Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stupid unscientific things said about Forests and Trees

Especially by people who should know better 

Lately, well over the past year, there has been a plethora of dumb things said about trees and the forests they create. Did you know that they are partly to blame for all of our present climate problems ? Did you know they cause Smog ? Did you know that they create wasteful water shortages ? With idiocy such as this, don't expect the climate change denialists to be won over anytime soon.

image: Forrest M Mimms III

Sapling conifers like this one near Cloudcroft, N.M., form
heat islands that melt surrounding snow, especially when
sunlight warms their needles.
"A pair of scientists at Dartmouth College plan to present new research this week that suggests that, in some snow-covered places in the world, cutting down trees might have a net benefit for the climate because of the cooling effect the snow provides."
This would require understanding the basics of the Albedo Effect 
"To put it simply it is the amount of solar energy reflected off a surface. Surfaces that are covered in snow are white, and they reflect more sunlight, which has a cooling effect. Surfaces that are darker in color, like forests, absorb more light and are warmer. Think of snow like a mirror, bouncing heat back off into space."
Can Cutting Down Trees Actually Help Save The Planet?
Rather than provide a long list of asinine absurd silly arguments being waged against trees and forested ecosystems, you can go Google this list below here:
Trees cause global warming
Trees cause air pollution.  
Trees cause drought.
Image: US Forest Service

The Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest after it was
thinned recently leaving more space on the ground
for snow to collect.
Now oddly enough there is something which came out recently on March 24th 2014, for which many people took offense. There is a UC Merced engineering professor named Roger C. Bales who specializes in mountain hydrology and proposes a silly idea, no doubt politically & economically influenced, with regards requiring forest harvesting of trees to reduce competition for water which he says they gulp down in enormous quantities, depriving other life, particularly humans from accessing this precious resource. The article which came out in the Modesto Bee was titled: "Overgrown Sierra forests gulping water that could flow to Valley" (San Joaquin Valley).
“It’s one of the lower-cost options (to increase California’s water supply) … and it also would reduce the probability of big destructive fires,”
“There could be measurable and significant gains” – a hypothesized 9 percent increase in snowmelt runoff – if the forests are properly thinned. 
"All those extra trees gulp water that once would have flowed to the Valley. They also prevent snow from hitting the ground and melting into the soil. A lot of snow gets caught in the tree canopy, where it evaporates.
This is insane reasoning. Why now ? Why all the accusations against trees and so-called undergrowth now ? Wasn't it a problem previously when rainfall was normal or even above normal during El Nino events ? No one said anything about such density of trees being evil back then. So because of California's Mega-Drought & Climate Change, this lack of water in creeks, streams, and rivers has all been caused by trees, not the total lack of measurable rainfall ?
“There are 2½-to-3-times more trees today than there used to be, and they’re sucking up water,” explained Eric Knapp, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. “A lot of the Sierra is in pretty bad shape” because it’s so overgrown." 
“Climate change is upon us,” Dion warned. “The snowline is moving up the hill.” He said forest overgrowth is worsening the impact of that change by reducing water flows. 
So once again it's the tree's fault for lower stream flow and not the fact that we are experiencing one of the worst changes of climate brought about by mankind which has reduced rainfall. Message here: Let's don't fix the global climate mechanisms, let's blame trees and reduce their numbers which will provide us with the same rate of water flow, which in the end is what we all really want anyway.  
 "The plan is to thin the overgrowth to create gaps in the forest floor so more snow can collect on the ground – as it did in centuries past."
"Dion said doing that may cost an extra $450,000 to $500,000, but it could enable Bales and his people to scientifically measure the results on water flow. Thinning at the demonstration site could start in 2016, and it would take more than two years to complete." 
So now, the plan is to spend almost $500,000 on a fresh test plot for thinning trees to see the effects of less trees in the plot area on stream flows ? This won't begin until 2016 ? No way, they can save that money and begin NOW by setting up equipment in the already obliterated region of the Rim Fire near Yosemite. Stream flow there ought to reveal a landscape with such an over active bladder problem for which only adult nappies on steroids would alleviate. Seriously folks, this has more to do with Industrial Forestry & Agriculture biased science fingerprints written all over it, than some eco-green motivated science for biodiversity.
Below wait, here is another earlier article from the Modesto Bee editorial page back on September 2013 after this past summer's Rim Fire up in the Sierra Nevada mountains titled: Our View: "Lessons from Rim fire near Yosemite a generation out" 
Another, longer-term view, is offered by Roger Bales, who directs the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced. He notes that "the philosophy has been to suppress all fires in order to protect people and their property. The result: Forests that are much denser than they would have been if nature had been allowed to take her course." 
(source: Modesto Bee Editorial) 
Apparently, people's lives and property are also responsible for the mess these ecosystems are presently in. It's also firefighter's fault for protecting lives and property. Well, at least according to Mr Bales and the Editors of the Modesto Bee.

But this economic scheme cloaked under the guise of Eco-Green is really nothing new. This has been researched and proposed before. In fact back on May 2013 in the online journal Live Science was an article with a stupid title called: "Surprising Pollution Problem: Too Many Trees". The article pointed out much of what the recent Modesto Bee article did yesterday, but it went much further and used irresponsible descriptive adjectives which offered no value when it described the forest growth as something cancerous. This is a term traditionally used in describing chaparral plant community, but apparently those plants are much more favoured than forest trees in this instance.
The new trees' canopies collectively intercept 20 to 30 percent of snow and rain that can no longer seep into the ground, and each additional tree's roots suck 18 gallons of moisture up out of the ground before runoff can feed thirsty creeks.
That adds up. Helen Poulos, a fire ecologist at Wesleyan University, and I have estimated, conservatively, that excess trees in the 7.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada conifer forest are responsible for the loss of more than 15 billion gallons per day, or 17 million acre-feet of water per year. That's more than enough water to meet the needs of every Californian for a year. 
Metastasizing native tree growth also physically alters the temperature, chemistry and biology of the landscape. It crowds out indigenous plant and animal species. Shade tolerant species take over. Deprived of low-intensity, naturally occurring fires, aspen, lupine, sequoia and fireweed can't reproduce. Deer lose edge habitat. Threatened owls and raptors can't navigate through increasingly dense thickets.
So apparently in the eyes of Helen Poulos & Roger C. Bales, the forest is a cancerous metastasizing invasive tumor which is in dire need of surgical removal from the landscape for the benefit of human economic water usage, but of course that's under the guise of we really do care about Nature ? Oddly enough the use of the negative adjectives is generally more reserved for other less desired plant community species by foresters such as Chaparral, which in the past have been labeled "Dull" & "Mundane". Chaparral also has been described as "invasive", "hindrance to forest regrowth" and "competitive". Yet these terms are now applied to native Forest Trees. This is confusing since much of the promoted ideological movement in past decades has been to forcibly limit chaparral to actually increase & spread forest cover back to it's former range and beyond. And yet, even these Trees are now considered invasive greedy water loving biological invasives in their home range ? The other perverted adjective used here in the literature is describing these once promoted Forests as now somehow being Cancerous ? If not, then what in the world do they mean by this expression, "Metastasizing native tree growth"  ? So I guess the successful spread of forest trees across the landscape up in the Sierras is nothing more than Mother Earth having breast cancer ? The idea that these wild native forest trees in the Sierras use such massive volumes of water is also illustrated by using another irresponsible descriptive adjective word like, Gulping, which is far more appropriate a description for those trees much further on down the Sierra Nevada mountains on the very floor of the San Joaquin Valley. Take a look once again at the photo above which was used in that article to help you picture or visualize greedy water gulping native trees and compare it to an agricultural photo of an commercial  Orchard which the same Modesto Bee referenced earlier on March 10th 2014. That earlier  article dealt with the recent rains which pushed back irrigation times by three weeks. But you tell me which set of trees and practices requires the gulping down of water ?  

imgae: Joan Barnett Lee —

Irrigation water flows into an orchard in Hughson in March
 2012. Modesto Irrigation District board members will review
a plan that proposes delaying the start of this year’s
irrigation season by three weeks.
This certainly is not rocket science here. I wrote about this very subject back on October 1, 2012. The subject was about deep pipe irrigation and implementing concepts patterned after replicating what we observe out in Nature into agricultural practices. 
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks
IRRIGATION ISSUES: Why Isn't Nature Replicated more often ?


It's worthless to write a post on this subject with nothing but complaints and other criticism and not provide better practical application as a alternative. Deep Pipe irrigation has been successful in restoration of native shrubs and trees by various California Universities in desert habitats. But why not carry this over to industrial agriculture ? In my exploration of mountains of Southern California, I have stumbled upon private property, some occupied, some abandoned, where large Standard size Fruit Trees are still alive and producing with no irrigation. Many of these trees are close to 100 years old. Why is this ? First, they are Hierloom Standard trees, as opposed to the convenient commercial Dwarf or Semi-dwarf trees used in commercial orchards. Standard trees have a deeper root system, but were mostly replaced by the semi-dwarf varieties which are grafted onto a much different rootstock which restricts their size in favour of easier harvesting trees for farm worker convenience. The drawback of course is a much shallower root system as compared to Standard trees which are not only deeper rooted, but much larger in height which always required tall ladders. 

courtesy: Buckinghamshire County Council
Above is how orchard harvesting was done in the old days. These are Cheery Pickers with long tall ladders. Mostly they are the typical tripod designed type of ladder. But many of such trees are also over 100 years old. Semi-Dwarfs can often be short-lived depending on the tree variety and might need to have to be replaced at some intervals for continued productivity. They were marketed as a convenience tree for farmers and of course for home gardeners with small yard spaces which requires much surface waste. But again because of the shallower root system, they need water more regularly. In the wild, on those abandoned homesteads, most deep rooted standard trees do fine without surface water if the deeper moister soil layers are tapped into. Also the domestic standard trees on old homesteads are also connected to the mycorrhizal grid, another thing no doubt missing from commercial orchards if they adhere to a strict science-based Industrial Ag regimen. If I have the time, I'll go back to some of these trees this spring on my visit out there and photograph some of them.

Below, once again, here is a Naval Orange Tree in my Mum's backyard from a former orchard in El Cajon California which resprouted from a stump the 1954 developers of the Ranch Style housing tract couldn't pull out. This orchard was actually planted in the early 1930s. Next it is a dwarf Meyer Lemon. The top photo is of the trees while the septic leach line which ended between both trees. The line is four or five foot underground. Both trees thrived year after year with no surface water other than rain which fell during the rainy season. The bottom photo is a year after the system was disconnected and she went on the public sewer system. She irrigates with surface water from time to time which is far more expensive. This tree now struggles and produces no more fruit. The point here is underground deep root irrigation actually works, but I can find no where in research pages where anyone is taking any of this seriously.

image; Rittenhouse
The other reason I am so sold on deep root irrigation on standard trees Agriculture hasn't really had to do much change especially and in particularly the way they irrigate Farmscape. They have always had political lobbies which allowed those ongoing continued cheap water rates. But they like everyone else are going to have to be forced to change the way they irrigate, especially with regards commercial Orchards. This is where the articles above mask the real problem. It's no so much urban cities needing water as much as powerful wealthy business entities within the Ag Industry. As you have all read in the News lately regarding California's drought, many 1000s of acres of Almond orchards are being ripped out because of water shortages. Below are a few photos which illustrate other horrible examples of irrigation waste in Orchards which have been going on for years. Most all of you have seen all of these at one time or another. If these farmers were to just change their practices, then maybe many of those orchards could be saved. There are no more reasons for the old archaic ways of flood and other above ground industrial Rainbird type irrigation.

Image Michigan State

Image: David Doll, University of California, Merced County

image: Virginia Beahan

image: UC Davis - Almond Orchard

The gallery of pictures above merely illustrate how things need to change along with other areas of business which have been forced to improve, innovate or go under. 

April 21, 2014 Update:
Sacramento Bee: "Views on Food: Outsmarting the Drought"
"Shahar Caspi tends acres of gardens, fruit trees and a commercial vineyard in the hamlet of Oregon House in the foothills between Marysville and Grass Valley. His job since 2012 has been raising food year round for his community and bringing perfect wine grapes to harvest – all without tilling, and with little to zero added water."
Now to conclude here, this whole ridiculous tree slaughtering idea promoted as science-based hydrological management has zero to do with water going to Metro areas and is more shackled to huge Industrial Agricultural interests. Who do you suppose pays for many of these studies ? Below is a photo from an Ag Hay growing and shipping firm called Kuhn Hay Inc in the Imperial Valley just west of Seeley & east of Plaster City on the Evan Hewes Hwy (old US 80) and Jeffrey Road. I first saw this place back in the late 1990s and asked someone in El Centro & Seeley what the small railroad yard was doing next to this giant Hay Storage facility. I remember seeing stacks of 40' containers at the east end of the facility and along track side. The containers were loaded & unloaded from well cars with a large fork lift style container crane.  The individual I spoke with in Seeley said the Hay was loaded into the containers and then sent by Southern Pacific, and then later by Union Pacific, to Long Beach for shipment to Asia & Japan. Folks use to call it the million dollar train. Service was discontinued I believe in mid 2003, due to the fact that the Union Pacific railroad kept raising the prices, and then he also said that they had trouble getting the train to Long Beach on time, so the company (Kuhn's Hay) pulled the pin on this train. They used to run 80+ car trains, mostly with big SD-40 power Locomotives. I suppose my point here is I was told Japan and other Asian countries had no land space available to grow hay for their own Beef industry, hence they paid big bucks for hay grown in Imperial Valley and elsewhere in the southwest at a huge profit. Hay takes tonnes of water irrigation and is mostly grown during the hottest months of the year. It's a waste and the resulting crop isn't even used there in the USA. Of course I guess it's great for someone's economy and taxes. But once again, the critical water shortages and absurd proposals have nothing to do with people in cities and everything to do with Industrial Ag.


(Released: March 29, 2014)
New video from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) on Tree Aerosols being responsible for increased pollution, seriously, no kidding. (VIDEO)
"We found two things. When urban pollution mixes with forest pollutions we get more secondary organic aerosols," said Rahul Zaveri, FCSD scientist and project lead on CARES.
Forest Pollutions ? No, those are naturally occurring aerosols which aid in cloud formations. *sigh*
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.)

Pay Close Attention to Part Two