Monday, July 12, 2010

Tiger Tears

The wild tiger population dropped by 96.8% in the last 20 years:
"According to the latest estimates, there are only about 3,200 tigers left in the wild on the entire planet. That's a catastrophically sharp decline from the 100,000 tigers that were estimated to be in the wild in 1990. The WWF experts warn that 'The big cat, which is native to southern and eastern Asia, could soon become extinct unless urgent action is taken to prevent hunting and loss of habitat.'"
Middle daughter Sophie knows how greatly I admire tigers, (case in point - closest domestic equivalents, Coco and River):

And so, for a gift she gave me a DVD of "Tigers - Spy in the Jungle".
Using amazing technology John Downer Productions followed four cubs in the Pench Tiger Reserve of central India from their first week through their first two years of life. The crew deployed cameras disguised as tree trunks, some carried by elephants and another rolling like a little R2D2 robot through the tall grass. There are short clips from the movie here as well as links to other beautifully filmed projects about natural subjects.
I'm calling this day-old elephant baby, who was born unexpectedly during the production, Trig - because no one suspected his mom was pregnant! Last month I posted a link to this story, about the possibility that a "mystery disease" was impairing the ability of Siberian tigers to hunt prey, thus inducing them to uncharacteristically attack humans. It seems more than likely the real reason is that their sources of food in the wild are dwindling - but nobody studying the problem seems to have thought of that. This question has been in the back of my mind ever since - and then I noticed when I watched the film that so many of the trees, like these behind the elephants when they dove under the water, have few or no leaves.
I don't want to make too much of these stills because for one thing, it was a bit hard to follow from the narration which season was being filmed when. Certainly, there is a monsoon from July to September, while the rest of the year is drier.
There is a distinctly greener, wetter annual cycle as seen here. Nevertheless there were so many scenes where some trees had green leaves, while others were thin or bare- and many many that had fallen over - that it is impossible to not wonder whether vegetation in the jungle vegetation is healthy.
Ever since my visit to Costa Rica last month where I saw first hand that even in the wet season their trees and shrubs look incredibly more decimated than those at Wit's End in New Jersey, I have been wondering WHY - whether perhaps the undeveloped world has an even worse pollution problem, inducing ecosystem collapse - or perhaps the tropics are more sensitive to very slight changes in temperature and precipitation and/or ozone - or all of the above.
I have been reading about how the developed countries simply mask their production of pollution by shifting the mess of manufacturing and resource extraction to poorer nations. All of the jungle and tiger pictures in this post are screen shots that illustrate an otherwise inexplicable dieback of trees and the barren landscapes in this preserve.
On a whim I decided to try a google search to see what I could find about tree health, specifically in India.
I was amazed at how many local news reports appeared on google India, and I will put some links and excerpts below.
Of course I do realize trees fall over from a variety of causes, and may be cut down illegally, so I make no representation that any of this is abnormal, let alone related to exposure to atmospheric toxins. All I am saying is that it looks consistent with the most definately abnormal vegetative decline that I have seen on the US East Coast and in Costa Rica. The tree below that the tiger is diving into is of particular interest because it has plentiful green leaves and for some reason keeled over anyway.
Another curiosity is that although this forest has been protected for some time, there are almost no large trees. Perhaps they are illegally logged, or perhaps they have long since died.
The only very large trees I saw were fallen and rotting, like this one where a mother jackal is hiding her cubs.
Here is another large tree that fell over some time ago.
The leaves in the canopy are turning yellow - whether that is because it is towards the end of the dry season, or a drought, or pollution, I cannot say.
A flock of peacocks is taunting the tigers.
These trees are not just bare for a season - they have no terminal growth, they are all dead.

Mango monkeys were fascinated with their reflection in the camera lens. Their antics were just hysterical.
The motion-activated camera recorded all sorts of other creatures, like this jungle cat
and a leopard.
The Times of India reported last April that too many trees in Surat are falling over in monsoons. For lack of a better explanation, the increasing deaths of trees are being blamed on pavement and tiles too close to the trunks.
"Shisham, kikar trees dying across Punjab" is the headline in the Tribune last November.

"Forest department officials say in Muktsar, the number of kikar trees has declined by more than 50 per cent in the past eight years."
"A district known for high incidence of cancer, locals say: ' Drakht nu tan cancer ho gaya. (The trees have been struck by cancer)'."

"Probably they are right. Forget about the cure, nobody has an inkling about the reasons behind the dying trees. Stunned forest officials say 'this is due to changing climatic conditions and altering soil conditions...."

"Scientists are working on various hypotheses. Among these are changing weather conditions, soil conditions or just a wrong site. In Punjab with canal irrigation, there has been an increase in the water-table level, increasing the moisture content in the soil. 'And the sheesham can only thrive in a sandy top soil,' says KS Jatana, a retired DFO."

"Another theory says that smog-hit Bathinda, known for its thermal plants producing a high quantity of flyash, is causing the death of its kikar and sheesham trees."

In Chandigarth, a city with over 650 sites identified as having dead trees in need of removal, their decline is blamed on "croncretisation", according to Express India last September:

"...a committee has recommended the immediate removal of completely dead and dry trees in conjunction with giving instant attention to dangerous trees which are leaning on roads or buildings. The report suggested that besides becoming a threat to human lives and property, these trees have turned into breeding ground for insects and pathogen and have gone weak due to fungal and bacterial infestation."
Here is another version of the tree death in the Chandigarth, and here you have it, the usual suspects, insects, disease, and fungus:

"A number of the trees which had helped Chandigarh get a tag of greenest city of India have become ‘dangerous’.
A committee constituted by the administration of this Union Territory (UT) has identified nearly 650 locations where such trees exist. Many of these trees are older than the city. There are trees of around 300 species in Chandigarh.

Officials said many of the trees have turned into breeding grounds for insects and pathogens and have gone weak due to fungal and bacterial infestation. Some may topple over and fall on roads or crash into buildings."

Apparently, mosambi trees are dying of unknown cause, as described in this plea from farmer on an agricultural forum:
"I am from Nellore Dist and doing Mosambi cultivation. we are facing a huge problem of losing trees which is about 5 years old in average of 4-5% of trees every year. The mosambi trees are suddenly die with no symptoms at all. once tree start showing meekness it dies after 3-4 days. We see this problem majoerly in July- Aug months. We tried all possible pesticides but so far no clue why trees are loosing."
According to Thaindian News, in June 2009 a 19-year girl saves dying trees with kerosene and lime juice. I would kind of wonder about the veracity of this magical thinking - what does seem clear is that hundreds of seesam trees are dying in Bihar's East Champaran District.

Dying Sissoo trees, as described in this June, 2009 article from the Daily Star, are blamed on low water table, termites, fungus, and a kitchen sink or two...

"The very existence of Delbergia Sissoo -- one of the most widely grown trees in the country for its timber -- is under threat from fungal diseases that are causing depletion of the trees at an alarming rate.

The tree belonging to the Fabaceae family, widely popular with farmers for their commercial value, is witnessing an alarmingly high rate of mortality according to the researchers, scientists and farmers.

Scientists and researchers say Plecoptera reflexa, a leaf defoliator,Dichmeria eridantis, a leaf roller, Stromartium barbatum, a wood borer, andSinoxylon anale and Lyctus africanus -- two types of beetles have been reported as causing considerable damage to the trees.

The fungus, Ganoderma lucidum, causing root and butt rot is also a common ailment that hits the tree. Fusarium solani and Polyporus gilvus also cause similar diseases. Sishoo also suffers minor damage from two foliage rusts and a powdery mildew.'

I also found this photo titled, "lonely bird, dying tree" from India
Dying Shisham trees are concerning environmentalists, according to Business Standard, July 2010. After the usual blaming of fungus, this article gets to the heart of the matter:
"Environmentalists have started ringing alarm bells following the death of a number of shisham (Dalbergia sisoo) trees in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Nearly 8 to 10 lakh trees have wilted so far causing a huge loss in these three nations," said, Head of the Forest Pathology Division at the FRI A N Shukla.

As soon as the fungus strikes, the leaves of the tree starts turning pale and within a week or two the tree dies. Various factors like the climate change due to global warming, type of site and hydrological stress in the form of flooding and drought have been attributed to the dying of these trees, preliminary investigations revealed.

The satellite pictures show a "brown haze" over Delhi to the entire stretch of lower Himalayas extending up to West Bengal, Bangladesh and other South-Asian countries. Scientists, who studied the phenomenon as part of "India Ocean Experiment" (INDOEX), named it as "Asian Brown Haze."

'As the forests are natural reserves and repository of bio-diversity, effect of global warming is apparent on large-scale mortality of shisham trees in India. There is a definite correlation between brown haze and mortality of shisham as the area of mortality is the same over which the brown haze is presently static," said Shukla.'"
This picture of the mother tiger deep in the understory is worth clicking on because the leaves exhibit the exact same sort of damage that is characteristic of ozone - stippling, singeing, discoloration from a lack of chlorophyll.
Deodar trees dying fast in Palampur as reported in 2007 by My Himachal. Most of the article complains about cutting but the accompanying photo is of a dead tree with the caption:
"The deodar trees dying at fast speed in Palampur. These trees were planted by the Britishers. One hundred trees have dried up in the town in past five years."
"No efforts were made by the authorities to know reason for sudden collapse of these trees."
Please save the dying trees at Jurong Park Connector
Please save the dying trees in Jurong Park connector, from the Lazy Lizards blog:
"The shady green trees in that row are in the process of dying as they have been stricken by some unknown leaf disease. You can see 'bubbles' on the leaves and they really look pathetic.

"If NParks do not act fast, I fear the trees will not last till the end of this year. The residents here are sad to see the trees dying as they slowly turn 'botakb."
And a TopNews.In report from May 2009 informs us that the world's oldest teak trees are dying in Kerala.

The point of this by no means exhaustive list isn't necessarily that the trees in the film or referred to in the news reports are specifically all dying from ozone. But there appears to be a world-wide phenomena:
According to AFP, Namibia's trees dying can be blamed on climate change:

"...over the past few years Kairabeb, who grew up in the area, noticed that large quiver trees -- protected in Namibia and by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) -- were drying out and toppling over.

Scientists found this is most likely caused by drought, with weather data showing that average temperatures have increased over past decades across the tree's range."

Who knows if dwindling sources of plant material could be contributing to
Everywhere in the world, stories of crop losses are piling up relentlessly, perhaps one of the most important of which is this one - because for once, the underlying cause is pinpointed:

Soybean production is down by 15% from OZONE.

Imagine what the equivalent 15% suppressed yield in tree growth translated to after decades of cumulative exposure means for their long-term viability???
With trees turning spectacular colors in early July in New Jersey, it is no wonder the corn harvest is now projected to be lower,
"Analysts say a variety of explanations are possible, from an improperly high estimate of corn usage as of June 1 to a delayed recognition of shrinkage due to poor-quality corn."

While in Russia, drought is the proximate cause for the failure of millions of acres of wheat...meanwhile a wind event is purportedly the reason that half a billion trees fell over...in the Amazon.

Even though it is documented in scientific research that ozone encourages fungus, it appears no one has enquired why devastating wheat rust is spreading so suddenly?
Just as in this study of meadows, climate change drought is the only reason explored for species loss by these researchers.
In an abstract published in the journal Wiley Interscience Journal I find a new term, "divergence" that made me go a little crazy:
"..from reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperature based on tree rings and other natural archives of climate collected from multiple sites, it appears that current temperature (since ad 1850) exceeds the range of variability reconstructed for ad 1000-1850. Uncertainties in dendroclimatology exist, including a relatively recent issue called divergence, but dendroclimatology has played, and continues to play, a substantial role in interdisciplinary research on climate change."
so I left my usual comment...
AAuugghhhh. The "divergence" problem is the result of ozone. Ozone inhibits the growth of trees by damaging the stomata of foliage, interfering with the ability to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. Leaf and needle size are stunted, and long-term injury accrues after decades of cumulative exposure to inexorably rising levels of background tropospheric ozone.
At this time trees have passed beyond "decline" and are currently dying at a rapidly accelerating rate all around the world. Published research indicates that trees weakened by ozone can be likened to a person with AIDS - their immune systems compromised, they are susceptible to invasive insects, fungus, disease, and wind-throw in storms.
If we don't stop poisoning them with invisible but toxic volatile organic compounds from fuel emissions, the entire forest ecosystem will collapse, thus reversing a vital carbon sink into a carbon source, and encouraging wildfires. Hello, dendroclimatologists!?

1 comment:

  1. J'ai appris des choses interessantes grace a vous, et vous m'avez aide a resoudre un probleme, merci.

    - Daniel

    ReplyDelete

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