Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No One Knows Where This Will Lead

So many disparate events have conspired to delay a timely post here at Wit's End that I won't even attempt to outline them (briefly - an onslaught of dire papers presented at the AGU conference in San Francisco, the horrific shooting in Connecticut - and a whole lot in between).  This laggard posting is not due to any dearth of material about trees dying from ozone; alas.  To the contrary there is far, far too much and it has all been accumulating like an insatiable and slovenly fat monster - so be warned!  Please don't complain - I have been far more tormented writing this than can possibly be matched by reading it (torture though it will be).  This is not anymore a post - it is a giganticum opus.  I'm so out of time I'm not even going to proof it carefully, so it will be full of typos, garbled syntax, jumbled, incomplete ideas, and no doubt, formatting issues.  Feel free to send corrections!  (Full credit for the chimerical hand behind these sublimely fanciful photos will follow in short order.)
But before we get down to business I want to mention the most recent interference, which was a wonderfully welcome visit with middle daughter.  I met her in Pennsylvania where she had arrived from her externship at the race horse clinic in Kentucky, for two interviews with an eye towards neurosurgical residency.  It appears likely that she will be formally offered an excellent position (closer to home, yay!) so the trip was a resounding success.
Dr. Sophie obtained an unbelievably sweet deal for a hotel on Hotwire, with a kitchen and separate living room - so we promptly splurged with the savings (and more) during our three evenings together, sampling the finest restaurants in Kennett Square and Philadelphia.  Why not?  I forced myself to make this sacrifice in order to assure readers at Wit's End that all is well at the End of Empire, there is nothing to worry about.  Luxury abounds as we wobble towards the final cliff.
Sophie is double the fun to eat out with because she likes to share every course.  The first night we went to Limoncello, where we had beguilingly plump Mussels with Pancetta, Red Onion, Tröegs Dreamweaver and Gorgonzola Crumbles; the next night we went to Fond, where we indulged in Seared Foie Gras with spiced cream cheese and caramelized Asian Pear... oh, and Pork Belly with Okinawa sweet potatoes, escarole, and Dijon jus; plus Grilled Spanish Octopus with paella rice and chorizo.
Our last evening we sampled amazing tapas at Tinto, starting with the most luscious Sopa de Sastaño - a truffled chestnut soup, with duck & mushroom hash, fried quail egg, and pistachio...then succulent lamb chops served with artichoke purée, sweetbreads, and Seville orange.  This feast was followed by a late-night detour to their companion cocktail lounge next door, Village Whiskey, which is renowned for high-octane libations - I had my first ever ice-cold Manhattan and Sophie had their "Bee Charmer", a seductive concoction of Lavender/Chamomile infused gin, yellow Chartreuse, lemon and honey.  That's her with Brochetas of Kobe beef, heaped with the most indescribably scrumptious Pisto al la Bilbaína and Salsa Romesco.  Yummmmm....I am going to try to reproduce that for Christmas Eve dinner.
Naturally the way home was lined with heaps of tree detritus piled along the roads, residuals from Superstorm Sandy.  So many hundreds of thousands of trees toppled, that quite a few still lay where they fell, and haven't even begun to be cleaned up.
 This enormous pine was, like just about every tree that fell in that storm, visibly rotting inside.
 The bark was flaking as well.
It requires no effort to peel off and expose the dead wood underneath.  And no that is not normal.  Bark should be as hard as a rock.
Next to that row is another pine that is painfully thin, which will likely fall over the next time the wind blows.
Most of the time, the Wit’s End blog - which has always been meant to exist as a curated repository for articles and science about trees dying from air pollution (okay and my personal opinions about just about anything) - is typically illustrated with photos I take showing stained, puckered, necrotic foliage, corroded bark, epidemic lichen and other symptoms of tree decay.  But every now and then I try to vary the fare by featuring images of the concurrent atrophy of our civilization -  collapsing barns, rusting cars, and abandoned homes.  Whenever I come across such scenes myself, I have great fun snapping pictures - plus every now and then, I find a cache from an fellow ecopocalyptic traveler.
No wonder then that I was delighted to find the scintillating view trees encroaching on a library which anchors the top of this post, and then to locate the website of the artist who created it.  Her name is Lori Nix, and she started depicting scenes of catastrophe at least as far back as 1998.  She says her favorite is this image called “Floater” - (it's a cadaver in a swamp):
 
She also creates phantasmal commercial work like this:
She was commissioned to produce a video advertisement for a sushi restaurant (which purports to source fish sustainably, a very debatable proposition).  If you are really interested in the making of that ad, the backstory is here.  The short film below will give you an idea of how she constructs her dioramas.
 
I want to give her full credit since I have - ahem - borrowed so many of her images to illustrate and enliven the depressing drek that constitutes the rest of this post.  The following are excerpts from her “About” page, where she says:

"I am interested in depicting danger and disaster, but I temper this with a touch of humor. My childhood was spent in a rural part of the United States that is known more for it's natural disasters than anything else. I was born in a small town in western Kansas, and each passing season brought it's own drama, from winter snow storms, spring floods and tornados to summer insect infestations and drought. Whereas most adults viewed these seasonal disruptions with angst, for a child it was considered euphoric. Downed trees, mud, even grass fires brought excitement to daily, mundane life. As a photographer, I have recreated some of these experiences in the series 'Accidentally Kansas'." 
"In my newest body of work 'The City' I have imagined a city of our future, where something either natural or as the result of mankind, has emptied the city of it's human inhabitants. Art museums, Broadway theaters, laundromats and bars no longer function. The walls are deteriorating, the ceilings are falling in, the structures barely stand, yet Mother Nature is slowly taking them over. These spaces are filled with flora, fauna and insects, reclaiming what was theirs before man's encroachment. I am afraid of what the future holds if we do not change our ways regarding the climate, but at the same time I am fascinated by what a changing world can bring."
"…Currently it takes about seven months to build a scene and two to three weeks to shoot the final image. I build these in my Brooklyn living room. I have miniature power tools throughout the apartment, a chop saw under the kitchen table, a miniature table saw on top. The computer room doubles as a model mock-up room. There are two of us who work on them, myself and my partner Kathleen. We split the work according to our strengths. I come up with the concept, the color palette and the lighting scenarios. I build the structures out of extruded foam and glue and paint and anything else handy. Kathleen is trained as a glass artist, specializing in cast glass work. She can paint faux finishes and gild architectural details with gold leaf. After I'm done building the structure and painting it, she comes in and adds dirt and distresses the walls to make it look old and decrepit."
"I am fascinated, maybe even a little obsessed, with the idea of the apocalypse. In addition to my childhood experiences with natural disasters, I also grew up watching 1970s films known as 'disaster flicks'. I remember watching Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Planet of Apes and sitting in awe in the dark. Here was the same type of dangers I had experienced day to day being magnified and played out on the big screen in a typical Hollywood way. Each of these experiences has greatly influenced my photographic work. The series Accidentally Kansas explored my personal experience with the natural disasters of my childhood. The City postulates what it would be like to live in a city that is post man-kind, where man has left his mark by the architecture, but mother nature is taking back these spaces. Flora, fauna and insects mix with the detritus of high and low culture."
Last week I went to a movie theater to see Anna Karenina, which was a delectable visual feast, and included the memorable line, "Romantic love will be the last delusion of the old order." - a prediction which is probably quite accurate.  It's another way of saying that humans are programmed to reproduce, and that urge is the most powerful instinct we have, almost impossible to thwart - even though it will be the death of our species.  Tolstoy's novel famously begins with the observation:

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  I suppose each of the five mass extinctions in Earth's past were unique in the cause and the unfolding.  But this one, the great Sixth of the Anthropocene, is specifically unhappy in its own way for two reasons:  1. burning fossil fuels - and releasing emissions from millions of years of stored carbon energy - has never been even close to this fast before; and 2.  massive widespread decimation of vegetation from toxic ozone has never occurred at quite this pace and geographical spread before.  At least I don't think it has.
In an earlier post I linked to research by Barnosky et al, but just discovered the link didn't work.  So here is an excerpt from the paper, modestly titled, "Approaching a state shift in Earth’s Biosphere":

"Humans have already changed the biosphere substantially, so much so that some argue for recognizing the time in which we live as a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene. Comparison of the present extent of planetary change with that characterizing past global-scale state shifts, and the enormous global forcings we continue to exert, suggests that another global-scale state shift is highly plausible within decades to centuries, if it has not already been initiated."

"As a result, the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations. [note:  already well underway). Anticipating biological surprises on global as well as local scales, therefore, has become especially crucial to guiding the future of the global ecosystem and human societies. Guidance will require not only scientific work that foretells, and ideally helps to avoid, negative effects of critical transitions, but also society’s willingness to incorporate expectations of biological instability into strategies for maintaining human well-being."
"Diminishing the range of biological surprises resulting from bottom-up (local-to-global) and top-down (global-to-local) forcings, postponing their effects and, in the optimal case, averting a planetary-scale critical transition demands global cooperation to stem current global-scale anthropogenic forcings. This will require reducing world population growth and per-capita resource use; rapidly increasing the proportion of the world’s energy budget that is supplied by sources other than fossil fuels while also becoming more efficient in using fossil fuels when they provide the only option; increasing the efficiency of existing means of food production and distribution instead of converting new areas or relying on wild species to feed people; and enhancing efforts to manage as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services, both in the terrestrial and marine realms, the parts of Earth’s surface that are not already dominated by humans. These are admittedly huge tasks, but are vital if the goal of science and society is to steer the biosphere towards conditions we desire, rather than those that are thrust upon us unwittingly."

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no evidence that these "huge, vital tasks" such as reduction of world population growth and per-capita resource use will be accomplished or even tentatively started, because it simply isn't human nature to reduce growth or to sacrifice short-term comfort for long-term gain.

Meanwhile, the baselines are shifting drastically - a concept that explains why people, inherently oblivious to incremental change, are accepting the collapse of the ecosystem as though it is normal.  Following Sandy, Irene, and countless individual episodes of trees falling for no apparent reason - something which not all that long ago occurred so rarely as to be almost unheard of - people are starting to regard trees not as beautiful and strong, but as menacing hazards.
In his speech to the families of victims at Sandy Hook, President Obama said:  "We can't accept events like this as routine.  Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that the violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"

Well, after the furor dies down from this latest tragedy, we will once again accept it as routine, actually.  We accept cancer from pollution, carnage on the highways, and extreme violent weather from climate change as routine - we do absolutely nothing about any of those sources that are hemorrhaging human life.  A recent poll claims about one in four Americans blame the end times for the very weather long predicted by climate models.  Rather than a rational science-based response, as it worsens I expect to see more cults and religious hysteria.  Look at all the frenetic prayers in response to that massacre.  Where was God when Adam Lanza grabbed a semi-automatic weapon and drove to the school?
Another example of an increase in insane delusion is a study released by Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University in New York, that claims we have reached "peak farmland".  In future we can retire 370 million acres of agricultural land around the world, allowing it to revert back to nature.  Isn't that terrific news?  Except the "expert" authors left out:  peak fertilizer, peak oil, peak water, sea level rise, violent weather, droughts and floods from climate change, rising population, rising demand for meat, biofuels, and of course ozone diminishing both yield and quality of crops.

The phenomena of shifting baselines is so blatantly pervasive that even the New York Times ran a story about the changing perceptions - "Spate of Harsh Weather in New England Shifts Sentiment on Trees".  You'd think these people might wonder what underlies this newly sinister pattern!
"WILBRAHAM, Mass. — First came the tornado, which felled five big trees and sent them crashing down on half their house, forcing Heather Mercier and Ellie Tobiasz to move into a mobile home on their property while the house was being repaired."

"Several weeks later, a microburst with ferocious winds tore up another tree by its roots and smashed it into the mobile home. Three months after that, an early blizzard knocked down two more big trees, wrecking the remaining part of their house."

"'You’d think we lived in Kansas,' said Ms. Mercier, 52, a retired police officer on disability. 'Things like this don’t happen in western Massachusetts.'"
"But as residents across New England are realizing, violent, “Wizard of Oz”-like storms do happen here. And for some, the region’s sugar maples, birches and oaks — majestic towers that provide shade in the summer and colorful splendor in the fall — are no longer a source of pride but of terror."

"'The branches were like daggers sticking out of my roof, through the windows, through the floors,' Ms. Mercier said."

"Although Hurricane Sandy was not as destructive in New England as it was in New York and New Jersey, its high winds still blew over tens of thousands of trees in the region, pulling down utility lines and leaving millions of homeowners in the dark."

"Last year, a half-dozen tornadoes — some with winds as high as 160 miles per hour — ripped through Springfield, Mass., just west of here, killing three people, injuring 200 and leaving 500 homeless. A few months later, Tropical Storm Irene decimated parts of Vermont, washing away homes, businesses and roadways, and bringing down more trees."
"All of the wreckage, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, and the fear that it has engendered have led to something of a mini-war on trees here, with some property owners cutting them down pre-emptively, even when trunks and branches show no signs of weakness."

"'People were envisioning having entire trees crashing down on their houses and there was a lot of panic,' said Phillip Cambo, president of Northern Tree Service, a tree-removal company that serves much of New England."

"During the 2011 tornado, microburst and blizzard, he said, his phones rang off the hook. As Hurricane Sandy made its way up the Atlantic Coast a month ago, many homeowners were on the phone again."

"'People are looking at trees near their homes in a different manner,' said Ed Miga, superintendent of Wilbraham’s Department of Public Works. 'It’s no longer, ‘This is a nice shade tree.’ It’s ‘This tree could fall on my house.’"
"'Springfield lost tens of thousands of trees during last year’s tornadoes and early snowstorm, costing $38 million for tree cleanup alone, 'said Edward P. Casey, the city forester.  'When we were taking trees down after the tornadoes, people were terrified,' Mr. Casey said. 'They would say, ‘Take the big one down, it’s going to crush my house,’ he said.  Despite the fear and damage, many residents, towns and organizations insist that having trees is worth the risk."

"Trees add character and beauty to a property, of course, but they also benefit the environment, trapping carbon dioxide, one of the major contributing greenhouse gases, and releasing oxygen. And they help protect against erosion and maintain the balance of the ecosystem."
"Several storm-battered towns across New England have undertaken extensive replanting programs — though many programs encourage planting smaller trees, like fruit trees and dogwoods, rather than the pines and maples that, when mature, can cause the most damage.  Many New England towns authorize local tree wardens to determine the health of shade trees and ban their removal unless they pose a hazard."

"Springfield has a 'significant tree ordinance' under which a homeowner needs a permit to trim or cut down any tree that is more than 36 inches in diameter or more than 75 years old, even if it is on private property, Mr. Casey said. If the tree is structurally unsound, he will issue a permit. But if it is healthy, the homeowner must petition the parks commission before trimming or removing it."

"'Homeowners don’t want to accept that,' Mr. Casey said. 'Some people are still angry and upset. But I leave them with the idea that if I thought the tree was dangerous, it would be removed.'
Utility companies often bear the brunt of complaints during a storm when homeowners lose power, and utilities blame the trees. 'Trees are the No. 1 cause of power outages,' said Michael Durand, a spokesman for Nstar, which serves eastern Massachusetts."

"Of particular concern are those trees near the big transmission lines, which carry power to thousands of customers."
"In August, a tree that fell on a transmission line in Greenwich, Conn., took out power to 30,000 customers. The blackout of 2003 began when an overgrown tree hit a transmission line in Ohio, setting off a cascade of events that shut off power to 55 million people in eight states and Canada.  Still, when Nstar started cutting down trees to clear transmission lines in Needham, a western suburb of Boston, homeowners were up in arms. The town is designated a 'Tree City USA' which means it receives assistance for forestry programs and takes great pride in the leafy canopies that shade its streets and homes."

"Mark McDonough, a Needham resident and a real estate agent, said that losing the trees 'changes the character of the town,' and that mature trees improve a property’s value. 'It’s harder to sell a home if you have no trees,' he said."

"Kim Pelletier, another Needham resident, said that a large tree fell on her property during Hurricane Sandy but that it did not hit the house and did not inspire her to cut down other trees.

'These trees have been here a lot longer than we have and they have withstood a lot so far,' she said. 'You can’t safeguard against everything. Otherwise you lose the point of living.'"
White pine windthrow. “Shoestring” rhizomorphs or mycelial cords of Armillaria found along with dead woody roots. Photo: Kevin T. Smith
A guest blog in Scientific American examines the aftermath of Sandy and asks, "Why do Trees Topple in a Storm"?

"From North Carolina to Canada trees toppled or broke off big limbs, killing or injuring people and animals, crashing into homes and cars, blocking roads and ripping down power lines. The intense storm toppled 8,497 trees in New York City alone. But it doesn’t take a hurricane or a megastorm to uproot timber. The nor’easter that hit the upper East Coast Wednesday and Thursday brought down more trees. And storms, of course, hit all parts of the United States and much of the world, downing trees as part of the damage. Yet most trees keep their “feet” firmly planted in the ground."

"We Americans have a fondness for trees, often naming streets after them — Oak St., Elm St., Cherry Lane, Willow Tree Lane, Maple Ave., Cypress Blvd., Sycamore Dr., and so many more. I’ve always wanted to live on Maple Ave. It just sounds so homey and safe and friendly. I picture kids riding bicycles down the tree-lined street, touch football and baseball games, neighborhood cookouts and warm, cozy homes. I never picture a maple tree crashing onto a home or a falling branch whacking a kid off his bicycle."

"I never picture a maple tree crashing onto a home or a falling branch whacking a kid off his bicycle" - [hint - that's because they almost never used to be treacherous!!]

"Why do some trees fall in a storm, while most do not? To find out, I asked three experts to explain the science behind falling trees: David R. Foster, Director, Harvard Forest at Harvard University, a Long-Term Ecological Research Site funded by the National Science Foundation; Kevin T. Smith, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; and William E. de Vos, a registered consulting arborist who is president of Treeworks, a tree preservation company in Montpelier, VT."

Naturally, not one of the three "experts" mentioned that there is most emphatically a global trend for trees to be dying off, even though it's by now such a well-documented fact that any "tree expert" should know.  They point to bad locations and fungus though:
Damage from megastorm Sandy in Franklin Lakes, NJ. This is a perfect example of endotrophic root growth within the tiny, inadequate “green strip” and the curb and sidewalk. Upon driving by this huge oak (28” - 32” diameter and over 70’ tall), I was shocked at the obvious indication of poor planting and planning. The root ball that pulled up in the tree’s toppling was perhaps 3’-4’ wide by 15’ long, showing the lack of lateral support the tree had. Photo: William de Vos

Often the confines of pavement are blamed when trees fall.  I personally think this is classic junk science.  Trees are also tumbling like pick-up-sticks where their roots aren't impeded and even more to the point, they were doing just fine in such spaces for decades if not centuries.  I remember thirty years ago, when we lived n Summit, an older suburb of New York where all the streets were lined with huge, lovely trees.  It was something of an exertion to take oldest daughter walking in her stoller every day, because the roots of the trees had powerfully lifted up sections of the sidewalks displacing them helterskelter.  It took quite a bit of effort to lift the wheels over them, every few feet, so they wouldn't slam up against a displaced paver and give her whiplash.  Not one of those trees ever fell.  Everyone would have been quite shocked if one had.  When I went to Daniel Boone National Park, gigantic old trees were growing on the top of stone mountains with barely any soil, and even out of cracks in the cliffs.  Healthy trees laugh at stone.
Damage from megastorm Sandy in Franklin Lakes, NJ. This tree failed during Sandy due to the loss of internal structure. It appeared for all intents and purposes to be in good health as it had a full crown with little if any decline apparent. The diameter of the light colored tissue is the extent of necessary live wood needed to keep a tree in full leaf. The entire center of a tree except for this small strip just under the bark can be decayed and destroyed, as is the case here and have no visible signs. “Physiological health in trees is not an indicator of structural . Photo: William de Vos
Not having seen that tree while it was standing, I can't say whether it appeared to be in good health - but I'll bet it didn't.  I can't find any that do.  This is what trees look like now - they are vomiting on themselves:
Figures - at the end of the article those "experts" recommend everyone pay an arborist to come to their home to determine whether there are any trees likely to fall, with a final ironic caution:

"Although they can become unwilling weapons in severe weather, I think most of us would not want to live without our trees. They give character to our properties, shade in the summer, beautiful leaf colors in the fall, and homes to our wildlife. Most trees were living long before we were and, hopefully, will be living long after we are gone. But inevitably nature will periodically rise up and destroy some. 'When we have a truly intense storm (Category 2-3) we will see unfathomable damage to forests in the Eastern U.S.,' warns Foster. 'A 1637 or 1938 hurricane will return.'"

It's ironic, because Sandy was manifestly NOT a "truly intense storm" with extreme winds - it wasn't even a hurricane when it made landfall, and yet trees were demolished and power was lost for weeks.  Here are some anecdotal examples from the past few weeks' accounts - on the west coast:

In Oregon, a man survived this harrowing close call when his trailer was crushed.  The story says:  "...he heard a cracking and hit the floor, knowing something was up after the storm"!
I can't help it if I have a morbid fascination with pictures of fallen trees...
...especially when they land on cars.  These branches are festooned with lichen:
A Canby, Oregon a couple barely survived when a 100 foot fir tree landed on their car just after they had parked it.
The newscaster reports that "...investigators aren't sure what caused the tree to fall, no one reported any big wind gusts when it happened..." but they think "...wet soil played a role".
In video from Sacramento this tree fall was also blamed on wet ground...
...even though it's plain in these screen shots, though blurry, that the center is darkened from rot.
No one was killed in the above instances, but not all are so lucky - a man died when this tree fell on the truck he was driving near Ponderosa, CA.  According to the report, the only explanation given is that it had been raining (other than you can see looking at it that it is rotting inside).
Oddly enough, a dead oak fell on an SUV with two brothers inside, while driving on (tada!!) Live Oak Canyon Road in Mission Viejo, California.  That incident too was blamed on rain, although it's hard to imagine a tree trunk looking more spongily rotted than this one:
All that rain sure is bad for trees, and if it's not that, let's blame drought!  The Tennessean ran a story informing us that Christmas tree plantations fared badly this past summer:
"The ghost of this summer’s weather could haunt holidays yet to come for Tennessee’s Christmas tree growers.  Record heat and abnormally dry conditions conspired to cause significant losses, especially among seedlings and saplings, local growers say. That could result in higher prices in the future, when those trees would have been hitting the market."
"'The drought sure made it rough this year,' said Wayne Pressler, owner of Kirkwood Tree Farm in Clarksville, who estimated he lost about half of his roughly 400 trees.  Other growers reported losing up to 80 percent of trees that were planted in the past year, and as much as 20 percent of older trees, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said."

And the scientists are still busily blaming drought for Sudden Aspen Decline - even though they're puzzled by the delayed reaction!
"They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that's not true for the US's iconic aspen trees.  They appeared to survive a severe drought between 2000 and 2003, but it is now clear that it fundamentally weakened them. If the same is true for other tree species, climate change may be pushing many forests perilously close to a tipping point."

"Ever since the drought in western North America, aspen trees have been dying at an alarming rate, a phenomenon now known as sudden aspen decline. In some places, nearly a fifth of the trees – one of the main species in western US forests – have died."

"Earlier this year, William Anderegg of Stanford University in California and his colleagues showed that the trees were dying mainly from water stress (PNAS,doi.org/fgfbsk). But it was unclear why they were still dying years after the drought had ended."
Air bubble intrusion
"To find out, the team looked at the xylem, or water-conducting pipes, of declining aspen trees in Colorado. As trees lose water through their leaves, they suck up more through their roots. The drier the tree, the harder it must suck, but if it sucks too hard, air bubbles can creep into the xylem, interrupting water flow."

"When Anderegg experimentally induced such cavitation in aspen twigs, he found that it developed more readily in those that had been through the drought, whether apparently healthy or dying. 'There seems to have been some damage that would leave them more vulnerable to future water stress,' says Anderegg."

"Some evidence suggests that the stress of previous cavitation during the drought may have cracked the seams where xylem tubes connect, making it easier for air to creep in – and this so-called "cavitation fatigue" is still there nearly a decade later."
Tipping point
"This means prior drought stress may make trees more likely to die from a later drought, says Anderegg. Since much of the world will experience more severe droughts as climate changes, researchers will need to take this into account when trying to predict the fate of the world's forests. 'Accounting for history is going to be pretty key,' says Anderegg."

"This could be very bad news for forests. A recent study showed 70 percent of tree species in 81 forest sites worldwide, from moist forests to arid ones, are already close to their threshold for drought-induced cavitation."

"If every severe drought lowers this threshold, many of these species might be pushed past the tipping point to mortality. 'Our forests are potentially going to change a lot,' says that study's co-author John Sperry at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City."

The article cited above was published in New Scientist and is titled "Reckless Forest Plants Living on the Edge" which alone is irksome enough, as though plants are at fault when the reality is that humans are recklessly decimating both plants and other animals and insects just as fast as we can.  But the attempt they have made to show that trees in wetter areas are at currently at risk from drought as well as drier areas seems just plain silly.  Here's the article, followed by the abstract to the original paper in Nature:

"PLANTS, it turns out, are showing signs of living recklessly. About 70 per cent of forest plant species seem to live within a slim safety margin of survival in the face of drought and changing rainfall patterns. What's more, trees and flowering plants in wetter forests not often considered to be at risk of drought are endangered by their profligacy with water."
"Biologist Steven Jansen, at the University of Ulm, Germany, and colleagues analysed existing data on the water transportation systems of 226 plant species from 81 forests globally (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature11688)."

"Jansen says drought stress causes bubbles of gas to be brought into plants' water transport tubes, which blocks water from reaching leaves and in turn halts the food-creating process of photosynthesis."

"In wetter forests, plants have a greater access to water so have wider water tubes. As well as increasing water intake, this also ups the intake of gas bubbles and hence the risk of blockages. Rainforests and drier forests are equally at risk, says Jansen."

"The study shows that 'all plants seem to be living on the edge', says Yadvinder Malhi, an ecosystems scientist at the University of Oxford."
Here's the Editor's Note in Nature:

Forests facing threat of drought
"Forest dieback resulting from extreme drought events has the potential to cause widespread loss of biodiversity, with a major impact on the global carbon balance. Plants undergoing drought stress experience reduced xylem pressure, and each species can tolerate a different degree of reduction before xylem damage and, eventually, hydraulic failure occur. This study looks at the safety margin between minimum experienced xylem pressure and the damage threshold for 226 forest species from 81 sites worldwide and shows that most species across both dry and wet biomes have small safety margins against injurious levels of drought stress. These plants are potentially vulnerable to the combination of rising temperatures and declining rainfall that is predicted to cause droughts of increasing intensity and duration in the near future."

I don't dispute the "bubble" mechanism for hydraulic failure, nor that there is a looming existential threat to trees from climate change extreme drought - as described in the note above - but the study extrapolates from future threats to current tree death.  It's like they just took a bunch of data and crammed it into their theory whether it makes sense or not.  Here are the last sentences from the abstract, which is NOT merely predictive of future droughts from climate change - or limited to areas currently in record-breaking drought:

"Safety margins are largely independent of mean annual precipitation, showing that there is global convergence in the vulnerability of forests to drought, with all forest biomes equally vulnerable to hydraulic failure regardless of their current rainfall environment. These findings provide insight into why drought-induced forest decline is occurring not only in arid regions but also in wet forests not normally considered at drought risk."

"...drought-induced forest decline IS OCCURRING...in wet forests!"  Seriously?

We can continue to augment the ever-expanding list of species newly under attack by pathogens.  First, an alert issued by - (remember this group!) - Georgia ForestWatch about walnut canker disease:
"New fungus disease could threaten Georgia’s walnut trees"

"Any chance the black walnuts in your backyard are looking stressed? Noticed any walnuts peppered with small holes in our national forests?"

"State, federal and academic officials warn that Thousand Canker Disease, once believed to be active only in Colorado and several western states, might be crossing the line into Georgia.
The killer disease, brought on by a fungus by a twig beetle, has now been found in neighboring Tennessee, prompting officials in North Carolina to issue a quarantine against the importation of walnut products and hardwood firewood from Tennessee. That state also has issued a quarantine against export of walnut logs and firewood from affected counties around Knoxville."
"To date, Georgia has not gone beyond issuing a risk alert to the Thousand Canker potential. Walnut is prized for use in furniture, gunstocks and veneer and its nuts serve as an important food source for both humans and wildlife in north Georgia. Georgia has 126,000 acres of forestland with a walnut component, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission.  Georgia ForestWatch has called on Georgia officials to consider a quarantine as is being done in North Carolina and Tennessee."

"The killer disease, brought on by a fungus by a twig beetle"

That is VERY IMPORTANT.  The scientists are all in a muddle not just over the "new" walnut threat, but also with many other blights, particularly the absolutely massive bark beetle spread western North America and the pervasive ash dieback in Europe.  In every case, it's a fungus, carried by an insect, that causes a disease.  But they never even look for an underlying cause for the overall degeneration.

A story about leaves turning brown in Scotland following a storm early last summer (2011) came my way, so I wrote to the foresters mentioned in the article.  I've been wondering about salt damage after having seen it on the Cape in Wellfleet, and so many leaves still hanging, dead and shriveled on trees this fall in New Jersey.  Here's my favorite copper beech, in Oldwick village, about a week ago - still with leaves attached.  I have a bad feeling it has nothing to do with Sandy, or salt - the trees just don't have enough energy to excise the leaves this year.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, dried up leaves still persist on every maple, like this one, in front of the cider mill.

Having leaves on trees in December in New Jersey is so wrong, it makes me feel like I am a character trapped in the film Dead Man Walking.

It's nothing less than nightmarish.
Either way though, I suspect that since ozone literally eats away at the protective waxy coat on leaves and needles, it might make them shrivel up when they get a salty bath.  So I was very glad when a UK forester wrote back and learn that they had never heard of such damage from salt before.  Here's how the article described the situation, followed by the email exchange.
Dead leaves in Scotland, June, 2011
"The Forestry Commission Scotland said the scorching phenomenon had been caused by last month’s exceptionally strong winds combining with the salt-laden sea air.  Many broadleaved trees have been affected, as well as larch pine and other conifers."


From: Wit's End [mailto:witsendnj@yahoo.com
Sent: 12 December 2012 13:29
To: Williams, Steve
Subject: Re: Storm 2011

Dear Steve,

Thanks for your reply!  I was specifically curious as to whether you have any links to prior incidents of salt damage to foliage.  I have found a few in the US, but they only refer to saline soils, not direct injury to leaves and needles.

I'm trying to understand if this is a common consequence from hurricanes or a relatively new phenomena.

Sincerely,

Gail


From: "Williams, Steve" <Steve.Williams@forestry.gsi.gov.uk>
To: Wit's End <witsendnj@yahoo.com
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 5:00 AM
Subject: RE: Storm 2011

"Not to the knowledge of our tree health expert - he's not seen this before. The 2011 event was severe he said because of the timing rather than wind speed per se - it hit trees shortly after flushing when leaves were at their most vulnerable to salt and dessication."

The first interesting fact is that their tree health expert has not seen this before.  The second is that now, it's being said it's not that it was really all that windy after all - it's because the leaves were so young.  Given that pollution eats away at stone sculptures, it's not too much of a stretch to surmise that leaves are more vulnerable to salt and desiccation.  If I had the facilities would love to do a controlled experiment raining salty water on leaves exposed to ambient ozone, and leaves in purified air, to see if they respond differently.
A report on National Public Radio, about a nurseryman who is trying to propagate old, hopefully more ozone tolerant trees, makes it all crystal clear when he is asked why:

"SIMON: Mr. Milarch, what brought you into this Archangel Ancient Tree Archive?"

"MILARCH: Well, we've been in the shade tree business in northern Michigan for several generations. And 20 years ago, our trees that we were growing for the cities and nurseries started to die and we didn't know why. Well, after a couple of years and a lot of research, we found out it was due in large part to the decline in air quality. So, we were trying to find an answer of trees that could be stronger, hardier, could take the increase in temperature as well as the increase in toxins in the air."

I doubt Mr. Milarch isn't going to have much luck with that, but it's nice that he's trying.
How Reese Halter could write this article in the Huffington Post about trees dying all over the world without once mentioning air pollution is astounding, considering how well documented it has been for years that 1.  the background level of ozone is getting worse and 2.  ozone makes vegetation more vulnerable to pathogens and drought (oh and that I wrote him ages ago).  It's pretty much a rehash of a study published in 2009, but since he goes to the trouble to make a concise list of dying species in many places, emphasizing the important point that trees of ALL ages, ALL species, and ALL locations are threatened, here is part of the article (with all but one of many plugs for his own book removed from the links):

"All forest types are suffering from a lethal combination of at least three factors: insects and diseases associated with elevated temperatures; the drying out of plants; and carbon starvation, that is, water-stressed trees are unable to photosynthesize, or make food. Every decade since 1970 has seen more than a tenth of a degree of additional warming, which has caused less snowfall, declining snowpack water content and longer summer drought periods. Both old and young trees are suffering."

"Forests are dying all over the globe. Extreme droughts in North Africa are killing Atlas cedar from Morocco to Algeria. Heat and drought are battering the high-elevation tropical moist forests in Uganda, mountain acacia in Zimbabwe and centuries-old aloe plants in Namibia. Tropical forests of Malaysia and Borneo have also suffered significant death. Drought has also lambasted the tropical dry forests of northwest and southwest India, fir in South Korea, the junipers of Saudi Arabia, and pine and fir in central Turkey. Extensive areas of forest in southwestern and east-central China have now been recognized as being at a high threat of mortality in the ensuing years. Russia too has identified 187.8 million acres of high-threat southern forests, where drought is severely stressing trees. Australia has seen widespread death in acacia woodlands and eucalypt and Corymbia forests. New Zealand has documented drought-induced death in high-elevation beech forests. Oak, fir, spruce, beech and pines across Western Europe are dying too."
"Rising greenhouse emissions are elevating temperatures and the occurrence of droughts across western North America. In turn, this is fueling the largest native bark beetle epidemic in modern or past times (dating back over 200 million years). Instead of absorbing CO2 about 30 billion mature trees are decaying and adding greenhouse gases to the ever-rising atmospheric pool."

It's frustrating that scientists who once asserted unequivocally that ozone is killing trees seem to inevitably become timid for mysterious reasons.  Even the authors of An Appalachian Tragedy have gone silent (if you don't want to buy a copy, excerpts and pictures are posted at A Cascade of Consequences).  I have been trying to locate the author of an article based on her research about ozone damaging maple trees for over two years, because it is among the most explicitly drawn connections between ozone and tree decline I have found.  Mary Topa was working for the Holden Arboretum when the Cleveland GreenCityBlueLake website published her very blunt analysis.  That link now says "page not found" - but fortunately I copied most of it on a Wit's End post called One Light Frost.

Finally a week ago I was rewarded by my periodic google searches with the information that she is now employed at Georgia ForestWatch.  So I called her, eager to inquire whether, since she wrote that article, she had observed a wider effect impacting species other than maples, and in places other than Ohio and the Northeast.  She didn't seem the least nonplussed to learn that the link to her article had ceased to function.
Here's the title to the lost article:  "Smog may be contributing to the decline of sugar maples, one of Northeast Ohio's iconic trees — and our high-mileage lifestyle is a big cause".

That seems pretty unequivocal to me - as does the title of a 2005 talk listed on her CV - “Sugar maple decline in the northeastern USA:  "A causal link between ozone and whole-tree carbon source-sink relationships”.  When I asked her questions on the phone she first confirmed that she had done research indicating maples are in decline from ozone, but then she quickly started hedging with the exact same responses that I have received so many times from scientists who study ozone, as though it is a script, in such precise order that I can rattle them off without thinking.

First, oh, it's not a global trend because it's probably really just bad in New Jersey where I live (even though her article was about Ohio).  Then she trotted out the totally unsubstantiated oft-repeated wishful claim that maybe higher levels of CO2 will cause plants to close their stomates, thus offsetting the effects of absorbing ozone (even though her article says this deprives the tree of carbon necessary for growth).  Then she said, it's not really a problem because the level of ozone isn't increasing (even though in her article she wrote it is increasing every year).  Then she said she never said ozone is killing trees (which is true - but she said ozone is a causal factor in "decline" and "decline" is just a euphemism for dying).

I asked her why no one is studying ozone's effects on trees anymore and she said that there had already been so many studies - hundreds - that it's not surprising that research money turned to carbon (climate change) in the '90's.  Exactly!  I said.  That's what is so frustrating.  There has been so much research proving that ozone is detrimental to trees, and yet - almost nobody is talking at all about what should be done about it.
At that a long dead silence ensued.  I waited, thinking perhaps she had hung up.  Finally she said in a chilly voice, "Is there anything else you wanted to ask me about?"

So I hastily thanked her for her time and that was the end of the conversation.  Of course, scientists are endlessly cautioned to stay out of policy debates, particularly this one, because to label ozone a plant killer is implicitly an indictment of modern civilization, the military-industrial complex, and the sacrosanct American Way of Life.
Following are the remnants I preserved from her article:

"On average, tropospheric ozone is increasing at 0.5–1 percent per year. However, tropospheric ozone is considered a regional pollutant, and urban areas are major sources of ozone precursors that can travel hundreds or thousands of kilometers."

"The overall effects of ozone in plants are that it damages tissues and accelerates cellular aging in leaves, not unlike what happens when ozone enters our lungs. Ozone enters the leaf through open stomata. Once in the leaf, ozone reacts with water to form highly reactive, oxygen free radicals, damaging membranes and directly inhibiting photosynthesis."


"Plants may close their stomata so that ozone cannot enter the leaf; however, this avoidance mechanism also prevents atmospheric CO2 from entering the leaf and carbon fixation rates decline. Plants that are more tolerant to ozone synthesize antioxidant compounds that scavenge these oxygen free radicals before damage occurs, and often repair tissue if damaged."

"In some tree species that are more tolerant to ozone, there will be no visible sign of foliar injury; however, a reduction in growth often occurs because newly-fixed carbon is reallocated to antioxidant production and injury repair mechanisms."

"Although Acer saccharum (sugar maple) has been considered moderately ozone tolerant, some of my research has shown that ozone not only accelerates visible signs of leaf senescence in sugar maple, but that leaf physiological processes such as photosynthesis start shutting down in August under ozone levels typical of what we find at Holden."
"This significant decline in photosynthesis in mid-to late August reduced the seasonal carbon fixation for some maple trees by as much as 25-30 percent and reduced growth in some plants by as much as 50 percent by the end of a three-year exposure regime."

"Trees are long-lived perennial organisms that have a carbon storage system (similar to a savings account) that they can tap into during times of stress. Ozone is a background stress for many urban-influenced trees, and it is one that negatively impacts a tree’s ability to fix and store carbon. Any reduction in stored carbon can not only reduce growth, but increase a tree’s susceptibility to other stresses such as pest or pathogen invasion."

"Smog is an air pollutant stress that is often overlooked as one of the multiple, interacting causes of sugar maple decline, most likely because, until the last decade, sugar maple was thought to be fairly tolerant to ozone. "
Get ready - the next section is a bit wonky and frankly I don't understand even half of it, but I feel it's important to record because these excerpts are from the leaked IPCC draft report - and who knows how much longer it will be available online, since it isn't due to be released for a couple of years (by which time it will be fatally obsolete, like all the others).  Of course their interest is in climate, so the fact that trees are dying from ozone is only important to the extent that forests won't be absorbing CO2.

"8.3.2.2 CH4
Globally-averaged surface methane concentrations have risen from 722 ± 4 ppb in 1750 to 1803 ppb by 2011 (Section 2.4.1.1.2). Over that timescale the rise has been predominantly due to changes in anthropogenic-related methane."

"Anthropogenic emissions of other compounds have also affected methane concentrations by changing its removal rate (Section 8.2.3.3). Using the formula from Ramaswamy et al. (2001) the RF for methane from 1750 to 2011 is 0.48 W m–2, with an uncertainty of ±10% as assessed in Section 8.3.1."

"This increase of 0.011 W m–2since AR4 is due to the 29 ppb increase in the methane mixing ratio driven by a combination of increase in net natural and anthropogenic emissions and change in oxidising capacity, but the various contributions are not well quantified. Recent trends in methane and their causes are discussed in Sections 2.4.1.1.2 and 6.3.3.1.  In this section only the direct forcing from changing methane concentrations is addressed. Methane emissions can also have indirect effects on climate through impacts on CO2, stratospheric water vapour, ozone, sulphate aerosol, and vegetation (Boucher et al., 2009; Collins et al., 2010; Shindell et al., 2009).  These are covered in Sections 8.3.3, 8.5.1 and 8.7.7."

"8.3.2.3 N2O
Concentrations of nitrous oxide have risen from 270 ppb in 1750 to 324 ppb in 2011, an increase of 5 ppb since 2005 (Section 2.4.1.1.3). N2O now has the third largest forcing of the anthropogenic gases, at 0.17 W m–2.  Only the direct RF from changing nitrous oxide concentrations is included, and indirect effects of N2O emissions on stratospheric ozone are not taken into account here."
"8.7.2.2.2 Carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic carbons (VOC)
Emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic carbons (VOC) lead to production of ozone on short timescales. By affecting OH and thereby the levels of methane they also initiate a long-term O3 effect. With its lifetime of 2–3 months, the effect of CO emissions is less dependent on location than what is the case of NOX (see Table 8.A.4). There is also less variation across models; i.e., 25–30%. However, Collins et al. (2010) found that inclusion of vegetation effects of O3 increased the GTP values for CO by 20–50%."

"Chapter 8-64
Measures to lower surface ozone—through controls on precursor emissions, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, methane or volatile organic compounds—similarly have a cooling impact, the extent of which depends on how much those measures control ozone in the mid to upper troposphere. The consequences of changes in sector-specific emissions—from the transportation sector, for instance—can become quite complicated, because of the complex atmospheric chemistry couplings between species within the targeted sector. Nitrogen oxide emission controls, for example, should have a cooling effect because they reduce tropospheric ozone, but their impact on methane lifetime and aerosol formation is more likely instead to cause overall warming. Or smoke from biofuel combustion contains a mixture of both absorbing and scattering particles as well as ozone precursors."

"There is an important twist, too, in the potential effect of climate change on air quality. Though not fully understood, an observed positive correlation between surface ozone pollution and temperature indicates that higher temperatures could worsen that pollution, a phenomenon known as a climate penalty. Models indicate  that this impact could, in some regions, outstrip measures to improve air quality. This climate penalty will be regionally variable, and is difficult to assess, but better understanding, quantification and modelling of these processes will clarify the role of pollutant emissions on climate."

As long as we're being wonky here is a provocative paper, "How vegetation impacts affect climate metrics for ozone precursors".  Science seems to be accepting the notion that vegetation is being damaged to an extent that it will affect climate, a concept that has landed me in considerable trouble.  The abstract says:

"We examine the effect of ozone damage to vegetation as caused by anthropogenic emissions of ozone precursor species and quantify it in terms of its impact on terrestrial carbon stores. A simple climate model is then used to assess the expected changes in global surface temperature from the resulting perturbations to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. The concept of global temperature change potential (GTP) metric, which relates the global average surface temperature change induced by the pulse emission of a species to that induced by a unit mass of carbon dioxide, is used to characterize the impact of changes in emissions of ozone precursors on surface temperature as a function of time."
"For NOx emissions, the longer-timescale methane perturbation is of the opposite sign to the perturbations in ozone and carbon dioxide, so NOx emissions are warming in the short term, but cooling in the long term. For volatile organic compound (VOC), CO, and methane emissions, all the terms are warming for an increase in emissions. The GTPs for the 20 year time horizon are strong functions of emission location, with a large component of the variability owing to the different vegetation responses on different continents. At this time horizon, the induced change in the carbon cycle is the largest single contributor to the GTP metric for NOx and VOC emissions. For NOx emissions, we estimate a GTP20 of −9 (cooling) to +24 (warming) depending on assumptions of the sensitivity of vegetation types to ozone damage."
This brings me at long last to the widely circulated report in Nature magazine that got everybody's knickers into an agitated bunch, about old trees dying.  I wrote to the three co-authors as soon as it was released, and they kindly provided me with pdf's not just of that but a couple of related papers.  None of them adequately explained (to my mind) why they left out the fact that younger trees are dying just as fast as older trees.  Well, I suppose that's because their interest lies in highlighting the importance of old trees for carbon sequestration and biodiversity.
However what they really succeeded in accomplishing is to place big old trees in the "cute but endangered" category of exotic creatures like polar bears that nobody cares about.  If they had the courage to report that ALL trees are dying from air pollution, it would be more difficult to dismiss.  But then that way lies panic.  They even make the comparison to endangered species themselves as reported in one article of many about the study:

"'The alarming decline in old trees in so many types of forest appears to be driven by a combination of forces, including land clearing, agricultural practices, man-made changes in fire regimes, logging and timber gathering, insect attack and rapid climatic changes,' says Prof. Jerry Franklin."

"'For example, populations of large old pines in the dry forests of western North America declined dramatically over the last century because of selective logging, uncharacteristically severe wildfires, and other causes,' he adds."

"'It is a very, very disturbing trend. We are talking about the loss of the biggest living organisms on the planet, of the largest flowering plants on the planet, of organisms that play a key role in regulating and enriching our world,' says Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University."
Baobab trees, like this giant in Tanzania, are under threat from land clearing, droughts, fungal pathogens, and overharvesting of their bark for matweaving by local villagers. (Credit: Photo by Bill Laurance)
"The researchers liken the global loss of big trees to the tragedy that has already befallen the world’s largest mammals, such as elephants, rhinos, tigers and whales, cautioning that almost nowhere do conservation programs have the time-frames lasting centuries, which are needed to assure the survival of old trees."

"'Just as large-bodied animals such as elephants, tigers and cetaceans have declined drastically in many parts of the world, a growing body of evidence suggests that large old trees could be equally imperiled,' they warn."

"Prof. Lindenmayer says they were first tipped off to the loss of big old trees while examining Swedish forestry records going back to the 1860s. Then a 30-year study of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forest in Australia confirmed not only that big old trees were dying en masse in forest fires, but also perishing at ten times the normal rate in non-fire years -- apparently due to drought, high temperatures, logging and other causes."

"Looking round the world, the scientists found similar trends at all latitudes, in California's Yosemite National Park, on the African savannahs, in the rainforests of Brazil, the temperate forests of Europe and the boreal forests of the far north. Losses of large trees were also pronounced in agricultural landscapes and even cities, where people make efforts to preserve them."

Wait wait!  There are "Pronounced losses of large trees" - even where people make efforts to preserve them?  Well, that's not wildfire, or logging, for sure!  What is the explanation for that?  Oh - insects maybe, or drought or rain.

Here are links to the original study and two other related papers:

Global Decline in Large Old Trees published in the Journal Science (338, 1305 - 21012) by David B. Lindenmayer et al

Interacting Factors Driving a Major Loss of Large Trees With Cavities in a Forest Ecosystem, David B. Lindenmayer et al published in PLOSOne



How the Mighty are Fallen, by William F. Laurance, published in New Scientist, had the above graph, which makes the oak look puny and measly.  He winds up with this warning:

“Big trees are adapted for stability and longevity.  For long-lived species, demographic models sugget that even a small but persistent increase in adult mortality can seriously erode their population.  Whether hit by subtle afflictions or the ecological equivalent of a sledgehammer blow, big trees seem to be suffering almost everywhere.”

“The decline of big trees foretells a different world where ancient behemoths are replaced by short-lived pioneers and generalists that can grow anywhere, where forests store less carbon and sustain fewer dependent animals, and where giant cathedral-like crowns become a thing of the past”.

But why he includes this quote:


"Long-term studies in Africa, Central America and the Amazon have shown many large trees succumbing to severe droughts.  Many ecologists are surprised at just how devastating droughts can be for big trees.  'Old trees must have survived numerous droughts over the centuries, but more recent, harsh droughts are killing lots of them,' says Richard Condit of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama."

...without mentioning that ozone makes vegetation more susceptible to drought, I can't explain since I wrote him almost a year ago and he answered:

From: "Laurance, Bill" <bill.laurance@jcu.edu.au>
To: Wit's End <witsendnj@yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 9:00 PM
Subject: RE: New Scientist article about ancient trees

Dear Gail,

Thanks for your message.  That’s a very good point to make—I only wish it had occurred to me when I wrote the article.  The fact that sulfur dioxide pollution has generally declined in places like the eastern US and Europe made me think air pollution impacts on trees had waned somewhat.  But on reflection I think you are quite right, as there are many other pollutants (e.g. ozone) out there that might predispose trees to opportunistic pathogens or pests.

I’m hoping my article will begin to sensitize people to be more aware of the potential dangers for trees, especially the big, long-lived ones.

All best, Bill

After that you can imagine my disgust when I read his latest article that created such a stir, not to mention, that fatuous comment by the scientist at the Smithsonian Research Institute who is "surprised" that trees have survived droughts in the past but no longer do - but then, we already knew about Smithsonian leanings, didn't we?
National Geographic magazine features giant this giant Sequoia tree in their current issue.  Here's an interesting morsel from the article.

"Among the striking discoveries made by Sillett’s team is that even the rate of growth of a big tree, not just its height or total volume, can increase during old age. An elderly monster like the President actually lays down more new wood per year than a robust young tree. It puts that wood around the trunk, which grows wider, and into the limbs and the branches, which grow thicker."
"This finding contradicts a long-held premise in forest ecology—that wood production decreases during the old age of a tree. That premise, which has justified countless management decisions in favor of short-rotation forestry, may hold true for some kinds of trees in some places, but not for giant sequoias (or other tall species, including coast redwoods). Sillett and his team have disproved it by doing something that earlier forest ecologists didn’t: climbing the big trees—climbing all over them—and measuring them inch by inch."

These are just a sampling of the many diverse species that make their home in the sequoia ecosystem.  If you go to the interactive gallery you can click on each one for more detailed information.

The video is beautiful but it's also worth a quick click here to see the composite portrait.

 

Meanwhile, the UK foresters relentlessly pursue the source of rampant ash dieback.  Following is the transcript of a BBC radio program, which is fascinating on all sorts of levels, if you suspect, as I do, that fungus is taking over the world.  I'll insert some comments in red:
Ash trees dying in Poland

"An increasing body of evidence suggests that ash dieback - the disease which has killed trees across Europe and is now in Britain - originated in Japan."

"Some scientists say the fungus now ravaging trees across Europe is the same as a native species from Japan."

"However, the Asian version of the fungus seems to cause no harm to the local Manchurian ash trees there.  Researchers speaking to the Radio 4 programme The Tree Scientists described the misidentification of the fungus."

Recent figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that there are almost 300 confirmed cases of ash dieback in Britain.

"The fungus has spread across Europe over 20 years, threatening many of the continent's ash trees - and was first seen in nurseries in Britain in spring 2012."

"The symptoms of ash dieback were first seen in Lithuania and Poland 20 years ago.  But it was not until 2006 that scientists identified that it was a fungus killing so many ash trees.  Prof Adam Hart, who presents The Tree Scientists, travelled to Poland to find out how scientists discovered what was happening."

"Forest-felling fungus
Wloszczowa is a small town north of the mediaeval city of Krakow. It was here that forest rangers realised that the death of their ash trees was not being caused by frost damage, as had been previously assumed."
Frost damage?  This just goes to show that foresters grasp at the most proximate explanations without thinking very hard.
"Artur Ratusznik, district forest manager for the region of Wloszczowa, decided to send samples to his former professor, Tadeusz Kowalski at the Agricultural University of Krakow, to see if he could identify what was killing the Ash trees."

"I't all started when I was given affected samples from the nurseries in Wloszczowa,' Prof Kowalski said."

"'We could see the same symptoms in all the samples - there was a light centre at the site of infection, which is often where the branch grows out from the stem, then this was surrounded by a darker band - that's the plants defence fighting the infection. I managed to grow the fungus that was causing this infection in a Petri dish.'"
"Prof Kowalski named the new fungal species Chalara fraxinea - but as the disease spread across the continent, he realised that something was not quite right."

"'I couldn't quite put my finger on it; I couldn't see the whole picture,' he said."
He still can't see the whole picture!
"'I realised that Chalara fraxinea was just one stage in the life cycle of this fungus and that we were missing the other parts of this life cycle. So I decided to look more closely, and after searching and searching the forest floor near infected ash trees, I found something.'"

"'But our initial identification of this new sample was wrong - this fungus was incredibly similar to an already commonly found fungus in Europe. But it couldn't be that one, so we had to look again - and eventually we got it.'"

"Japanese origins
There is now more and more data emerging to show that Chalara fraxinea is not a European native species and could have come from Asia - including a recent paper in the journal Mycotaxon."

"'Joan Webber, principal pathologist at the Forestry Commission, told the programme: 'Scientists working together in Japan and Germany have been looking at a fungus associated with native ash trees in Japan. And what they've found is that this fungus appears to be the same one causing ash dieback in Europe and now in Britain.'"

"So it seems that Chalara fraxinea originated in Japan or Korea, where it co-exists with native ash trees and does not appear to damage them.  Somehow the fungus has moved into Europe and as European native ash trees have not evolved with it, they are not resistant to its effects - and are dying in huge numbers."
"Prof Kowalski agrees. He says the fungus is too deadly to have evolved in Europe.  'My colleagues and I have come to the conclusion that this fungus cannot be native - it's just far too aggressive,' he said."

"'Currently when it infects a nursery for instance, it kills all of the saplings, by killing its host it ultimately leads to its own demise and itself dies out. A successful fungus co-exists with its host tree, so they will both survive.'"

Exactly.  Fungus isn't meant to kill its host.  The host is already dying!!  That is why trees are being consumed by fungus and emitting methane.

"...when it infects a nursery for instance, it kills all of the saplings."  Didn't I just say that young trees are dying just as fast as old trees?  A handy list of pathogens in the UK is here.

If you made it this far, you've gotten to the best part of this post which, contrary to all expectations, originates at the US Environmental Prostitution Protection Agency!
Individual monitor 8-h daily max O3 design values displayed for the 2008-2010 period (U.S. EPA, 2012, Figure 3-52A)
To its credit the EPA is still laboring to produce a report that will support stricter ozone standards (even though the politicians will never allow them to be enacted).  The "Welfare Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone - First External Review Draft" refers to effects on the ecosystem (as opposed to human health).  Note that in the map of monitors above, as of 2010, every single one was at or above 40 ppb, the threshhold above which vegetation is damaged.  The draft report was circulated last summer and comments from the Science Advisory Board were posted last month.
Following is a selection of excerpts (the report is huge) interspersed with some pretty incredible maps, indicating their calculations of "Relative Biomass Loss" due to ambient ozone, as compared to (hypothetical) reduced levels.  You might think I should offer kudos to our intrepid government regulators but I had a sleepless night last night, thinking about those maps and what to write about them, and in the wee hours I had an epiphany as to why.  "RBL" is a lunatic prevarication.  Probably, somebody at the EPA had more sleepless nights than I, trying to perfect just the right description for tree death without actually mentioning mortality.  I cannot believe it is an accident that "Relative Biomass Loss" can only be interpreted as actual dieback of vegetation, not simply a slower rate of growth.  It's similar to my other favorite phrase - loss of biodiversity.  That can occur from destruction of habitat, but in the instance of a changing climate it really means that some species are going extinct to be replaced, presumably, by others more hardy or aggressive.  That would be the best case - mud or desert are more likely.

As far as I can tell the reduction in biomass refers exclusively to direct physiological damage from absorbing ozone because subsequent biotic attacks from pathogens would be just about impossible to model.  I can only find one reference to the MUCH WORSE knock-off effects due to ozone -induced attacks from insects...let alone disease or fungus.  I expect the real-world impacts will be worse than depicted also, because these calculations were based on ozone levels from 2006 to 2008, which is just the very beginning of when trees started dying at a extremely rapidly accelerating rate.  And the report makes clear the damage is cumulative.  Like the IPCC, the regulators at EPA are working with old science that is based on even older data.  The exponential rate of ecosystem decline renders their conclusions almost, if not totally, irrelevant.

There are many more maps like this first one, a composite of reduced biomass for all species in various wilderness areas.  This particular one is not unusual in that EVERY section has at least some reduced biomass.
The introduction to these maps reads:

"This appendix presents the maps and analyses for the 11 individual tree species analyzed
for relative biomass loss (RBL) in Chapter 5 of this report.  Maps of RBL are presented for each 
species under recent ambient conditions using the 3-month, 12-hr W126 averaged from 2006 to 
2008 and an exposure scenario of just meeting the current 8-hr secondary standard. Additional 
maps are included for eastern species showing the Importance Values (IV) and scaled-RBL for 
ambient and current standard O3 exposure scenarios. The results of the linear model analyses are 
included for each species. This includes the test statistics (p-values) for significant differences 
from zero and goodness of fit metrics, however it is important to note that because the linear 
model was forced through the origin, the r-squared values cannot be interpreted in the standard 
manner, however, they may still provide useful information about overall fit."

The captions for each species reads:  "Relative Biomass Loss for [insert species here] under ambient O3 conditions...Relative biomass loss is a measure of the proportional loss in biomass relative to biomass that would occur in the absence of exposure to ambient ozone."

  
The document reiterates from the earlier Integrated Scientific Assessment:

The ISA has determined that the evidence supports a causal relationship between exposure to O3 and visible foliar injury, reduced vegetation growth, reduced agricultural yield, and alteration of below ground biogeochemical cycles, and a likely causal relationship exposure to O3 and reduced carbon sequestration, alteration of terrestrial water cycling, and alteration of terrestrial community composition. 

Here's comes our chemistry lesson for the day - from section 2.1 O3 CHEMISTRY:

"O3 occurs naturally in the stratosphere where it provides protection against harmful solar 
ultraviolet radiation, and it is formed closer to the surface in the troposphere by both natural and 
anthropogenic sources. O3 is not emitted directly into the air, but is created when its two primary 
precursors, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx), combine in the 
presence of sunlight. VOC and NOx are, for the most part, emitted directly into the atmosphere. 
Carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4) are also important for O3 formation."

"Rather than varying directly with emissions of its precursors, O3 changes in a nonlinear fashion with the concentrations of its precursors. NOx emissions lead to both the formation and 
destruction of O3, depending on the local quantities of NOx, VOC, and radicals such as the 
hydroxyl (OH) and hydro-peroxy (HO2) radicals. In areas dominated by fresh emissions of NOx, these radicals are removed via the production of nitric acid (HNO3), which lowers the O3
formation rate. In addition, the scavenging of O3 by reaction with NO is called “titration,” and is often found in downtown metropolitan areas, especially near busy streets and roads, and in 
power plant plumes. This titration results in local valleys in which ozone concentrations are low 
compared to surrounding areas. Titration is usually short-lived confined to areas close to strong 
NOx sources, and the  NO2 formed this way leads to O3 formation later and further downwind."
 
"Consequently, ozone response to reductions in NOx emissions is complex and may include ozone 
decreases at some times and locations and increases of ozone to fill in the local valleys of low 
ozone. In areas with low NOx concentrations, such as those found in remote continental areas to 
rural and suburban areas downwind of urban centers, the net production of O3 typically varies 
directly with NOx concentrations, and increases with increasing NOx emissions."

"In general, the rate of O3 production is limited by either the concentration of VOCs or NOx, and O3 formation using these two precursors relies on the relative sources of OH and NOx.  When OH radicals are abundant and are not depleted by reaction with NOx and/or other species, O3 production is referred to as being “NOx-limited”. In this situation, O3 concentrations are most effectively reduced by lowering NOx emissions, rather than lowering emissions of VOCs. When the abundance of OH and other radicals is limited either through low production or reactions with NOx and other species, O3 production is sometimes called “VOC-limited” or “radical limted” or “NOx-saturated”, and O3 is most effectively reduced by lowering VOCs. However, even in NOx-saturated conditions, very large decreases in NOx emissions can cause the ozone formation regime to become NOx limited."

"Consequently, reductions in NOx emissions (when large) can make further emissions reductions 
more effective at reducing ozone. Between the NOx-limited and NOx-saturated extremes there is 
a transitional region where O3 is relatively insensitive to marginal changes in both NOx and VOCs."

"In rural areas and downwind of urban areas, O3 production is generally NOx-limited. This is particularly true in rural areas such as national parks, national forests, and state parks where VOC emissions from vegetation are high and anthropogenic NOx emissions are relatively low.  Due to lower chemical scavenging in non-urban areas, O3 tends to persist longer in rural than in 
30 urban areas and tends to lead to higher cumulative exposures in rural areas than in urban areas."
Hopefully it's now clear how very confusing the production and persistence of ozone can be.

Section 3.1.2 is titled, Assessment of Risks to Vegetation

"The risk assessments in the last review reflected the availability of several additional lines of evidence that provided a basis for a more complete and coherent picture of the scope of O3-related vegetation risks, especially those faced by seedling, sapling and mature tree species 
growing in field settings, and indirectly, forested ecosystems.  Specifically, new research available at the time reflected an increased emphasis on field-based exposure methods (e.g., free air exposure and ambient gradient), improved field survey biomonitoring techniques, and 3-5 mechanistic tree process models.  Highlights from the analyses that addressed visible foliar injury, seedling and mature tree biomass loss, and effects on crops are summarized below."
"With respect to risk of mature tree growth reductions, a tree growth model (TREGRO) was used to evaluate the effect of changing O3 air quality scenarios from just meeting alternative O3 standards on the growth of mature trees."
                                                          
"The model was run for a single western species (ponderosa pine) and two eastern species (red maple and tulip poplar).  Staff Paper analyses found that just meeting the then current standard would likely continue to allow O3-related reductions in annual net biomass gain in these species.  Though there was uncertainty associated with the above analyses, it was important to note that recent evidence from experimental studies that go beyond the seedling growth stage continued to show decreased growth under elevated O3 (King et al., 2005); some mature trees such as red oak have shown an even greater sensitivity of photosynthesis to O3 than seedlings of the same species (Hanson et al., 1994); and the potential for cumulative “carry over” effects as well as compounding should be considered (Andersen, et al, 1997)."

"TREGRO is a process-based, individual tree growth simulation model (Weinstein et al, 1991) that is linked with concurrent climate data to account for O3 and climate/meteorology interactions on tree growth.  TREGRO has been used to evaluate the effects of a variety of O3 scenarios on several species of trees in different regions of the U.S. (Tingey et al., 2001; Weinstein et al., 1991; Retzlaff et al., 2000; Laurence et al., 1993; Laurence et al., 2001; Weinstein et al., 2005)..."
3.2 OVERVIEW OF CURRENT ASSESSMENT PLAN

"Since the 2008 review, new scientific information on the direct and indirect effects of O3 on vegetation and ecosystems, respectively, has become available.  With respect to mature trees and forests, the information regarding O3 impacts to forest ecosystems has continued to expand, including limited new evidence that implicates O3 as an indirect contributor to decreases in stream flow through direct impacts on whole tree level water use.  Newly published results from the Long-term FACE (Free Air CO2 enrichment) studies provide additional evidence regarding 
chronic O3 exposures in closed forest canopy scenarios including interspecies interactions such as decreased growth of branches and root mass in sensitive species."

"Also, lichen and moss communities on trees monitored in FACE sites have been shown to undergo species shifts when exposed to O3.  In addition, recent available data from annual field surveys conducted by the USFS to assess foliar damage to selected tree species is available.  In light of this new scientific information, we are including additional analyses, such as combining the USFS data with recent air quality data to determine the incidence of visible O3 damage occurring across the U.S. at air quality levels that meet or are below the current standard.  Some of these analyses are not included in this first draft REA, but will be included in the second draft REA.  To the extent warranted, based on new information regarding O3 effects on forest trees, both qualitative and quantitative assessments are included in an effort to place both the estimates of risk from more recent long-term studies and historic shorter-term studies in the context of ecosystem services."

[Note:  "Species shifts" is another euphemism for the die-off of some species.]
"Additional information relevant to vegetation risk assessments available includes that regarding the interactions between elevated O3  and CO2 with respect to plant growth and how these interactions might be expected to be modified under different climatic conditions, and potential reactions of O3 with chemicals released by plants to attract pollinators that could decrease the distance the floral “scent trail” travels and potentially change the distance pollinators have to travel to find flowers."

"The REA also provides an assessment of impacts occurring in designated habitat for threatened or endangered species."

"To the extent warranted, qualitative and/or quantitative assessments of ecosystem services impacted by O3 are considered to inform the current review.  For example, the ecosystem services evaluation in this review includes tree biomass and crop analyses, and where possible includes impacts on ecosystem services such as impacts on biodiversity, biological community composition, health of forest ecosystems, aesthetic values of trees and plants and the nutritive quality of forage crops.  Carbon sequestration is another important ecosystem service (regulating) that may be affected by O3 damage to vegetation.  New preliminary evidence of O3 effects on the ability of pollinators to find their target is also of special interest with respect to the possible implication for ecosystem services.  Impairment of the ability of pollinators to locate flowers could have broad implications for agriculture, horticulture and forestry."

"We are using the Forest and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model Greenhouse Gas version (FASOM) to assess the economic impacts of O3 damage to forests, taking into account the tradeoffs between land use for forestry and agricultural.  FASOM is a dynamic, non-linear programming model designed for use by the EPA to evaluate welfare benefits and market effects of carbon sequestration in trees, understory, forest floor, wood products and landfills that would occur under different agricultural and forestry scenarios.  We use FASOM to model damage by O3 to the agriculture and forestry sectors and quantify how O3-exposed vegetation affects the ecosystem service of carbon sequestration."
6.4 DISCUSSION 

"O3 damage to vegetation and ecosystems causes widespread impacts on an array of ecosystem services.  Biomass loss impacts numerous services including supporting and regulating services such as net primary productivity, community composition, habitat, and climate regulation. Provisioning services are also affected by biomass loss including timber production, agriculture, and non-timber forest products.  Cultural services such as non-use values, aesthetic services, and recreation are all affected by the damage to scenic beauty caused by foliar injury due to O3 exposure. It is possible for several aspects of O3 effects to interact to contribute to an impact on ecosystem services. For example biomass loss directly impacts timber provision but other contributing effects include increased susceptibility to drought and insect attack. "

"Many of these services are very difficult to quantify and even more difficult to assign a quantified impact of O3 exposure.  For instance we were not able to quantify changes to community composition due to O3 or even identify the current level of service provided.  Some services, such as recreation, lend themselves to evaluation of total participation and measures of total value but assessing the impact of O3 effects on these services is not possible at this time.  A very few services, such as timber provision, are amenable to quantification and monetization of the actual incremental effects of O3 exposure."

"For the supporting services identified as potentially affected by O3 exposure we were not able to quantify the impacts for community composition.  [However, for net primary productivity we may have quantified results from PnET model runs for the second draft of this document.]"

"The regulating services identified as potentially affected by O3 exposure include climate, water, pollination, and fire regulation."

Uh huh.  Wasn't I just saying something about wildfires?  A quick segue to a map from NASA:


Records maintained by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and NASA both indicate that 2012 was an extraordinary year for wildfires in the United States.
NIFC statistics show that more than 9.1 million acres had burned as of November 30, 2012—the third highest total in a record that dates back to 1960. Also notable: despite the high number of acres burned in 2012, the total number of fires—55,505—was low, the least on the NIFC record. Average fire size in 2012 was the highest on the record.
Okay, back to EPA:

"We will have quantified impacts of O3 on carbon sequestration in the form of results of model runs from FASOMGHG, national scale, and iTree 6-54 for the urban case studies for the 2nd draft.  For the 2nd draft we are considering using the PnET  model to assess water cycle regulation effects.  Pollination and fire effects remain unquantified however we do have measures of total values of these services."
7.1 SUMMARY OF KEY RESULTS OF BIOMASS LOSS RISK ASSESSMENT

"The first draft biomass loss risk assessment included two spatial scales of analysis including a national scale analysis and several case studies focused on national parks containing O3 sensitive vegetation.  The biomass loss risk assessment focused on relative biomass loss for 11 tree species for which concentration-response (C-R) functions are available.  Relative biomass loss is measured as the proportion of biomass lost relative to biomass if ozone concentrations were zero.  The assessment of individual tree species gives an estimate of the potential relative biomass loss, calculated across the established species ranges. A second analysis incorporated the abundance of those tree species in different ecosystems to assess the overall ecosystem level effects of the relative biomass loss.  In addition, the biomass loss risk assessment evaluated risks occurring in several important subareas, including federally designated Class I areas, and federally designated critical habit areas for threatened and endangered species.  The analysis provides estimates of the percent biomass loss associated with recent (2006-2008) O3 concentrations, and the proportion of the O3-related biomass loss that would remain after just meeting the current secondary O3 standard."
"Key results include:

 Relative biomass loss associated with recent O3 concentrations varies substantially between species and across the ranges for individual species, reflecting differences in sensitivity to O3 and differences in O3 concentrations across the ranges of the tree species.

 Across species, the estimated potential O3-related biomass loss associated with recent O3 concentrations ranged from 0.1 percent for Douglas fir to almost 100 percent for Eastern Cottonwood.  The estimated median potential O3-related biomass loss for individual species ranged from 0 percent for Douglas fir to 56 percent for Eastern Cottonwood.

 The C-R function for some species (e.g. sugar maple) demonstrates a very rapid change in biomass loss over a small range of O3 concentrations, 30 to 35 ppm for sugar maple, that behaves similar to a threshold.

 After simulating just meeting the current secondary O3 standard, the estimated potential O3-related biomass loss for individual tree species was on average 70 percent of the estimated potential biomass loss at recent O3 levels, with a range between 8 and 89 percent.
 In eastern U.S. federal Class I areas, simulating just meeting the current O3 standard resulted, on average, in a 5 percent reduction of the estimated potential O3-related abundance-weighted biomass loss relative to estimates at recent ambient O3 exposure levels. When areas with recent ambient O3 levels lower than a W126 of 10 ppm are excluded, this reduction was on average approximately 20 percent.

 In eastern U.S. federally designated critical habitat areas, simulating just meeting the current O3 standard resulted on average in approximately a 10 percent reduction of the estimated potential O3-related abundance-weighted biomass loss relative to estimates at recent ambient O3 exposure levels. When areas with recent ambient O3 levels lower than a W126 of 10 ppm are excluded, this reduction was approximately 25 percent.
 In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park case study area, simulating just meeting the current O3 standard resulted in a 51 percent reduction of the estimated potential O3-related abundance-weighted biomass loss relative to estimates at  ambient O3 exposure levels, with weighted biomass loss estimates reduced from as high as 16.5 percent to a maximum of 7.9 percent."
7.2 SUMMARY OF KEY RESULTS OF FOLIAR INJURY RISK ASSESSMENT

"The first draft foliar injury risk assessment included two spatial scales of analysis including a national scale analysis and several case studies focused on national parks containing O3 sensitive vegetation.  The foliar injury risk assessment focused on recent ambient O3 exposure. Two general assessments of foliar damage are included in this first draft: 1) maps of the abundance of tree species sensitive to foliar damage from O3 exposure, and 2) foliar injury risk index values for 37 national parks based on the frequency of exceedance of O3 exposure benchmarks using different O3 exposure metrics (i.e., SUM06, W126, and N100), soil moisture, and the existence of O3-sensitive species within each park."

7.4 OBSERVATIONS 

"Looking across the biomass loss, foliar injury, and ecosystem service risk analyses, there are a number of observations that can provide insight into the nature and patterns of risk.  The results suggest that due to the importance of O3 sensitive species of trees in Eastern forest ecosystems, the potential relative biomass loss associated with recent O3 concentrations is high, with median values for the most sensitive species, eastern cottonwood, as high as 56%.  The damages to forest ecosystems due to reductions in biomass loss for sensitive species include commercial losses, but may also include losses to recreational users and to subsistence populations."

"…Some species, such as Douglas fir, show little response at lower concentrations, but can have 
substantial response at higher O3 exposure levels (W126 > 50 to 60 ppm for Douglas fir).  Other 
species, such as sugar maple, show a distinct threshold at lower concentrations of O3, 30 to 35 ppm, but once the threshold is exceeded show rapid response over a very narrow range of O3 concentrations.  These differences in response functions have a direct impact on the change in biomass loss that is estimated to occur after simulating just meeting the current primary O3 standard."
I know it's boring, but it's worth including some of the comments from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Board, if only because it give a good sense of the wrangling the ensues when EPA writes any sort of document.  There's a lot at stake.  The following are from the the Letter from CASAC dated November 19, 2012:

"The current scope of the WREA can be covered more succinctly but should be expanded to include much more attention to crop yield losses. More attention needs to be given to: (1) effects of ozone on competition among ozone sensitive species and less sensitive species in mixed-species stands; (2) scaling from tree seedlings to mature trees; (3) assessing impacts for individual sensitive species; and (4) assessing impacts for regions with different degrees of ozone exposure, in additional to overall national assessments...."

"Crop yield loss needs greater attention. As summarized in the Integrated Science Assessment for Ozone and Related Photochemical Oxidants, there is very strong scientific evidence that ambient ozone exposure in many locations and years is causing yield loss of sensitive annual and perennial crops."

"Production of food, feed and fiber is an important provisioning service whose impairment presents clear evidence of an adverse welfare impact. Effects on economically important, ozone-sensitive crops such as soybean, cotton and others, should be analyzed at the same level of detail as are individual tree species in the current draft. This should include projection of crop yield loss estimates for individual crops in specific production areas under current and alternative projected ozone scenarios. Reduced yields on a regional basis could constitute an adverse welfare effect for affected growers, while reduced yields in the United States would decrease global competitiveness of U.S. agriculture relative to farmers in production areas subject to lower ozone concentrations"

"...The order of presentation is important: a progression from foliar injury risks, to biomass loss, and then ecosystem risks moves logically up an organizational scale from the best characterized risks with the largest datasets to the least characterized risks with highly complex interactions, fewer datasets, and qualitative risk factors."
Another letter to EPA from the CASAC, dated Nov. 26 2012:

"The consideration of welfare impacts is not appropriately balanced. There is abundant scientific evidence regarding ozone impacts on crop species. This information is poorly represented in the PA. There should be more consideration of these substantial impacts, unless an adequate rationale can be provided to discount the scientific evidence. The discussions and conclusions on biologically relevant exposure metrics are clear and compelling and the focus on the W126 form is appropriate."

"The discussion of ecosystem services should be enhanced with analysis and conclusions based upon more quantitative and semi-quantitative analyses. A rigorous discussion of ecosystem services will enhance the impact of the PA and will lay out an effective pathway for future analyses. Effects of ozone on the yield of sensitive crop species on a regional basis should be included using quantitative risk analyses, as discussed in the CASAC’s review of the WREA."
"In the draft PA, the EPA concludes that the current secondary standard is inadequate to protect vegetation and ecosystems. Although the conclusion is warranted, the foundation for the conclusion is too narrow because the analysis focuses on just Class I areas and on trees. Effects on sensitive crops, trees in regions outside of Class I areas, and additional ecosystem impacts should be included as major foci to assure that adverse welfare effects are fully considered".

"...Averaging across years is not recommended because a single high exposure year could have lasting effects because of the perennial nature of many plants and the lag times associated with propagating effects through ecosystem trophic levels. Averaging would obscure such critical impacts and lead to inadequate protection against welfare effects".

"...Greater emphasis should be placed on analyzing yield losses for a number of crops, especially those known to be sensitive to ozone and that are widely planted across the United States, such as soybean. The CASAC is unaware of robust scientific evidence that management practices eliminate adverse effects due to ozone. Furthermore, the CASAC does not concur with how the Forest and Agriculture Sector Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gases is currently applied to assess economic impacts."

"The CASAC is unaware of robust scientific evidence that management practices eliminate adverse effects due to ozone."

I think they are saying that protecting crops from ozone is a fantasy.
I feel compelled to include yet one more letter to EPA which is even more tedious, but it provides insight into the turgid world of recalcitrant industry pimps and their indefatigable efforts, in the guise of independent research, to delay regulation.  And besides I hate these bastards (like the notorious Harvey Keitel role in "The Cleaner").  They play a noxious game that became familiar in the battle over restricting advertising and access to tobacco and has extended to all sorts of practices, pollutants, food additives, and climate change.  This particular letter is from a veterinarian, who has made a career of blocking efforts to limit the ability of corporations to foul the commons.  Like so many biostitutes, Roger O. McClellan has his own bogus "consulting service" that doesn't even have a website, but is set up so he can receive fees from the worst rogue polluters for pushing their agenda within the government.  What's really scary and revolting is that much of the time he has been working within the EPA as an advisor, when really, he is a corporate hack.  How can he not have a conflict of interest?
A key quote:  "A premature decision that the current NAAQS is inadequate based on incomplete science would be arbitrary and capricious."

In other words, MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED in order to determine that current standards are not sufficiently protective.  Follow the logic:

"Each of the current documents is deficient in recognizing that the NAAQS for ozone is only one of the criteria pollutants for which NAAQS must be set.  The others are Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Lead (Pb). With the exception of Pb, whose effects are quite specific, all of the other criteria air pollutants in combination at sufficiently high concentrations of varied composition impact on human health increasing the risk for various indices of morbidity and mortality."

In other words, you can't regulate ozone until you determine the synergistic effects and chemical interactions with all the other pollutants - a task which is, of course, impossible and also unnecessary.  It's already well-known that ozone is poisonous, and there is too much of it.
"The inter-relationships between the various criteria pollutants in causing disease over and above disease caused by other factors are complex and not fully understood.  For example, NO2 has a role in both the formation and degradation of O3 through complex, non-linear chemical reactions.  Volatile organic hydrocarbons, not regulated as criteria pollutants, are precursors for the formation of O3 and give rise to secondary organic aerosols that are also measured as PM."

"Both NO2 and SO2 as gases are precursors to constituents of PM.  These complex relationships are not adequately described in the current documents.  This information is important to the Administrator’s policy decisions on the Ozone NAAQS.  It is important that any policy decisions on the Ozone NAAQS take into account impacts that will be associated with attainment of the current O3 NAAQS and the currently established NAAQS for PM, NO2, SO2 and CO."

"The current ISA, with the HREA and the present very rough draft PA, place excess emphasis on the results of epidemiological studies using single pollutant models.  The present documents note the importance of multi-pollutant models for investigating the hazards of Ozone and the development of ambient concentrations – response coefficients for individual pollutants, including ozone.  Nonetheless, excess reliance is given to the results obtained using single pollutant with an attendant failure to relate the high degree of uncertainty in the results obtained with single pollutant models."

"In particular, one area that needs improved discussion is the complex nature of the chemistry associated with ozone formation and degradation, especially at lower concentrations, including background levels across the United States.  This issue relates back to the issue I raised earlier concerning the complex role of NO2 in both the formation and degradation of ozone and the setting and attainment of the recently established revised NO2 NAAQS.  It is important to recognize that reductions in NO2 do not always lead to reduction in Ozone".
He ends with the warning:

“...no clear basis has been provided based on current scientific evidence for the Administrator to not consider reaffirmation of the current level and statistical form of the Ozone NAAQS as set on March 27, 2008."

"Reaffirmation of the current level" rather than stricter limits.  Back in 2008 he presented a statement to the Senate Subcommittee on Public Sector Solutions to Global Warming, Oversight and Children’s Health Protection, and revealed that he was incensed that the scientists recommended the EPA promulgate stricter standards.  This is the harsh admonishment heard by climate scientists as well - don't venture into policy or your credentials, reputation and motives will be ruthlessly smeared.

"The CASAC Ozone Panel’s letter to the Administrator dated April 7, 2008, commenting on the Final Rule, continues to suggest that somehow science and scientists alone can establish the appropriate numerical level of the NAAQS for ozone.  In that letter, the CASAC Ozone Panel again failed to clarify the distinction between their interpretations of the science and their policy judgment in offering an opinion on the numerical level of the ozone standard.  The Panel should have clearly acknowledged that the numerical level they have advocated reflects their personal policy preferences."
  
"Likewise, in arguing for 'further lowering the national ambient ozone standards,' the Panel fails to acknowledge that this is their collective policy outcome wish that goes well beyond considering just the available scientific information.  How low is low enough for the ozone standard is ultimately a policy judgment informed by scientific information and analysis.  The Clean Air Act clearly specifies that the EPA Administrator has the exclusive authority and responsibility for using judgment in the setting of the Standard."

He invokes not for the first or last time Justice Breyer's "elegantly" phrased exposition, in Whitman v. American Trucking Association, 531 U.S. 457, 473, which is actually a sloppy apologia described by a Georgetown Law professor as a “strained effort in his separate concurrence to rehabilitate costs as part of the public health inquiry [that] ultimately falls flat."
In comments submitted to the EPA in 2010 he reiterates:

"Supreme Court Justice Breyer (Breyer, 2010), in Whitman versus American Trucking Association used elegant language to emphasize the considerable  flexibility the EPA Administrator has in setting the Standard. He clearly stated that the language of the Clean Air Act does not compel the elimination of all risk.  He emphasized  the flexibility the Administrator has in 'deciding what risks are acceptable in the world in which we live.'  In his opinion, he noted the Administrator's considerable discretionary standard-setting  authority. He specifically referred to the need 'to take account of context when determining the acceptability of small risks to health.'"

Themes pounded upon by the enemies of regulation is that risks from pollution are "trivial" and that reining in pollution will result in a sure return to, literally, the stone age, (other instances are detailed in a prior post, Something is Rotten at the EPA).  Here is Justice Breyer's statement - you decide if it's "elegant":

"This discretion would seem sufficient to avoid the extreme results that some of the industry parties fear.  After  all, the EPA, in setting standards that 'protect the public health' with 'an  adequate margin of safety,' retains discretionary authority to avoid regulating risks that it reasonably concludes are trivial in context.  Nor need regulation lead to deindustrialization.  Pre-industrial society, was not a very health [sic] society; hence a standard demanding the return of the Stone Age would not prove 'requisite to protect the public health.'"
Elsewhere McClellan wrote in a long article (can you believe how prolific he is?  Someone must be paying him awfully well):

"I conclude that scientists should carefully distinguish between their interpretations of scientific knowledge on specific pollutants and their personal preferences as to a given policy outcome (i.e., specific level and form of the NAAQS), recognizing that these are policy judgments as to acceptable levels of risk if the science does not identify a threshold level below which there are no identifiable health risks."

"I have participated, beginning in the mid-1970s, as a member of numerous CASAC Panels providing advice to the EPA Administrator on the setting of the NAAQS for all the criteria pollutants...I regularly serve as an advisor to both public and private organizations on air quality issues. This includes the American Petroleum Institute (API) and various companies in the energy and transportation sectors."

What is such a despicable creature of fossil fuel companies doing for over three decades on EPA Science Advisory boards?

McClellan is President emeritus of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, which has renamed itself the more benign Hamner Institute for Health Sciences in a blatantly transparent move to disguise its original incarnation, which was unabashedly a research institution in service to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
The Cancer Prevention Coalition wrote a scathing piece on the corruption of science and medicine, how the corporations operate, and McClellan's prominent role in it:

"The silence of NCI (National Cancer Institute) with regard to primary prevention is in large measure responsible for the continued denial of the public’s fundamental Right-to-Know of avoidable carcinogenic exposures, and for the faulty science on the basis of which regulatory decisions have become subverted by special interests. A battery of industry-funded and promoted think tanks, notably the Cato, Hudson, and International Life Sciences Institute, support industries responsible for avoidable carcinogenic exposures. They claim that particular carcinogens do not pose significant hazards. Additionally responsible are indentured academics and academic think tanks, notably the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, whose past Director, Dr. John Graham, is now the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget. These claims are based on a complex of "risk management" models, "risk benefit analysis", and highly questionable "risk assessment" of individual carcinogens that ignore additive or possibly synergistic interactions with other carcinogenic exposures."
"An equally ominous development is the growing influence of industry-sponsored journals, notably Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (RTP), published by the prestigious and reputable Elsevier/Academic Press. RTP is owned by the powerful industry-sponsored International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (ISRTP), sponsored by major petrochemical and pharmaceutical companies and their trade associations. Not surprisingly, RTP’s editorial board is dominated by industry-affiliated lawyers and scientists, including former senior NCI staffers. RTP’s “peer-reviewed” publications are biased, and trivialize or dismiss the scientific evidence on the causal relation between avoidable exposures to industrial carcinogens and the escalating incidence of cancer. They also emphasize policies based on “risk management” rather than risk prevention."

"NCI’s silence has become even more serious since the current Administration has appointed prominent industry consultants to key federal advisory committees dealing with environmental health, testing synthetic chemicals, and evaluating exposures to industrial carcinogens (35). Illustrative is the August 2002 appointment of Dr. Roger McLellan to a new 16-member National Center for Environmental Health Committee. McLellan, past Director of the Chemical Industry Institute for Toxicology, has made a career trivializing evidence for the carcinogenicity of proven carcinogens, including more recently diesel exhaust."

To see if there's been any improvements since the name change, just go to the Hamner site to see who is running the place, and you'll find that on the list of the board of directors, it exemplifies the pervasive collusion of industry, government, and now, academia (UNC).  But I can spare you the trouble, and just tell you that current officers include a representative from GlaxoSmithKline, The Dow Chemical Company, SofinnovaVentures (which funds biotechnology and biopharmaceutical start-ups), DuPont, K.S. Crump Group of ICF Kaiser, and elsewhere of course there are the inevitable links to the Department of Energy  and the Department of Defense.

Since this post has become, against my better instincts, encyclopedic, it wouldn't be complete without the latest evidence that pollution is worse, not better, so that's where we're going next.  Following is the BBC story, London's Clue to Stubborn Ozone Levels:
Scientists think they have identified one key reason why ground-level ozone remains stubbornly high in Europe.

"They say it is the unfortunate but unintended consequence of what have otherwise been very successful efforts to improve air quality.  It turns out the filters put on vehicle exhausts to remove fine particulate material have also unbalanced the chemistry behind ozone formation.  Chemical reactions that would normally remove ozone have been subdued."

"The insight comes from a study looking at London's air quality records.  'Peak ozone levels have come down since the 1990s, but we haven't had the gains we expected on ozone,' said Dr Erika von Schneidemesser from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany.
'The data we've got from monitoring sites in London, and also the modelling work we have done, has helped us understand why ozone has behaved the way it has - at least in London,' she told BBC News."

"Dr von Schneidemesser was speaking here at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the world's largest annual gathering of Earth scientists."
Nitrogen oxides are produced from many sources including power stations, motor vehicles, and industrial and domestic heating systems
Disturbed cycle
"Ozone in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is regarded as a serious pollutant that can cause respiratory problems, and even damage masonry and agricultural crops.  The principal originating source is the emissions from road vehicles. These include the exhaust gases such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), and carbon monoxide (CO)."

"Ozone is the product of these gases' participation in a complex series of chemical reactions where sunlight and heat act as catalysts. Summer months are generally worse for O3.  Dr von Schneidemesser and colleagues used the data from London's dense network of air quality monitoring sites to try to assess the performance of the ozone-producing reactions over the past 15 years.  They found that although the ozone precursors have been falling, the ratio of two NOx gases in the atmosphere has changed."

"In constant conditions, there is a neat cycle in which nitrogen dioxide (NO2) helps to form ozone and nitric oxide helps to break it apart. This cycle appears to have been perturbed by control measures that were actually intended to remove the fine particles and black carbon (soot) in vehicle exhausts.  The measures achieved the desired outcome but also altered the relative emissions of the different NOx gases."

"'There's this balance between the NO and nitrogen dioxide NO2, and the diesel filters that we've been retrofitting on to things like buses mean that we now have a larger amount of primary NO2 and so you get a reduction in NO that is much greater than the reduction in NO2. This means basically you are taking away some of the ozone suppression,' said Dr von Schneidemesser, who is also affiliated to the University of Leicester, UK."
"Whereas NO in the atmosphere has been reducing by 5-20% per year, NO2 has been falling by just 1-5% per year.  'As these levels continue to go down, we should then eventually see a reduction in ozone. It's just that the initial steps have had the opposite effect.'"

"Further work is required, but the researchers' suspicion is that London's experience is not unique.
The big traffic-choked cities of Europe will all suffer from similar emissions inventories. The one rider here is that southern European cities will have more sunlight and heat to drive ozone producing reactions."

"But the London observations are unlikely to be the whole story. Scientists say it's also that European ozone levels are being influenced by what is happening in other regions of the world."

"'There is an import of ozone and precursors from outside, and this influences what we call background ozone; and that's going up as global pollutants, particularly in Asia, go up. And that's affecting European ozone levels,' explained co-worker Prof Paul Monks at the University of Leicester."

"'So, for something like ozone, we've probably got to move to a more global treaty-like situation. We've got to look at control measures in other countries as well as our own.  Peak ozone has gone down since the 1990s, but it has bottomed out now; and it's remaining fairly flat despite emissions reductions.'"
Ozone's NOx cycle

(1) The Sun's ultraviolet light breaks oxygen atoms off nitrogen dioxide molecules
(2) Oxygen atoms then react with oxygen molecules in the air to produce the ozone
(3) But ozone is destroyed by nitric oxide, reforming molecular oxygen and nitrogen dioxide

[And round and round and round it goes!]

Indeed, Asia's air quality is getting much, much worse and consequently, so is everyone else's:

"Pollution levels in 70 percent of the cities, mostly in fast-growing, less developed countries like China, India, Bangladesh and Mongolia, exceed even the most lenient of several targets recommended by the W.H.O., the organization said."

"'The economic rebound in Asia following the global economic crisis of 2008 has accelerated sales of both passenger and freight vehicles as well as power generation,' Sophie Punte, Clean Air Asia’s executive director, said in a statement. This 'is putting pressure on urban air quality in the region,' she said."

"The number of people living in cities in developing Asian nations is expected to swell by 1.1 billion over the next 20 years, making urban air pollution a particularly relevant issue for the region.  A study by the World Health Organization published in 2008 estimated that outdoor air pollution caused 1.3 million premature deaths worldwide per year, 800,000 of them in Asia."
In an updated study from the Lancet, we get even worse figures, from 800,000 deaths in 2008 to 2.1 million in 2010.

"In 2010, more than 2.1m people in Asia died prematurely from air pollution, mostly from the minute particles of diesel soot and gasses emitted from cars and lorries. Other causes of air pollution include construction and industry. Of these deaths, says the study published in The Lancet, 1.2 million were in east Asia and China, and 712,000 in south Asia, including India."

"Worldwide, a record 3.2m people a year died from air pollution in 2010, compared with 800,000 in 2000. It now ranks for the first time in the world's top 10 list of killer diseases, says the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study."

"The unexpected figure has shocked scientists and public health groups. David Pettit, director of the southern California air programme with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), said: 'That's a terribly high number – and much more people than previously thought. Earlier studies were limited to data that was available at the time on coarse particles in urban areas only.'"

"Improvements in car and fuel technology have been made since 2000 but these are nullified by the sheer increase in car numbers. Nearly 18m are expected to be sold this year alone."

Remember - vegetation is even more sensitive to pollution than people, who only need air to breathe and obtain oxygen.  Plants absorb much more air proportionately in the process of photosynthesis, because they use CO2 for food as well.

But before we blame the Asians consider the contribution of Americans who buy their goods transported in container ships.


"Says James Corbett, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware: 'Ship pollution affects the health of communities in coastal and inland regions around the world, yet pollution from ships remains one of the least regulated parts of our global transportation system.' It sounds serious, but how bad could it be? Staggeringly, if a report by the UK's Guardian newspaper is to be believed. According to their story, just one of the world's largest container ships can emit about as much pollution as 50 million cars. Further, the 15 largest ships in the world emit as much nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide as the world's 760 million cars."

"The problem isn't necessarily with the ships' 109,000-horsepower engines that endlessly spin away 24 hours a day, 280 days a year. In fact, these powerplants are some of the most fuel efficient units in the world. The real issue lies with the heavy fuel oil the ships run on and the almost complete lack of regulations applied to the giant exhaust stacks of these container ships."
Shanghai
As if that weren't enough, China is gobbling up illegally logged timber, a significant portion of which is used to manufacture exports:

"The British NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), published a detailed report at the end of November called "China, appetite for destruction". It reveals just how China's appetite for wood has grown in the past decades as a result of consumption by the new middle classes, as well as an export-driven wood industry facing growing demand from major foreign furniture and construction companies.  China has become the leading importer, consumer and exporter of the world's timber. Its own forests provide less than 40% of its needs."

The rest of the photographs I took of a barn in Whitehouse, just south of Oldwick.  I was excited to find a nice ruin so close to home.  It belongs to the town, which doesn't seem to be interested in preserving it.  Naturally, there is a large dead pine tree barricading the approach.
And next to it another, that hasn't fallen yet, but indubitably will.

After a long delay in delivery due to Sandy, I finally picked up The Petkau Effect, by Ralph Graeub, on intralibrary loan.  The first US edition was published 1992 as a translation and updated version of the book originally published in Switzerland in 1985.  Certain people made the case to me that nuclear radiation from testing and powerplants, if not all by itself then in some synergistic aggravation of air pollutants, underlies the rapidly accelerating death of trees.

I felt obligated to at least look into it, since I have to hand it to Ralph Graeub, whether he is right about radiation or not, he certainly nailed the decline of forests long, long ago.  Another blogger, Bobby1, is convinced that radiation is fueling the spread of fungus.  If there is scientific evidence of that, I don't understand it, so I have to plead agnostic in this debate.  There might be something to it, I just haven't found any proof.

The book makes a very powerful case that there's no way we would know what damage is done by radiation, since pathetically little research is done, and what is done is often hidden (see the latest scandal about deliberately miscalculated risk of upstream dam failures revealed separately by two industry insiders).
This resonates with me since I know the same corruption of science by industry has deliberately squelched information about ozone, not to mention all the other revolving doors that infamously spin between corporations and the government agencies and academic departments that are supposed to regulate or study their activities.

The book's title refers to the discovery by Dr. Petkau that

"...low-dose, protracted radiation exposures such as those produced by radioactive fission products, [are] hundreds to thousands of times as damaging as the same dose received in a short medical Xray."

That's an intriguing concept because it's the exact same debate as to whether any persistent low-level exposure is safe when it comes to pesticides, chemicals and ozone as well.  So whether background radiation has any significant effect on human health or the rest of the biosphere is a very open question.  Since I'm personally familiar with the conspiracy of silence about ozone, I have to give some credence to that assertion but on the other hand, I have my doubts.
For one thing, the author makes the case that radiation must be the reason trees are dying because extreme peaks of ozone levels have been reduced, completely missing that the exact same principle of the Petkau Effect could well apply - constant, low-level doses from a persistant background level - which is inexorably increasing - are more damaging than isolated infrequent high exposures.

Furthermore radiation leaked from power plants surely cannot match the above-ground nuclear testing which stopped fifty years ago - so that would mean levels are going down or at least, not increasing, whereas background ozone is increasing - and so is tree death.  So the trend would appear to be match background ozone, not nuclear radiation.

Just to give an idea how whacked out nuclear scientists are, check out this 1972 quote in the book from Eugene Rabinowitch, former editor-in-chief of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

"The only animals whose disappearance might threaten the viability of humans on earth are the bacteria which normally inhabit our bodies.   As for the others, no convincing evidence exists that humans could not survive as the only animal species on earth.  If economic procedures could be developed for the synthesis of food from inorganic materials - and this will be possible sooner or later - humans may even become independent of the plants on which they are currently dependent for food".

Oddly enough, as I was working my way through the Petkau Effect, a new meta-analysis of studies was published upholding the main premise of the book:
Chernobyl
"Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life, scientists have concluded in the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journal Biological Reviews. Reporting the results of a wide-ranging analysis of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 40 years, researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Paris-Sud found that variation in low-level, natural background radiation had small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA as well as several measures of health."
"The review is a meta-analysis of studies of locations around the globe that have very high natural background radiation as a result of the minerals in the ground there, including Ramsar, Iran, Mombasa, Kenya, Lodeve, France, and Yangjiang, China. These, and a few other geographic locations with natural background radiation that greatly exceeds normal amounts, have long drawn scientists intent on understanding the effects of radiation on life. Individual studies by themselves, however, have often only shown small effects on small populations from which conclusive statistical conclusions were difficult to draw."
"'When you’re looking at such small effect sizes, the size of the population you need to study is huge,' said co-author Timothy Mousseau, a biologist in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina. 'Pooling across multiple studies, in multiple areas, and in a rigorous statistical manner provides a tool to really get at these questions about low-level radiation.'"
"Mousseau and co-author Anders Møller of the University of Paris-Sud combed the scientific literature, examining more than 5,000 papers involving natural background radiation that were narrowed to 46 for quantitative comparison. The selected studies all examined both a control group and a more highly irradiated population and quantified the size of the radiation levels for each. Each paper also reported test statistics that allowed direct comparison between the studies.
The organisms studied included plants and animals, but had a large preponderance of human subjects. Each study examined one or more possible effects of radiation, such as DNA damage measured in the lab, prevalence of a disease such as Down’s Syndrome, or the sex ratio produced in offspring. For each effect, a statistical algorithm was used to generate a single value, the effect size, which could be compared across all the studies."
"The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance."

"'There’s been a sentiment in the community that because we don’t see obvious effects in some of these places, or that what we see tends to be small and localized, that maybe there aren’t any negative effects from low levels of radiation,' said Mousseau. 'But when you do the meta-analysis, you do see significant negative effects.'"
"'It also provides evidence that there is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation,' he added. 'A theory that has been batted around a lot over the last couple of decades is the idea that is there a threshold of exposure below which there are no negative consequences. These data provide fairly strong evidence that there is no threshold – radiation effects are measurable as far down as you can go, given the statistical power you have at hand.'"
"Mousseau hopes their results, which are consistent with the 'linear-no-threshold' model for radiation effects, will better inform the debate about exposure risks. 'With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there’s an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it’s only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level,' he said. 'But they’re assuming the natural background levels are fine.'"
"'And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants, medical procedures, and even some x-ray machines at airports.'"

I was surprised to read that Rachel Carsons's epic Silent Spring must be regarded in the context of the nuclear weapons testing of the time.  (There is a cool time-lapse video of explosions on youtube.)

According to A Heroine in Defense of Nature, Tim Flannery's review in The New York Review of Books of William Souder's biography "On a Farther Shore", the alarm raised about pesticides was integrally related to fear of nuclear emissions.  He also traces the beginnings of divisive environmentalism, and acrimonious process that explains why many "hard" scientists loathe environmentalists and ecologists and are trained to scorn them.  It's an excellent read, so here is part of it:
"...Souder’s new biography provides an excellent starting point. He argues that Silent Spring marks the birth of the “bitterly divisive” concept of environmentalism. Before it, environmental politics was characterized, he says, by the “gentle, optimistic proposition called ‘conservation,’” which concerns the wise use of resources and has broad appeal across the political spectrum. Environmentalism, in contrast, can be politically polarizing because it involves a clash with vested interests..."
"When Silent Spring was published I was just seven years old and living in Australia, so my firsthand sense of the danger of the times is limited. But I’ll never forget how my mother cried as she listened to the radio and heard of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. She saw him, I’m certain, as someone who was keeping her and her family safe in a world that seemed to be going mad. And it was not just the missile crisis. A series of nuclear tests was being conducted in Australia and other countries, and some scientists warned of the dangers. Most of the tests involved hydrogen bombs—the most devastating weapon ever invented—which were being exploded in the atmosphere with unpredictable and often terrifying results."
"The very first of these devices was tested by the US on November 1, 1952, on the island of Elugelab in Micronesia. The resulting fireball was more than three miles wide, and it developed into a mushroom cloud twenty miles high and one hundred miles across. When the atmosphere cleared, observers saw a crater 160 feet deep and a mile across where a verdant tropical island had once stood. More powerful devices were soon wreaking destruction far in excess of expectations. In 1954 one such bomb, detonated in the Marshall Islands, produced an explosion two and a half times greater than predicted—the result of a lithium isotope that was thought to be inert but that amplified the reaction so much that the weapon was a thousand times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima. President Eisenhower said that the scientists were “surprised and astonished” at the result, and were now rethinking the precautions needed for future tests."
"The mass testing of nuclear weapons in the early 1960s had been unexpected. A moratorium on atmospheric nuclear testing had been agreed on in 1958, but in the summer of 1961 the Soviets abruptly recommenced their program. The US then resumed testing, and by 1962 a nuclear weapon was being exploded somewhere in the world every few days. By August 1963, when the moratorium was again put into effect, over fifty nuclear devices had been detonated in the atmosphere in a little over twelve months. The scale of the tests, and the extent of radioactive fallout they generated, were unprecedented. Soon, high levels of radioactivity were turning up in food, particularly the fish and milk that were being consumed by children across the US."
"The earlier round of testing should have warned everyone of the grave dangers involved, for almost as soon as nuclear testing had begun, disturbing phenomena had been observed far from the test sites. In the early 1950s the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, started seeing streaks and blips on its unexposed X-ray film. It turned out that the radiation that was spoiling the film was emanating from its cardboard packaging, which had been made in Iowa and Indiana. The manufacturers drew their water supply from rivers flowing out of the Midwest, which were hundreds of miles downwind of the Trinity nuclear test site in Nevada; yet they still carried sufficient radiation to contaminate the cardboard."
"Evidence of widespread radioactive contamination was becoming public at about the same time that people were becoming aware of what a nuclear war might entail. At first the US government acted as if it could protect its citizens in the event of such a conflict. But in 1957 Sputnik raised the possibility that an attack on the US might eventually come from space, and by the 1960s the Soviet and American nuclear arsenals could be deployed, en masse, on long-range missiles. As Souder puts it:"

"'Armageddon…could now be envisioned as two great shadows rising from the earth simultaneously and passing each other in opposite directions…curving toward the end of all things in a white-hot hell of thermonuclear doom.'"
"These changes made America’s civilian defenses appear puny indeed. As early as the late 1950s the nation’s leaders were giving up on protecting civilians in the event of nuclear war. “You can’t have this kind of war,” President Eisenhower said. “There just aren’t enough bulldozers to scrape the bodies off the streets.” For American schoolchildren, this must have been a truly terrifying time, for they were regularly being drilled for the end of the world. Souder writes:
"'If a teacher suddenly yelled “Flash!” every kid over the age of five knew that meant to “duck and cover” by whirling to the floor and crouching beneath his or her desk, arms wrapped tightly around heads to wait patiently for the shock wave to arrive. There were also panic-inducing policies concerning who was to go where in the event there was a warning of an imminent attack. For many kids, this meant that if you lived close enough to school to run home in less than fifteen minutes you could do so—and presumably then at least die with Mom and Dad. Those who lived farther away were to stay put and let death visit them at school.'"
"As the result of work done by farsighted citizens half a century ago, we’re now in a position to assess the long-term effects of radioactive fallout on human health. In 1958 a group called the Greater St. Louis Citizens Committee for Nuclear Information began collecting baby teeth from children living in the area. A study completed more than half a century later, in 2010, showed that men who had died of cancer in middle age had more than twice the amount of the radioactive isotope strontium 90 in their baby teeth as those who were still alive. As with so many environmental toxins, the effects of radiation on human health plays out over decades."
"Carson recognized an "exact and inescapable' parallel between radioactive fallout and pesticide poisoning, and there can be little doubt that the public was primed to hear her message because of its concerns about nuclear weapons. Indeed, Americans were already becoming aware that pesticides had the power to poison humans and their food chain in a manner similar to radiation. In 1959, a widespread scare over the use of cranberries erupted just days before Thanksgiving, the result of spraying them with a cancer-causing pesticide. Cranberries were withdrawn from sale."
"Then, in 1961 devastating news of another chemical catastrophe was beginning to emerge from the UK. Thalidomide had been prescribed to alleviate morning sickness, and women who took it during a critical sixteen-day period of their pregnancy gave birth to children with devastating deformities of the limbs. The US had been spared the scourge by the dogged persistence of a lone scientist at the FDA, who had managed to stall Thalidomide’s approval until the drug’s full effects were discovered. The horrors of Thalidomide surely added to the unease many felt at the ever-growing application of new chemicals."

I've transcribed some excerpts from The Petkau Effect regarding trees, which seem kind of quaint but are worthy of scrutiny.
p. 116, Classic Forest Death

"Forest death has occurred since the dawn of industrialization in the 19th century.  Classic smog-damage due to sulphur dioxide (SO2) and sulphuric acid (HxSO4) were already described by Haslehof and Lindau in 1903, and by Wieler in 1905.  Even then, it was demonstrated that the damage was manifested in lower growth rates (narrower growth rings in the trunks).  Today, it has long-since been proven that the width and structure of the growth rings are an expressions of photosynthetic performance, i.e., of the vitality of the trees."

Actually, the detection that toxins in the air are potent enough to injure trees was recorded even further back.  Just for fun, I'm going to reproduce some short quotes from the Wit's End companion website, DeadTrees...DyingForests.

"The most curious result obtained appears to me to be that relating to the effect of a highly ozonized atmosphere upon the roots of plants." – M. Carey Lea, 1864.  

"To the philosopher, the physician, the meteorologist and the chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of ozone."  - C.B Fox, 1873
On the history page are the following excerpts from Dr.  J.N. Bell's book, "Air Pollution and Plant Life".

"In 1661, the English diarist, John Evelyn, published his famous treatise, Fumifugium:  Or the Inconvenience of the Aer and Smoake of London Dissipated, in which he described the contemporary air pollution problems in the English capital, making recommendations for their amelioration."
"Fumifugium contains graphic descriptions of effects on vegetation, such as '...Our Anemonies and many other choycest Flowers, will by no Industry be made to blow in London or the Precincts of it, unless they be raised on a Hot-bed and governed with extraordinary Artifice to accelerate their springing; imparting a bitter and ungrateful Tast to those few wretched Fruits, which never arriving to their desired maturity, seem, like the Apples of Sodome, to fall even to dust, when they are but touched.'"

"Fascinatingly, Evelyn also describes what can be described as the first experiment, albeit inadvertant, on air pollution impacts on plants, when coal smoke was eliminated in London one summer as a result of the English Civil War stopping the coastal trade concerned, with him noting how the trees produced uprecedented quantities of high quality fruit."

"Clearly air quality deteriorated even further over the next 100 years, as a preface to a second ediition of Fumifugium, written in 1772 noted 'It would now puzzle the most skilful gardener to keep fruit trees alive in these places: the complaint at this time would be, not that the trees were without fruit, but that they would not bear even leaves.'"
"This classic acute, or direct, damage to trees appears worldwide, mostly in the immediate or approximate vicinity of pollutant emitters such as fired power plants, heating plants, metal-processing plants, waste incinerators and the ceramics industry.  However, in recent decades, the flue gases have been carried to ever more remote places, due to the current practice of building super-high smokestacks."

While we are on history, a Wit's End reader from St. Louis piqued my curiosity about that city, which led to the wiki entry on a famous incident known as Black Tuesday.
"Olive Street in St. Louis, Missouri during the daylight hours of Nov. 28, 1939. A man's lighter flame glows in the Black Tuesday smog.  Streetlights were needed during the daytime to illuminate the smoky streets."
"The 1939 St. Louis smog was a severe smog episode that affected St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States in 1939. Visibility was so limited that streetlights remained lit throughout the day and motorists needed their headlights to navigate city streets."

"Smoke pollution had been a problem in St. Louis for many decades prior to the event, due to the large-scale burning of bituminous (soft) coal to provide heat and power for homes, businesses and transport. In 1893, the Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the emission of "thick grey smoke within the corporate limits of St. Louis" but was unable to enforce it because of legal action taken by one of the worst corporate offenders. The effectiveness of laws was also limited by the lack of adequate inspection and enforcement. In 1933, the Mayor created a "citizen smoke committee" and appointed his personal secretary Raymond Tucker to take charge of efforts to improve air quality."
"Early efforts had relied on education such as teaching people how to build cleaner fires – but this had almost no impact. It was soon realised that real improvement would only come about by switching to a cleaner fuel – gas, oil, coke, or anthracite were all considered but ruled out on cost grounds. The alternative was to wash and size the existing soft coal to make it burn hotter and cleaner, and ensure that all coal sold in St. Louis was of this variety. In February 1937 a Smoke Ordinance was passed creating a "Division of Smoke Regulation in the Department of Public Safety", forcing larger businesses to burn only clean coal and setting standards for smoke emission and inspection. By 1938 emissions from commercial smokestacks had been reduced by 2/3."
"Despite some improvement, smoke pollution was still a visible problem since the new law did not cover smaller businesses and domestic users – 97% of homes still used coal. The city council was reluctant to pass further legislation that might alienate voters so the Mayor's 'enforcer', Raymond R. Tucker, was limited to using persuasion through the press and radio broadcasts. One newspaper in particular, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, became notable for its campaign to persuade residents of the benefits of switching to cleaner forms of coal."
"However, on Tuesday, November 28, 1939, a meteorological temperature inversion trapped emissions from coal burning close to the ground resulting in "the day the sun didn't shine". A cloud of thick black smoke enveloped St. Louis, far worse than any previously seen in the city. The day came to be known as "Black Tuesday". The smog hung about for 9 days over the course of the following month. This proved to be the catalyst that forced the council's hand. New cleaner, affordable supplies of coal (semi-anthracite) were quickly secured from Arkansas in time for the next winter. This, together with a new smoke ordinance, improvements to the efficiency of furnaces and the ongoing public education campaign resulted in a significant and permanent improvement in air quality in the city."

Arg, it's so easy to digress.  Let's get back to The Petkau Effect which inadvertantly makes a very good case for ordinary pollution, not radiation, being the primary cause of forest decline, while trying not to:

p. 134 The Stress Hypothesis

Graeub goes on for pages describing incidents of unexplained forest death in Europe and refers readers to "...Schutt's excellent book The Forest is Dying of Stress.  Forest decline is now found everywhere; in gardens, parks and orchards.  Obvious growth-ring fluctuatoins and other growth abnormalities are being discovered in firs.  'The typical symptoms of damage include general thinning of the crown, a discoloration of the old needles of spruces and firs, "stork's nest"-type formations in firs, weak foliage on individual branches, and premature fall coloring in beach trees.'  There are also characteristic twig and leaf deformations."

"Air pollution, extreme weather conditions and pathogens produce stress on plants. It affects the hormonal balance of plants.  Consequences observed from such disturbances include premature aging, reduced stomatic width, premature leaf-fall and growth retardation."

"According to Schutt, the stress hypothesis is based on the fact that for decades, small concentrations of pollutants in the air have been causing the continual disturbance of photosynthesis.  This pollution causes a continual deficit in carbohydrates produced, which in turn leads to reduced vitality, disruption in root and leaf renewal, and hence, greater susceptibility to secondary damage.  Thus, in the stress hypothesis, all known facts about forest death form part of a a mozaic-like picture."

"In spruces, it was found that sickly stands are blossoming strongly and put out lager-than-usual quantities of cones and seeds every year.  Young spruces too, are blossoming, a previously uncommon phenomenon.  Biology teaches us that organisms can call upon great reserves for reproduction if their environmental conditions deteriorate dramatically.  This seems to be confirmed now by the recent forest death.  For instance, beech trees have been uncommonly fruitful in recent years.  Apple, pear and cherry trees are yielding rich harvests, even though they are obviously sick.  No one knows where this will lead."

Operation Noah's Ark

"An ominous development is the impairment of the sexual reproduction of trees.  The maintenance of genetic diversity and adaptability is an indispensable precondition.  The forests have a genetic heritage shaped by generations of natural selection.  Species adapted to local and regional environmental conditions can be lost irretrievably.  Only the appropriate seeds will make reforestation at all possible.  For this reason, the seeds of valuable stands are already being collected in Switzerland, in the so-called 'operation Noah's Ark' of the Federal Institute for Forestry Experiments in Birmensdorf.'"
Trunk cross-section of a white fir felled in 1982.  It shows extreme retardation of growth since 1958, and virtually no growth since 1970.  p. 122
Below is one of the many trees that fell at Wit's End during Sandy.  It's an ash, about three feet across.
It's about 90 years old or so, with a rotting center.
To be perfectly honest, I would swear the trees here have been shrinking.  They look skinnier than they did 20 years ago, like a person would who is starving.
Is it normal for rings to start off wider and then get narrower?  I don't know!  But they get noticeably thinner around 1970, just like the illustration above, in the book.
 Here's another, smaller ash.  It too has outer rings that are distinctly narrower than earlier growth.
These are from a row of trees that fell on the other side of the village.
They also show a thinning of rings in recent years.
They are also stained in the center, from incipient rot.
 This trunk is spectacularly cracked as well.
A 2011 article about radiation release and health consequences explains the Petkau Effect even better than the book:

"Low protracted doses of radiation cause physiological damage through the formation of free radicals that damage human immune function. A free radical is a molecule with an imbalance in electrons which can destabilize other molecules resulting in cellular damage and disease.
In high, short doses like the Hiroshima bomb blast, radiation primarily causes direct damage to the nucleus of cells where the genes are located that control the functioning of the cell. In contrast, low doses acting continuously over time produce their damage indirectly through the generation of free radicals that destroy cell-membranes, hundreds to thousands of times more efficiently than might be expected in calculations related to high-dose damage. So the everyday amount of radiation that is released as part of the normal operation of the world’s 400 nuclear power plants is a very grave concern. Nuclear power plants must have releases in order to function, and these releases, even though they may be partially filtered, allow radiation to go into our air and drinking water, and onto farmland and into our food."

"The everyday releases of low-level radioactivity by nuclear power plants has been found to cause several kinds of health damage including premature births, congenital defects, infant mortality, mental retardation, heart ailments, arthritis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, cancer, genetic damage and chronic fatigue syndrome. It has been linked to previously unknown infectious diseases, and the resurgence of old ones by damaging the developing white blood cells originating in the bone marrow and thus weakening the immune system."

Rachel Carson died when she was 56, younger than I am now.  From the book review:

"Toward the end of 1962 Rachel Carson wrote to Dorothy Freeman that she felt that she never had any choice but to write Silent Spring, quoting Lincoln that 'to sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.'  She also told of indescribably heavy exhaustion, as if she’d come to the end of a long and difficult road. On April 14, 1964 Carson died, aged fifty-six."

"Souder claims that today Rachel Carson is unknown to people under fifty, and certainly she is no longer the household name she was half a century ago. But she continues to be well known—indeed revered—by those interested in environmental protection, and Silent Spring remains in print. But in a world where humanity continues to struggle with industrial toxins, her legacy is far larger than that. It goes, I believe, to the heart of our relationship with nature."

"After recently rereading Silent Spring, I discussed Carson with an Indian friend, who put a question to me: 'What is more orderly, a jungle or a garden?' After a moment’s thought the answer became obvious. Of course it is the jungle, where the invisible laws of ecology dictate the relative abundance of plants and animals, and where they occur. The very shape and position of every leaf abides by those eternal rules. Yet gardens, or cornfields, with their beguilingly simple symmetries, seem to most of us more ordered, and in the pursuit of that order we have spread environmental devastation far and wide, until they enter our own food chain. It was Carson who informed us of the cost of that false sense of order, just as she pointed to a future in which humans might fulfil their needs more wisely, by using their chemical ingenuity to support nature, not destroy it."

Speaking of Rachel Carson, a commenter at Nature Bats Last confessed with chilling simplicity, "For the first time in my life I dread the Spring".  The silence is already happening in cornfields as chronicled in an NPR story of two projects.  One featured the work of photographer David Liittschwager, who placed one-cubic-foot metal frames in various habitats and photographed all the visible life that existed or passed through in 24 hours.  Here is the collection from Cape Town:
This is the tally from 100 feet above the ground at the top of a strangler fig tree in Costa Rican:
Here's what NPR science commentator Craig Childs found in an Iowa cornfield after searching for three days and two nights:
Eight living things are all that remains in an area of prairies described as hosting - 100 years ago - 300 species of plants, 60 mammals, 300 birds, and hundreds and hundreds of insects".  Not a single bee was seen.

By way of antidote, here is a video from an article about the sublime Snowy Owl.  I have a very uneasy feeling that they aren't long for this world.  Enjoy the sight while you can.

"Last year was a stunning year for snowy owl sightings in lower hemispheres, one that even saw them popping up in Hawaii. Cornell is running a crowdsourced tracking project called eBird with the Audoubon Society that's tracking the snowies to try to gain insight into why they're coming south in large numbers. It's unclear at this point, but it's likely that they're finding less food in the Arctic, as snowy populations have long been expected to be in decline. Still, if you see one this winter, enjoy the sight while you can."

 

I have been asked, and I am wondering, what the point is of warning people that the trees are dying.

Paul Chefurka, who for several years has been confronting Near Term Extinction succinctly summed it up the dilemma in a comment at Nature Bats Last:

“I see no point any more in trying to awaken those who are still asleep. We have all been overtaken by events. It may be a kindness to let them keep sleeping – like dying unconscious on the operating table. It’s enough to help those who are already waking up.”

I am fast transitioning to embrace that point of view.  The prospect of Near Term Extinction has become so accepted by Guy McPherson's readers at NBL that is has become an acronym itself (NTE).  So many people wake up to one issue or another and then become mired in squabbling over the scraps - the converging disaster I learned about first is the worst!...It's peak oil, or climate change, or economic meltdown, overpopulation, or ecosystem collapse!!  It's refreshing to be in a community that has generally moved on from wondering whether we are doomed, to discussing Now What?  What is the best way to spend the time that remains?  Is it to scream FIRE in a theater that is going to burn down, and initiate a stampede?

Looking back at the painful journey of the past few years, since I had the first glimmer that the prognosis for Earth is as certain as inoperable malignancy, I think Paul is right.  It is enough to be part of a widening circle of people who are helping each other navigate the terrible and treacherous shoals of grief to acceptance.

Then I read comments like this one at mons angelorum from Annie in Scotland:  I can’t tell you how much it breaks my heart to watch the trees slowly die and I think, if those damn scientists aren't going to speak for the trees, I guess I'm stuck with it until they do.

But judging people with moral outrage for being delusional is feckless and ineffectual - optimism is a character trait in our DNA.  So is greed, and stupidity.  We are programmed to gorge.  So trying to persuade anyone that, contrary to their cherished ideology, we are wrecking our planet and our children’s future is as futile as convincing a believer in god or gods that such faith is a feverish figment of imagination.  I think I'm done trying to convince.  It is enough to bear witness.

Humans, in the collective, are top predators.  There are individual exceptions, but if you happened to be a mastodon, a dodo, whale, shark, codfish, buffalo, or countless other extirpated species, you would tend to think of us as top predators with no redeeming culture at all.  Our culture is distinctive only to ourselves.  Mother Nature Network has brief histories of several hunted to extinction, with heartbreaking photos.

"The tale of the passenger pigeon is one of the most tragic extinction stories of modern times. It was actually the most common bird in North America as recently as 200 years ago, and some reports counted single flocks numbering in the billions. So what happened?"
"The pigeon meat was commercialized and sold as cheap food, mostly for slaves and the poor, which began an unregulated hunting campaign on a massive scale. In 1896, the final flock of 250,000 were killed by a group of hunters who actually knew that it was the last flock of that size in existence. Not a single bird was left behind."

Is it any comfort to know that our failed experiment has lasted for only the tiniest blip of time in Earth's history?  Or worse to know that in that trifling expanse, we have destroyed so much?



Another review in the NYRB, the 22 November issue, discusses Tom Wolfe's new novel, "Things You Never Thought Possible" which is set in Miami and contains this passage:

"...he delivers a defense of his voyeurism that also articulates the novel's great theme.  'If you keep your eyes open' says Dr. Lewis,

'you will witness things you never thought possible.  You will have a picture of mankind with all the rules removed.  You will see Man's behavior at the level of bonobos and baboons.  And that's where Man is headed!  You will see the future out here in the middle of nowhere!  You will have an extraordinary preview of the looming un-human, thoroughly animal, fate of Man!'"

The reviewer opines:  "These Miamians are motivated by the same thing that drives the denizens of every Tom Wolfe novel:  status anxiety".

It seems likely that status anxiety, intimately connected to the urge to reproduce because the latter underlies and motivates the former, is a reasonable explanation for our malicious and ruthless desire to be seen as "special" at the expense of each other and the rest of the species with which we reluctantly "share" the planet.

I haven't yet, but I want to read Ransom Rigg's book, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children".  He filmed a trailer for the book which is marvelously macabre, on location at the eeriest abandoned buildings in Europe.

I am so looking forward to Tim Burton's feature based on the book, if the world doesn't come to an end first, which is by no means guaranteed.  Meanwhile, here's another short movie shot by RR, which is excellent, followed by the closest thing to hopey you'll find here at Wit's End.

 

 

8 comments:

  1. The tree is picture 17 is covered in vines, they look similar to the oriental bitter sweet vines which are strangling trees here in Massachusetts. I've been working to clear this invasive imported vine, it's killing many trees.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting article in NYT a couple of days ago on trees dying. All about drought but no mention of ozone.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/science/los-alamos-national-laboratory-studies-tree-deaths.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. hi Gail,
    I you ever need money to change your website to avoid the intrusive ads, I will gladly contribute financially. Those "ads not by this site" are appearing ALL OVER the net. It is absolutely crazy! Almost nowhere can you escape these ads selling asian and russian and all sorts of merchandized women!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Chére Michele,

    That is very sweet of you but the ads aren't there because I am getting revenue from them, or because I deliberately put them there. It is some sort of hacking that I am not sure how to get rid of. I will try to figure it out after youngest daughter goes back to school (tomorrow). I'm sorry they are disgusting!

    ReplyDelete
  5. gail,
    I never thought you were putting the ads yourself!!! Goddess forbid.
    I just thought you would maybe have to change the place who is hosting your site and that that would maybe cost something (I don't dare write the word mon_y because it linked itself automatically to a forex trading site on my previous message).

    ReplyDelete
  6. As forests disappear, examing the mechanism of their death

    http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2012/12/as-forests-disappear-examining.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I use the FireFox browser with the 'AdBlock Plus' add-on installed, I do not see any ads.

    Makes the Internet a much more pleasant and less commercial experience.

    ReplyDelete

My Blog List

Search This Blog

Loading...

Followers

counter