in their own ridiculous recommendation they state plain as day, they wanted removal off ridges and Mesas. The justification was that chaparral also causes erosion and water turbidity ? Another untruth. Chaparral provides a deep rooted means of infusing deeper soil layer with the excess water it removes from off the surface soil layers and pumping it deep into the ground in subsoil layers or in certain fractured rock location it can increase possible percolation into underground aquifers which recharge springs or at least greatly slow down water movement into valleys and lower plains to be taken up be bunch grasses for superior cattle grazing. The bottomline is that humans have historically been lousy land managers and it's become worse since they've apparently become more enlightened over the past 100+ years since World War I. Reasons ? The same old human greed for short term profit  hasn't change any.
Trees have become the New Enemy to hydrology ?

image: US Forest Service
Over the year 2013 thru 2014 there has been a propaganda effort to justify removal of trees from California Mountains because they are  gulping down to much water which prevents it from percolating into streams and rivers which eventually fill up California Reservoirs for those important Farmers in the Central Valley. In other words trees steal water from California Farmers. Other industrial interests such as the Timber industry also want to thin forests under the guise of fuel removal because apparently trees not only gulp water, but they cause wildfire as well. The fact is forests have been mismanaged since humans started harvesting their resources over a century ago. Instead of humans blaming themselves, Nature once again takes the hit and of all people, this comes from the very science crowd that should know better. Fire ecology is another controversial subject depending on who you talk to. According to whatever expert you speak with, fire frequency is said to be from anywhere of 15 to 30 years, but still others insist 50 to 80 years. The people with shorter intervals as you research them have major connections to policy makers, who often themselves are shackled to big Timber or Industrial Farming interests. In any case, if you ever find yourself reading controversial literature which encourage extreme options for management, before you believe anything you read follow the funding and who is providing those funds. Chances are such reports will fall in the Bankroller's favour. Research done in Eastern Oregon not long ago about Western Juniper invading long traditional cattle grasslands was funded by the Cattlemen's Association up there. People should know, plants do not scheme nor plan to ruin things for humans, they respond to the programming within their genetics which reacts to environmental cues which in turn trigger an epigenetic response as to how they will respond in an environment which has been changed by human mismanagement of the landscape, for good or bad. 

image - American forest

 Seedlings planted at Rancho Cuyamaca State Park

image: Chaparral Institute
Another area I have long wondered about when it comes to the Roger Bales & Timber Industry argument for forest thinning to provide more water for farmers and cities, is that often times while so-called fire prevention has been blamed, could not also the practices used in replanting also be blamed ? The argument is that there are to many small trees, the forest is crowded and they gulp down the very water humans should be using. But often times their explanations on how ecosystems worked in the past do not account for the reality of what the average ecosystem life was really like on the ground way back when. For example, the quote above near the top of this post spoke of Native Americans [often romanticized as the world's greatest conservationists whoever lived] set countless fires. Why did they do this ? Well a number of reasons. No doubt they also had same identical opinions like modern humans today of just what they considered desirable and undesirable vegetation. After all, they were human, not animals as part of the landscape. They made intelligent decision making based on personal bias and preference when using fire. No doubt they used also fire for times of warfare against enemies and like humans today, they also were prone to making mistakes. Campfires not properly managed and left unattended. Cooking food on extreme weather event days when there were intense Santa Ana Winds or some other extreme heat  events which may have allowed fire to get out of control. See, they were no different than us. But the problem is, the argument by land managers is that everything they ever did was for the good of the forested or grassland ecosystem. That's just not true. Hence we have experts who are committed to certain industrial practices or policy management rules who will use this imaginary example to justify their version of scientific truth. Another important area in historic nature based forest management that is rarely considered is just what role did wildlife have in forest maintenance. At this point in time, it is hard to say as humans have eliminated massive amounts of animal numbers and caused extinction of so many large species like Giant Ground Sloths, Grizzlies, etc. We may never know the true impact of just what they added to the maintenance question. Clearly many still play roles in tree thinning as the plastic mesh around new seedlings at Cuyamaca demonstrate. 

But the argument of fire frequency is yet another silly argument. With the frequent use argument being every 15-30 years, one wonders how the natural world ever developed all  those old growth trees that were once a common presence. Sadly  today, they are mostly gone and indeed disappearing as has been reported recently. That type of  ongoing continued stripping the landscape of vegetation almost to the ground could not have been all that beneficial in times past as it is promoted today. That brings me to a Swedish Forest practice dilemma, that of harvesting trees by means of strip clearing every 25 years. Does this also have the same negative impact to the environment that burning so regularly does ? I've never found anyone anywhere ever discussing this. After all, this region of the world where Boreal forests thrive has never had that same kind of fire ecology as other areas, but as a result of climate change, that is even increasing. I can tell you that most forests here are unnatural as they are industrial plantation forests. In fact these trees have been genetically modified to produce less lignin which is what gives wood it's strength, but this was done for the Paper Mill industry by SweTree. In any event, these trees were also engineered to grow faster with the addition of regular annual intervals of tonnes of chemical fertilizers being dropped from planes and helicopter over large tracts of land at a time. For me this type of mismanagement is the reason that very little life lives within these forests as I have personally observed them. Larger animals like Moose would normally have a tough time moving their way through such density, but even smaller creatures like squirrels and birds can be absent. Surprisingly, even mosses and lichens can be scarce within such forests if it is dense and dark enough to prevent any light of day from penetrating through the heavy forest canopy. The Swedish forestry business model calls for a management program of forcing growth and harvest for every 25 years as opposed to waiting 100+ years for harvest. This is viewed as sustainable and their model is promoted in their literature that every other government around the world should follow the Swedish model for forestry.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal

"In the Finnish fertilizer program, a special hopper slung under the helicopter is fitted with a small diesel motor, controlled by the pilot, which throws the dry fertilizer out centrifugally"

Fertilizing the Forest
"The Finnish forest industry has confirmed pretty much what every gardener knows: The best way to manage your crop is to fertilize it—and they are doing exactly that with their trees, expecting some good gains in timber volume."
"It probably comes as no surprise to anyone with a green thumb, but the Ministry of Forests in Finland has stated that the best thing managers can do for their forests is to fertilize them. This is after independent scientists have proved that bigger and better trees result from spraying fertilizer."   
"Government sources stated that forest fertilization is the most profitable thing a forest owner can do and taking the lead, ordered sufficient fertilizer to spray 36,000 hectares of state-owned forest in 2007. They plan to increase this to 100,000 hectares in future years and predict that a single application of fertilizer on this area will increase the wood availability by 1.5 to 2 million cubic metres. They also claim there are less defects in the wood."
Nothing is really going to change land mismanagement practices of  the world's governments and big business interests. However, this info should help and advise smaller landowners who do care about their property, the wildlife, various plant ecosystems and what it takes for proper land stewardship. The Land Management Gurus referenced in the News as having been credentialed and having the settled science like Richard Minnich, Roger C Bales and others should be taken with a grain of salt and understood in the light of just whom they really represent behind the scenes. 

The main message here is that when it comes to official statements on management practices of natural resources as being backed by science, people rather than taking their official word for the statements, should do their own research and question the prevailing science as they demand it. Especially when such science is done by the very researchers who may have economic or political commitments to the Grantors. Expressions such as,
"We have scientific consensus" or "follow the science" or "settled science" have no real meaning except to those who stand to gain financially or politically. Below is a good video documentary which was done back in 2011 on other E.U. countries taking up the Swedish Forestry model as the ultimate in sustainability. Specifically, it deals with an E.U. member country called Latvia. Any forestry model that counts 1000s of hectares of land with few inch high pine seedlings as a real forest has got problems. The fact is, we have more knowledge and understanding as never before in history, so yes that has changed. What hasn't changed is the same old human greed for short term wealth at any cost. I'll post the video and some relevant links below it.

Previously I've written about the same screwed up scientific logic where citation bluffing and shouting we have consensus were employed to justify an action favourable to large corporate industrial business interests which more often than not foul up nature. You may read it here:
Pretzel Logic & the "Denial of the science is malpractice" Mandate
References to the Swedish Forestry Business Model
Sweden’s Green Veneer Hides Unsustainable Logging Practices
Forest policy threatens biological diversity


  1. I had the pleasure of hearing a representative of the Chaparral Institute speak at the recent conference of the California Native Plant Society. Although there is probably economic interest in maintaining grassland by preventing succession to chaparral and trees to provide grazing pasture, there is also a strictly ideological reason. The representative of the Chaparral Institute said that the reason he hears most often for destroying chaparral is that the land in question was grassland when Europeans arrived in California in 1769. This is the arbitrary baseline date selected by native plant advocates to define “native.” This is the reason I hear most often here in the San Francisco Bay Area as well. As you point out, the main reason there was so much grassland in California was that Native Americans set fire to it frequently, preventing natural succession.

    I also had the opportunity to hear an expert on California’s water resources speak about the absurd suggestion that California forests should be destroyed because they are using too much water. He pointed out that new plants use far more water than established trees. Therefore, we would not see any net increase in available water unless we sprayed everything with herbicides constantly to prevent anything new from growing.

    Yes, indeed, there is a great deal of incompetent land management as well as a great deal of economic self-interest behind every destructive project we witness.

    1. That's why I am fascinated by the complex sophisticated mechanisms of all plant community infrastructure and the roles they contribute to cloud formation and rainfall. Clearly there are many areas that should be left alone and untouched. Grazing on steep hillsides where once there were chaparral holding the hill together is a prime example. Fog & Mist rain are another important precipitation factor that has disappeared and we'll never know the significant role it actually played on a large landscape of all California. Same with most large herbivore animals which no doubt were killed by both natives and very early European explorers. Even my interviews with people in their 80s & 90s back in 1982-83 of what Anza Valley was once like, where universally they said it was heavy Oak Woodland, which surprised me as I would have thought more pine. The said many pine were there, but it was predominantly Interior Live Oak. They were cut down and burned off to allow grasses to grow because Cattle business is what most people were in to.

    2. Here is a further read that may interest you on what are considered invasive plants gulping down water from precious human interests:

      Pretzel Logic & the "Denial of the science is malpractice" Mandate



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