Thursday, December 30, 2010

I have learned to love polar bears...

meh! BBC disabled the video but you can watch it by clicking here. The polar bears are soooo cute!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Holiday Greeting


Here is my list (swallowed for too many links, and of course it's only a partial list that I threw together) posted to a Climate Progress story about trees dying from bark beetles:


Pecan trees in Texas are dying too:


So are orange trees in Florida:


So are butternut trees in Canada:


So are apple trees and mistletoe in England:


Almond trees in California:


Maple trees from Ohio...


...to Vermont:


Douglas Fir in the Pacific Northwest:


Cork and Oak in Portugal:


Hemlocks in the southeast:


Horse Chestnuts in England:


kiwi trees in New Zealand and Italy:


salt marshes on Cape Cod:


which is especially interesting given the latest excuse for marsh plants dying around the Gulf -that the oil spill has intensified a fungus:

http://blog.al.com/live/2010/12/oil_may_have_strengthened_fung.html

Trees are dying off all over the west in apparently healthy forests with no evidence of beetles:


"The study, led by authors from the United States Geological Survey and published in the journal Science, found the rate of tree deaths has more than doubled in the last few decades even in apparently healthy, well-established forests. Death rates have increased at all elevations, and for trees of all sizes and types, leading the researchers to worry that the U.S. may soon suffer massive and sudden die-backs of its seemingly healthy forests, a cascading effect that could release carbon dioxide into the air, further speeding global warming."

"Scientists have already witnessed mass tree deaths in American forests due to beetle infestations. Periodic outbreaks of Mountain Pine Beetle in Colorado, for example, has killed an estimated 7.4 million trees in the past decade. But the Science study, titled "Widespread Increase of Tree Mortality Rates in the Western United States," is the first to show A CREEPING DEATH RATE IN ANCIENT, WELL-ESTABLISHED CONIFEROUS FORESTS WITH NO EVIDENCE OF EPIDEMIC INFESTATIONS."

Does anyone see a pattern here?  Trees all over the world are dying, and it's being blamed on insects, fungus and disease.  Which is ludicrous, because scientific research has established three irrefutable facts that are crucial to this discussion:

1.  ozone damages vegetation - anything that has to photosynthesize

2.  the levels of background tropospheric ozone are inexorably rising

3.  trees and crops exposed to ozone are more likely to succumb to insects, disease, fungus, and extreme weather.  They lose their natural immunity that kept the presence of pathogens in balance.  They have AIDS, in other words.

It's about time that the experts start looking at the big picture and identify the underlying cause for trees of all species to be dying off, while there is still (a dwindling amount of) time left to rescue some survivors and propagate more.

We need to ration fuel on a wartime footing and convert to clean sources of energy.

Wikileaks Redeemed

There has been much hope expressed that Obama's EPA will perform as the last resort to rein in catastrophic levels of greenhouse emissions, since legislation and international treaties have been the most abysmal of failures.
Leaving aside the inevitable delays to implementing stricter EPA regulation from industry lawsuits - and the fact that the regulations will certainly not be strong enough to save our sorry asses anyway - the miserable tale of the EPA's cave-in to industry over the pesticide that is killing bees has to make me wonder if there is anyone in that agency with a shred of integrity.
The latest round of wikileaks demonstrates in shoddy detail how the EPA chose to ignore science in order to allow Bayer to market and sell a pesticide that has been banned in other countries because it kills bees...which just happen to be essential to pollinate many crops!  Hey, it's only our food at stake!  Why should that be more important than industrial agriculture?  Grist has the shameful details here.
In another shocking revelation, Wikileaks exposed US government attempts to pressure foreign countries to accept GMO seed:
"Wikileaks continues to rock the political world by shedding light on conspiracies, corruption and cover-ups. The latest batch of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveals what can only be characterized as a U.S.-led conspiracy to force GMOs onto European countries by making those countries pay a steep price if they resist."
Here's another version of the story, from Rodale.  GMO seeds, of course, mean Monsanto.  So from reading about the bees and pesticide use in agriculture eventually I wound up watching the following movie, which is about Monsanto, and, oh, global domination.  A feature length French documentary that gets off to a slow start (and the voice recognition software translation has similarly ludicrous inflections to this parody of first daughter's indoor riding ring construction project!) but really, it's a gripping saga - everyone should be aware of the incredible lies, manipulations, and government complicity in what amounts to just about the greatest fraud imaginable.  So here it is, for when you have time to watch - meanwhile there remains much to say about trees dying from ozone, the purpose of this blog, continued below...

I've been snowed in (duh!) and it's been very cold with vicious winds, so instead of taking pictures outside I have been huddled indoors, noodling around on the intertubes in search of images of dead trees.  There are lots!  Who knew that pictures of dead trees could be so beautiful!?  This first one is from Ohio.
Here is one from California.
Found here.
Found at FreeNaturePictures.com
From Botswana
Ultimately I came across a flickr photstream by Kevin Day, a prolific (3,500 uploads!) and immensely talented photographer who has taken many pictures at Langley Park, a venerable estate located in southern England.  He has, I assume inadvertently, recorded the decline of the magnificent trees there, like this giant in front of the house.
There is an incredible range of different light, weather, and times of day.
In this snowscape the center pines are already bare of needles, and the taller specimen on the right is thin.
All of the pictures that follow were taken by Kevin Day, and will be interspersed with news of interest.
Regular readers of this blog know that the Basic Premise page at the top of the blog has a long list of research indicating that virtually all species of trees are dying, and that toxic ozone is the underlying cause.  Well, we can now add orange trees to the list - they are dying in Florida, and it is being blamed on an incurable insect-borne bacterial disease, predicted to wipe out the citrus industry in 7 to 8 years...unless genetic engineering can save it!
Catman linked in comments to an update on the dying pecan trees in Texas (with a video version), which is being blamed on nearby coal plants - and notes that this time, it's been reported that other species in a greater range have been dying as well:
"'I have noticed for over 20 years how the Coleto Creek power plant's sulfur dioxide has been damaging hundreds of the trees on our property — live oaks, white oaks and pecans,' Faupel wrote. 'Most of the white oak trees are already dead. The surviving trees don't have as much foliage and they're becoming more diseased, I believe, from the plant's sulfur dioxide weakening the trees over time.'"
Given that the entire state of Texas is full of power plants and dying trees, I can't understand why it is such a mystery - an enigma, no less, according to the article - that children in Puerto Rico have the highest rates of asthma in the world!   Did they not get the memo from the EPA that ozone causes asthma?
Kevin Day has taken many shots of the same particular dead tree, which he refers to as "old friend" from different vantages... at the top of this post there are five, and what follows is a series of them, each lovelier than the next.
Further research demonstrating that ozone travels great distances is to be found on this NOAA page, evidence which should put to rest the notion that impacts are restricted to urban locations, as if any more were needed.
"At the fall AMS Mountain Meteorology Conference, Andy Langford and Bob Banta (CSD) discussed results from airborne lidar measurements of ozone made above the Los Angeles Basin in 2009. Their results—also published in Geophysical Research Letters with Christoph Senff, Raul Alvarez, and Michael Hardesty of CSD—indicate that the mountains push polluted air up into the free troposphere, where it can travel as far as western Colorado." 
Here's another intriguing report about the role of nitrogen:
"Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants; limits on available nitrogen constrain how much plants can grow. This in turn affects the amount of carbon dioxide plants can absorb, which affects the global climate."
"Using a framework that considers interactions of carbon and nutrients, Wang and Houlton have developed a new global estimate of nitrogen fixation rates."
"The authors considered the amount of nitrogen plants require to store additional carbon and found that a substantial deficit of nitrogen exists for plants in most areas of the world."
"They argue that most climate models that do not take into account nitrogen have overestimated carbon uptake and therefore underestimated predicted global warming."
"The authors suggest that it is important that the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change consider interactions between the nitrogen and carbon cycles."
According to this article in Science Daily, the nitrogen cycle that has been so dangerously disrupted on land is replicated in the oceans as they acidify.   Who knew?
"'Ocean acidification will have widespread effects on marine ecosystems, but most of those effects are still unknown,' says David Garrison, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Biological Oceanography Program, which funded the research along with NSF's Chemical Oceanography Program."
"This report that ocean acidification decreases nitrification (the amount of nitrogen) is extremely important," says Garrison, "because of the crucial role of the nitrogen cycle in biogeochemical processes-processes that take place throughout the oceans."
I loved the title of this editorial in the Guardian UK, Why biodiversity loss and climate change are equal threats.
"Without protecting and enhancing biodiversity in forests and other systems we are losing our biggest ally. These living systems can lock away carbon at a fraction of the price that technical solutions for carbon storage could only do at huge cost and by expending even more energy."
 
That seems sensible, and I couldn't agree more with this:
"For the most part, people have seen biodiversity as being about saving endangered species, or setting aside special natural habitats as national parks. However the truth is that biodiversity is an issue of mainstream economic importance, with consequences that are wide-ranging; from helping mitigate floods and droughts to providing a pharmacopeia of future medicines. It is as much about how we as consumers make informed choices about the products we purchase as it is about preserving exotic animals in far away places."
But in light of our rapidly collapsing ecosystem - particularly plants, the base of the food chain - I'm afraid the conclusion seems a trifle inadequate:
"The first target from Nagoya is the call for all people to understand the importance of biodiversity by 2020. Such an endeavour is no simple turning over of a new leaf, no easy New Year's resolution. The topic needs to be covered in our education curriculum at all levels. It will require the vision from responsible government and business to ensure this issue is placed at the heart of aspirations for a successful, emergent green economy. It will require a sea change of awareness among the majority of media editors and producers that this is not only of relevance to their audiences, but that it is a central news story that will run and run for the decade to come."
Last, here's a quick youtube posted by some Brits who are dismayed by the damaged leaves of horsechestnut trees.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Yes, Father, Sarah Palin Chops Down a Tree and Feels No Remorse Nor Any Need to Lie About It!

Click here to watch the JibJab Christmas card from "a former Republican", to Palingates...and thanks to crystalwolfakacaligrl for sending me this wonderful comic relief! ...compare it to the story of George Washington and chopping down the cherry tree...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Climate Hawk Pin


Here's the final proof for the Climate Hawk Pin, the idea being that us folks who are aggressive about clean energy can recognize each other - and, wearing it will initiate conversations that might otherwise not transpire.  The yellow color in the image will actually be brass.  Once I get the pins, I'll post a photograph that is more accurate.

Hopefully, this will be delivered within the next 3 weeks, and will be available for purchase, $10 including US domestic shipping.  When I break even for the minimum order (~150 pins) I'll order more, perhaps with different designs.  Suggestions welcome!  Climate Hawk pins are hawt!!!

(click to enlarge detail)

Reading the Tea Leaves

Christmas is over so it's time to catch up with the onslaught of studies and reports about our failing life support systems.  I was so happy to have my three girls all in one place together, which doesn't happen nearly often enough.
It's a bit ironic - given my obsession over the death of trees for over two years now - that for our totally irreligious family the heart of the holiday has always been a pagan worship of the tree.  My kids usually insist we buy one that is so big it smashes into the ceiling.  This year I got away with a more modest size.
I have been hunting for old hand-painted ornaments and glass chains from the 1950's at yard sales for years - since that is what I grew up with - and we all feel quite reverential towards those too.
There are a few special home-made keepsakes like Maxine's popsicle stick tooth fairy.
Of course since first daughter is named Alice, any time I came across an Alice in Wonderland ornament I had to add that to the collection.
Sophie especially loves the crystal icicles from Germany.
The other irony is that the daughters insist every year we must have the excessively elaborate Buche de Noel for dessert.  It's aways rather stressful to make because each of the components is liable to fail - the meringue mushrooms could refuse to hold a shape and wilt, the delicate cake is prone to sticking and breaking when being rolled, the pastry cream that fills it could be lumpy, and the chocolate butter cream is wont to curdle.  All of these disasters and worse (drop it on the floor?) have happened more than once in the past.  But this year, everything was perfect!
To get back to the topic of this blog...dying trees and what precisely is killing them...following is my favorite section of Forest Encyclopdia Dot Net which was fowarded by Highschooler, where it is quite explicitly explained that trees that are exposed to environmental pollution, such as acid rain leading to calcium depletion in soils, are more vulnerable to insects (best parts in red):

"Emerging Examples in the United States and Europe
In addition to the well-established connections between Ca depletion and tree health outlined above, new associations between the Ca status and health of trees periodically emerge—particularly in regions that experience continued pollution-induced Ca leaching. Differences in the susceptibility of eastern hemlock trees to damage by the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae Annand) in the Northeastern United States may provide an example of this. The HWA is a small, aphid-like insect that was likely introduced to the mid-Atlantic States from Asia in the 1950s and has since expanded its range and influence, devastating hemlock forests over an ever-widening portion of eastern hemlock’s native range (Orwig and Foster 1998). Although it was first believed that little or no variation in susceptibility to HWA damage existed among hemlock trees (McClure 1995), recent work has shown that differences in site conditions and the presence of other stressors are associated with differential damage and decline (Orwig and Foster 1998Sivaramakrishnan and Berlyn 1999).
 
In particular, Pontius and others (2006) recently concluded that foliar chemistry was linked to the infestation and susceptibility of eastern hemlock to HWA. Among other evidence, results of a regional monitoring effort showed that concentrations of Ca, K, N, and P were strongly correlated with HWA densities (a driving factor in hemlock decline). From this and other findings, they hypothesized that, whereas foliar N and K concentrations may influence hemlock decline through an alteration in insect behavior due to palatability issues, Ca and P concentrations may deter severe HWA damage through an alteration in tree physiology (Pontius and others 2006). Experimental tests are needed to assess whether these changes in physiology involve Ca-induced alterations in plant stress response systems.
 
Evidence of acid deposition damage to forest health and productivity in Europe is anything but new or emerging. Indeed, media attention and resulting public concern about the possible connection between pollution exposures and forest death (Waldsterben) helped spur initial efforts to control acidifying pollution additions (Kakebeeke and others 2004). Research eventually identified pollution-induced cation depletion (particularly Mg and Ca) as an instigating component of forest decline (Schulze 1989). Although the mechanism through which acid deposition influences the health of European forests has not been explicitly defined, it is generally agreed that it acts as a predisposing agent, weakening forests and making them more susceptible to damage by other stresses including insect attack, extreme climate events, or storm damage (Materna and Lomský 2002UNECE 2004). 
 
This scenario is strikingly similar to the Ca depletion and stress response suppression hypothesis developed primarily using evidence from declines in the United States (Schaberg and others 2001). In fact, a recent example of forest damage in Europe that is thought to be predisposed by pollution exposure involves the reddening and abscission of foliage of Norway spruce in the late winter, presumably due to freezing injury (Lomský and Šrámek 2002Materna 2002). Patterns of injury (preferentially impacting the youngest foliage with the intensity and extent of damage increasing with elevation, Lomský and Šrámek 2002Materna 2002) are identical to those documented for red spruce winter injury (DeHayes 1992Lazarus and others 2004), which has been mechanistically linked to Ca depletion (see previous section)."
 
Following is a story about the reduced yield of tea - another example of the mounting evidence that vegetation is declining, which is most usually blamed on climate change - as well as the aforementioned insects (or fungus, or disease) - even as it is acknowledged that heat and drought cannot fully account for the observed changes!
"Climate change is affecting the cultivation of Assam tea, with rising temperatures reducing yields and altering the distinctive flavour ofIndia's most popular drink, researchers say.
Mridul Hazarika, director of Tocklai Tea Research, the oldest tea research station in the world, said rainfall and minimum temperature were two of the most important factors affecting both quality and quantity of harvests.
'The decline has been taking place although there has been an increase in the area of tea cultivation as new gardens have come up, and many gardens have added new areas for tea plantation. This is an indication of the seriousness of the threat,' said Hazarika. Efficient rainwater harvesting and new breeds of tea plants were needed to reverse the trend.
 
'Changes have already been observed in the flavour, but it is not possible to blame only climate change for this," he said. "Other factors like the fertilisers used and cultivation methods might also be partly responsible.'
The changing taste of Assam tea is a serious concern for growers. Sudipta Nayan Goswami, an Assam-based planter, said subtle changes had already been observed: 'The flavour has changed from what it was before. The creamy and strong flavour is no more.'
'There is a huge demand for Assam tea abroad, and this is due to its strong, bright flavour. The changes will sharply hamper the demand for this variety of tea abroad.'"
 
Does anybody besides me see a PATTERN here?  For good measure, here's a link to a story about the extremely alarming decline in the yield of wheat, a global food staple.  Stock up on flour.
What was it that the Red Queen said?  OFF WITH THEIR HEADS.   His.

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