Saturday, July 13, 2019

Western Fence Lizards (Blue Bellies) -- Lyme Disease Control in Ticks ???

In 1998, a pioneering study led by UC Berkeley entomologist Robert Lane found that a protein in the Western fence lizard’s blood killed Borrelia bacteria, and as a result, Lyme-infected ticks that feed on the lizard’s blood are cleansed of the disease-causing pathogen.
Image - John Lindsey

Image - John Lindsey
As a kid I was always went nuts about catching both lizards and snakes. But lizards more often and different kinds of lizards. Amazing how even today as you look at the photo above, little boys are still attracted with catching and holding lizards. Sadly the modern world's time wasting electronic devices has captured the attention of most kids and generally being outdoors is in many cases not an option. Of course the most common lizard where I come from is the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis). They are everywhere. We also called them Blue Bellies because of the deep pretty blue on their under bellies. But back in 2011 researchers discovered something even I never knew about the abundantly common Western Fence Lizard. They play an ecological role in hosting ticks at a small juvenile stage of the tick's life cycle. And ticks that feed off Western Fence Lizard blood acquire aa protein which destroys the Borrelia bacteria which causes Lyme Disease. Here are some quotes from the article and I'll provide a link so you can read the entire research report.
"Western fence lizard’s blood killed Borrelia bacteria, and as a result, Lyme-infected ticks that feed on the lizard’s blood are cleansed of the disease-causing pathogen. Moreover, research has found that up to 90 percent of the juvenile ticks in this species feed on the Western fence lizard, which is prevalent throughout California and neighboring states."  
"The lizard is thus often credited for the relatively low incidence of Lyme disease in the Western United States. The new UC Berkeley-led study put that assumption to the test experimentally."
Photo - Gary Nafis
Interestingly, the researchers found that the Lizards accommodate ticks with a specialized fold in their neck called a “mite pocket.” Wow, I never knew that when I was a kid in the 60s and never knew to look for any ticks period. But remember, we're not talking about adult ticks, these are tinier ticks in the infancy stage of life known as nymphal stage. So in a nutshell, in 4 or 5 plots where those lizards were already being studied, many were removed from an area and substitute animals like woodrats and pocket mice were checked to see if they became the new host for the juvenile ticks.
"The researchers found that in plots where the lizards had been removed, ticks turned to the female woodrat as their next favorite host. On average, each female woodrat got an extra five ticks for company when the lizards disappeared.  However, the researchers found that 95 percent of the ticks that no longer had lizard blood to feast on failed to latch on to another host. 
“One of the goals of our study is to tease apart the role these lizards play in Lyme disease ecology,” says Swei, who is now a post-doctoral associate at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York. “It was assumed that these lizards played an important role in reducing Lyme disease risk. Our study shows that it’s more complicated than that.”  
Notwithstanding the results in this new study, Lane pointed out that the Western fence lizard are key to keeping infection rates down among adult ticks. “This study focused only on the risk from juvenile ticks, specifically those in the nymphal stage,” he said. “The earlier finding that adult ticks have lower infection rates because they feed predominantly on the Western fence lizard at the nymphal stage still holds.”  
“In attempting to decrease infectious disease risk, we need to remember the law of unexpected consequences,” said Sam Scheiner, program director in the National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research through the joint NSF-NIH (National Institutes of Health) Ecology of Infectious Diseases Program. “This study demonstrates the complexity of infectious diseases.”
(Berkeley News)
Lizards in your yard are a really good thing
Image - Orange County Register

There was a great article in the Orange County Register in 2010 about the benefits of having various Lizard species living as residents within your garden and landscape. Amazing photo above where a Western Fence Lizard is gulping down a Jerusalem Cricket, which frankly to me looking at one up close, is one of the most sinister looking bugs I've never wanted to touch. Wicked looking jaw and mouth parts and stickery claws which clasp onto anything tightly. Hence I've always refused to touch one. But look at that lizard. No apparent fear there. Here's parts of the article:
"Settle down everybody. A backyard lizard invasion has not begun. OK, maybe it has, but no reason to panic. Alligator lizards, Western Fence lizards and even the occasional side-blotched lizard are feasting on summer bugs and living large reptilian lives in our residential back yards. Yay for lizards!" 
“Lizards are not poisonous, harmful or anything other than interesting,” said Steve Bennett, vector ecologist at Orange County Vector Control. “In fact, during the mating season it is fun to watch the males doing their push-ups to show off, or squabbling over girlfriends.”  
Lizards are considered beneficial companions consuming more than their share of crickets, cockroaches, ants, beetles and sometimes flies if they can catch them.  But most lizards are usually more prey than predator. “In the wild they don’t live more than a year or two,” Bennett said. “In captivity they can live much longer.”  
Cats, birds, even black widows will make a meal out of a lizard, especially when the lizards are young and small. To the gardener the lizard is a constant companion, sitting on rocks, scurrying under shrubs, getting out of the way when the garden hose goes on. Or not. Lizards don’t seem to mind the occasional squirt from the hose, perhaps because like other reptiles, lizards can’t control their body temperature. A cool sprinkle in August probably feels good.
(Orange County Register)
But getting back to these ticks. The adult ticks dangle on the tips of grass and other low-lying vegetation like shrubs in a host-seeking posture called “questing.” In this position, they spread their two front clawed limbs wide open and wait patiently for hours, or even days, for unsuspecting critter to brush by so they can dig their metal-like mouth parts into their host and gorge themselves on it's blood. Contrary to what some people may believe, ticks don’t jump or fly. And when it comes to keeping an eye out for ticks, at least the adult ticks can easily be seen, unlike ticks in the nymph or juvenile life stage, when the tick is about the size of a poppy seed and difficult to spot. Juveniles usually do not climb grass or shrubs while host-seeking. Instead, they lurk closer to the ground on top of leaf litter on the forest floor, a perfect location to attach to lizards. In fact, research has shown about 90 percent of hosts for tick nymphs are reptiles rather than small mammals or birds. This is truly amazing, because I never knew this before and would never have suspected lizards all this time offered such an amazing checks & balances service in the natural world.

Image - Matthew Twombly (NPR)
Clearly there are literally millions of things about our planet's natural world that scientists flat out do not understand. What possitive role do ticks play in Nature ? Yeah I know, Ticks ? There are countless synthetics that industrial science has invented to rid us of what appear to be pests, without considering what role humans may have played in ecosystem imbalance and whether it could be reversed. Our entire human experience of life is one of either cooperation or competition with all the other living things on Earth. But when humans alter their environment, they also alter the behaviour of other living things. Take for example the Zika Virus & the mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Wasn't always a pest and in fact most mosquitoes weren't until people altered environments they shouldn't have. In fact scientists now know that mosquitoes didn't always attack or bother humans, rather the mosquito's specific targets were almost exclusively animals and even then they played a role in ecosystem management. But something changed and humans were the cause of that change. The reality is that all such parasites and aggressor pests grew out of a system that was originally designed to be completely sustainably cooperative but was suddenly transformed and turned into a competitive disarray.
Fabricating Unscientific Fables for Corporate Business Interests
Throughout history people have killed whatever annoyed or inconvenienced them, even other humans. Hence the practices of killing what we don't like or cause us to lose profit has only escalated with the invention of synthetic science-based pesticides. The ignorance on how nature really works became further distorted when a scientific label was attached to many living things about 150 years ago when something called "Argument from Poor Design" was fabricated to prop up a new worldview and given as a gift to mankind by Charles Darwin. Darwin never used science for all his examples of poor design, but rather he employed metaphysical and faith-based religious concepts to justify the new worldview. I get the idea of being turned off to much of Christendom's track record, etc, I do I get it. But to trash nature to justify an argument for another worldview ??? 😕

 
“Folks who ain’t got ideas of their own should be mighty careful whose they borrow…”
Old Cowboy Saying 
No truer words than that. Look throughout history at all the supposedly intellectual ideas and philosophies mandated as truth by this world's elites which later turned out to be purely based on gross human ignorance and incompetent understanding of how they think Nature really works and we've all been paying a high price ever since as a result. 
More Reading References on the Subject
Murray Suuer M.D. - "Lyme Disease and Lizards Los Angeles"

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What do Tree Trimming & Solar Industries have in common ???

Most of the Experts behind those industries more often than not have no clue as to what they are really doing 😟
Image from May 2019 - Google Earth

Image from Sept 2005
Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery
Well, it's Springtime in SoCal when Google Earth updated this street photo in May 2019. The trees (California Sycamores, Canary Island & Torrey Pines) behind the roofline of this house I grew up in all started out as six inch high seedlings in late 2005 when I planted them in September of that same year. The rapid growth of the Sycamores was facilitated by using a practice called, biomimicry, which is nothing more than replicating how nature under the right conditions causes deep rooted trees and shrubs, especially on ancient Bajadas or Alluvial Fans to thrive. This just happens to also be where most of SoCal's housing development is located. Many housing tracts in SoCal are located on former orange groves which were originally planted on alluvial fans at the foot of mountains. Alluvial Fans like floodplains are some of the most efficient geological formations for storing and holding massive amounts of water. Those Sycamore trees at my mum's place are no longer irrigated except during the rainy season. During summer, these water loving trees are tapped into the subsurface aquifer.

Image from summer of 2007

California Sycamores are almost two years old.

Image mine from 2011
The photo above from 2007 shows less than two year old Sycamore trees on a former floodplain or alluvial fan (see Lessons Learned from the Bajadas (Alluvial Fans)) Look how tall they are. Pay attention San Diego River restorationists. Decades ago I was curious how single solitary Sycamore trees thrived on rocky sandy boulder strewn floodplains where summer temps were always well over 100+ Fahrenheit (40+ celsius) far from any water course, let alone getting established in the first place. I found that heavy rainfall El Niño weather events with wetter than normal summer monsoon seasons were the reason. This can easily be replicated in any urban landscape. Generously deep root irrigate and after two years, simply taper off the available moisture gradually and force the rootsystems to go straight down. During the whole entire process keep a generous layer of mulch all around the trees extending several feet from the main trunk. Understand that all Sycamores, Fremont Cottonwoods, etc will go down 20' looking for moisture. They have built in mechansims for sensing and sniffing out available water. The photo on the right from 2011 shows well established very tall Sycamores with deep full shade on the ground below and deep cover of Sycamore leaves. They have a tremendous cooling effect where the back screen door is now left open and the prevailing westerly winds blow underneath the cool tree canopy and into the house and out the front door screen. The industrial air conditioner as seen in the top Google Earth photograph is rarely needed and saves electricity bill when not in service.

Fast forward to the past couple of years and sleezy slick Solar Panel salesmen are trying to convince my 87 year old Mother she needs to plaster solar panels all over her home's roof to save money and be considered more eco-green. What's more, a tree trimming company usually also shows up almost exactly the same time (Coincidence ???) as the solar panel salesman claiming for safety reasons she needs to top all her trees to the roofline, which will also make the Solar Panels more efficient at generating electricity. They feed her a line about how Sycamores are unstable and the giant tree limbs could break at any moment. So let's take the problem of Solar panels on her roof first.

Illustration - Healthy Family Newspaper

Image from SolarQuotes.com
First off, my mum's place has only one south facing roof slope and that is over the garage. The other roof slopes are both west and east facing as you can see in the photo at the top with the towering trees behind the house and therefore would be worthless as far as the ability to maximize electricity generation. No problem says the sleezy solar salesman, we can sell you solar tilt frames which will angle the panels to a more southerly exposure. Of course once again you would have to top those trees. Of course it'll look like nothing more than an eye sore industrial mess and curb appeal will be almost non-existent, but she'll certainly be 100% certifiable eco-green. Every single time my mother calls and says one of these home casing scumbags have told her she needs solar and tree topping, I get on the horn and make sure my siblings keep an eye out on what she does as far as decision making.
Then there is the Wildfire Hazard almost no eco-group will Discuss
Image - Australian Solar Care
All manner of debris ends up under these panels and as Eco-Groups demand solar on roofs, they rarely touch on this hazard after lecturing people about spark (embers) arresters on attic vents, keeping rain gutters clear, etc. And it's not just fallen leaves, it's also birds and little animal critters who find them attractive to move debris under to build nesting sites.
Google Search = Leave Litter under Solar Panels 

Spring of May 2019 - Google Earth

Okay here it is again folks. Above photo is May 2019 of this year and photograph on right is house stucco renovation in the Fall of 2018. Note the height of the trees. The California Sycamores are on the left, Canary Island Pines in the middle and on the right is the Torrey Pine which finally matured enough to reach subsoil moisture and over the last couple of years has amazingly grown three or four foot a year. Both the tree trimming companies and Solar Panel installers want my mother to top all those trees (Sycamores & Pines) at roof level and install Solar Panels so she'll be eco-green and *cough-cough* save money. Problem is, since the trees have grown bigger, the backyard patio area has never been more pleasant, shady & cooler. It's like an Oasis. Cutting them down to size would completely elevate the backyard temperatures, plus added temp increase on the roof would rise by several degrees more because black solar panels create heat islands. In otherwords they create what they are meant to reverse, global warming. That giant industrial airconditioning unit with the trees is rarely used, but the sales pitch to my mother was that once the trees were removed, the *cough-cough* free energy from the Sun would be able to run the unit and the house would always be pleasant. The house was built in 1956, no insulation and old technology crank windows. Fortunately the windows have all be replaced with dual pane windows which have also made a huge difference. They also had insuation blown into the attic crawl space when none ever existed previously. The only things left with no insulation are the walls and underneath the floors.But getting to the tree trimming, this is another area of annoyance for me over the years.

Image from Google Earth May 2019

An old high school friend of mine has a dad who own's this JB Mills Insurance Agency building and all the other office rentals within. This is on Broadway in El Cajon, California, just east of Ballantyne street. The photo on the right is from the Dentist office Advert of my high school buddy Randolph P. Mills and the building is where his office resides in. In the photo on the right you can clearly see the California Sycamore has been topped off which is the way tree companies like dealing with many large trees. It's fast and more convenient for them, just to chop, hack, packup and go on their merry way to the next job. For me, tree trimming was more of an art form when I did it. It was actually one of my favourite assignments. Lawn care was my nightmare. When you are done, the tree or shrub should not look like it's just been trimmed, but naturally sculpted to picturesque shape and form. This is the way nature works with trees, especially strong healthy Sycamores. But this irresponsible tree topping technique was started back in the late 1960s & early 1970s and has been practiced ever since. In the top photo you can see where water sprout branches have shot up like a rocket given the massive trunk and root infrastructure which will trigger an explosion of new growth in response to the attack. The USA in many cities and towns have above ground utility poles which must have their corridor right-of-ways maintained for clearance. Doesn't take much talent to chop-shop trees to keep corridors cleared, but the problem is this terrible practice has bled over into the maintaining all landscape trees in urban landscapes where utilities are nonexistent.
Cartoon Animations Below Illustrate the Problems with Tree Professionals





Sunset Terrace Apartments - Bradley Ave, El Cajon, California
Image - apartments.com

Image - rent.com
Nothings changed for the better in property management. The place above is a commercial apartment building next to the complex I worked at. In the beginning (2002) I remember the Sycamore trees were so huge and majestic looking, almost completely shaded the front of the entire apartment complex and the various carports in the back. Every other year since, they have hired the same tree company to cut back hard and top all these trees into an unnatural form. In the photo on the right here, you can see the untouched Sycamore on the left and a previous months topping and regrowth that same year. Tree companies have no care as to time of year they ravage your trees. Let's face it, they need work year round. This same company hacked the trees along the propertyline of both our properties because the SDG&E telephone-power poles ran along a storm drainage ditch in between both commercial residential complexes. One memorable tree grossly hacked and chopped to a 20' tall stump was a beautiful large spreading and tall Shamel Ash. The biggest problem with tree trimming in Summer heat is that trees naturally respond to injury with extremely rapid growth to replace what was lost. Because of such rapid tender growth, much of growth is succulent sweet and ripe for predation by pest insects, pathogens, powdery mildews, etc. The usual tannins and alkoloids which make most foliage bitter and distasteful to such pest do not exist yet. So it's like a massive thanksgiving feast for them. This happened to the Shamel Ash which never ever recovered and had to be completely taken out. Some fault of course lies with the Homeowner or landscaper who makes a bad choice in nursery tree selection with no foresight taken into consideration of what future consequences may eventually exist, especially near and around power poles.

As usual, lessons are rarely learned in our times. You think things would improve with newer understanding but they don't. Both the chopping of trees and installation of massive solar infrastructure continue as mankind's only hope for reversing climate and weather degradation. But the same ignorance and lack of forethought is employed in using a technology which is still less than efficient for the amount of area footprint it requires which is still a major problem. Hardly any single environmental activist group will raise a whisper when forests are eliminated and trees chopped down because a massive solar farm will take the forest's place. But cut those same trees down for an industrial mining operation, oil exploration or natural gas fracking venture and as the saying goes, "There's usually all Hell to Pay."


Image from Basin and Range

How much longer will humans put their blind trust in this World's Credentialed Elites to problem solve ??? 😔
"Expectation postponed makes the heart sick."  
​—Prov. 13:12.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Bulldozed Catlines an Invitation to Invasive Non-Native weeds

It could also be said that the unfortunate firefighting techniques (both proactive & reactive) are illustrative of what your average weekend Ranchette owners do to their own properties every year. Or for that matter what major developers & Real Estate Land Speculators or even Alternative Energy Schemes do to the land they acquire. Taken all together though, 10s of 1000s of small landowners collectively speaking are worse than the usual deep pocket targets environmental groups love to target with lawsuit after lawsuit. In the end they all contribute to the underground destruction of the underground mycorrhizal grid and with it's complete removal the non-native invasive weeds more easily replace the native setting. However, two new reports recently released expose the extensive damage done by firefighting with Bulldozers. Not blaming the bulldozer crews here, but there really are no plans designed to counter the damage done by bulldozers after the battle is won against the wildfire other than an eye candy patchwork of quick restoration.

Image courtesy of USFS

Image by USFS
The biggest problem with firefighting with Bulldozers in a warlike strategic effort against a out of control wildfire is that these firebreak Catlines displace soils, destabilize slopes, denude native vegetation and help spread flammable invasive non-native weeds. Later when the rainy season comes, these same Catlines help degrade water quality with tonnes of sediment, ruin closed canopy forest habitat, can also destroy Native American artifacts and other historical heritage sites, and despoil the scenery of fire affected wildlands. There is certanly no doubt that using these ‘big iron’ heavy bulldozers like some German Panzer Division on the eastern front, is that this action can admittedly strike fiercely by cutting a lot of fireline quickly and brutally, and in the right places and conditions these catlines can stop wildfire spread. But the damage they cause may go on for decades long after the wildfire is contained and put out. Two recent reports came out about two of the major fires. Last year's (2018) Carr Fire in Northern California and the Soberanes Fire (2016) from Carmel south to Big Sur along California's central coast. Seriously, for those interested, please read both of these reports in their entirety. These very recently released reports are very educational. Here they are below.
THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: THE SOBERANES FIRE SUPPRESSION SIEGE OF 2016 (Dec 2018)
Carr Fire CATlines: The Environmental Impacts of Bulldozers in Wildfire Suppression (March 2019)
Carr Fire Catlines video
Proactive Bulldozed Firebreak Construction
(Photo by Tim Duck, BLM, Arizona Strip Field Office.)

At the top of this post I used a term, proactive. In the fire suppression game, this would entail not actually fighting a wildfire, but preparation of land through management practices involving prescribed burns in wild areas and the use of bulldozers in creating future fire break lines which ultimately are worthless and costly. Unfortunately even these activities seem more likely to influence spread of invasive weed pressure and future wildfire sread much faster. How ? Firefighting crews and their equipment may disperse invasive weed seeds like Cheatgrass, Black Mustard and Yellow Starthistle as they travel in from other regions. They may also be to blame for local dispersal within the area of the actual wildfire fighting efforts as they travel to each new location. 

Image by Pete M Dziuk
The stickery sticky seeds of these invasive plants may adhere to fire personnel and their equipment as they move about from fire camp to fire camp, thereby dispersing these seeds elsewhere into the management unit as crews leave camp for the fireline. A Fire Crew's equipment largely consists of personal belongings (boots, clothes, sleeping bag, tent), personal protective equipment (gloves, helmet, goggles, fire pack, fire shelter), and their hand tools like shovels, pulaskis, axes, fire rakes, hoes. This equipment can serve as carriers for the dispersal of invasive plants unless these items are cleaned prior to reuse at other locations. In our less than perfect world, how likely is that ? Even the guy who cleans the annoying stickers of Cheatgrass stickers from his garments is going to miss one, two or more seeds from his/her socks or boots. 
The Reactive techniques & Strategies taken during Firefighting Efforts
Image - Big Sur Kate Blog

Image - Dozer Operators Group
In the 2016 I followed the Soberanes Fire  daily reported news activities of the firefighting crews in their reactive effort to suppress the raging wildfire by hand and mechanized crews in almost impossible geographical conditions. The photo above was actually one of the smaller bulldozed fire breaks I saw in the News Photo images. But all across this region there were many a Bulldozer Panzer Divisions sitting at the ready just waiting for orders to attack at strategic locations for a new defensive line once they got the go ahead to make a stand. You really cannot blame the Dozer operators either, because they are putting their lives on the line (many have died over past couple of years) defending property of people who made the choice to live in an isolated rural residential area and small to large communities in the middle of wildland areas who are also harms way of a wildfire. I'll also post a link to the California Dozer Operators Group website as well. Many of these massive fire breaks were six or more bulldozer blades wide. Here is what I wrote back in May 2017. 
Santa Lucia Coast Range & Big Sur California: An Environmental Wreck ???
Palo Colorado Canyon now a Paradise Lost ???
http://www.californiadozeroperatorsgroup.org
============================
Photo: Trabuco Ranger District, Cleveland National Forest
Sadly, even the damage afterward is usually never dealt with properly. Most post-fire restoration projects I've ever seen deal with a mere bandaid patch job to provide eye candy appeal for public viewing to provide proof that attempts were made at repairing damage. Unforunately many things are not well thought out in methods used. With every large wildfire, the conduct a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER Reports), to see what needs repairing and how or by what methd. Yet, nature has already programmed internal restoration strategies which spring into action straight away. Nature doesn't wait a year or two or more before action is taken. In times past areas were gone over again with heavy equipment further compacting soil. Non-native seed of various grasses and perennials were used to quickly cover the landscape before the rainy season started again. This only exacerbates the problem later on with future wildfires. Then there special interest groups who want to use the opportunity to blame increased wildfire to such factors as climate change, overgrown forests and urban encroachment into rural areas, etc. And all the while the real cause of wildfires (90% are Human) is never really addressed. Why ??? Well, how do you actually police stupidity and ignorance ??? Oh sure there are rules, regulations and laws against arson, rubbish burning, making campfires, building & fire codes, but people in our modern times resent being told what they can and cannot do. Adding more laws & regulations are clearly not the answer either, because many peoples will look for loopholes, while others view the new laws & regulations as challenges for breaking them. Ultimately, the future Superblooms will eventually look like the photograph below and there appears to be no way to prevent it.

As the saying goes, “All that glitters is not Gold.”
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Today we are experiencing two types of a “superbloom” season - one comprised of stunning native wildflowers and the other made up of pernicious non-native invasive weeds like Black Mustard (Brassica nigra), Yellow Starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis), Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), etc. In multiple ways, when you knowingly or unknowingly destroy the underground mycorrhizal grid and you invite a sort of Thanksgiving spread for the non-native invasives.
Yup, take a good look at the superbloom future folks! 😲

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Forget the Selfish Selfies, the real Poppy Apocalypse is underground

This post isn't exactly about the selfie obsessed or where to go to view the best hottest 2019 SoCal wildflower superbloom. The Media and almost every cheezy social media site on the net has put a glaring spotlight on this subject already. But unfortunately I have to use the selfie superbloom fiasco as a lead in or this post may not get noticed at all. This post is about something I noticed in photographs some other folks have posted about the superbloom which has inadvertantly exposed some common poor land management practices prevalent today and how all types of plant ecosystems have suffered which has resulted in a change of the underground soil microbiota from a mycorrhizal one to a predominantly bacterial one. The problem being that it's the bacterial one which favours the ruderal non-native type of weeds. The result has been major declines in the more desired native plant community. Okay, let's deal with the selfie obsessed and get it all out of the way. 

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Image - Steven Kostoff
Inapropriate behaviour of the shameful selfie obsessed has shown up all over social media venues like Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, GooglePlus, Tumblr, etc. In our modern social media times it's common to see these sick scenarios where people photo themselves in selfies at funerals, car crashes or worse. Even the supposedly responsible professional people of our society like police officers, firemen, etc have gotten in on the act and been busted by other people with their own selfie cameras while they engaged in inappropriate behaviour. And true enough, nature has taken a very hard hit from these selfish selfies. Perhaps you may remember over the recent past where people obsessed with selfies even killed poor harmless animals like that baby dolphin down in Argentina which was killed after being mobbed by tourists looking for that perfect selfie. Modern human society as a culture has really gone downhill.

Walker Canyon, Lake Elsinore
Remember all those selfish selfies back in the wildflower superboom of 2017 ??? I even saw many non-profit environmental group leaders even leading the way in posting a plethora of photographs in hopes of conning their followers into believing how resilient Nature was after that 4+ years of mega-drought in California. Sure, in the past we could say nature has been resilient. Unfortunately, scientific advancement has reverse engineered so many of the major components which allowed this resilience restoration mechanism to move forward, that it's doubtful just how much if any of it is still really intact. In some areas the Earth is at the point of no return. Think I'm kidding ??? Look all around you at how many people there are out there practically celebrating the six extinction. Now here we are with the Spring of 2019 in Southern California and the superbloom has hit again with the conventionl news media and social media exploiting it for all it's click-bait ratings worth. Unfortunately the Media's extra attention has made things worse for many of the well known wildflower viewing areas where people flat out refuse to obey rules and physical barriers. This is all too common in today's enlightened progressive society, where the average person resents being told what they can and cannot do.

But I did read however about one responsible photographer,  Stephen Kim, who visited the Lake Elsinore site (Walker Canyon) early on a Sunday morning, where he said he saw “so much garbage”, it made him disgusted and he made a personal effort to pick up water bottles on his walk. The garbage was not surprising since others photos out on the net exposed several entrepreneurial food wagons taking advantage of the circus atmosphere to sell their junk food wares. Mr Kim said:
“You see this beautiful pristine photo of nature but then you look to the left and there’s plastic Starbucks cups and water bottles on the trail and selfie sticks and people having road rage because some people were walking slower.”
Google

Okay now, let's leave all that nonsense news behind, because there were other people (photographers) out there who had taken photos and had written posts in their blogs about their visits to lesser known areas away from general public view. Like this location in the same Estelle Mountain Preserve region, but higher up & south of Lake Matthews in the Gavilan Hills area. This one blogger I stumbled upon is a CSU Fullerton Communications student named Daniel Coats who took some beautiful photographs in an isolated area. Now aside from all those pretty wildflowers, I saw some other interesting things in his photos which fortunately highlighted & documented something profound from an ecological point of view. This region he photographed in is within the Lake Matthews Estelle Mountain Reserve and the popular Walker Canyon area which is also part of that preserved area. The photos below were taken south of Lake Matthews Drive
How Bulldozers and general raw land stripping by land owners of native vegetation destroys the underground mycorrhizal fungal internet network or grid & facilitates invasive weeds
Photo by Daniel Coats

This area in the photos above and below are south of the Cajalco Expressway Road (further east turns into Ramona Expressway) and just off Lake Mathews Drive. Note the bulldozed brush piles lined up in neat rows ? Much of this is not only interior sagescrub, but also the rare native California Juniper for which many small woodland pockets or groves are now under threat of disappearance because of land development boom since the 1980s in western Riverside County. I say rare because such presence of very large specimens of California Juniper are disappearing in western Riverside County, though they are numerous elsewhere. What should catch everyone's eye is the abrupt change in vegetation type at the edge of this land clearance area from the native sagescrub with abundant wildflowers to the non-native invasive weeds like the Black Mustard, Wild Mediterranean Oats, Wild Radish, Cheatgrass, Yellow Star Thistle, etc. Underground, both types thrive on two totally different microbiological ecosystem communities. The native sagescrub (California Buckwheat, California Sagebrush, Brittlebrush, wildflowers, etc) require mycorrhizal fungi, while the invasive non-native weeds are non-mycorrhizal and thrive in a bacterial soil profile. The weeds (especially the black mustard, wild radish, tumbleweeds, etc) also send out alleopathic chemical signatures through their root exudates into the soil which hinders mycorrhizal symbiosis associations with native plants allowing themselves full reign dominion over the area. 

Google Earth
You can see a real difference from a much closer photograph here below of poppies and sagescrub in contrast to the land area purposely cleared of all native flora. Once the native plants, which are the living host to the mycorrhizal fungi are removed, the fungi will die out. They need these hosts to continue on living. Any beneficial mycorrhizal spores in the soil will stay dormant and may eventually may lose their viability to germinate even if a host becomes present again. At that point the non-native invasives become the dominant species of plants. In fact where mycorrhizal fungi are present with large healthy populations in the soil, any non-native invasive weed has a tough time thriving because the mycorrhizal presence will out-compete the weeds for precious phosporus along with other nutrients and water. At best if they do geminate, they will be incredibly stunted in their growth. Take a close look next time you're out on a hike. Also take closer note of this contrast below.

Photo by Daniel Coats

In the close up photo above, take note of the striking contrast of the perfect border of native vegetation at the bulldozer line above and the non-native weedy scenario below the same line. But, have you also noticed how the massive presence of weedy invasives below have been unable to make any inroads or encroachment into the natural healthy native plant ecosystem above. Why is that ???Because the underground abundant healthy mycorrhizal grid network won't allow any germinated weed seed to thrive and it simply whithers. But there is even more here. Now take note of the poppy encroachment below this same line into the weedy invasive held territory. This is because mycorrhizal fungi can move underground into new areas slowly but surely. Take a close look below at how this is beautifully illustrated in the mycorrhizal corn experiment.

Image - University of Florida

David Read/University of Sheffield
The photograph above is a drought experiment on Corn down in Florida in sandy soil which is water stressed under a controlled environment condition replicating industrial Ag conventional farm practices on the right in contrast with Corn inoculated with Mycorrhizal Fungi on the left which is not water stressed. Why ? Because mycorrhizal fungi increases water and nutrient uptake by mimicking an incredibly extensive root system as seen in the photo of pine seedling on the right. The fungi presence allows an increase of water and nutrient uptake by anywhere from 200% to 800% depending on soil conditions. But there is something else and it relates to the poppy encroachment below the bulldozed line in the previous photograph. Note here also in the corn photo, that the controlled corn plot has healthiest plants near the edge closest to the mycorrhizal plot. This is because the endo-mycorrhizal fungi has moved underground and come into contact with host plants not infected with any fungi. Same thing is illustrated with these two pine seedlings. The pine seedling on the left has it's roots infected with the mycorrhizal fungi which is noticeable moving to the right to colonize pine roots of the seedling without fungi. I'm using the pine example which is colonized by ecto-mycorrhizal fungi, because it is more easily seen to the naked eye and because it forms truffles or mushrooms familiar to most folks. It's easier to illustrate because shrubs & wildflowers are colonized by endo-mycorrhizal fungi which requires magnification to be seen. But the principle and behaviour of movement underground are identical. Here is another poor land management example below in Santee California.

Image by Lynda Marrokal

Western Santee, California, area known as Dove Hill

Notice the same land disruption in this Santee photo above ? Santee has been expanding since the 1950s baby boom era. In the beginning of it's agricultural history prior to baby boom development of bedroom districts, this land was overgrazed and later plowed by farmers and later bulldozed by land developers whose actions destroyed what network grid may have still existed. Suddenly the soil scenario was ripe for non-mycorrhizal invasive ruderal weeds like Black Mustard to move in. But again, notice the contrast and the fact that the mass of invasives do not easily cross the line upslope into Dove Hill. The Black Mustard is only held in check because of the healthy though isolated mycorrhizal grid on that hill. That's not to say the tiny wind blown mustard seeds haven't made contact onto the land above, but it's just that they haven't been successful in germination and establishment. And another example below in Santee is at Sky Ranch Development on Rattlesnake Mountain.

Photo is mine from 2011

Prior to the Sky Ranch housing development, this area in the photo above was not encroached upon by Black Mustard, Yellow Star Thistle or African Fountain Grass like it clearly is now. Now it's everywhere. One of the conditions of development was the creation of a conservation area to protect one of the last beautiful examples of Coastal Sage Scrub habitats complete with endangered species like California Gnatcatcher. Hence the threatening signage against trespass into the land surrounding the Sky Ranch Housing Tract. Funny, the signage didn't deter the residents in that photo above from taking a chainsaw to the group of several 35+ year old Torrey Pine Trees which were up there like the one in the photo above. No matter, what's done in ignorance is done. Take a look below at some research links which explain how the Black Mustard (& other Mustards) effect soil conditioning and inhibit mycorrhizal colonization with host plants. 
Some interesting facts you may never have known about Wild Mustard 😲
Photo by Tom Moyer

Remember all those stories blaming the evil Spanish Explorers bringing Mustards seeds over in pottery shards and oxen cart wheels etc to North America ??? Forget it! While it could be possible, it really exploded in the early 1900s, when farmers used to plant Mustard in orchards, vineyards, etc because most Brassica species release chemical compounds that may be toxic to soil borne pathogens and pests, such as nematodes, fungi and some weeds. This practice is still used in most California Vineyards today for the same reasons like the photo above of a vineyard in Sonoma County. Seriously, Google the images yourself. The concept of pursuing a biological control approach was/is a noble one, but it's had horrible side effects. This is what happens when no one takes a holistic view which only means looking at the bigger picture down the road. Down in SoCal it was planted in orange groves for the same reasons. Here is a blog article asking the question and explaining the why Mustard plants were used. Some seed companies for agriculture still sell great quantities of seed for this same method organic method today, although they recommend farmers mow Mustard plants at the flower stage before seed sets and till mowed plants under the soil.
Naomis Organic Garden: "Why do wine makers plant mustard seeds in young vineyards?"
Berkeley Labs & Hopland Researchers Extension Center findings
(Credit: Javier Ceja-Navarro)

Microbes that flourish in the area around plant roots
take up specific organic acids from the root exudates.

The researchers set out to determine the relationship between microbes that consistently bloomed near the grass roots and the metabolites released by the plant. They found that the microbes that flourished in the area around plant roots preferred a diet more rich in organic acids than the less successful microbes in the community. Here are some quotes about their conclusions:
“Early in its growth cycle, the plant is putting out a lot of sugars, ‘candy’, which we find many of the microbes like,” Northen said. “As the plant matures, it releases a more diverse mixture of metabolites, including phenolic acids. What we discovered is that the microbes that become more abundant in the rhizosphere are those that can use these aromatic metabolites.”  
“We’ve thought for a long time that plants are establishing the rhizosphere best suited to their growth and development,” said Brodie. “Because there are so many different types of microbes in soil, if the plants release just any chemical it could be detrimental to their health.  
“By controlling the types of microbes that thrive around their roots, plants could be trying to protect themselves from less friendly pathogens while promoting other microbes that stimulate nutrient supply.
Berkeley Labs: Plants Really Do Feed Their Friends - Berkeley Lab researchers prove complex connection between plants and what soil microbes eat 
Below here are some other good links on the effects of Mustard in soil conditioning and mycorrhizal signaling disruption. Scroll down to two important subheadings: "Evidence for Allelopathic Effects From Soil Conditioning and Field Studies" and "Allelochemical Effects of Alliaria on Mycorrhizal Fungi"
More Important Reading References - Don't get bored. This is too important.
BioOne Complete: "A review of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Brassicaceae) as an allelopathic plant"
The invasive plant Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) inhibits ectomycorrhizal fungi in its introduced range
University of Massachusetts: GROWING MUSTARD AS A BIOFUMIGANT COVER CROP
ScienceMag (May 10 2019) A specialized metabolic network selectively modulates Arabidopsis root microbiota 
Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve
Image - Dan Potter

Okay, here's another example up in Antelope Valley California where the well known poppy preserve had yet another widlflower explosion this year (2019) too. With all the lucrative Grants and other government money giveaways out there, unscrupulous solar farm speculators land grab at accelerated rates. Of course they choose land deemed worthless for anything else. But that's clearly not the case. The establishment of a massive solar farm will eventually change the underground soil biota which will eventually crowd out native plants and offer a welcome mat for weeds.

Image - Johnathan Huddleston - (NorthStar Solar)

This photograph below shows how massive Solar farms have crept right up to the border edges of the California Poppy Preserve. I've tried to look up and research it, but it may be too early and eventually too late, but Solar Farms generate regional heat islands. This means these black panels absorb and generate more heat into the surrounding area than existed in an area previously. So I've been curious as to what effect higher temperatures might have on surrounding wild native vegetation. These alternative energy schemes and technologies are creating what they were supposedly  designed to eliminate, Global Warming. Same with Wind Farms.

image from change.org
That other negative that comes with installation of  the Industrial Solar Farms ->>>>>> TUMBLEWEEDS
Photo from WWS - Wind & Solar Maintenance

The images above and here on the right are of maintenance crews from the Wind & Solar maintence company WorldWideSolar (WWS). Tumble weeds are a bane on the landscape for a number of negative reasons. Most importantly wildfire hazard. Hence they require removal or the solar farm is at risk. But the whole reason these often exist at solar farms is because of human land mismanagement in the first place which disrupted the mycorrhizal soil biota to construct the solar farm. Antelope Valley has a huge problem with tumbleweeds because of numerous abandoned farmlands which were allowed to go fallow and the Tumbleweeds took advantage. The introduction of solar farms has exacerbated the problem. Indeed, bad agricultural practices, railroads, highway construction & maintenance and massive development in general have all help spread this aggressive invader. But interestingly, according to a 1991 Scientific American article ("Tumbleweeds") by a researcher named James Young, he stated that without human ignorance with their land management intervention the tumbleweed would probably have remained an innocuous plant. Actually this is true of most hated weeds like the Black Mustard and believe it or not, for the very same underground changes in soil microbiology caused by human ignorance of proper land management, even when developing the land for seemingly positive purposes. 

Researcher David A. Bainbridge of the Soil Ecology and Restoration Group Biology Department SDSU, wrote about the tumbleweed problem occuring in the Antelope Valley, the reasons for it's spread and potential for eliminating it. Here's just one small quote which gets to the heart of the matter. But read it's entirety.
"It's non-mycorrhizal and in fact attempted mycorrhizal infection proved pathogenic rather than symbiotic (Allen and Allen 1988; Allen et al. 1989). This explains why sites that are only slightly disturbed will often fight off the infection of tumbleweed within a few years as soil health recovers. Like many other weeds, it will disappear if it is left alone and the land is not overgrazed, tilled, or degraded."
California Exotic Pest Plant Control: "The Tumbleweed Centennial in the Antelope Valley, California"
The Very Thing That Could Eliminate Weeds is the Very Thing That Was Missing to Begin With ->>> Arbuscular mycorrhizal Fungi

Simply weeding is not enough when it comes to native plant restoratin, you have to replace the host plants for which mycorrhizal fungi will thrive. Certainly inoculating the soil is important, but you need the right kind of fungal species and from a reputable company. Hence I've always gone with Mycorrhizal Applications Inc  from Grant Pass Oregon. There is a plethora of companies out there farmimg Biostimulants, beware. Not all are desirable inoculums. Do your homework first.
Biostimulants & Fertilizers are not Magic Dust
University of British Columbia: Do additives help the soil?
Conclusions on when you Photograph Nature
Photograph mine from 2014 near Julian California

Mine also from 2014
Back to photography. I photograph things most others overlook when I'm out in the bush. For example what the heck is that up above ??? 😕 Oh yeah, I brushed the soil and plant dander away and lo & behold it's an ecto-mycorrhizal truffle. I also take photos of root systems from washouts in the bank of a wash which has been cut away by a flashflood exposing extensive rootsystems of several meters deep of native chaparral shrubs. I like nature networks, hence the name Earth's Internet. But I also noticed the same clues when viewing other folks photos. I did it with several photographers who took pics of Torrey Pines State Reserve between La Jolla & Del Mar near San Diego California. Once iconic photo locations are now gone because of environmental degradation. I wrote about that here with this post Major decline in Torrey Pines & SoCal Forests in general

It's ironic that the Park's website and brochures still will not update their photos reflect todays reality. So tourists hopefully will still flock to the park in hopes of experiencing the nature as they viewed it in those photos which drew them there in the first place. Same with those wildflower photos taken by others. There is a plethora of things to learn if you are able to immediately decern and recognize what you're looking at. You know, the same way people will look at things like clouds and see some abstract image that reminds them of something. Except my viewing of the photo images is not about the abstract, it's about reality 😉
"When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable, and to the citizen, most dismal swamp… The wildwood covers the virgin mould, and the same soil is good for men and for trees." 
Thoreau
And finally in the interests of encouraging responsible photography. There are commercials and there is this commercial


Update: May 25, 2019
Bulldozed Catlines an Invitation to Invasive Non-Native weeds
Update: June 1, 2019
The Escondido Creek Conservancy had a similar observation as myself back in April 10, 2019. Good for them for revealing and exposing the danger of being ignorant as to what is causing the downswing in general ecosystem health in California. 
Escondido Creek Conservancy: "The Superdoom"