Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Everybody Knows

"A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous and then dismissed as trivial, until finally, it becomes what everybody knows".

~ William James, 1879
Perhaps eventually it will become as obvious to everyone else as it is to me that trees are dying prematurely from tropospheric ozone.  Last week, the oldest specimen in Wales fell over.  The Pontafog Oak was 1,285 years old.  I'm not going to argue that air pollution had any influence, since clearly it was reaching its dotage...even though it's been demonstrated in many scientific experiments that ozone causes roots to shrink.  No instead, the sad loss of this epic specimen serves to remind us of something important that is generally forgotten - that trees can live for hundreds of years, and that there is no natural explanation for why they should now be in decline, everywhere around the globe, no matter what age they are.
Here is the caption from the Guardian since the Pontafog Oak deserves an epitaph:  "The tree was blown down during galeforce winds on Wednesday night. The oldest oak in Wales – and probably one of the oldest oak trees in northern Europe – has grown in the Ceiriog Valley near Chirk, north Wales, since 802 and measured 12.9m in girth. Legend states that the Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd rallied his army under the tree in 1157, before defeating the English King Henry II at the nearby battle of Crogen, and that the tree was spared when Henry had his men cut down the Ceiriog woods in 1165."
While on the subject of the remarkable longevity of trees, it's good to pause and appreciate how large they can be.  This photo comes from a story about petrified trees found in Thailand, with the largest trunk excavated so far.  It's believed that originally this 800,000 year old fossil would have been more than 330 feet tall, which is sketched next to a modern day giraffe for scale.  Consider that even more incredibly, the tallest modern trees - Eucalyptus (gum trees) of Australia and Sequoia (redwoods) of California - can reach 425 feet in height.  Any living thing so potent that it will survive that long or grow that big doesn't just begin die out because it's weak and frail.
The pictures in this post (other than those illustrating articles) are from near my home in western New Jersey, all from an area no bigger than a square mile.  None of these trees are anywhere near a thousand years old, or even three hundred.  This maple riddled with holes is likely not even a century old.  Most of those on the ground fell in Sandy, even though the winds were so diminished that the storm wasn't even categorized as a hurricane when it made landfall.
The trees didn't snap from extraordinary wind, they fell because their roots and insides are rotting.  So many millions came down that even now, even in an exclusive town - Far Hills - famed for extravagant mansions, the cleanup continues.  The day I went by the grounds of this estate, there were two workers with chain saws trying to clear the tangled mess.
There isn't a tree still standing that is healthy, either.  They all have bark that is splitting and falling off.
Imagine my excitement when I read in the New York Times the report that a scientist in Japan is claiming pollution from China is killing trees there.  He has been mocked by orthodox foresters, who blame tree decline, to the extent they agree it is even occurring, on insects and deer - where on earth have we heard that before?  It's such a thrill to find a kindred spirit on the other side of the planet, with such a remarkable story (he actually switched careers to prove his thesis), that the full article follows (source of photos here).
YAKUSHIMA, Japan — A mysterious pestilence has befallen this island’s primeval forests, leaving behind the bleached, skeletal remains of dead trees that now dot the dark green mountainsides. Osamu Nagafuchi, an environmental engineer with a passion for the island and its rugged terrain, believes he knows the culprit: airborne pollutants from smog-belching China, hundreds of miles upwind.

For years, Mr. Nagafuchi’s theory was ignored by fellow scientists and even mocked by bureaucrats in the national government who administer the forests on this southwestern island. But Japan has begun taking his warnings more seriously, as the nation has been gripped by a national health scare over rising levels of potentially dangerous airborne particles that have swept into other parts of Japan and that many now believe were produced by China, its huge and rapidly industrializing neighbor.
These fears have reached a new level recently as China itself has issued more public warnings about the growing health risks from its cities’ gray, soupy air. While Mr. Nagafuchi and a small number of collaborators say their research is not politically motivated, they admit that they may be finding more receptivity among a public that already resents China for supplanting Japan as Asia’s largest economy, and for what is seen as its haughty attitude in a territorial dispute over islands both countries claim.

Japanese officials still dispute whether airborne pollutants are responsible for killing the pine trees. But they and other scientists have at least begun to view Yakushima, which is far from Japan’s own industrial centers, as a pristine laboratory for understanding how China’s growing environmental problems could be affecting its neighbors.

Many islanders are already believers, and they worry that the pollutants may be threatening their health.
“We are starting to feel like the canary in a coal mine,” said the island’s mayor, Koji Araki. “Our island is right downwind from China, so we get the brunt of it.”

Whatever the cause, the tree die-off is a worrisome turn for this small, mountainous island off Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, whose moss-carpeted forests provide a rare patch of primitive nature in an otherwise densely populated nation. There are fears here that a growing smog problem could scare off the hikers and other ecotourists upon whom many of the island’s 14,000 residents depend for their livelihoods.

Most visitors come to see Yakushima’s majestic cedar trees, which have so far been unaffected by the mysterious ailment killing the pines. The cedars won the island the distinction of a Unesco World Heritage site in 1993.

The cedars were logged for centuries to build some of the great Buddhist temples in the ancient capital, Kyoto. The biggest remaining tree, the gnarled Jomon cedar, measures 16 feet around at the base and is estimated to be at least 2,600 years old.

The dying trees are from an endangered species of pine that is found only on Yakushima and a neighboring island. Mr. Nagafuchi, a professor of ecosystem studies at the University of Shiga Prefecture in central Japan, said he noticed the problem when satellite photographs showed a large increase in the number of dead trees between 1992 and 1996.
Mr. Nagafuchi, then a public employee for a city in Kyushu, had already found blackened snow while hiking to Yakushima’s mountaintops in 1992. He started collecting and analyzing the snow as a sort of weekend hobby. To his surprise, he found it contained silicon, aluminum and other byproducts from the burning of coal, which is used to heat homes in China. Using maps of winds, he theorized that the pollutants were carried here from China, across the East China Sea.

The discovery drove Mr. Nagafuchi to quit his city job and eventually become a university professor, doing much of his research on Yakushima. He has set up small monitoring stations around the island to measure levels in the air of ozone and sulfur emissions, which are typically the byproducts of burned coal or automobile exhaust.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Nagafuchi climbed to the highest of those stations, atop Mt. Kuromi, a windswept peak that rises 6,000 feet above the sea below. After hooking up his laptop to download data from the station’s small digital recorder, he pointed out the thin, gauzy haze that clouded what he said should have been pristine air.

“The worst is when winds blow from Beijing and Tianjin,” two Chinese cities about 900 miles to the northwest, said Mr. Nagafuchi, 62, who visits Yakushima once a month to collect the data readings. “This is proof that when such a big country industrializes, its effect will spread everywhere.”

When they first started publicizing the findings in the mid-1990s, Mr. Nagafuchi and his main partner, Kenshi Tetsuka, an islander who started a small environmental group to protect the pines, were at first derided by forestry officials and established scientists who said they were sensationalizing the die-off to get public attention. Some scientists questioned why the tree deaths slowed even as China’s pollution problems have grown. Mr. Nagafuchi says he believes the pollution quickly killed off the weak trees, leaving the hardier ones.

His ideas began to win limited acceptance in the early 2000s, amid evidence of a growing influx of Chinese pollutants across Japan. The national government’s Forestry Agency began to allow Mr. Nagafuchi to set up his monitoring stations, and is doing joint research with him and Mr. Tetsuka, though it still believes the deaths are caused by an infestation of bugs and a runaway population of deer, which can strip small trees of pine needles.
They point out that there had been die-offs of pine trees on Yakushima even before China’s economic takeoff.

“We don’t agree with him, but we respect his research,” said Hiroharu Ijima, a Forestry Agency official on Yakushima.

Public anxieties about environmental effects from China have soared this year, after Beijing recorded alarming increases in pollution levels. That was followed by officials in western Japan issuing warnings in their own cities of high levels of particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less, known as PM 2.5, that are small enough to become embedded in human lungs. Several Japanese cities have issued warnings this year for residents to stay indoors when the pollutant levels spike.

When the air grew particularly hazy on Yakushima one day last month, local officials asked if they could use one of Mr. Nagafuchi’s monitoring stations to measure PM 2.5. The level was above government-recommended safe levels, prompting officials to order a local elementary school to cancel a field trip to a nearby forest.

Residents who believe the pollution is caused by China described feeling helpless, saying they doubt there is any action their government can take even if it becomes convinced Mr. Nagafuchi is right.

“There is not much we can do about this, except ask the Chinese to spend more money on environmental cleanup,” said Mr. Tetsuka, Mr. Nagafuchi’s research assistant. “I’m afraid it will only get worse and worse.”
Everyone is rightfully all worked up about bee colony collapse disorder.  It's not just bees that are disappearing, but other insect pollinators as well.  A review of possible causes concludes that it's a mix.  Involving a huge number of collaborators, the research was

"...carried out by an international team of 40 scientists from 27 institutions involved in the UK's Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI), a £10M research programme investigating the causes and consequences of pollinator decline."

"Dr. Adam Vanbergen from the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and science coordinator of the IPI led the review. He said, 'There is no single smoking gun behind pollinator declines, instead there is a cocktail of multiple pressures that can combine to threaten these insects. For example, the loss of food resources in intensively-farmed landscapes, pesticides and diseases are individually important threats, but are also likely to combine and exacerbate the negative impacts on pollinators.'"

"The review concluded that:
  • Pollinator populations are declining in many regions, threatening human food supplies and ecosystem functions
  • A suite of interacting pressures are having an impact on pollinator health, abundance, and diversity. These include land-use intensification, climate change, and the spread of alien species and diseases
  • A complex interplay between pressures (e.g. lack of food sources, diseases, and pesticides) and biological processes (e.g. species dispersal and interactions) at a range of scales (from genes to ecosystems) underpins the general decline in insect-pollinator populations
  • Interdisciplinary research and stakeholder collaboration are needed to help unravel how these multiple pressures affect different pollinators and will provide evidence-based solutions
  • Current options to alleviate the pressure on pollinators include establishment of effective habitat networks, broadening of pesticide risk assessments, and the development and introduction of innovative disease therapies."
Do we see any mention of ozone, or air pollution?  Nope, not one, not in the abstract.  Why not?  Consider that, according to controlled fumigation experiments discussed in research published earlier this month, ozone masks the volatile organic compounds - the scents from flowers - that guide pollinators to them.  According to the article, "Ozone pollution has great potential to perniciously alter key interactions between plants and animals."  Not only that, but the lead author wrote me "From other studies we also know that excessive amounts of pollutants such as ozone impair the physiology of insects."  Obviously ozone isn't the only threat to insects - all the others exist too.  But why do scientists leave it off the list?  Oh, wait.  Maybe because there's nothing to be done about it, short of dismantling industrial civilization.
There's no arguing with two concurrent trends.  One, trees both young and old and in between are dying at an unnatural rate all over the world and two, the background level of pollution is increasing.  The articles pile up so fast, it's impossible to catalog them all, but following are some of the more interesting to Ozonists:
Note the large fallen trunk with most of the bark fallen off.  It was standing dead long before Sandy blew it over.
NASA scientists and colleagues examined the satellite record from 2008 to determine the contribution of long-range transported ozone plumes to western US pollution.  All the models and measurements are too technical for me but it looks like some scary shit, especially considering that 2008 was five years ago and things just keep getting worse.  From the abstract of the paper:

"The impacts of transported background (TBG) pollutants on western US ozone (O3) distributions in summer 2008 are studied using the multi-scale Sulfur Transport and deposition Modeling system. Forward sensitivity simulations show that TBG contributes ~30–35 ppb to the surface Monthly mean Daily maximum 8-h Average O3 (MDA8) over Pacific Southwest (US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9, including California, Nevada and Arizona) and Pacific Northwest (EPA Region 10, including Washington, Oregon and Idaho), and ~10–17 ppm-h to the secondary standard metric "W126 monthly index" over EPA Region 9 and ~3–4 ppm-h over Region 10. The strongest TBG impacts on W126 occur over the grass/shrub-covered regions. Among TBG pollutants, O3 is the major contributor to surface O3, while peroxyacetyl nitrate is the most important O3 precursor species."

Adding over 30 ppb to the ambient local sources is HUGE, because 40 ppb is the threshold for vegetative damage.
The following is from the introduction.  Basically, they are trying to refine their understanding of the contribution from transboundary precursors because it determines whether areas can comply with air quality regulations (I took out the zillions of citations):

"The magnitude of TBG [transported background level of ozone] is expected to increase as the international emission sources grow.  This trend is especially important in the context of US air quality standards, which tend to be tightened over time to further protect human health and ecosystems. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to lower the federal 8-h primary O3 standard to a level within 60-70 ppb, and to establish a seasonal “secondary” standard to protect sensitive vegetation and ecosystems, in the form of “cumulative peak-weighted index” (W126) within 7–15 ppm-h. The proposal was withdrawn in 2011 and the next revision is expected to occur in 2013 based on the most recent scientific findings."

[um, no.  The EPA didn't "withdraw" the proposal to tighten regulations - Obama told them they couldn't.  I am highly dubious that they will be revised this year, either.]

"Observational and modeling studies have been conducted to evaluate the impacts of extra-regional sources on western North America (NA) O3 variability and to estimate the background O3 levels. They have shown that trans-Pacific transport episodes are frequent and intense during the spring time.  There is growing recognition that the extra-regional contributions in summer are also important.  In addition to impacts of TBG O3 itself, O3 precursors (e.g., peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN)) in the extra-regional plumes can generate O3 during the transport and subsidence processes."
The tree that fell was black with rot inside and the standing tree in the foreground is losing bark.
This is what I get for keeping the NASA Air Quality Applied Sciences Team (AQAST) site on the bookmarks bar.  Another recent publication highlighted there looks at "Present and Future Nitrogen Deposition to National Parks in the US:  Critical Load Exceedences".  This map is from 2006 - I won't bother to post their projections for 2050, because they are laughable, both because we won't willingly reduce emissions as much as assumed, and because industrial civilization will have crashed well before then, so probably the emissions we'll be needing to be worried about - if anybody is still around to worry - will be radiation from the 400+ nuclear power plants that have melted down in the absence of fuel to cool them.
But since nitrogen is germane to the topic here at Wit's End - ecosystem collapse from pollution - here is my interpretation of the model shown above:  24 of 45 National Parks are in critical load exceedences, and 14 others marginally so, of nitrogen from anthropogenic sources, mostly fuel combustion (NOx - 40 to 85%) and the remainder from agriculture in the form of ammonia.  From the paper:

"Elevated N deposition caused by human activity is mainly driven by nitrogen oxides (NOx - NO + NO2) from fuel combustion and ammonia (NH3) from agriculture.  NOx is produced in combustion by oxidation of atmospheric N2 and fuel nitrogen.  It is oxidized in the atmosphere on a time scale of a day to nitric acid (HNO3), which is removed rapidly by wet and dry deposition.  NH3 is produced industrially as fertilizer from reaction of N2 and H2 (Haber_Bosch process).  Part of the NH3 is lost to the atmosphere upon fertilizer application, and additional NH3 is emitted from animal husbandry operations.  NH3 is removed rapidly from the atmosphere by wet an dry deposition, similarly to HNO3."
This is my favorite part:

"Excess deposition of N to natural ecosystems can decrease biodiversity, disrupt soil nutrient cycling, and cause acidification and eutrophication of waters.  This excess deposition is of particular concern in US national parks, where legislation dictates that natural resources be preserved unimpaired."

Got that?  It's ILLEGAL to pollute the parks, but everywhere else it's...okay!!!!

"The National Park Service was established in 1916 under the Organic Act, which states as fundamental for national parks to 'conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.'  Perturbation of park ecosystems by anthropogenic N deposition violates this charter.  However, NPS has no authority to control sources outside of the lands that it manages.  The N deposited to NPS lands may originate hundreds or thousands of kilometers away, which complicates source attribution and regulation."
It is very typical to see trees that are missing a full complement of branches in their crowns.
The National Park Service commissioned various studies which arrived at the following conclusions (now at a minimum five years out of date):

"Ozone affects human health, causing respiratory problems, and vegetation, causing visible foliar injury and reducing growth and reproduction. The National Park Service monitors ozone in certain parks and is conducting studies on vegetation to assess and better understand the effects of ozone. Vegetation injury from ozone has been documented in a number of parks, including Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, Sequoia, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Recent studies from Great Smoky Mountains National Park found that tree growth was reduced 30-50% in high ozone years. In addition, ozone increased water loss from trees, reducing soil moisture and streamflow in the forest."
"Ozone also reduces photosynthesis in plants, reducing their ability to store, or sequester, carbon...Ambient ozone caused a periodic slowdown in seasonal growth patterns that led to seasonal losses in stem growth of 30–50% for most species in a high ozone year. Researchers also documented depletion of soil moisture in the rooting zone and reduced late-season streamflow in forested watersheds during the high ozone year, findings that suggest that ozone will amplify the adverse effects of increasing temperatures on forest growth and forest hydrology."
Peeling bark has become common.
One proxy measure of how badly trees are doing - since trees are relatively neglected, and can't speak - is the parallel damage done to human health, which is better monitored (although still downplayed).

The Guardian just ran an article about the poor air quality in London that is making it difficult for singers to sing, deeming it a "health crisis" and asking "Why are we only now waking up?"  Why, indeed.
"The last few weeks have been stressful for many of the 5.4 million people, including 1.1 million children, who are receiving treatment for asthma and for the tens of thousands of others with respiratory diseases. Since Christmas, there have been four major air pollution episodes, stretching from London to Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, Dundee and Glasgow. A pollution monitor in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland registered 10, the highest possible level of NO2. On 3 March, the department of the environment advised people to reduce or avoid strenuous activity and Matthew Pencharz, the mayor of London's environment adviser, said it would be 'sensible' for children to be kept away from playgrounds during smog episodes."

"After years of focusing on climate change, government and environment groups are only now slowly waking up to the public health crisis.  In 2011, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee calculated that living in an air pollution hot spot could shave nine years off the lives of the most vulnerable people."

…"'It's a disgrace the UK is failing so badly on air pollution – tens of thousands of people die every year. Action by the government to clean up our dirty air is too little too late – and road-building plans will simply make the situation worse,' said Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates'."

"One reason that it has been able to dodge the law is that modern air pollution is mostly invisible, colourless, odourless, and tasteless, or comes in particles so small they can pas through masks. Sixty years ago you could practically cut the coal smoke belching from chimneys. It turned buildings and clothes black, damaged crops and gave people lasting diseases. But when coal declined, the problem was assumed to have gone."

"'We see the health impact today but it's difficult to take seriously because you cannot see it. The solutions involve closing roads and reducing traffic, so it's very hard for most political parties to even imagine acting,' said Jenny Jones, London Green party assembly member."

"These days air pollution comes largely from diesel engines. It can be best seen when fumes get trapped and a dull orange-grey smog develops. Technically, it is produced by sunlight reacting with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the atmosphere. When sunlight hits these chemicals, they form airborne particles and the result is ground-level ozone or smog. Overall, diesel cars emit less hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and lead pollution than petrol cars, but produce more noxious gases and significantly more minute particles. A 2011 test by government to measure emissions from vehicles in everyday use concluded that, while petrol emissions had improved by 96%, 'emissions of NOx [nitrogen oxide] from diesel cars and light goods vehicles have not decreased for the past 15-20 years'."
A huge old oak with bark coming off in vertical strips.
"The pollution mix has changed over time as traffic has emerged as the predominate source. It's not only the small, nanosize of the particles, but also their changed composition and their interaction with gaseous co-pollutants that give us cause for concern. The lower levels of these particles in today's air in no way suggests they are any less harmful than the historic pollutant episodes." says Ian Mudway."

"Meanwhile, there are many more diesels than before. They have increased across Europe by 35% since 1990 and, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers, over 50% of all cars registered in Britain are now diesel, up from 23% in 2002."
And then the British blame invasive pathogens for their epidemic of dying trees?  At least in the case of the ash - only one of many species that are dying off - they have stopped the absurd theory that the killer fungus was brought in on imported trees, and now say spores blew over from Europe.

"The spread of the deadly fungus threatening all 80m British ash trees cannot be stopped, a leading Government scientist has said, and Britain’s woods and forests will have to undergo major change as a result."

"Government scientists are making a clear distinction between the planting sites and nurseries, on the one hand, where the fungus has been found on imported saplings, and the infected mature woodlands in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent, on the other, where the disease has almost certainly been blown in on fungal spores from continental Europe, where it is widespread."

So if their favorite xenophobic culprit - imported invasive pathogens hitch-hiking on nursery stock - doesn't work anymore, you'd think they might wonder WHY NOW the trees are dying.
Pine trees are losing needles and thin.
One clever commenter observed:

Peter Ormonde (Australia)  

"Funghi - unlike viruses - don't change much if at all. One would assume that this stuff has been about for as long as time ... at least as long as ash trees... unless these strange winds have suddenly appeared, or your migrating birds have suddenly started carrying spore hitchhikers.
So what has happened that it should suddenly become a problem?
I'd be looking a bit deeper than this... sounds more like a symptom of a sick forest - that something that was previously controlling the spread of this fungus has stopped doing the job. Wonder what it was."

Wonder what it was?  Maybe...natural immunity possessed by healthy trees!  Because he's quite correct, the spores have been floating around in the stratosphere for...about as long as time...

And so does the pollution.

Foreign Affairs article, "Choking on China; the Superpower that is Poisoning the World", recounts in terrifying detail how China's pollution is impacting the entire globe, but tends to gloss over the rather more inconvenient fact that much of it is due to their manufacturing and shipping grotesque quantities of cheap goods to Walmarts across America.
"The dangers of China’s environmental degradation go well beyond the country’s borders, as pollution threatens global health more than ever. Chinese leaders have argued that their country has the right to pollute, claiming that, as a developing nation, it cannot sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment. In reality, however, China is holding the rest of the world hostage -- and undermining its own prosperity."
"Such air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. The unrelenting pace of construction of coal-fired power plants is only making matters worse. In his recent monograph, Climate Change: The China Problem, environmental scholar Michael Vandenbergh writes, “On average, a new coal-powered electric plant large enough to serve a city the size of Dallas opens in China every seven to ten days.” The lack of widespread coal-washing infrastructure and scrubbers at Chinese industrial facilities exacerbates the problem."
"Carbon dioxide emissions from cars in China are also growing exponentially, replacing coal-fired power plants as the major source of pollution in major Chinese cities. Deutsche Bank estimates that the number of passenger cars in China will reach 400 million by 2030, up from today’s 90 million. And the sulfur levels produced by diesel trucks in China are at least 23 times worse than those in the United States. Acid rain, caused by these emissions, has damaged a third of China’s limited cropland, in addition to forests and watersheds on the Korean Peninsula and in Japan."
"This pollution reaches the United States as well, sometimes at levels prohibited by the U.S. Clean Water Act. In 2006, researchers at the University of California–Davis discovered that almost all of the harmful particulates over Lake Tahoe originated in China. The environmental experts Juli Kim and Jennifer Turner note in their essay “China’s Filthiest Export” that “by the time it reaches the U.S., mercury transforms into a reactive gaseous material that dissolves easily in the wet climates of the Pacific Northwest.” At least 20 percent of the mercury entering the Willamette River in Oregon most likely comes from China. Black carbon soot from China also threatens to block sunlight, lower crop yields, heat the atmosphere, and destabilize weather throughout the Pacific Rim..."
"The dangers of China’s environmental degradation go well beyond the country’s borders, as pollution threatens global health more than ever. Chinese leaders have argued that their country has the right to pollute, claiming that, as a developing nation, it cannot sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment. In reality, however, China is holding the rest of the world hostage -- and undermining its own prosperity."
"Such air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. The unrelenting pace of construction of coal-fired power plants is only making matters worse. In his recent monograph, Climate Change: The China Problem, environmental scholar Michael Vandenbergh writes, “On average, a new coal-powered electric plant large enough to serve a city the size of Dallas opens in China every seven to ten days.” The lack of widespread coal-washing infrastructure and scrubbers at Chinese industrial facilities exacerbates the problem."
"Carbon dioxide emissions from cars in China are also growing exponentially, replacing coal-fired power plants as the major source of pollution in major Chinese cities. Deutsche Bank estimates that the number of passenger cars in China will reach 400 million by 2030, up from today’s 90 million. And the sulfur levels produced by diesel trucks in China are at least 23 times worse than those in the United States. Acid rain, caused by these emissions, has damaged a third of China’s limited cropland, in addition to forests and watersheds on the Korean Peninsula and in Japan. This pollution reaches the United States as well, sometimes at levels prohibited by the U.S. Clean Water Act."
"In 2006, researchers at the University of California–Davis discovered that almost all of the harmful particulates over Lake Tahoe originated in China. The environmental experts Juli Kim and Jennifer Turner note in their essay “China’s Filthiest Export” that “by the time it reaches the U.S., mercury transforms into a reactive gaseous material that dissolves easily in the wet climates of the Pacific Northwest.” At least 20 percent of the mercury entering the Willamette River in Oregon most likely comes from China. Black carbon soot from China also threatens to block sunlight, lower crop yields, heat the atmosphere, and destabilize weather throughout the Pacific Rim."
According to National Geographic, Extreme Algae Blooms are Expanding Worldwide:

"With an estimated seven billion people and counting, the world's population will only get hungrier. The advent of fertilizers and high-yield crops have helped growers keep pace with the demand for food."
"But there's an unintended crop flourishing around the world that is not always so beneficial. Microscopic, plantlike organisms called algae thrive on the excess nutrients—like nitrogen and phosphorus—found in fertilizers that make their way from backyards and fields, producing blooms that can sometimes be seen from space."
"Combined with warming temperatures and water circulation patterns, coastal areas such as Qingdao, the Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. West Coast—as well as freshwater systems like the Great Lakes—are no strangers to enormous algae blooms that can turn the water green or red.Some of these blooms can create dead zones, or areas that are deprived of oxygen, in the water. And some algal species can also produce toxins that wreak havoc on human livers and neurological functions and cause seizures in marine mammals."
"'There's no question in my mind that we are seeing a global increase in the frequency and severity of these [blooms],' said David Caron, a researcher at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles who studies harmful algal blooms."
There is a much more on nitrogen fertilizer and the genesis of toxic algae at a related story.  While an article in the Christian Science Monitor explores possible reasons for unusual mortality of California sea lion pups, including Fukushima radiation, the most likely explanation is the more mundane.  David Helvarg, author of “The Golden Shore – California's Love Affair with the Sea, was consulted and replied:

While the research could point to a collapse in food sources such as anchovies or squid, he adds via e-mail, “it could be a mixed result like with the manatee die-off in Florida, where a naturally occurring red tide is being unnaturally fed by nutrients from farm and lawn fertilizers.” 

In addition to nitrogen pollution, sea mammals such as dolphins and otters are succumbing to a whole host of germs, chemicals, and heavy metals that directly make them ill and also reduce their immunity to diseases.  There's a long sickening list here.

In fact now it emerges that the acidification of the ocean isn't just from CO2.

"A separate acidification process is under way in the vast expanse of Puget Sound, just as in other estuaries along the world’s coastlines. Runoff from farms, storm sewers, and urban pollution flushes organic carbon and other nutrients into estuaries that are nurseries to growing shellfish. These nutrients fuel blooms of marine algae, which then die, fall to the bottom, and during decomposition result in more CO2 being released to the water. In the air, emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides from factories, cars, and power plants are yet another source of nutrients that cause blooms that lead to more acidic waters."

"The chemical soup resulting from all of these acidification processes has made both Puget Sound and the Washington coastal area among the most acidic water­ways on the planet, according to Jan Newton, senior principal oceanographer at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory."
Apparently in West Virginia they have been battling acidity in streams by adding lime for years, so that fish will be exposed to less toxic aluminum released from the soil.

"Now, the state spends about $350,000 a year to dump limestone sand in more than 70 places in more than 50 streams. Most of those water bodies get more than one treatment a year.  The scheme shows how simple technology can be used to help restore ecosystems damaged by human activity. It is also one more reminder of how fragile our freshwater ecosystems are, and how just because acid rain may have slipped from the headlines, the problem hasn’t gone away."

Really?  I think it shows how desperate and stupid we are.  What's that limestone going to do for the trees?
Sometimes the bark comes off more like scales than sheets.  Below, I easily removed chunks with my fingers.
A new study by the US Forest Service compares ozone levels in remote Sierra locations in years with low and high wildfire influence.  The data is from 2007 and 2008, and not surprisingly, it found that while mean and median values of ozone concentrations were similar in summer, maximum concentrations were higher in 2008, a year with more wildfires.  It notes:

"Impaired air quality and elevated concentrations of atmospheric pollutants, especially those regulated at the national and state levels, may have negative effects on human health and ecological resources. From this perspective, O3 is especially important because it is a criteria pollutant with well-known deleterious effects on humans and vegetation."
What's most compelling for Ozonists however is the statement by the lead author as reported in an article about the research (and thank you to David blogging at WindSpiritKeeper for the link!)

“These findings are important for Sierra Nevada air and land managers and indicate that even at remote eastern Sierra locations, ozone air pollution may be a problem for human and ecosystem health,” says Dr. Bytnerowicz, the study’s lead author. “Due to these potential risks, there is a need for long-term ozone monitoring in the Sierra Nevada in general, but especially in the areas with high local population and many summer recreational visitors.”
"There is also a need for evaluation of ozone effects on forest health since this pollutant may weaken trees, making them more sensitive to drought and bark beetle attacks, and consequently resulting in premature death and higher susceptibility to wildland fires, Bytnerowicz notes."

Isn't that awesome?  And Dr. Bytnerowicz, hitherto unknown to Wit's End, has lots of other papers along these lines, but they will have to wait for another post.
One in this row of pines along a drive came down but they are all transparent.
The owners of this lavish property just shoved it to the side.  There are too many down to cut them all.
Even the youngest trees have corroded bark.
Another Sandy victim.
Viewed from the other side, clearly this tree was already dying when the storm knocked it over.
The leaves of evergreens like this laurel are all spotted.
It was time to check in again at the Wisconsin Free Air Chamber Enrichment (FACE) facility and see what new research they have produced lately.  Last I heard, they had cut down all the trees, ostensibly because they had gotten too large, but were letting them regrow from the original roots with the idea that experimentation wouldn't be affected.  This bothered me because it would have also eliminated all the above-ground pathogens that proliferate in high levels of ozone as demonstrated by their own research, but no use crying over spilt milk.  When I went to their website this is what I saw:

The Aspen FACE (Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment) Experiment is a multidisciplinary study to assess the effects of increasing tropospheric ozone and carbon dioxide levels on the structure and function of northern forest ecosystems.
Aspen FACE continued in 2010 as the Northern Forest Ecosystem Experiment (NFEE), funded by the US Forest Service. Original trees were harvested during 2009 and a new forest vigorously sprouted under the FACE treatments in 2010......before treatments were discontinued"!!!! 

In shock, I called to make sure I was interpreting that correctly and yup, indeed, the entire project has been abandoned.  What possible sense can that make when 1) a huge amount of infrastructure had already been invested and 2) the levels of the two gases they are monitoring there - CO2 and ozone - are increasing in the atmosphere?!
So the government took over the funding and then shut it down.  Hm.  The US Forest Service also shut down their decades-long ozone biomonitoring project, and the National Crop Loss Assessment Network (NCLAN) run by the USDA had been likewise abandoned.
I next thought well, I had better check with the USDA SoyFACE program, which tests the effects of air "enriched" if you can call it that, with CO2 and ozone, on annual agricultural crops.  I was somewhat dismayed to discover that although they list nine studies published in 2010, and fourteen in 2009, there was only one listed for 2011 and exactly zero last year, 2012.  Messages to email addresses at the website were returned as undeliverable, and messages to the researchers at their academic institutions weren't answered.  Seems odd, since a colorful infographic from their results page dated 2010 is based on the observation that as of 2006 the US was already losing 10 - 25% of its soybean yield due to ozone - and adds, these costs will rise as surface level ozone increases; while another reminds us:
•Ozone (O3) is a pollutant formed when NOx, CO & VOCs are exposed to light.
•When taken up through stomata, O3 is quickly converted into harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage membranes, proteins and DNA.

My oh my damages membranes, proteins and DNA.  That sounds rather serious.  We also know that it stunts growth.  A 2007 paper titled "Air Pollution Effects on Vegetables" begins:
"The burning of coal and other fossil fuels gives rise to various chemical pollutants such as SO2 (sulfur dioxide), NOx (nitrogen oxides such as nitrite, nitrate, etc.), O3 (ozone) as well as a variety of other hydrocarbons. Ozone and peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) produced in these reactions can become injurious to plants depending on concentration and duration of exposure. Ozone causes up to 90 percent of the air pollution injury to vegetation in the United States and negatively influences plant growth and development causing decreases in yield. Ozone injury to watermelons is common in the mid-Atlantic area. After ozone, PAN is the next most phytotoxic air pollutant."

"Movement of Pollutants into Plants: Most of the polluting gases enter leaves through stomata, following the same pathway as CO2. NOx dissolves in cells and gives rise to nitrite ions (NO2 - which is toxic at high concentrations) and nitrate ions (NO3 - that enter into the nitrogen metabolism of the plant as if they were absorbed by the roots)."
"Crops Affected: Tomato, watermelon, squash, potato, string beans, snap beans, pinto beans, tobacco, soybeans, cantaloupe, muskmelon, alfalfa, beets, sunflower, carrots, sweet corn, gourds, green peas, turnips, grapes, peaches, and strawberries are some of the more susceptible crops to air pollution damage. Cucumbers, pumpkins, and peppers are less susceptible. Watermelon and squash are the most sensitive of the cucurbits followed by cantaloupe."
There is a neat summary and pictures of visible symptoms at that paper for any gardeners who might want to compare leaves as the growing season progresses.

Maybe the USDA gave up looking for ozone resistant cultivars at SoyFACE because they don't exist.  According to research in 2009, potential for mitigating crop loss from ozone is "limited" and "changes in sowing date, crop variety and irrigation had little global implication":
"Surface ozone (O3) is a potent phytotoxic air pollutant that reduces the productivity of agricultural crops. Growing use of fossil fuel and climate change are increasing O3 concentrations to levels that threaten food supply. Historically, farmers have successfully adapted agricultural practices to cope with changing environments. However, high O3 concentrations are a new threat to food production and possibilities for adaptation are not well understood. We simulate the impact of ozone damage on four key crops (wheat, maize, rice and soybean) on a global scale and assess the effectiveness of adaptation of agricultural practices to minimize ozone damage. As O3 concentrations have a strong seasonal and regional pattern, the adaptation options assessed refer to shifting crop calendars through changing sowing dates, applying irrigation and using crop varieties with different growth cycles."
"Results show that China, India and the United States are currently by far the most affected countries, bearing more than half of all global losses and threatened areas. Irrigation largely affects ozone exposure but local impacts depend on the seasonality of emissions and climate. Shifting crop calendars can reduce regional O3 damage for specific crop-location combinations (e.g. up to 25% for rain-fed soybean in India) but has little implication at the global level. Considering the limited benefits of adaptation, mitigation of O3 precursors remains the main option to secure regional and global food production."
As if the growing case that raising crops for biofuels results in hungry people weren't enough, it turns out they can also make you sick. Certain fast-growing trees used for biofuels in Europe also "increase concentrations of ground-level ozone, resulting in millions of tonnes in crop losses and an additional 1,385 deaths per year," reports Climate News Network, of the results of a recent study (abstract here) by a UK research team published in Nature Climate Change.
"Ground-level ozone is a priority air pollutant, causing ~ 22,000 excess deaths per year in Europe, significant reductions in crop yields and loss of biodiversity. It is produced in the troposphere through photochemical reactions involving oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The biosphere is the main source of VOCs, with an estimated 1,150TgCyr−1(~ 90% of total VOC emissions) released from vegetation globally. Isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene) is the most significant biogenic VOC in terms of mass (around 500TgCyr−1) and chemical reactivity and plays an important role in the mediation of ground-level ozone concentrations. Concerns about climate change and energy security are driving an aggressive expansion of bioenergy crop production and many of these plant species emit more isoprene than the traditional crops they are replacing. Here we quantify the increases in isoprene emission rates caused by cultivation of 72Mha of biofuel crops in Europe. We then estimate the resultant changes in ground-level ozone concentrations and the impacts on human mortality and crop yields that these could cause. Our study highlights the need to consider more than simple carbon budgets when considering the cultivation of biofuel feedstock crops for greenhouse-gas mitigation."
A study on sea-level rise brings up an important point about ozone - it would cycle out of the atmosphere relatively quickly, compared to CO2 which persists for hundreds of years once emitted.  Reducing the emission of precursors will slow sea-level and temperature rise - and tree death!

"With coastal areas bracing for rising sea levels, new research indicates that cutting emissions of certain pollutants can greatly slow down sea level rise this century.  The research team found that reductions in four pollutants that cycle comparatively quickly through the atmosphere could temporarily forestall the rate of sea level rise by roughly 25 to 50 percent."

The decline of trees certainly appears to be accelerating at an exponential rate, which probably has to do with secondary, opportunistic attacks from pathogens that proliferate because their natural immunity is compromised from pollution.  In a video about the death of hemlocks from wooly adelgid, a forester states that the spread into the southern Appalachians has been "...much faster and more devastating than experts had expected."  Duh.  That's because the adelgid, though non-native, arrived in North America in 1924, but didn't decide to wipe out stands of hemlocks until much more recently, begging the question - Why?
Meanwhile, a 120 acre stand of red pines planted in 1940 is being removed from a state park in New Hampshire, to slow the spread of red pine scale.  Red pine scale is described as an insect that has "...destroyed thousands of trees in Southern New England".  But wait - native pathogens are killing white pines in New Hampshire, too.  Last summer, the Forest Service reported:

"Needles on some eastern white pines across much of New England, New York and eastern Canada are turning yellow and brown again, indicating the renewed presence of disease.  Forest health managers are concerned about the amount of damage these fungi can cause to the eastern white pine, an important tree species across the region.  Three fungi appear to be the culprits. They include Mycosphaerella dearnessii, Canavirgella banfieldii and Bifusella linearis.  The infected needles started to change color in May and they are expected to fall off by early July.  'It showed up suddenly over Memorial Day weekend,' said Vermont Forest Health Program Manager Barbara Burns. “It’s widespread. Wherever we find white pine trees, we see evidence of the needle damage.'"
At the same time, they also published a report about another native pathogen:

"A native canker is posing a growing problem for pines across New Hampshire and several other eastern states.  'Wherever you have white pine, you can find stands infested with Caliciopsis,' said Kyle Lombard, the New Hampshire Forest Health Program manager. 'It is not uncommon to find up to 70 percent of pines in a given stand affected with the disease in parts of the Granite State, he added.'"
"Caliciopsis pinea can be found in dense pine stands in sandy and well-drained soils. Signs of possible C. pinea infection include cankerous growths and significant sapping, as well as crown thinning and decreases in crown density."

"The Caliciopsis canker is also found in Maine, Vermont, New York, Virginia, West Virginia and Georgia, as well as in Europe.  Forest health managers first detected the disease in New Hampshire in 1997."

"'It was earlier confused with blister rust,” said Lombard. 'When a landowner asked us what was killing his trees we looked into it. It seemed like blister rust, but on closer observation we determined it was C. pinea instead.  I don’t think there’s any question that C. pinea is a major contributing factor in cases where there are dead and dying eastern white pine stands,” added Lombard. 'The only question is if it’s the primary or secondary cause of decline.'"

"Researchers investigated the C. pinea in the late 1930s, proving that the fungus is able to cause cankers in eastern white pine trees.  This pathogen has been receiving renewed interest of late because of its association with declining white pine health in several states including Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia and New Hampshire.  'The disease is poorly understood and requires further study,' said Isabel Munck, a US Forest Service forest pathologist in Durham, N.H."

In an astonishing pirouette, Craig Allen of "trees are dying from drought" fame has co-authored a paper that can best be described as innovative - at least for the stodgy, cautious US Geological Socity.  The Malthusian-Darwinian Dynamic and the Trajectory of Civilization however is lamentably self-contradictory, by implying  our "exceptional brains" give us the alacrity to overcome genetically-programmed somehow, outsmart our own evolutionary imperative.  It's also naive, whether obtusely or for the sake of academic politics, because it assumes the catastrophes it thinks we can subvert aren't already though

1.  the population isn't already in overshoot; and
2.  catastrophic climate change isn't already a fait accompli.
Alas, in their analysis the word "pollution" let alone "ozone" or even "waste" don't deserve a mention - all they consider is resource use and CO2 emissions.  But it's not very long and worth perusal if only for amusement.  Some excerpts:

"The Malthusian dynamic pushes a population to increase until it reaches its environmental limits. The Darwinian dynamic pushes against these limits by incorporating new traits and technologies that enhance survival and reproduction. There are restrictions to this Malthusian–Darwinian Dynamic (MDD), however: it is logically, physically, and biologically impossible for exponential growth to continue indefinitely within a finite world."

"Until now, both Malthusians and Cornucopians have been correct: some populations have crashed and cultures have vanished, but our species has endured because these events have been localized. However, behavioral  changes and technological innovations over the last century now intricately interconnect us in a single global society. As a result, local perturbations currently have the ability to reverberate across all of humanity."

"…We must recognize that a sustainable future will ultimately require: (i) negative population growth for a number of generations, followed by zero growth; (ii) a steady-state economy based on sustainable use of renewable energy and material resources; and (iii) new social norms that favor the welfare of the entire global population over that of specific individuals and groups.  It is also essential that we recognize that humanity has not yet evolved the genetic or cultural adaptations needed to accomplish these tasks."
"Our exceptional brains give us the ability to appreciate the present situation and envision alternate futures before catastrophe occurs. The challenge will be to facilitate a rapid cultural evolution that, for the good of the entire species, rewards individual sacrifices in fitness and quality of life. Genuine collaboration between natural and social scientists will be essential to inform society as a whole – and policy makers specifically – of this difficult but necessary adaptation required to accommodate our species in a finite and now full world."

To get the real skinny on the denoument of civilization, it's useful to check with people who were aware of the myriad converging cataclysms long before the rest of us, and who are well versed on the trajectory that will culminate in an agony-filled fiasco for humanity.  For example, Jorgen Randers, one of the original authors of "The Limits to Growth", whose recent talk about his newest publication is summarized over at Cassandra's Legacy:
"Today, Randers says, there is no more a fan of good and bad scenarios: there is only one; and it is not pleasant. It can only be the decline of our society, constrained by overpopulation, declining resource availability, and widespread damage caused by pollution and climate change. The start of the decline may come earlier or later; collapse may be faster or slower, but the shape of the future is determined." 
"Randers maintains that there is a simple way to describe the reasons that are taking us to this unpleasant future: people always make the choice that involves the least costs in the short term. The problem is all there: as long as we always choose the easiest road, we have no control on where we are going."

The Limits to Growth was published in 1972, the year I graduated from high school.  I think perhaps I was too young to be aware of it, and by the time I was old enough to be interested in the future, the denial of its warnings was so entrenched by proponents of the religion of growth, that it had been successfully marginalized and forgotten.  The highly distinguished Dennis Meadows, another co-author, recently stated in an interview:

"My concern is that for genetic reasons we are just not able to deal with such things as long-term climate change. As long as we do not learn that, there is no way to solve all these problems. There’s nothing we could do."
Dire as the prospects anticipated by these authors may be, neither they nor virtually any others who are examining future collapse scenarios consider the impact of ozone pollution, or, the over 400 nuclear power plants in the world.  The spent fuel rods have been accumulating, since no one knows what to do with them.  They have to be cooled, and so do the reactors, and they are completely reliant on outside power to do so.  Any disruption, temporary never mind permanent, to the electric grid and they have typically about two weeks of backup diesel fuel.  Then they start to meltdown.
Perhaps the enormity of this eventuality is more clear when considering that after the accident at Chernobyl, it took over a half a million workers to bring it under control, clean up, and build a huge container - WITH all the resources of industrial civilization available for equipment and power and supplies.  That simply isn't going to exist as society crumbles and there is no money and no gasoline or diesel, not to mention whatever breakdown of civility leads to lawlessness.  Oh and sea level rise.  How many nuclear plants are along the coasts?
. . . gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, 
for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign 
indifference of the universe.  ~ Albert Camus

We need to lay our hearts open to the benign indifference of the universe.  Based on the increasingly dire empirical evidence from climate science, to say nothing of an ecosystem ravaged by pollution, I have essentially no hope for the near-term survival of most life on earth.  In the spectrum of doomsayers, most would probably possess unwarranted optimism compared to my outlook, since I believe the unvarnished truth is that humans are inherently incapable of living sustainably, in harmony with natural constraints...and have been since we escaped those constraints by controlling fire.

I am more interested in how to gracefully accept the end of human tenure on earth in a way that doesn’t require spirituality, eternal connectedness, and certainly not a higher power.  The magnificence of nature has always been my reason for loving life, and now that much of it is coming to an ignominious end thanks to our dominance, there's not much left other than to explore it philosophically and try to write about it in a way that expresses our predicament with compassion, but also without needing to imbue the experience with the mirage of hope disguised as imaginary meaning.
In the interim I still feel a moral imperative to reveal the truth.  Periodically it's interesting to search youtube for amateur videos of dying trees.  Unfortunately tree decline is almost always attributed by the videographers to either the perennially popular chemtrail conspiracy (even though trees are dying in places with no air traffic), and/or radiation from Fukushima (even though trees were dying long before the tsunami).  A smattering of others get even more creative and so there will be some blaming cell phone radiation, the second coming of Jesus, HAARP and the New World Order, and even a switch of magnetic poles from the approach of the invisible planet Niburu.  For a while, the Gulf oil spill was near the top of the list but it has gone out of favor.
One news report of palms dying in La Jolla, CA posits the novel speculation that some nasty sinister person poisoned them deliberately!  The best of this lot is probably one from Germany, but also notable is one from Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is way too long, but catches some bees dying on camera after landing on dahlias in a park.  There are several others - from the Pine Barrens, New Jersey, the Southwestern US desertColumbia River Gorge, Orgeon, Roanoke, VA, and Michigan.  A number of these I found collected at OptimalPrediction - thanks Rob!
MsNumber1rider, who captured some great footage of the malevolent lichen which she misidentifies as moss in Ithaca, New York, didn't appreciate my comments about pollution and wrote back with barely concealed menace:

OOOOOOO OK I SEE YOU are a government shill or an imbesile - now you are blocked and deleted FOOL

...while for an experience that can only be described as surreal, if you've got time to sit through it, the rambling but poignant monologue of a lady living in a car with her dogs somewhere between Massachusetts and Kentucky may cause you to reconsider many things you take for granted.

“I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.”
~ Ian Fleming, “You Only Live Twice”

I plan to download this movie and watch it - it looks like a reminder of what is good in this life and why we should not waste our days:


  1. Gail, did you see this? They are saying that snow on Arctic Sea Ice cleaned up Ozone. But the Arctic Sea Ice is melting ....

  2. Gail,

    A friend of mine sent me this:

    There are two nearby creeks that I've been visiting this year with limnology on my mind. And I used to visit them as a kid. There are a lot of dead trees in these creek areas now. Sunlight reaches the forest floor more than I would expect. But maybe it's just too early in the spring still. But there are a lot of dead trees. This includes very young ones - some about 2 inches in diameter to some that are about 8-10 inches. In my parent's yard, a dead tree that was about a foot and a half in diameter fell down about 10 or 15 years ago and that is long decayed and gone (it never was cut up or anything). Also, there has been a dogwood blight of some type, and that seems to have claimed a lot of dogwoods - one from my parent's front yard. I seem to recall many more in this area as a kid than I see now.

    My daughter and I are studying the woods behind our house and documenting the decline. Spring has really made the dead ones stand out.

  3. Thank you opensheart for that link. Atmospheric chemistry is sooooo complicated it makes my head hurt. The reactions are constant, nothing is static and the ways of measuring are confusing, and the modeling is even worse. I guess the take-away for me is that we shouldnt'a been messing with it!

    Thanks for that John. I am in a state of aprehension this spring. We have frost every morning still, so that could be what is making some leaves look odd already - reddened, mutated, crumpled etc. Everything is late. I have only found one jack in the pulpit in the woods so far, and it was deformed. It's too soon to tell, but there are signs that this summer will be very different.

  4. It's hard to say what things will look like here in Vancouver, mainly because of the non uniformity of the leafing out. A lot of branches that I often think are dead I've found are just a few weeks behind the rest of the tree in budding/leafing. This is of course a sign of decline in itself but far better than the branches actually being dead.

    Every once in a while when surfing the net I come across a very puzzling picture that seems chronologically out of place, which is very puzzling. This example for instance is dated July 5th 2004:

    As you can see the picture could easily pass for the state of trees now in 2013.

  5. Well, if you look at the 2 most important links in this post - the first from the Japanese professor and the other from the Forest Service - they both have been documenting decline from air pollution for decades (as have others).

  6. You've done some good tenacious reporting here.
    Osamu Nagafuchi in Japan and Andrzej Bytnerowicz of the US Forest Service are good finds. They reinforce the real problem that human caused air pollution is a grave threat to the health of the world's trees, and all other living breathing things.
    BTW: It is common knowledge that trees absorb air pollution. It is also known that air pollution kills trees.
    It is obvious, as well, that air pollution is on the increase, and more and more trees, in proven polluted areas, are dying at a rapid rate.
    Keep digging at the truth, Gail.
    David Lange

  7. Thank you David for your blog and photographs...keep those links coming!


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