Friday, January 25, 2013

Comparing Historical Wildland Photos From the Past with the Present Reality

Plants Adapt to Drought, But Limits are Looming, study says
Credit: Mitchel McClaren

The University of Arizona's Santa Rita Experimental Range is one of the large-scale/long-term study areas that are crucial for this research. Using techniques like repeat photography, inclusion or exclusion of livestock, and vegetation surveys since the 1950s, scientists study how ecosystems react to different influences such as climate change and grazing.

Very quick here. I love these historical photo comparisons on ecology. It's truly a great way to judge the present and future of the environment by viewing how things once were in the past and how things measure up today. I have often found historical photos on subjects I've written about in the present and the amazing contrast to the way the natural world is now. Clearly there are hidden away in many old trunks in peoples homes, archives of photo gems, though folks may not be aware of their actual value other than personal hand me downs. Hopefully more and more older photographs come to light and benefit researchers. Take these example by the University of Arizona and the change in vegetation of the desert landscape.

Photo by D. Griffiths; provided by M. McClaren

Repeat photography is one of the tools range ecologists use to document how lands change. In 1902, photographer David Griffiths' horse-drawn buggy was clearly visible in the open grassland, surrounded by scattered desert hackberry plants at the foot of Huèrfano Butte.

Photo provided by M. McClaren

By 1941, an unknown photographer documented burro weed and Cholla Cactus popping up, along with Velvet Mesquite trees.

Photo by M. McClaren

In 2007, the grass cover has given way to Velvet Mesquite trees, and Prickly Pear Cactus have replaced Chollas as the dominant Cacti.

The story is truly interesting and you can read the complete article here.

Further Update (February 8, 2013)

Biologist Richard Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute took a series of dated photos stretching from 1991 to the present. They beautifully illustrate just how the chaparral plant community ecosystem can easily regenerate when left on it's own and the succession of plants which appear in order of importance which also provides their own important role they play during this period of reconstruction. Here is the series.

Photo by Richard Halsey

Post fire March 1991 — at  Del Dios Community Park

Photo by Richard Halsey

Post fire June 1992 — at Del Dios Community Park

Photo by Richard Halsey

Post fire June 1995 — at Del Dios Community Park

Photo by Richard Halsey
Post fire August 2004 — at  Del Dios Community Park

Photo by Richard Halsey

Post fire February 2013  — at 

Del Dios Community Park

Photo by Richard Halsey

Here is a wider view of the mountain in its full post

glory, 22 years later. February 2013  — at 

 Del Dios Community Park 

For more official information on the Chaparral Plant Community's ecosystem and the misinformation about them, please follow this link -

Learn more about the Chaparral Plant Community of Southern California. It's a part of what makes Southern California and it's climate so unique and which accounts for the reason so many choose to move here. Otherwise they'd stay behind in their dense woodland environments up north or back east with it's defining four seasons. This plant community is the reason behind almost every day being a perfect day. Most people around the globe have never appreciated this in their life time. 

These series of chaparral recovery photographs above and the historical ones at the top of this page are another good reason for you to get yourself out into nature and discover a new hobby. Having fun with photography and at the same time documenting something that may even be used in years later from now in future research somewhere. For a change, get your kids involved in such a wholesome and worth while activity. But you may actually have to be a Parent and pull them away from their 'babysitting electronics'  for which fault your bare. Forget that modern day "Time Out" crap, just do it for their own good. Too bad there weren't a great plethora of digital cameras back in the old west pioneer days. How kool would that be to see what we don't see or know about today ? 

Last year my wife and I watched a National Geographic documentary about a young college student who wanted to become a Marine Biologist. His inspiration was the Marine Biologist Jacques Cousteau whose films inspired him in his quest. Indeed, back in the 1960s, Jacques Cousteau's films brought a mysterious undersea world into the living rooms of many a family who otherwise would never have known about such wonders of life in the world's oceans. This young college student teamed up with Jacques Cousteau's grandson, Philippe Cousteau Jr on retracing the exact locations where Jacques Cousteau and his son Philippe Cousteau Sr filmed their first adventures under the Mediterranean Sea off southern France. What they found was disturbing. Instead of the great abundant biodiverse sea life in those 1960s film documentaries, there were nothing but dead zones where the only fish life were about the size of minnows. Most all of the reefs were gone or dead. They showed clips of the old films which looked like some over populated Sea World Aquarium. In the documentary, the young aspiring Marine Biologist lamented that now if he wanted to continue his love of Marine Biology research and learning, he would no longer be able to do it in the wild in many places, but rather by watching older Jacques Cousteau Film documentaries. Anyone else find this pathetic that things would get this bad on Earth ? Do you now see the benefits of historical documentation photography ? Even if it's just a hobby for fun ?

Photo by Murat Draman   - National Geographic

(Interview in English) Philippe Cousteau:

"The Mediterranean Ocean is a dead sea. Well, my grandfather was diving 40-50 years ago. You can go back and see those films and look at that footage. And you go back to the same places today and it's changed so much. And these places with coral and full of life, you go back and it looks like desert under water

Photo by Enric Sala  ©2012 National Geographic

Notice the contrast here where fish abound in this part of the Mediterranean in Spain's Medes Islands ? Unprecedented new research turned up healthy ecosystems in well-enforced marine reserves across the Mediterranean. 

There are many other ecosystems on Earth, much like the Chaparral plant community which have been snubbed as worthless or exploited for whatever resources. Even now such a plant community is being demonized and vilified as the reason for all the Mega-Fires which in reality are human error. Learning about the natural world through a biomimicry or biomimetics point of view will go further than this time wasting politico-ideological worldview pimping that is being argued presently by two major sides opposed to each other in time consumption bickering. But time pants on to the end despite this and at some future point it will be game over for the majority of mankind. For those that 'get it', be vigilant by keeping on the watch.

And if you still think I'm over doing it on the photo thingy, check this out:

Imperial College London: "Scientists using holiday snaps to identify whale sharks"

Holidaymakers' photos could help Scientists track  the movements  of giant endangered sharks living in the waters of the Indian Ocean.


  1. This is super interesting. I've been watching these things closely and in the Buenos Aires Wildlife area near Sasabe, it shows how it went from Grassland to Mesquite bush area back to Grassland again. The Santa Cruz river area is, to me, the most drastic of changes over time. Incredible!

    1. Yeah I am also fascinated by the historical photos which show a completely different take on the natural surroundings than at present. Most photos are mainly focused subject-wise as to the human accomplishments, but I'm intrigued with the surrounding country side. I'm always on the look out for historical photos of an area. Two of my other last posts have referenced old photos from the Riverside Museum's historical archives of the subject area to the present.

  2. I guess it's time to address and delete this post.

    Maniks ReadJanuary 30, 2013 at 9:54 PM
    Hi, very informative thanks for sharing.

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    This is so typical of spammers who have no genuine interest in the articles and post a half-hearted thank you one liner, then proceed to spam & pimp the boards to junk sales site.


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