Trees fell in Oregon, too.
Another tree covered with lichen. This road had so many downed trees it is expected to remain closed for days.
The Humana Challenge, a golf competition, was shut down on Saturday because of high winds which rendered the course hazardous, strewn with fallen trees. And no wonder, those still standing look terrible.the course have the same corroded bark that New Jersey trees exhibit - falling off the trunks and exposing the raw wood beneath. This one looks rotted.
turns out that huge trees were falling in Palm Springs, as well:
And in what is becoming a sad but predictably increasing trend, a person was killed by a falling tree, this time, a ranger in Yosemite.
The first place I happened upon is a blog about Yosemite, which is unwittingly documenting the dying trees there.
|Incredible that trees can grow on what seems like just boulders. Now, trees look stunted and some have no needles at all..|
"Tony Carlstrom reports observing a California ground squirrel wrestle, subdue and kill a chipmunk atop Sentinel Dome on Tuesday. The chipmunk's body was then dragged off by the squirrel. This kind of gruesome aggression is not something we generally expect from those little snack-beggars. I have observed California ground squirrels feeding on road-killed squirrels in Yosemite Valley."
|Evergreens along the river have lost most of their needles.|
For a terrifying graph depicting just how fast populations crash when the food chain is disrupted, check out the seal, sea lion and otter study here.
|These pines are so transparent, it's no wonder they are toppling over.|
information about ozone and other pollutants that affect Yosemite.
|NPS Monitoring Map|
Naturally-occurring ozone in the upper atmosphere absorbs the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and helps to protect all life on earth. However, in the lower atmosphere, ozone is an air pollutant, forming when nitrogen oxides from vehicles, power plants, and other sources combine with volatile organic compounds from gasoline, solvents, and vegetation in the presence of sunlight. In addition to causing respiratory problems in people, ozone can injure plants. Ozone enters leaves through pores (stomata), where it can kill plant tissues, causing visible injury, or reduce photosynthesis, growth, and reproduction.
Effects of ozone on vegetation at Yosemite NP include:2010, Gaseous Pollutant Monitoring Program - or reports from earlier years - which exhaustively document the crazy convoluted methods of calculation for measuring air pollution borrowed from the EPA, all designed to indicate the situation is improving. Nevertheless, here is what they say in spite of themselves:
"Ozone pollution, threatens human health and park plants. Ozone is a caustic gas that occurs both at high altitude (in the stratosphere) and near the ground (in the troposphere) in the presence of sunlight. Up high, that stratospheric ozone layer is beneficial, blocking much of the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation (like a sunscreen). Down low, tropospheric ozone can damage both plant and animal tissues, especially leaf or lung tissue. Ozone is not emitted directly as a pollutant, but forms secondarily in the presence of chemical precursors, called nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons, and in the presence of strong sunlight. Automobiles, power plants, and factories are the main producers, and most ozone, like the haze that obscures Yosemite's vistas, is caused by precursors blown over from urban source regions to the west."
|The "Snowcone" - it develops every spring as the droplets from the waterfall freeze and build up hundreds of feet|
Trees on the cliff on the right side have barely any needles left.
[note - Obama just nixed those more stringent standards]
|This is the Wanona Sequoia, through which a tunnel was cut in 1881|
|The narrater adds, the car then became the ruler, the measurement against which scale was defined. Ack - it burns!|
"Most of the pollution that causes high ozone concentrations contains nitrogen. Some forms of this nitrogen can directly deposit (dry deposition) to landscapes or be scavenged and then deposited by rain or snow during storms (wet deposition). Yosemite has monitored wet deposition for more than two decades. These measurements, combined with more recent estimates of dry deposition, suggest that the deposition of nitrogen from the atmosphere to the Sierra, especially in the fragile high elevations, is up to five times higher than the 19th-century levels."
"As any gardener will tell you, nitrogen is most often a good thing, but over fertilizing with nitrogen can harm your plants. Yosemite soil has very, very low levels of nitrogen due to the nitrogen-poor granite that comprises its soil; the short, dry growing season; and the prevalence of fires that burn off nitrogen from soils. Plants that grow here are adapted to those low nitrogen levels. Weedy, fast-growing, nitrogen-loving plants can easily invade, like dandelions in a lawn, if nitrogen levels are increased. In the nitrogen-poor Great Basin region to the east of Yosemite, research has implicated increased nitrogen deposition with the rapid invasion of cheat grass throughout millions of square miles of sagebrush. This cheat grass now carries fire to the somewhat separate clumps of sage and allows thousands of acres to burn at once, where only small fires occurred before."
|The Wanona fell in the winter of 68/69. It stood close to a hundred years even after being gutted.|
Another cautionary tale that something unnatural - caustic? - is causing trees to die so young.
"Study of Lichen as an Indicator of Nitrogen Deposition: Yosemite is poised to kick off a new research project that will use lichen species diversity and abundance to measure air quality impacts. Specifically, the park plans to research how lichen serves as an indicator of nitrogen deposition as it varies over areas of the park."
Wow!! Did they say something about lichens and nitrogen? The following is from their research page:
Wow!! Did they say something about lichens and nitrogen? The following is from their research page:
"The diversity and distribution of lichens tell a great deal about air quality and the level of certain types of pollution, especially nitrogen, in the park. Lichens are intimately connected to their environment. They lack roots and rely upon the atmosphere for their water and nutrients. Because they do not have an outer epidermal layer, they cannot discriminate between nutrients and pollutants, and, as a result, both pollutants and nutrients are absorbed. When pollutants accumulate above certain levels, lichen growth and health are impaired. Air quality readily influences the composition of lichen communities because individual species differ in their tolerance levels. Due to little seasonal variation in lichen communities, monitoring lichen community composition has become one of the best biological measures of nitrogen and sulfur-based pollution in forests."
"Lichen communities in Yosemite are diverse, but several pollution-intolerant species, such as Alectoria sarmentosa, Bryoria fremontii, and Usnea spp. are uncommon and may be in decline. Nitrogen-loving species such as Candelaria concolor, Physcia, Physconia and Xanthoria spp. appear to be increasing in abundance, particularly along the Merced River corridor."
Well, nitrogen-loving species are sure increasing everywhere I look! Unfortunately, the link to results goes back circuitously to the former page...so I'll have to follow up later. Under the umbrella of the US Global Change Research Program (which includes the following governmental agencies: Dept. of Commerce, Dept of Defense, Dept. of Energy, Interior Dept, Dept. of State, Transportation, Health & Human Services, NASA, National Science Foundation, US Agency for International Development, and the Smithsonian Institute, USDA, and EPA - you'd almost think the government believes the climate is changing and we need to prepare for it?) their newest report to Congress on "Our Changing Planet" is due any day now, if history is a guide. Meanwhile, following are excerpts from their section on Forests:
American Enterprise Institute
Effects on Forest Productivity
"Several environmental factors that control the water and carbon balances of forests are changing rapidly and simultaneously. The global increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations are the best-documented factor. However, in some areas, other important atmospheric constituents are also increasing, including nitrogen oxides (a direct product of fossil fuel combustion that causes acid rain) and ground-level ozone ("smog," a product of chemical reactions between hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight)."
"A synthesis of laboratory and field studies and modeling indicates that forest productivity increases with the fertilizing effect of atmospheric CO2, but that these increases are strongly tempered by local conditions such as moisture stress and nutrient availability. Across a wide range of scenarios, it appears that modest warming could result in increased carbon storage in most forest ecosystems in the conterminous US. Yet under some warmer scenarios, forests, notably in the Southeast and the Northwest, could experience drought-induced losses of carbon, possibly exacerbated by increased fire disturbance. These potential gains and losses of carbon will be subject to changes in land-use, such as the conversion of forests to agricultural lands."
"Other components of environmental change, such as nitrogen deposition and ground-level ozone concentrations, also affect forest processes. Models identify a synergistic fertilization response between CO2 and nitrogen enrichment, leading to further increases in productivity. Ozone, however, can suppress these gains. Current ozone levels, for example, have likely decreased production by 10% in Northeast forests and 5% in southern pine plantations. Interactions among these physical and chemical changes and other components of global change are important in determining the future of US forests."
"The effects of climate change on the rate and magnitude of disturbance (forest damage and destruction associated with fires, storms, droughts and pest outbreaks) will be an important factor in determining whether transitions from one forest type to another will be gradual or abrupt. If disturbances in New England, for example, do not increase, there is a possibility of a smooth transition from the present maple, beech, and birch tree species to oak and hickory. Where disturbances increase, transitions are very likely to be abrupt."
"Potential climate-induced changes in forests must be put into the context of other human-induced pressures, which will undoubtedly change significantly over future decades. While the potential for rapid changes in natural disturbances could challenge current management strategies, these changes will co-occur with human activities such as agricultural and urban encroachment on forests, multiple use of forests, and air pollution."
One of my concerns about the "abrupt" transition from living forest to dead forest, is that it is inexplicable by merely a confluence of "disturbances" such as drought, pest outbreaks and persistent background ozone, because it is astonishingly widespread and uniform, rather than localized. This has led me to consider whether there is a major disruption that has gone under the radar, and I really wish somebody with some expertise would investigate this. Perhaps it is methane, the sudden huge release of which seems to have taken scientists by surprise...or perhaps it is the use of biofuels, which is a relatively new practice. I suppose it shouldn't be considered perplexing...
...but it turns out the American Enterprise Institute published a critique of biofuel subsidies based partly on the increase in ozone their emissions produce. Following are excerpts, with photos from the Yosemite Park Service video about their black oak trees.
"The Many Downsides of Ethanol"
"While ethanol promoters make it sound as if ethanol is the solution to all our energy woes--dependence on foreign oil, diminishing oil stocks, the environmental consequences of energy use, the decline of the family farm, and so on--a considerable amount of research has shown that ethanol has far more peril than it does promise."
|An acorn woodpecker makes holes in a dead branch to store acorns.|
"Ethanol and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Though ethanol is often pitched as a good solution to climate change because it simply recirculates carbon in the atmosphere, there is more than one kind of greenhouse gas to consider. Ethanol, blended with gasoline, actually turns out to increase the formation of potent greenhouse gases more than gasoline does by itself. As far back as 1997, the U.S. Government Accountability Office determined that the ethanol production process produces relatively more nitrous oxide and other potent greenhouse gases than does gasoline. In contrast, the greenhouse gases released during the conventional gasoline fuel cycle contain relatively more of the less potent type, namely, carbon dioxide."
|Even though the film tries to portray the trees in their best light, they can't seem to avoid including broken branches.|
"Last fall, Paul Crutzen, a Nobel-prize-winning chemist, confirmed these findings. Crutzen and his coauthors found that when the extra N2O emission from biofuel production is calculated in "CO2-equivalent" global warming terms, and compared with the quasi-cooling effect of "saving" emissions of fossil fuel derived CO2, the outcome is that the production of commonly used biofuels, such as biodiesel from rapeseed and bioethanol from corn (maize), depending on N fertilizer uptake efficiency by the plants, can contribute as much or more to global warming by N2O emissions than cooling by fossil fuel savings."
|This view of springtime catkins has terminal growth that isn't leafing out at all.|
"Ethanol and Air Pollution. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims a net decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from using ethanol, they recognize that ethanol use is a problem for conventional air pollutants. Ethanol use, according to the EPA, will increase the emission of chemicals that lead to the production of ozone, one of the nation's most challenging local air pollutants."
|When the camera is close to the bark, it is evident that clumps are breaking off the trunk.|
"At the same time, other vehicle emissions may increase as a result of greater renewable fuel use. Nationwide, EPA estimates an increase in total emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides (VOC + NOx) between 41,000 and 83,000 tons [due to increased use of ethanol]. . . . Areas that experience a substantial increase in ethanol may see an increase in VOC emissions between 4 and 5 percent and an increase in NOx emissions between 6 and 7 percent from gasoline powered vehicles and equipment."
[It's hard to tell how healthy this oak is in the winter, but it's easy to see when the leaves are out that this crown is lacking fullness.]
"Increases in pollutants have also been shown at the state and local level. In 2004, the California Air Resources Board released a study that found that gasoline containing ethanol caused VOC emissions to increase by 45 percent when compared to gasoline containing no oxygenates. And in mid-2006, California's South Coast Air Quality Management District determined that gasoline containing 5.7 percent ethanol may add as much as seventy tons of VOCs per day into the state's air."
|As the season progresses, the leaves, exposed to ozone, exhibit the same spotting and marginal burn seen in New Jersey.|
|The film explains that the black oak provides much food for wildlife, like this bear passing in front of a dead tree.|
"Fertilizer runoff does not just pollute local waters; it creates other far-reaching environmental problems. Each summer, the loading of nitrogen fertilizers from the Mississippi via the corn belt hits the Gulf of Mexico, creating a large dead zone--a region of oxygen-deprived waters unable to support sea life that extends for more than ten thousand square kilometers."
"Ethanol and Water Pollution. In Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) points out that if the United States continues to expand corn-based ethanol production without new environmental protection policies, "the increase in harm to water quality could be considerable.""
|Acorns were a crucial source of food for many tribes of First People, who dried them and then ground them into flour.|
"Corn, according to the NAS, requires more fertilizers and pesticides than other food or biofuel crops. Pesticide contamination is highest in the corn belt, and nitrogen fertilizer runoff from corn already has the highest agricultural impact on the Mississippi River. In short, more corn raised for ethanol means more fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides in waterways; more low-oxygen "dead zones" from fertilizer runoff; and more local shortages in water for drinking and irrigation."
|These holes were made when the acorns were pounded with rocks to remove their shells.|
|Of course, acorns are a major part of a squirrel's diet, which reminds me...aren't some eating chipmunks?|
And each other? They must be starving to turn to cannibalism.