Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hydraulic Descent

An Ecosystem's Tool for Filling Vast Underground Reservoirs

The above picture shows a pristine scene from a sink hole in a clean healthy environment, probably some southeastern Asian rainforest where monsoonal rains are emptying into a sink hole in some limestone underground cave network. Beautiful yes. Most efficient way Nature has programmed for getting water into it's subsoil layers, No! Continuing along the same subject line of the brilliant purpose driven mechanism schematics & blueprints encoded into the natural world's health and maintenance information driven tools of 'Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution' , there is yet another one of those terminologies closely associated with those terms and it is called 'Hydraulic Descent'. There seems to be less public info on this fantastic phenomena outside of the usual hidden info, with the exception of privilege found only within the scientific researcher's world.  Joe/Jane Gardener/Landscaper/Ecosystem Restoration Volunteer as usual has very little in the way of this amazing info to not only help them understand the basics of how vegetative systems work, but how to use such information in terms of practical applications in their organic garden, urban landscape or ecosystem restoration projects. And I highly doubt that many nature volunteers who donate time to such restoration projects actually know and understand the deeper mechanisms and forces which run, work and function, other than their own personal "I'm a green loving eco person and I love Nature things, so I'm doing my part as a volunteer." That's certainly a great motivation and attitude, but more is needed to actually make it a part of you. Learning how nature really works is a great enhancer that will always be imprinted on your mind.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was in a number of nature conservation programs and clubs like something called "Indian Guides" , Summer Nature Kamps up in the mountains and of course one of the most popular Groups of the times, the Boy Scouts of America. These organizations today are either extinct or heading that way as young minds are being trained and entertained by the modern worlds electronics technology booms. Especially in the Industrialized Technologically Advanced Countries are children less interested in nature(anything outdoors) than at anytime before, In times past it was always the norm for young boys to be curious about the natural world around them. Remember the old time favourite description of boys being "Sticks and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails" ? If updated today it may read something like "Cellphones, Dames and Internet Games".  Most young people don't have a real life in the outdoors world anymore and the 3rd world developing Nations are catching up with their industrialized cousin counterparts.

In the middle 1960s, I remember being either on a school field trip or Boy Scouts outing and listening to a Forest Ranger explain how important forests were to our environment. He said something that at the time didn't seem to make much sense, or rather no doubt because of my ignorance I couldn't relate to it at the time. But today with newer discoveries and my own personal deeper appreciation it makes a ton of sense. He said that healthy old growth tree and shrub forested slopes of mountains, hills and valleys were better water reservoirs than any of those concrete Dams built by humans to hold back seasonal rainfall in some remote valley outside the city. At the time and even many years later I had always assumed water percolating into the ground filling the water table was simply a matter of rainfall eventually saturating it's way all by itself through the soil to eventually after some decades later make it's way to the deep underground Aquifers. Part of that is true, water certainly does saturate the earth and percolate downwards, but under the best circumstances it requires the perfect soil structure to do so efficiently. Sandy loam soils are great soils, yet how does water get through clay, hardpan soils or even down past bedrocks ?

The answer of course is certain plants found in any ecosystem around the globe who we've briefly mentioned in the previous post as having the amazing ability to bring water from deeper layers of the earth and share it with their plant friends around them through the amazing "Mycorrhizal Networking Grid". But how many of you knew that these same plants have the ability to reverse this hydrological cycle and absorb the saturated soil on the surface during rainy seasons and actually pump it into the deeper subsoil layers ? How many really knew that not only can they perform this task, but even do so when they are in their winter/rainy season dormancy sleep-like state ? It's true and that is what the phenomena scientist's now call "Hydraulic Descent". But again, there still is some limited info on this for the public benefit. Let me take the example of the southwestern USA desert Mesquite Tree (Prosopis). For any readers from Asia, Africa, Australia or South America, you will likely identify with other familiar trees like Acacia and so forth which accomplish these same tasks on subsoil water injection.

Image - Johnathan DuHamel - Arizona Daily Independent

Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina)
Here is a link to an article written on the subject of not only 'Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution' but also the observance of the third phenomena of 'Hydraulic Descent' from the dormant desert tree of Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) (As a special mental note for those of other parts of the world, substitute Acacia when reading the effect of this phenomena)
Blackwell Publishing, Ltd. - "Hydraulic redistribution by a dominant, warm-desert phreatophyte: seasonal patterns and response to precipitation pulses"
Functional Ecology 2004
While referring to the already understood phenomena of 'Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution' here is a quote of the article in the Discussion section where they make special note of the  rainy season dormancy state where the mechanical function of "Hydraulic Descent" is not only acknowledged, but it's possible important implications and importance to the ecosystem are alluded to, though more research is recommended.
Here is the quote:
"After adjusting for differences in sapwood area among the tap-roots of the three trees, maximum rates of reverse flow (l day−1) in the two trees instrumented during the dormant period were 69 and 73% of the maximum nightly rate of reverse flow observed in the tap-root of a third tree during the summer, while nocturnal reverse flow in the tap-root of the third tree was 25–50% of daytime positive flow during transpiration (cluster not shown). Based on these observations, 3–6 days’ reverse flow during the dormant season potentially could supply the tap-root with enough moisture to meet the transpiration for 1 day during the growing season. We caution against strict conclusions based on a few individual trees. Nevertheless, given that crown dormancy in Prosopis velutina at this site typically lasts about 5 months, hydraulic descent during wet winters could supply the tap-root with several days, or even several weeks, of water for growing-season consumption as long as a water-potential gradient is maintained within the root zone."
"The relative importance of hydraulic descent to plant water balance depends on the fate of shallow soil water if it is not otherwise redistributed by the root system. Soil water from winter precipitation apparently does not recharge deep soil layers along the alluvial river terrace (Scott et al. 2004), nor at other upland sites in this region (Scott et al. 2000). Thus much of the water that remains in shallow soil layers is either taken up early in the growing season by co-occurring shallow-rooted plants such as the perennial tussock grass Sporobolus wrightii, or is potentially lost to evaporation, as potential evapotranspiration during the winter and early spring remains relatively high in semiarid climates. The ability to ‘bank’ water during winter dormancy for later consumption presents a win–win scenario for deep rooted plants, as there is a very small carbon investment to maintain the fine-root systems that act as conduits for redistribution during winter dormancy (Widen & Majdi 2001; Burton et al. 2002). Nevertheless, the significance of hydraulic descent to the water balance of mature mesquite plants in floodplain ecosystems is an open question, as mature plants have access to groundwater throughout the growing season (Scott et al. 2003). Fig. 5. (a) Total daily nocturnal sap flow of the stem, taproot and lateral root of Tree 3 calculated from half-hourly measurements from 20.00 h to 05.30 h during the 2002 growing season. Negative values represent reverse flow (away from the crown). (b) Daily precipitation totals (mm day−1) at the field site during the study. Fig. 6. Relative change in soil-water content after initial measurements on 17 June 2002. Measurements were conducted with cross-borehole ground-penetrating radar. Values are the mean from two adjacent vertical transects." 
K. R. Hultine et al. © 2004 British Ecological Society, Functional Ecology
Dormant-season hydraulic descent may play a much greater role in the water balance of mesquite growing in upland habitats where groundwater is not available within the rooting zone, or in young plants in the floodplain that have not yet grown roots into groundwater.
During years of little or no winter precipitation, the balance of redistribution is towards the upper soil layers (hydraulic lift). Hydraulic lift during extended periods of the dormant season provides water storage in the upper soil layers that can be rapidly extracted during spring leaf flush, as the upper soil layers generally contain the highest root-length densities (Jackson et al. 1996). However much of the water that is deposited from deep soil layers to shallow soils may be lost to evapotranspiration before leaf flush, or to other co-occurring plants. Further work is needed to establish a clear connection between dormant-season hydraulic lift and whole-plant water balance.
Regardless of its role in plant and ecosystem water balance, dormant-season hydraulic redistribution has several potentially important implications for plant nutrient balance (Richards & Caldwell 1987). Mineral nutrients are generally most abundant in the upper soil layers. However, the early growing season in most of the south-western USA is characterized by warm daytime temperatures with little or no precipitation until the onset of the monsoon (usually mid-July). For P. velutina trees at our field site, this represents between 80 and 120 days between spring leaf flush and the onset of the monsoon. Thus the mobility of nutrients in the dry shallow soils is potentially low before the monsoon, and diffusion to roots is inhibited. Hydraulic lift during the dormant season can prolong the life span of fine roots and micro-organisms and thereby enhance nutrient ion mobility and uptake during the dry periods of the growing season. Likewise, the dormant-season transfer of mineral nutrients with hydraulic descent to deeper soil layers can potentially smooth the spatial heterogeneity of nutrients, and therefore, enhance plant nutrient uptake during the early growing season when water extraction is primarily from deep soils (Emerman 1996; Burgess et al. 2001a). 
For plant roots to redistribute water between soil layers, they must maintain axial (xylem) hydraulic conductivity (Kx). In many regions xylem conduits in above-ground tissues typically become dysfunctional during the winter due to freeze–thaw cavitation (Cochard & Tyree 1990; Sperry 1993; Pockman & Sperry 1997). Conversely, xylem conduits in roots may not completely embolize where soils insulate roots from freezing temperatures. 
In the present study, P. velutina roots in the upper 50 cm of soil maintained 35% of maximum conductivity during winter, and 70% during summer before the onset of the monsoon (data unpublished). The relatively high xylem conductivities in winter are not surprising considering soil temperatures at 15 cm never reached freezing, despite the fact that minimum air temperatures at mid-canopy reached −15 °C during the winter. Prosopis velutina roots at the site are rarely found near the soil surface above 15 cm depth, particularly in the intercanopy spaces where high temperatures in the upper top few centimetres of soil during the growing season are lethal to living root tissues. 
Soil moisture levels in deep soil layers (−1·5 to −9·5 m) increased during the monsoon. Observed soil moisture changes were probably due to hydraulic redistribution; moisture throughout the vertical transect increased 318 mm between 17 June and 25 September (DOY 168–268). Calculated values of capillary rise from groundwater fluctuations and direct infiltration from summer precipitation could account for only 45 mm of moisture within the GPR profile (R.L.S. and co-workers, unpublished data). Even if all precipitation inputs (248 mm) were transferred below −1·5 m (highly unlikely), the combined inputs from capillary rise and direct infiltration still would not explain the observed change in moisture in the deep soil layers. Moreover, Scott et al. (2004), using profiles of soil moisture probes in the upper 1·0 m of soil at this site, report that infiltration of precipitation below 0·5 m rarely occurred during 2001 and 2002. Only one infiltration event was observed below 0·5 m, and this resulted in only a 2% change in soil moisture content at 0·7 m. 
The above argument requires reasonably accurate estimates of vadose zone θ. Although a site-specific calibration of apparent dielectric constant vs soil moisture content has not yet been established, Alumbaugh et al. (2002) argued that the precision error for this type of cross-borehole GPR measurement is ≈0·5% in moisture content estimation. Therefore the changes seen in the profile are arguably significant. Water content changes between ≈5·75–7·25 m depth could not be estimated as there was too much attenuation of the waveform for an accurate estimation of the travel time. At this depth interval, well logs reveal a thick layer of clayey material.
After the onset of the monsoon, nocturnal reverse flow in the tap-root was typically lower in magnitude than its daytime flow towards the stem, suggesting that the water content of deep soil layers should still be depleted (although at a lower rate) after precipitation wetted the upper soil layers. However, water content increased during the monsoon in the deep soil layers despite the absence of direct recharge of precipitation below 1 m. It is likely that lateral roots, fine roots and root hairs extend from the tap-root in relatively dry soil layers as well as the shallow groundwater table or capillary fringe. Thus the bulk of daytime positive flow in the tap-root was probably derived from the extraction of groundwater, and nocturnal reverse flow was a consequence of redistribution to the dry soil layers above the water table. Unfortunately, measurements of root sap flow alone cannot detect the source or fate of water that moves through woody roots. There were substantial differences between Trees 1 and 2 in the pattern and direction of root sap flow during the dormant season prior to irrigation. Sap in the tap-root
Here is yet another article specifically dealing with the exact same mechanisms referenced above, with the quote 
Abstract: & Link:
The Ecohydrological Interactions Between Mesquite and its Water Sources
"Velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina), a native woody plant to southern Arizona, USA and Sonora, Mexico, has successfully expanded its range and encroached into both upland and riparian grasslands during the 20th century. In this study, we examined the interactions between mesquite and its water sources in order to determine how the trees responded to moisture availability. This study took place in a riparian area and because the trees had access to both deep groundwater and surface water, these interactions resulted in important hydrological and ecological consequences. Surprisingly, we found that the mesquite responded to and even manipulated both surface and deep soil moisture even though they apparently had access to a stable groundwater source throughout the growing season. During dry season nights, observations of root sap flow showed that the trees moved moisture upwards in the taproot and out into the surface soils in lateral roots. As a consequence of this "hydraulic lift", diurnal soil respiration measurements showed that the soil microbes were stimulated following the nocturnal release of moisture into the near-surface regions. During rainy season nights, there was sap flow movement toward the tree in the surface lateral roots and downwards in the taproot indicating "hydraulic descent". Borehole GPR measurements of the deeper, 2 - 10 m, vadose zone moisture content increased apparently as a result of this tree-facilitated water movement. Also, hydraulic descent influenced water table elevations indicating direct groundwater recharge via plant pathways."
Now while acknowledging the benefits of reverse flow descent into the deeper layers of the Earth during it's period of cold winter rainy season dormancy, they advise caution as they do not understand the full impact of this on the environment without further studies. Keep in mind that this particular study was in 2004. Today much more has been learned since. We also lack many of the old growth  Mesquite Bosques (Ancient Old Growth Mesquite Forests) that were originally observed by the early pioneers who conquered the West and brought in European Agricultural practices which ruined the pristine landscape. In many ways, we can only assume what and how such systems must have functioned and maintained like in the good old days. Though there are very few old growth Mesquite examples today, can you imagine the potential 'Hydraulic Descent' capabilities of an old growth tree like this South American Huarango tree pictured along side men to give it scale in my previous article:

Now that's what I would call a natural industrial sized pump as opposed to the average sized Mesquite which by comparison would be nothing more than a Honda Generator by comparison. Below I'm going to close with a large linked list for online viewing regarding this natural phenomena. As per the norm, the articles are not meant for Joe/Jane Q-Public, but rather for other researchers. Nevertheless, they are condensed important resources collected for the benefit of others. Hopefully my story line above gives some sensibility to an interesting natural mechanized phenomena. I'm also adding links to African Acacia tree studies dealing with such species as Acacia tortilis.
Further References:
Influence of soil texture on hydraulic properties and water relations of a dominant warm-desert phreatophyte 
New study finds 400,000 farmers in southern Africa using 'fertilizer trees' to improve food security As World Food Day puts focus on food crises, research shows potential for rapid, radical transformation on smallholder farms
Impact of Fertilizer Tree Fallows in Eastern Zambia:  A study on Impacts of Agroforestry
Quantifying Riparian Evapotranspiration: - "The Water-Banking Mesquites"
Ludwig F. (2001). Tree-grass interaction on an East African Savanna: The effects of competition, facilitation and hydraulic lift.
Hydraulic redistribution by deep roots of a Chihuahuan Desert phreatophyte
 Modeling Water and Nutrient Transport through the Soil-Root-Canopy Continuum: Explicitly Linking the Below- and Above-Ground Processes
Some Conclusions: 

So what do we get from all of this other than some often times academic observational takes by some University researchers on one of their field trips to study how nature works ? 

Quite simply this. Humans for centuries have in ignorance bastardized our planet's natural resources. The have often taken and never put back. Rather than work with nature, they have insisted they knew better than nature and bulled ahead with their own purpose driven goals often motivated by greed and selfishness. Our present generation is paying the price for our ancestors ignorance and stupidity. 

Let us see what we've learned about Hydraulic 'Lift' - 'Redistribution' & 'Descent' which are three major components of the plant world that are brilliantly engineered into the system for constant recycling & renewal. Human science-based technologies when it comes to managing water is to straight channel it on it's way to the sea. Straight channeling also allows for that ever important commercial trafficking of goods from various parts of the earth to other parts to be used in an economic philosophy where consume, consume, consume is the only way our world's global economy is able to survive. Any disruption of the status-quo causes chaos to enter the economic system and sends vibrational upset across the globe which results in some countries civil unrest. So nothing changes and still the environment pays the cost, which eventual leads to our wallet.

It is hoped that readers here will understand that the Earth's Network is engineered to slow water down. The idea when it comes to technology is that once that raindrop hits the Earth, we want to slow it down before it goes out to sea. It's not the aim or goal to prevent it from doing so, but merely to slow down the process. Viktor Schauberger had much to say about ecological river custodialship. He saw the way nature handled water in streams and rivers by a slowed down process of allowing water to meander back and forth in a zig-zagged cris-cross motion aided by rocks, log jam debris, streamside vegetation, etc. The benefit is that the water table rises and saturates the subsoils in the surrounding landscape. 

The cooperative association of the fungal networks assisting the hydrological processes carried on by the plant's internal structure which employ this hydrological functions in ant plant community system for which hydration of the deeper layers is possible even under the poorest soil structural conditions. Science based Reservoir systems want to halt water and store it in inundated valleys which no longer support life and have long ago replaced it. Nature's way was to pump it deep inside the Earth and thereafter allow slow release of that stored water through springs and seeps which then turn into streams, then to rivers and finally making their way to the sea to start the cycle all over again, but in an orderly non-destructive fashion. All the while humans could be allowed to draw off some of this precious gift from wells and other sources, yet using it responsibly and efficiently. 

From the patterns of historical behavior, it is clear that human governments and big business institutions (this includes much of conventional old school thinking of science) will never get the sense of the important discoveries and benefits that some responsible researchers are bringing to light. It is mostly hoped that individual readers here will share the positive discoveries and make their own personal practical applications and share them with others. In a way, it's a sort or type of positive genomic imprinting or educational epigenetics that can be passed on to future generations. We unfortunately don't live in that kind of world presently where positives push forward without the proverbial price tag attached to it. I'm not so blind as to believe that humans will necessarily do this on their own. At any one time in the history of mankind's existence on this globe, there has only been a small minority(when compared to the globe's entire population) who have ever done the right thing in any one generation. But humans have accelerated things to a point where something has to change. 

Though this particular blog is not necessarily pushing a spiritual viewpoint, there are never the less some scriptural references which apply here. For example, on the point of genomic imprinting, most of the research shows the consequences of negative experiences lived by one generation can have negative impacts on descendants even generations removed. If that is true, then a reverse of what this scripture says could be true also if we work at applying the positives in our lives. It goes something like this:
Jeremiah 31:29 (NW)
“In those days they will no more say, ‘The fathers were the ones that ate the unripe grape, but it was the teeth of the sons that got set on edge*.’
* footnote: got blunted or dulled
Here's a cross reference scripture - Lamentations 5:7 (NW) 
"Our forefathers are the ones that have sinned. They are no more. As for us, it is their errors that we have had to bear."
Those scriptural references have great practical application not only when it comes to living life properly when it comes to the way we treat our fellow man, neighbour, stranger, child, parent, husband or wife, but also the responsible or irresponsible choices we make when it comes to proper or improper decision making when it comes to custodianship of our wonderful planet earth. If it's true that negatives can have great impacts on later generations, then most certainly positives can have a healing effect to reverse those negatives. It's up to all individuals to make the right choices and decisions in their personal lives. There are consequences to present generations making bad choices on an ecological level which effect future generations. We all now experience the stupid choices and decision making by the early European pioneers who by means of ambitious conquering of other lands in Empire building and it's indigenous peoples and exploiting their natural resources for their own economic greed have left all of us with a number of badly broken down functional systems, some being destroyed altogether. Since 1990 with the failure and fall of communism, those country's various attempts at creating their own capitalistic machines for wealth infusion into their economies and promoting a consumerism mindset, have almost surely doubled and tripled the rapid search and exploitation of Earth's raw materials. Various charts & graphs of historic deforestation, CO2s, Temps, etc are a testament to this truth. Keep one thing in mind, the rise in destruction of forests and other various vegetative ecosystems around the globe ALWAYS precedes the rise in other damaging components referenced on those climate charts. Incredible, NONE of the climate scientists ever bring this to the public's attention. Question now is, WHY ?
Can You Imagine the restoration possibilities with recognizing a Forest Mechanism ?   

Future articles will be posted on the hydrological processes mentioned as I will news update from time to time.
 Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Roots: 'Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution'

I love this animated Illustration. It looks like something an informed young elementary school student would have done for a class science project. Sadly the webpage it appears on and the short description of the post was merely followed by 3 spam comments from the usual culprits in cyberspace. So I'm hoping something more intelligent happens here when it comes to comments. Much of my experience has been with Southwestern Native USA Plants, especially desert plants like Mesquite which are well known and important Mother Trees or Foundation Trees to their environments. A similar type species and one that African readers will recognize are the many Acacia Trees from the African Savanah landscapes which serve an identical function in their native habitats. People from other countries such as India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Australia or even residents from other continents like South American who have their own Dominant Mother Trees like Brazilian Nut or desert Mother Tree like Huarango will know what I'm talking about here. These key ecosystem foundational trees when removed have proven their worth when these local ecosystems collapse. Tale a look at some of the common deep rooted species I'm referring to and again, as I many of my posts on Desert Southwestern USA plants, you should all recognize similar applications within your own territories around the globe.

Image - Amboseli National Park

Iconic Acacia giants on African Savanna (Acacia Tortilis
Those mighty looking Acacia Tortilis on the African Sanna lands have incredibly deep roots. Actually some of the deepest in the world. They are huge hydraulic lifters and redistributors of water for other plantlife on the savanna when the rainy season is absent.

Harold Laudeus/Flickr

Tree of Life in Bahrain (Prosopis cineraria)
The above photo is a tree out in the middle of nowhere in the Persian Guld island nation of Bahrain next to Saudi Arabia. They label it a mesquite, but I imagine in that part of the world it's more of an Acacia tortilis. However it is indeed a variety of Mesquite tree (Propsopis cineraria) but I'll have to look it up further. Still it is an extremely deep rooted tree which easily lists it as an important mother type tree for others around it. This one appears to be all by itself on a moonscaped hot desert surface. One wonders how it got there in the first place. Especially without a mother tree or nurse shrub to protect it. Where did the seed come from ? Perhaps a human planted it many many years ago. Who knows. 

So much of our scientific literature or research papers and it's terminology content blow right over the average person's head. Yes I understand the need for massive volumes of data, etc, but why should it be up to journalists to make some type of interpretative story line which may itself may even be coloured and tainted by the Media Journalist's own preferential biases. Let's be honest, most of these papers are only meant for the eyes and ears of other scientists and the Panel of Peers who give their stamps of approval within a scientific world that is out of touch with the reality and needs of the common man, who actually needs to know and understand these amazing mechanisms and make their own practical applications. It therefore is a great challenge for the researcher to grasp the language of the average world citizen of mankind and in simple illustrative terms that bring it down to their level. 

 It is of course an extremely important for all involved in the gardening , landscaping, environmental restoration industries to grasp understanding how all soil Networked Solutions work and function which is the continued purpose of this blog and another very important subject here as indicated by the above titled mechanism called 'Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution'.  I'll introduce another very important topic of 'Hydraulic Descent' at a later date, but for now I'll stick to this topic. My first taste of the terminology came from trying to find logical ways of replicating nature in restoring environments and also how plants would have operated mechanically in an ancient world's minerotrophic hydrological cycle.  There was an old time favourite experiment I tried back in the late 1970s. It was the old take a very large glass jar, put a paper towel all around the edges, put a couple inches of water in it and after the paper towel absorbs enough water to saturate the entire towel, place a seed near the top and watch it grow. This is what teachers did for us kids in elementary school to illustrate to us how a plant grows. Remember those sweetcorn or bean seed germination projects ? 

Image -

Ever do one of those seed germination experiments in elementary school where a jar and paper towel allows young kids to see in real time just how a seed germinates and becomes a plant ? It all starts wit a single taproot. I was once down in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs California one summer and ran across some Catsclaw Acacia seed pods. Now they look some what like Mesquite or Paloverde, certainly in that Pea family. Live in almost identical habitat under the most harsh of conditions. But here's what happened in that experiment. I placed the seed almost exactly as you see above. It was a month or so and one of the Catsclaw seeds germinated, but just the root only. I must have had it in there for a couple months before I really gave it any thought again. By this time it had actually sprouted a tiny compound leaf, but not more than half and inch high. It stayed that way for another couple of months. I didn't feed it anything because the seed itself has it's own nutritional package in the form of the bean or pea itself that it feeds off till nature takes over. Funny though I really hadn't realized that on the bottom, this tap root which had at first very quickly reached the bottom that first month by now was growing and spinning multiple revolutions around the bottom of this rather large jar. I hadn't noticed this as the white paper towel had obscured from view the also white taproot of the Catsclaw Acacia. When I went to transplant it up in the mountain somewhere above my parents house that next winter, I pulled it out of the jar and the taproot was almost one meter long. Incredibly the sprout or sprig of leaf was still an incredible one inch high. Small compared to the resources this plant put into creating an extensive root system.

I pondered for a moment why. Then realized where this species of Desert Tree prefers to grow. It was clear the the genetic instructions encoded in this plant's DNA for it's genetic survival blueprint demanded that it first throw down all resources necessary to build a deep root system till it's hits the moisture layers of the subsoil or even as far as the water table. These types of trees can send their tap root 40-50 meters deep into the soil. Not all in that first year of course, but over time. The seed really depends on luck in being planted in the ground in exactly the right place. Once germinated, it almost likely needs what it called a nurse plant or at least some sort of rock crevices to shelter it in those first few years of growth. Once it taps into the soil's subsurface moisture layers, then it will explode in growth. Meanwhile, prior to this explosion of growth, all resources dictate as per genetic instructions for successful survival that it build an extensive root system. The illustration below shows something a little more speeded up than what I experienced, but nevertheless you get the idea. The seedling itself is hardly tough. In reality it's very delicate.

Animation - watching the world wakeup

The main point that you need to walk away with here is that such species as Prosopis (Mesquites), Acacias (Thorntrees, Wattles, etc), Parkinsonias (Paloverdes) and many others are foundational trees for other plant life within any community across the globe. For example, in the Sonoran Desert environments of Arizona and northern Mexico, the Saguaro Cactus actually needs the shelter of such trees as these in order to make it through early life. Try growing some Saguaro seed you've obtained from one of those novelty packages at some gift shop in the southwest and you'll notice that when they germinate, they ARE NOT the tough stickery spiny looking formidable plant you see in the wild as adults. When young and first emerging, they look like nothing more than Ice plant or Sea Fig. They need all the help and protection they can get. The other disadvantage they have by comparison is that they have no deep roots. Their survival mechanism and strategy is to storage water quickly in spongy fleshy material after major downpours. However this is not enough when they are tiny. What I've personally observed with many of the hydraulic water lifting plants that extract water from deeper layer in the Earth is that often just under the immediate surface, the ground is quite often damp or moist as this moisture is slowly released through the lateral roots during the night. This was true of a foundational large shrub or small tree where I lived in the high desert country of Anza, CA. Having tried to dig several out by hand following months of hot dry season, I can attest to the moisture content of the earth beneath them. They have two to three, maybe four major tap roots that often if located strategically in the right soil structure go straight down deep into the soil. In fact trying to dig on of these major taproots is like a dentist trying to extract a deeply set wisdom tooth. Incredibly there are a number of small species of plants and mosses that live nowhere else but under these trees. The Shrub/Tree is Redshanks or Ribbonwood (Adenostoma sparsifolium), but more on that at a future post.

In some Continents like Africa, Asia, Australia, the various varieties within the Mesquite, especially Prosopis juliflora have taken over and become an invasive nuisance in those countries as an invasive threat to native populations of plants, shrubs and trees. Yet, like so many other places where there seem to be uncontrollable invasive plants, Mesquite pods may just be a blessing as animal fodder. The pods unlike other Pea Family pods do not split open and release their seeds. They have to be eaten by an animal whose digestive juices may actually scar the hard outer seed coating which only then allows water to actually penetrate to the actual seed germ. In my area of the Southwest, native Big Horn Sheep love these pods, as do cattle and other browsing herbivores. I'll get more into the Mesquite and Mesquite Dune Projects in a future article for  which new findings actually look promising as agricultural windbreaks to replace another one of those invasive plants brought in for windbreak purposes, and that is the Tamarisks.

Some Concluding comments:
There is another equally important component to this hydrological process and it has something to do with what is called "Hydraulic Descent",in which Mesquite and other trees will pump abundant water after rainstorms deep into the earth's subterranean soil layers. This phenomena also takes place when these trees are in their dormancy state in winter time. So please follow along in the further reading of this article here linked below:

Friday, March 23, 2012

"How I First Became Addicted To The Internet"

I was addicted to the internet long before there was an internet as we know it. I'm talking about the 'Earth's Internet' of course. Back in the late 1970s, I had a strong driving curiosity about the ancient minerotrophic hydrological cycle made reference to in the Bible book of Genesis. This is not a religious discussion here, but I have always been curious if such a system of hydrology could have existed and how would different diverse ecosystems operate under such conditions. So I tend not to dismiss what others choose to call fables, but rather assume that past descriptions could have some legitimacy, though the people of the ancient past may not have known how to explain what they saw. They did their best given the circumstances. I have another blog which deals with the geophysics of our planet, it's hydrology and what science has discovered that may or may not explain any of the references to such a system mentioned in the book of Genesis. Again, this is not a discussion of those events, but merely an explanation for what motivated me originally to delve into Mycorrhizal Networking as a viable piece of engineering for which to derive useful technologies and practical applications. For a further read on the ancient hydrological cycle, please go to this blog which also deals with Viktor Schauberger , anomalous properties of water , etc "Primary Water" 

So back to basics and origins of my interest. Back in the 1970s I had no clue if such a system existed or not. So allowing it to be a given, or assuming the account was true in my own mind at least, my main focus was on the end game and not the beginning of how such a cycle would work, but the question of just how would plants react to such a system. No Rain ? Impossible! Of course I always loved forests, Botany, nature in general and how things worked, but my technical background and experience was definitely in the 'Green Horn' or 'Rookie' category. It was when I was in high school and when I was in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program and showing my sheep at the  San Diego County's Del Mar Fair   that I came across something that would change my perception of how forest floor ecosystems actually worked and started looking for evidence for this. Of course there were researchers, though not as many today, out there researching answers about Fungal Networks. But there sure as heck was no internet and Libraries were long and laborious to plow through to find out info on the subject. Anyway, here is what happened.

Ever go to any County Fair where they have all those Commercial Products and Innovations buildings where company's or small business entrepreneurs pay a hefty fee for booths to hawk their wares ? Some of these guys are actually real Hucksters and showman with those corded microphones connected to their heads spouting off about the virtues of their company's latest line of cookware, Kitchen gadgetry or some other innovation not out in the conventional markets yet. There was one booth there where this guy had something like what in today's technological terms or lingo is called 'Smart Fabric' - 'Smart Cloth' or even 'Lite Bright Fabric'. This man went on to talk about all the futuristic things that such cloth was going to be able to accomplish. It was hard to believe at the time, but take a look at what they have done today with this technology:
'Smart' fabric glows in response to allergens Researchers developed electrically conductive cloth using carbon nanotubes 
Solar dress charges your MP3 player 
Carbon Nanotube Clothing Could Take Charge in an Emergency [Slide Show] 
"Wearable Technologies" - iPod coat 

And the list of things appears to be endless. Take a look at these expensive nanotechnology light tablecloths that go for about $500 a piece.
Light Emitting Diode (LEDs) table covers to light up your dining 

So once again, these things above were what this guy was envisioning in the future. Skeptical and admittedly unimpressed, there was one object lesson I got out of his demonstration which was amazing and mind/brain imprinting to say the least. He had this rather large cloth of fabric rolled out over a table. The cloth or fabric sheet wasn't neatly fitted on the table like the picture above, but rather is was loosely laid out with all sorts of mounds, folds and dips in what in my mind looked a lot more like the terrain of some Topographical Map. The folds and dips to me in my imagination were like peaks and valleys, ridges and low hills of a real geographical terrain or landscape in real life.  It was a sort of landscape and in this landscape he demonstrated the properties of this electrically conductive material by plugging in these light-emitting diodes (or LEDs) to illustrate how the fabric had properties which allowed a low electrical conductivity which was harmless to the human touch to light up these little tiny LEDs when you plug them anywhere in that fabric. He had a box of different coloured LEDs and allowed the public to plug one in where they wished. Sure enough, there was no electric shock, even though you felt a little spooked. It was truly amazing to me but for different reasons.

I looked at these LEDs not as little lights, but as little Trees in a naturally occurring well orchestrated  Mycorrhizal Networked Grid to be found in any healthy ecosystem's physical landscape. I reasoned that if tree/shrub seedlings could be inserted into a rich Mycorrhizal Landscape then like the lights which were tapped into the electrical energy of the 'Smart Cloth' then these trees would have a better chance in any reforestation project or even someone's home gardening landscape. It wasn't until years later in 1990 that I decided to perform my own crude rookie experiment using real trees in the landscape. I had already heard about the successful research of former US Forest Service Scientist Dr Donald Marx who later became head scientist for Plant Health Care Inc (PHC) which even at the time was in it's infancy. Dr Marx established research of just how beneficial it was to establish reclamation projects with a good Mycorrhizal Inoculant with each tree seedling planted into an old mining site to be reclaimed. Clearly on such sites there was no longer a healthy grid. Some of my experience with a mycorrhizal fungi may be found here on one specific type called  Pisolithus tinctorius at be found here on this page of the blog.
Is the Plant Watered Properly? 
  What I decided to do was plant various Pine Tree (Jeffrey, Coulter, Apache) varieties on a 1/4 of an acre plot and fairly evenly spaced, but I didn't want the area to look like some organized unnatural Christmas Tree lot. There were also a couple of small native scrub oaks in this area and I left them in place. One volunteer 6 inch tree which already was present on this same location was a Coulter Pine which no doubt was planted there by the Blue ScrubJays who have a habit of incessant seed harvesting and planting these for later food storage. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for us and nature, they don't always remember where they plant seeds. To illustate the architectural layout and what I did, here an animation of a tree layout by a company called 'Voltree' (more on them in a future post) The area planted then looked something like this illustration below.

After the trees were planted, inoculated with a good mix of ecto-mycorrizal spores of Pisolithus tinctorius and sort of evenly spaced apart, I allowed two years to go by before trying my experiment. It was my belief that all trees connected to a healthy, productive mycorrhizal networked grid would all be hydrated no matter where the source of the water H20 came from or was located in any topography or terrain in any environment. Take a look at those trees above with the orange coloured dots connected to each other in that animated graph or chart. This is where Voltree in the picture has applied their sensors which I'll write about in a future at another time. But for the moment, just imagine taking an irrigation drip line and placing it on one of those points of origin. After a couple hours I believed that all trees on that plot would be hydrated no matter what their position in the grid and distance from the point of water source origin. I wasn't disappointed. In a hot dry summer climate as we have there in Anza CA where winter rainy season is long gone and just before any of the potential summer monsoonal moisture drops some summer rains on the landscape, there is a phenomena of the hard dry and tight Pine Tree buds (especially the central leader bud) start to exude droplets of pine pitch all around all buds when the plant is hydrated with a drip irrigation line or a garden hose turned on with low pressure. Here's a pic of what the dry hard buds look like before being given water.

And here are some pictures of what the Pine Pitch droplets begin to look like after being watered. As the minutes and hours went by in the hydration experiment, every tree eventually exhibited the same exact phenomena of a hydrated pine tree being hydrated and oozing pitch from their buds. I would wait a week and conduct the same experiment all over again , but the next time I'd place the irrigation drip line in a different position or location in the networked grid as illustrated in the Voltree graph. The trees all flourished and clearly there was indeed a healthy underground unseen network of the mycorrhizal grid.

Today those trees are approximately 7 to 10 foot tall. I sold this property back in 2001 and I visited it last summer of 2011 with my wife from Sweden. Sadly a renter who was a tree trimmer and rented it in 2002-2004 took out many of those trees to have a place for parking his equipment. The property was sloping and this location where the trees were was the only fairly level spot for him to create space. Needless to say I was a bit stressed when I saw they were gone, but hey, it's not my place or business anymore. So whatever. However, here are some pics of the trees that still exist from that Mycorrhizal Networked Grid Project.

And as I pan around with the camera to the left of me photographing this Jeffrey Pine , you will see three of the evenly space tree examples. In fact these trees are part of what My son Jared and I planted when we came back from a Nursery in Corona, CA. One of the trees my son took back to his home in San Marcos CA and planted, nurtured and generally babied alone. I took some Pisolithus tinctorius spores down with me from the Mountain property and inoculated that tree about a year later. The tree was maybe neglected a bit, but was huge the last time I saw it. If I get a picture of it, you'll notice it may be a little bigger than these as it is a Torrey Pine and faster growing when young. The tree to the left in this picture below is the ScrubJay planted Coulter Pine I mentioned earlier. You'll still see some equipment parked in the back ground, but these are the newer owners.

This would be an ideal project for any student out there to under take, not only the actual trees, but illustrating the grid work of the 'Smart Fabric' & LEDs example. Feel free to use any and all methods mentioned above or on this site. There are certainly other applicable mycorrhiza species around the globe and this planting scheme will work in any country on the planet given the correct species of mycorrhizae with the correct host tree or shrub. There appears to be many visitors to these pages from several countries and if you have any questions about your area, please ask them in the comments below. Thanks again.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Todd Dawson's Lab!

Todd Dawson's Lab

When I think of Todd Dawson's work, I think of my own obsession of wondering what is going on under the ground as opposed to walking through the woods and looking at all the beautiful scenery. Yes of course the scenery is beautiful and exciting. However, my metamorphosis and obsession with underground biological life networking came about over a long period of time. While I always had interest in 'Botany' & 'Plants', I gradually came to realize through my own study and research that a healthy above ground paradisaic scenario is made only possible and a success by a properly installed under ground networked system. 

Nature, when not interfered with, takes care of itself. However, human's on the other hand are wowed by the Ooooooo-facter of various Large Corporate Marketing Schemes when it comes gardening and landscaping. Billions of Dollars in advertising over almost a century has indoctrinated people on Earth that Chemicals are the answer for your every need in the garden and landscape and without them you are bound to fail. Careful consideration should always be given to just exactly how things work in nature and then simply replicate these processes by developing practical application concepts into your own project. The mistake comes when mankind believes they can out perform and improve upon nature. No need to list the failures of this thinking. Anyone can read and listen to the News today and see that human's are rapidly destroying our planet.

That aside, let's get back to what work Todd Dawson and his team have pioneered. There are terms and phrases they research called 'Hydraulic Lift' - 'Hydraulic Redistribution' - 'Hydraulic Descent' and all of this has to do with a root phenomena where by roots of key species of any type of ecosystem facilitate the redistribution of water and nutrients through yet another complex and sophisticated piece of "Earth Internet" hardware called a mycorrhizal network or grid. These mycorrhizal organisms are nothing more than beneficial fungus which uses mycelial network fibers to inter-connect with various species of plants in an underground mutualistic association. In a nut shell the fungi provide an increased rate of absorbtion by 200% of water and nutrients and gives these to the trees or shrubs and in turn, the fungi who can't manufacture their own food through photosynthesis are rewarded from the plant carbons and other sugars by which the fungi survives.
Below is an animated illustration off Todd Dawson's Lab site  which beautifully illustrates just what happens during daylight hours, nighttime and even during the rainy season.
Image - Todd Dawson's Lab
Sap velocity in the taproot and lateral root of P. robustum during the transition from the dry to wet season in the Floresta Nacional do Tapajós.(a–c) Schematics for water movement at nighttime before the rain (a), daytime before and after the rain (b), and nighttime after the rain (c). Arrows shown the dominant flow direction determined by sapflow. (d) Graph showing sap velocity. Positive values mean that water flows to the plant, and negative values means away from the plant into the surrounding soil. The dashed line represents a rain event (36 mm). See the text for a complete explanation.
(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)
One of the first articles I ever read was a piece done above Todd Dawson's research work on the role Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) play in it's temperate forested ecosystem. It was exactly similar to something I had read about desert tree called Honey Mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) grows to a height of up to 12 metres (39 ft) and has a trunk with a diameter of up to 1.2 meters (3.9 ft). Its roots are able to grow to a great depth in search of water: in 1960, they were discovered at a depth of 53 meters (175 feet) at an open-pit mine near Tucson, Arizona, putting them among the deepest known roots

"Mother Nature's Irrigators" by Todd Dawson
Of course I already had an interest on the theories and research work by an Austrian Forester and self taught Physicist Viktor Schauberger. This Schauberger spoke of healthy electrically charged water as only coming from deep within the Earth and moving upwards through the soil bringing with it along vital nutrients (or Salts as he put it) which nourished plants and other life on the surface in the process. The invaluable research work and physical naturalistic explanations provided by Todd Dawson, his team and a plethora of other modern day researchers was sadly something unavailable to Viktor Schauberger who was privileged to live at a time when most old growth forests were still intact and in their pristine state and he could observe first hand natural phenomena that we can only dream of now.  With that early research in the back of my mind, this paragraph from the above linked article that caught my eye. It suddenly made sense of some of the things that seemed so mysterious. Take a look at what Todd Dawson and his team discovered with regards streamside trees. One would think that all that lush growth draws it's water hydration from off the surface waters. But not so. Read this one paragraph from the link from:
 "Mother Nature's Irrigators"
"By comparing variations in isotopic concentrations taken from different sources, they were able to show that mature streamside trees do not use stream water but used deep groundwater. When Dawson came to Cornell in 1990, he looked for ways to combine his research in water use with his interest in woody plants and their distribution and physiology. During the summers of 1991and 1992, Dawson observed the water use of Maples."

Todd Dawson made a further research work of this streamside (Riparian Habitat) water use by Trees. These trees amazingly prefer the deep groundwater to the surface water abundant in what appears to be a healthy surface water situation. Take the time to read the paper they did on this in the link title:
"Streamside Trees That Do Not Use Steam Water" 
Mother Nature's Irrigators* Plants Share Water With Th eir Neighbors
Image -
The above info has intrigued my interest because of my passion for finding evidence for an Ancient Earth minerotrophic hydrological cycle which no longer exists on the Earth for the most part, though it does in it's parts. There are hints and clues everywhere and the technologies we can develop from learning about these natural processes are incredible and vitally important given the sad state of health conventional science has brought to mankind and the world around them.
Take a further 10 minutes if you are able and view this video on the Quest science video which tracks the field work of Todd Dawson and his team. They take a look at our present hydrological water cycle and proceed to study just how it actually does work. You might say they are taking a more detailed approach by focusing in on the fine tuning of this cycle that is not necessarily observable the the average person. As the video's descriptive reference on the page states, 
"Scientists at UC Berkley are embarking on a new project to understand how global warming is effecting our fresh water supply. And they are doing it by tracking individual raindrops Mendicino and north of Lake Tahoe."
Here is the video link which is only about ten minutes long. Enjoy!
"Tracking Raindrops" 

    The animated illustration at the top of this page which shows the various functions of the phenomena called Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution comes from a paper Dawson and other researchers did called,
"Root Functioning Modifies Seasonal Climate"
   Hydraulic redistribution (HR), the nocturnal vertical transfer of soil water from moister to drier regions in the soil profile by roots, has now been observed in Amazonian trees. We have incorporated HR into an atmospheric general circulation model (the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Atmospheric Model Version 2) to estimate its impact on climate over the Amazon and other parts of the globe where plants displaying HR occur. Model results show that photosynthesis and evapotranspiration increase significantly in the Amazon during the dry season when plants are allowed to redistribute soil water. Plants draw water up and deposit it into the surface layers, and this water subsidy sustains transpiration at rates that deep roots alone cannot accomplish. The water used for dry season transpiration is from the deep storage layers in the soil, recharged during the previous wet season. We estimate that HR increases dry season (July to November) transpiration by ≈40% over the Amazon. Our model also indicates that such an increase in transpiration over the Amazon and other drought-stressed regions affects the seasonal cycles of temperature through changes in latent heat, thereby establishing a direct link between plant root functioning and climate.

From time to time I will add to this page further research done by Dawson and other who vision along the same line of thought and discovery. Keep checking for updated page.