Natural Resources and Science
News articles ranging from water and energy issues, and restoration projects to science and technology are found here.
Photograph by Michael Nichols from National Geographic website
Hear an extended 20+ min. interview with Stephen Sillett below.
According to a press release from the Humboldt State University Media Relations Office:
Stephen C. Sillett, the first Kenneth L. Fisher Chair in Redwood Forest Ecology at Humboldt State University, and his colleagues have confirmed the second-largest tree on earth, about 3,240 years old, above a trail junction in Sequoia National Park, according to the latest edition of National Geographic magazine.
High-altitude climbing research and painstaking measurements by Sillett and his colleagues show that the giant sequoia, named the President about 90 years ago, ranks number two among all big trees ever measured, National Geographic reports.Twenty-seven feet in diameter at the base, the President’s spire rises 247 feet and is estimated to house nearly two billion leaves. It stands some 7,000 feet above sea level in the southern Sierra Nevada. In addition to confirming the tree’s near-record size, state-of-the-art climbing technology and extreme precision have enabled the Sillett operations crew to pinpoint startling facts, among them: a big tree’s rate of growth can increase despite old age. That negates the long-held belief that wood production diminishes as trees grow old, the premise undergirding short-rotation forestry.
The Sillett crew’s breakthrough, high-altitude research—numerous and demanding human ascent operations, laborious raising of cameras, the taking of bore samples and sophisticated mathematical modeling—is a key component of the 10-year Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative, led by Humboldt State and UC Berkeley redwoods scientists under the auspices of the Save the Redwoods League, San Francisco. The objectives are to gather research on how redwoods can survive immense environmental alterations and to devise a long-term, comprehensive strategy for redwoods adaptation to protect and restore redwood forestlands.
The research is aimed at data-based approaches to protection against climate change. It will be based in part on a network of forest plots to be monitored for more than 100 years. The study includes whole-tree and whole-forest rates of annual wood production as far back as 1,000 years. Leading scientists Sillett and Robert Van Pelt of Humboldt State University and Todd Dawson and Anthony Ambrose of the UC Berkeley are probing the capacity of redwoods to mitigate the impact of climate changes through their own photosynthesis, fog interception, wood production and carbon sequestration. The team will attempt to reconstruct past climates to learn how redwoods responded historically to climate change and then assess how the trees are adapting currently. Greenhouse experiments will be used to analyze how redwood seedlings and saplings from different parts of forest ranges might react to climate change.
Related information: For a wonderful book depicting the beauty and complexity of the redwoods see: The Wild Trees by Richard Preston - available in the Humboldt County Library system both as a book and recorded book.
On the Tues., Nov. 20 edition of the KMUD Local News, KMUD News Coordinator, Terri Klemetson, aired an interview with researcher Stephen Sillett. Use the player below to hear the extended version of that interview.
Photo of Sillett in climbing gear
According to a press release from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, dated Nov. 2, 2012:
More than a ton of used marijuana grow soil that had been illegally dumped on the bank of the Eel River near Ferndale was cleaned up and hauled away last week. Approximately 30 bags of soil were taken to Wes Green Landscape Materials in Arcata, one of the local facilities that will accept spent soil like this for a fee. Soil that has been used in marijuana growing operations is often high in added nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, said Melissa Martel, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Environmental Health (DEH). It becomes detrimental to the environment when it’s allowed to filter into waterways. “It’s bad for the rivers because it starves the river of oxygen, harms river organisms and can cause fish die-off,” Martel said. “It can also stimulate blue-green algae blooms during certain times of the year in creeks or slower-moving bodies of water.”
Blue-green algae looks like green, blue-green, white or brown scum, foam or mats floating on the water, she said. These floating algae masses, or “blooms,” can produce potent natural toxins. Dogs and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size and tendency to stay in the water for longer periods. Human activities can dramatically affect nutrient levels and water flows in rivers, streams and lakes, Martel said. People are advised to be conservative with the use of fertilizers and pesticides on their lawn, garden or agricultural operation and also to recycle spent soil that has been used for intensive growing by tilling it back into gardens or protecting it from rainfall to avoid nutrient runoff.
Staffers with DEH’s Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency Program perform a variety of services, including investigating illegal dumping. Martel says DEH has seen an increase in the amount of waste in general that is discarded illegally adjacent to rivers, in wooded areas, along roadsides and in other areas throughout the county. Samoa, Loleta and parts of Blue Lake have been particularly hard hit, she said.
There are things people can do to help keep the environment free of excess trash and other waste products. “We encourage people to handle things the right way,” Martel said. “The best management method for spent soil is reuse. Growing vegetable crops in this high-nutrient soil, or mixing it with other soil, may result in high yields. Some gardeners prefer not to use it if they don’t know the strength or type of nutrients it contains. Otherwise, you can pay a fee to use a compost facility like Wes Green Landscape Materials or one of the county’s transfer stations.
“When something is dumped inappropriately, it costs agencies and property owners time, resources and money,” Martel said. “We’d like to make sure waste is properly handled from the beginning. If people see others in the act of illegal dumping, law enforcement should be called immediately.” So, what should people do if they see that illegal dumping has already taken place? “Every situation is different depending on the type of waste we are talking about,” Martel said. “If they found a TV, they could take it to a transfer station or e-waste collection event. If they found a bag from a fast-food restaurant, they could put it in a garbage receptacle. They can always call us at the Division of Environmental Health if they need to talk to someone to find out the correct place to dispose of something.”
For more information, contact the Division of Environmental Health at 707-445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241.
The planning for the Baker Creek Stream Restoration Project - a Joint project between the Bureau of Land Management and Sanctuary Forest- began well over a year ago. The project, on public lands southeast of Whitethorn, is designed to improve fish habitat and contribute to the recovery of Coho Salmon in Baker Creek, a tributary to the Mattole River in Humboldt County. Additional KMUD News information about this project can be found here.
Dave Brooksher aired this report on the progress of the Baker Creek Project - Oct. 30, 2012 on the KMUD Local News.
The photos below were taken by Dave Brooksher.
Hezakiah Allen, Co-director of the Mattole Restoration Council, pointing to the relief map as Jim Kenna, California Director for the Bureau of Land Managment (left foreground), looks on.
Recently felled logs placed across Baker Creek to preserve salmonid access.
The seasonal salmon run up the rivers and streams is now underway in Northern California. For more information see the Eel River Recovery Project website at: http://www.eelriverrecovery.org/
Use the player below to hear more about this salmon run, including an interview with Fishery Biologist, Pat Higgins. This piece was aired on KMUD Local News Oct. 25, 2012 by News Coordinator Terri Klemetson.
Additional information sent to KMUD News by California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) Biologist Scott Downie indicates that after last week’s short term pulse in discharge due to the small storm system, flow is low in the Eel River and its tributaries. Prior to that slight increase in flow, the tidal reaches of the Eel River were holding very large concentrations of Chinook salmon.
CDFG wardens were busy dealing with poaching efforts, and continue to be so occupied. However, many fish have moved further upstream for the past few days, and are now holding in pools along the lower reaches of the South Fork and Mainstem Eel, but movement further upstream is curtailed for most of the fish.
CDFG migration controls in the lower Van Duzen are in place again this year due to the low flows. When 150 cfs is reached in the Van Duzen, the controls will be removed and Van Duzen salmon will pass freely up the river. Flows above the Middle Fork Eel are very low, and most upper tributaries lack adequate flow to allow passage for any arrivals that might occur. CDFG observations indicate a very large run of Chinook in the system, and the public is cautioned not to disturb holding fish.
The river above the estuary is now closed to fishing and the low flow phone number, (707) 822-3164, should be consulted to see when the streams have adequate flow for angling. In any event, please remember that the entire Eel system is a catch and release fishery. Wardens are actively patrolling the river.
"Caught in the Act"
This pair of spawning salmon in the South Fork Eel River was photographed by Richard Potratz at milemarker .44 - half a mile South of the "Tree House" on Avenue of the Giants, Oct. 29, 2012
According to a press release from the Public Information Office of the U.C. Center for Forestry:
A wave of new Sudden Oak Death (SOD)-related oak and tanoak mortality has been confirmed this year throughout California’s infested forests, according to the 2012 USDA Forest Service annual aerial survey. This year, the survey mapped 376,000 dead oak and tanoak over 54,000 acres in California’s SOD-impacted areas, compared to 38,000 trees across 8,000 acres mapped in the same area last year.
Photo from the California Oak Mortality Task Force Website at: http://www.suddenoakdeath.org/
“This increase in infection really was predicted two, and especially one, year ago when we had heavier rains and mild springs,” said Matteo Garbelotto, Adjunct Professor with UC Berkeley. At that time, SOD Blitz surveys conducted by citizen scientists in participating communities were finding increases in symptomatic California bay laurel leaves (the primary host for disease spread and often the precursor to oak and tanoak infection), confirming that Phytophthora ramorum (the pathogen known to cause SOD) was spiking in activity in conjunction with optimal weather conditions. SOD Blitzes, combined with the aerial surveys, validate our theory that SOD outbreaks are driven by wetter than average conditions and are initiated by bay laurel infection. Bay laurel infections cannot be detected by aerial surveys, but require an on-ground survey like the SOD Blitzes, which now are proven to provide an early warning (1 year, maybe more) for oak mortality outbreaks. Early detection is crucial to pathogen containment and possibly local eradication attempts.”
Most of the key results of the 2012 SOD Blitzes concern the establishment of the pathogen in urban or residential areas. Burlingame Hills, a residential area in the North Peninsula, had a staggering 48 percent of positive samples. The west side of the East Bay revealed high levels of bay infection comparable to those normally observed at the onset of oak mortality outbreaks, indicating the disease in these urban areas has rapidly transitioned from arrival (reported in 2011) to an epidemic phase. This year, P. ramorum levels are high enough that oak and tanoak infection in the SOD Blitz-sampled residential areas of Pinole, East Richmond, Kensington, North Berkeley, Claremont, and Piedmont is extremely likely, making preventive disease management options urgently needed to protect oaks and tanoaks both in private and public spaces. SOD Blitz results from the east side of the East Bay confirmed that the pathogen is well established in Moraga and approaching Lafayette. “All of the above are very significant infestations,” commented Garbelotto. “Whenever you are dealing with populated areas, concerns over failing trees potentially harming people or property, as well as the loss of property value and aesthetics, can be very challenging.”
Additional urban outbreaks were detected in Santa Cruz, Carmel Valley Village, and most notably, in Golden Gate Park, where three trees were found to have SOD in a southwestern sector of the park. Golden Gate Park was the site of another SOD finding several years ago, but in a completely different section several miles away. Park managers and researchers are intensifying the survey in the area and deciding what steps can be taken to stop its spread in the park.
An unexpected, but encouraging SOD Blitz result, was the absence of positives in the Atherton area, where an outbreak had been detected during the 2010 and 2011 SOD Blitzes, and where local residents have attempted to eradicate what appears to be a discrete urban infestation located a significant distance from any other wildland infestations. “Early detection and community involvement makes all the difference in success. The pathogen was detected early thanks to a local SOD Blitz, allowing the community to respond with swift decisiveness. The apparent absence of the pathogen in 2012 may suggest that the eradication effort has been successful, but such success can be confirmed only by continuing the monitoring efforts which, in turn, may provide early detection of future new infestations as well,” said Garbelotto.
A total of over 10.000 trees were surveyed in 19 SOD Blitzes organized throughout Northern California in the spring of 2012 and engaged over 500 volunteers. The community-based outreach program is coordinated by local organizers in cooperation with UC Berkeley, and endorsed by the US Forest Service, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. Participants are trained to identify SOD symptoms on California bay laurel and tanoak leaves and to properly collect samples and record their locations during the 2-day surveys. Within 48 hours of collection, samples are processed by the Garbelotto lab to determine the presence or absence of P. ramorum, and results are published on a map early in October.
The maps are used to determine local risk of infection for oaks and tanoaks in affected California counties and also provide the backbone of SODMAP, a comprehensive distribution map of the disease in California. Current P. ramorum distribution maps for San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Monterey, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties are now available at www.sodmap.org, and can be used by community members to see how close SOD may be to any given property. It is highly recommended that oaks and tanoaks within a half mile from confirmed outbreaks be treated to prevent infection.
Community members living in areas known to be infested are encouraged to attend one of the many free sessions organized by UC Berkeley in various SOD-impacted locations throughout October and November. Sessions will show attendees how to correctly use the distribution maps, determine risk of infection for their oaks and tanoaks, and learn science-based recommendations to help prevent and manage SOD.
SOD is a serious exotic disease that is killing tanoak and oak species in California. Currently it is found in the wildlands of 14 coastal California counties, from Monterey to Humboldt.