Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Trees Are Dying

I am speechless. This video is weird but stick with it - spot on! And many related links - I only just discovered and have yet to explore.

The same song with better quality - different images:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Reduce Anthropogenic Emissions of CO2, Immediately!"

This picture, steeped in irony, is from the flooding in Wisconsin.  You wouldn't know it from watching the teevee, but massive, unprecedented floods have been occurring all over the world in just the past year.  Over 100 record all-time high temperatures were set as well, including just yesterday, where Los Angeles hit 113 degrees F.  Change is chaotic, not smooth and linear.  I fear stability has surpassed a tipping point and it's going to be a wild ride on the downside.

A new paper about ocean acidification makes a typically cautious scientific observation that I have been wondering about for some time but had seen no corroboration in research - which is that coral bleaching, long attributed solely to warming waters, is actually taking place in the context of acidification:
"Based on a boron isotope (11B/10B) analysis of corals, Wei et al.54 report on a significant acidification trend associated with a pH value decrease on the order of 0.2 to 0.4 from 1940 to the present for the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Hence, the major widespread coral-bleaching events observed during the years 1998 and 2002, which have been presumably caused by temperature fluctuations, could have been exacerbated by ocean acidification.
Langdon et al... have provided strong experimental evidence that the growth of coral reefs predominantly depends on the ion concentration product [Ca2+] 􏰃 [CO2􏰂] of the ambient seawater, suggesting that its saturation state with respect to aragonite has  direct impact on the biogenic calcification of the species  involved, confirming earlier results by Gattuso et al..."
Bleached Coral
Compare them to the riot of color they should be!
The same diminishment so obvious in the ocean is replicated in the forests.
This is a maple on a Massachusetts farm from an October in the this glorious glow to the drab maples this year!
After a highly technical discussion of the ominous ramifications of ocean acidification on life both in the sea and on the land, they end with this succinct and stern conclusion:
"It is now the responsibility of the humanity to avoid a dangerous interference with the climate system and start to reduce anthropogenic emissions of CO2, immediately."
I expect this will be confirmed in future research.  Maybe similarly, some day, all those experts who blindly and stubbornly assume trees are dying exclusively from insects, disease, fungus, drought and warming will understand that the poisonous composition of the atmosphere from toxic greenhouse gases is the fundamental condition which underlies the process.  If that is true then there is actually some vestige of hope that the mass extinction of vegetation and the consequent collapse of the biosphere can be averted - or at least, significantly delayed.
The yellowing of needles is a symptom of exposure to ozone, and inevitably a prelude to completely bare branches.
A little bit of everything - the Black-eyed Susans have shriveled, yellowed leaves with symptoms of chlorosis, the earth is abnormally bare, the mum blossoms are a fraction of the size they should be, and the tree trunk is covered with lurid lichens.
Here's yet another species to add to the ever-expanding list of trees projected to meet extinction - bristlecone pine, as reported in the New York Times.
"Living in extreme conditions about two miles above sea level, they have become the oldest trees on the planet. The oldest living bristlecone, named Methuselah, has lived more than 4,800 years.
Now, however, scientists say these ancient trees may soon meet their match in the form of a one-two punch, from white pine blister rust, an Asian fungus that came to the United States from Asia, via Europe, a century ago, and the native pine bark beetle, which is in the midst of a virulent outbreak bolstered by warming in the high-elevation West."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Johan Rockstrom

seen at Survival Acres...transcript and background here

Scenes of Desolation

This field of soybeans has turned a garish searing yellow.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article about the EPA's proposed changes to the regulation of ozone levels.  It's too bad that the focus is solely on the danger to human health - and the cost to business - when scientific studies show that ozone is even more of a threat to plants.  After all, we all need plants to eat.  The maps they included are fascinating.  At first glance it appears as though only certain urban areas, concentrated mostly on the coasts, have levels in violation of current and potentially tighter regulations...but you have to understand that the vast white areas simply DO NOT HAVE MONITORS.

According to Wikipedea, there are 3,140 counties or their equivalent in the US.  Of those, only 675 have monitors, and of those 675, 96% would be in violatation the more stringent standards!  And then there is the small matter of whether cumulative, long term exposure to levels much lower than the proposed stricter 60 ppb pose an existential threat to all forms of life.

The Journal reports:
"Ms. Jackson wants to set the nation's air-quality standard for ozone at between 60 and 70 parts per billion, compared with 75 ppb currently. The EPA says that could save as many as 12,000 lives a year and save the U.S. as much as $100 billion annually in 2020 by reducing spending on health problems associated with excessive ozone, such as asthma and bronchitis."
This farmhouse is in the middle of a vast nursery - acres of boxwood, arborvitae, and other evergreen shrubs.  Those are thinning and turning yellow - but what's worse is the big deciduous trees on the property that are dying.

They are rotted in the center.
All that remains of this long row are the stumps.

They fell victim to BALDing - Bark Atrophy Lichen Decline.

Rolling Stone had a revealing profile "The Eco Warrier" about Lisa Jackson back in January.  She is one of Obama's best appointments, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  The article essentially validates what I have discovered:
"To shift the agency's culture, Jackson has moved swiftly to restore top career staffers who were shunted aside during the Bush years. "We call them 'cryogenically frozen,'" says a top aide to Jackson. "We've reactivated a lot of people who were known to disagree with the Bush administration's politics and were hung up in closets." Veteran staffers who have gotten their old jobs back say privately that they spent eight years under Bush "trying to do something good under the radar" — even as they were forced to design programs that "we all knew the courts were going to throw out."
Under Jackson, the agency is once again basing decisions on science rather than politics. "The science is not something the Obama administration feels they have to guard themselves against," says one clean-air staffer who was sidelined under Bush. "Because they are not trying to protect their industry buddies from environmental regulations."
"They have freed up agency employees to do what they're supposed to do: protect public health and the environment," says Jeremy Symons, the EPA's former climate-policy adviser. "And God knows there's a lot of pent-up work behind the dam that needs to be unleashed."

 These leaves are from a hedge of evergreen azalea.  Each one is speckled from stomates damaged by exposure to ozone.
Much of Jackson's first year at the EPA, in fact, has been eaten up by reversing the worst of the Bush legacy. "It requires that we use our time and resources to look back," she says, "when we absolutely need to be moving ahead."
In one of its final acts, the Bush EPA effectively barred new oversight of oil refineries with a regulatory trick: It covered up the overall impact of a refinery's pollution by measuring every smokestack separately, as if each were operating in isolation. "Imagine if you had 10 smokers in a room and a baby in the middle," says Schaeffer, the former enforcement director. "You're trying to figure the impact on that baby's lungs, but you model the smoke from each cigarette and assume that's all you have in the room. There wasn't any science behind it."
Jackson summarily revoked the oil-friendly rule in October. She also jettisoned lax smog rules set under Bush that flouted the unanimous recommendation of independent scientists and allowed higher pollution levels — effectively sentencing hundreds of people a year to premature death. "This is one of the most important protection measures we can take to safeguard our health," Jackson said in sending the rules back to the drawing board. In January, the agency proposed strict new smog limits that are expected to be finalized later this year.
Iris leaves with necrosis.  Once upon a time there were plants that were considered "sensitive" and others, "tolerant".  Not any more.
Another typical example, lily of the valley.

Way way back in 1994 this webpage - ominously titled "The Carbon Bomb:  Climate Change and the Fate of the Northern Boreal Forests" - was published by some folks at Greenpeace.  They make dire predictions about rising levels of CO2, climate change, and the impact on the boreal forests, which they describe as "under siege".  How quaint!  They knew back then we were going to kill all the trees.  This is what I mean by quaint:
"GREENPEACE BELIEVES that climate change and severe forest decline can only be halted by:
* A planned and orderly global phase-out of fossil fuels and their replacement by the efficient use of renewable and clean energy sources, including the immediate reduction of greenhouse gas levels by at least 20 percent by 2005.
* An end to global deforestation and the introduction of a programme of ecologically-based reforestation.
* The immediate phase-out of CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs, and their replacement by chemicals which do not damage the ozone layer or contribute to the human-induced greenhouse effect."
Can you see how this made me laugh till I cried?  The report is a good and extensive primer for the role of forests in regulating climate as a carbon sink, and the various factors that affect forest health, from fire to insects to precipitation to clear cutting.  One interesting fact I hadn't known is that the frequency of tornados and speed of wind, which of course can be so damaging to trees, had increased dramatically even by 1994:
"METEOROLOGISTS REPORT A recent sharp increase in tornados in the U.S. and Canada. Canadian tornado frequency was four or five times higher than two decades earlier.[68] Average wind speed in the Experimental Lakes Area in the central boreal forest of northwestern Ontario has increased by 50 percent.[69]"
At this time of year it is not unusual so see this contrast between green, newer leaves with the  lower, older leaves that have lost the ability to produce chlorophyll after a season of exposure to ozone.

This potted begonia, which spent the summer outside, also has healthier young growth above the damaged older leaves.

Of course, ice storms instead of snow from warmer temperatures and consequently greater moisture content in the atmosphere are another threat with which trees must contend...and all that just from climate change without even considering ozone, the most drastic and urgent threat to trees and to all plants, our source of food!
Maples are turning color and dropping leaves well ahead of schedule.
Perhaps what is even more astonishing is the bark.
It is popping off in trunks leaving raw wood exposed.
There's no way on earth a tree in this condition can survive very long.
I was browsing through last September's pictures for comparison purposes this morning, and came across a link posted by a commenter that I had forgotten about.  It didn't work when I first tried, so now with my ever-more sophisticated intertube skills, I googled a portion of it and came up with this fabulous source, a study from the journal Plant Disease, from 2001, succinctly titled, "Ambient Ozone and Plant Health".  So it's a bit dated but has very lucid information from experts in the field, and it also leads to a number of more recent studies, which draw upon its conclusions.  Another day wasted!!

It starts with this quote that has become my new motto, cited as being from C.B. Fox, in 1873:
"To the philosopher, the physician, the meteorologist, and the chemist, there is perhaps no subject more attractive than that of ozone."
I guess that makes me a philosopher since I certainly don't qualify as any of the others.  This comprehensive overview begins with the history of the discovery of ozone, which naturally occurs at much lower levels from lightening and plants - and the earliest studies of its consequences to vegetation:

"One hundred years had elapsed since those first measurements before Richards and coworkers (39) showed in 1958 that O3 was a constituent of smog causing foliar injury to grape in California. During the following year, Heggestad and Middleton (18) reported that O3 was responsible for flecking on tobacco leaves in the eastern United States. Similarly, Daines et al. (7) identified O3 as the predominant air pollutant affecting agriculture in New Jersey. Since those early investigations, it has become evident that O3 is by far the most important air pollutant toxic to plants worldwide. Ozone causes foliar injury and reduces growth and yield in many agronomic and horticultural crops, deciduous trees, and conifers (26). As population, urban centers, and industries have grown, an increasing number of reports have appeared during the past 25 years regarding O3-induced foliar injury on sensitive plants in many countries. These include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Peoples Republic of China, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and Ukraine."

I guess scientists studying ozone are a still bit behind the curve of climate scientists, most of whom for so long assumed that all they had to do was study the science and report the results, and then the people and the politicians and the polluting industries would say "OH.  Fuel emissions are very very bad for all forms of life so we had better undertake a gigantic effort to switch to clean sources of energy post haste!"  NOT.

Every time I think I have found the definitive guide to all things ozone, I find another!  It's as though scientists keep doing more studies, and writing more reports, over and over, refining the results and gaining deeper understanding but basically saying the same thing over and over:  OZONE IS BAD.  MORE OZONE IS WORSE.  But not ONE of them will say, if we don't stop releasing toxic greenhouse gases into the atmosphere we are going to kill all the plants and STARVE.  The passage repeats the mantra:  More Study is Needed.
"By the early 1970s, it was well accepted that ambient O3 was an inter-regional problem of concern for crop and forest productivity. Thus in 1972, after reaching its initial goal, NE-56 ceased to function. Subsequently project scientists expanded their objectives beyond the use of indicator plants to include the effects of O3 on plant physiological processes, growth, and yield. After a series of 5-year cycles of study, the project was designated NE-176 in 1990.
Current research activities in NE-176 include studies on the biochemical and molecular mechanisms of O3 injury and sensitivity or tolerance in plants; impact of O3 on carbon allocation, carbon/nitrogen relationships, and secondary metabolism as they affect pathogen and pest relations, decomposition rates, and nutrient cycling; joint effects of O3 with other factors influencing growth and yield, such as increasing CO2 concentrations, and changes in temperature and water availability; yield responses of crops and growth responses of trees, and effects of O3 on plant community structure and species diversity. Additional research activities relate to modeling cause-effect relationships, including ecosystem processes. Overall, these efforts are continuing to serve target audiences ranging from individual homeowners to large industrial corporations and state and federal governmental agencies (Table 5)."
So basically, they figured out decades ago that ozone is toxic, and since then they have been studying JUST HOW BAD.  Really useful.  They investigate designing crops that are more resistant to ozone.  What's that going to do for the trees?
I have no idea what happened here.  Perhaps there was a flood - a small river runs along the treeline on the left - and hardly anything germinated afterwards.
Another vantage of the wasteland.
Some of the same authors published an article in February 2009, with the abstract:

"Exposure to elevated O3 typically results in suppressed photosynthesis, accelerated senescence, decreased growth and lower yields. Various approaches used to evaluate O3 effects generally concur that current yield losses range from 5% to 15% among sensitive plants. There is, however, considerable genetic variability in plant responses to O3. To illustrate this, we show that ambient O3 concentrations in the eastern United States cause substantially different levels of damage to otherwise similar snap bean cultivars. Largely undesirable effects of O3 can also occur in seed and fruit chemistry as well as in forage nutritive value, with consequences for animal production. Ozone may alter herbicide efficacy and foster establishment of some invasive species. We conclude that current and projected levels of O3in many regions worldwide are toxic to sensitive plants of agricultural and horticultural significance. Plant breeding that incorporates O3 sensitivity into selection strategies will be increasingly necessary to achieve sustainable production with changing atmospheric composition, while reductions in O3 precursor emissions will likely benefit world food production and reduce atmospheric concentrations of an important greenhouse gas."

This elephant ear leaf is over three feet long.  It has been nicely watered, all summer, in its pot on the patio and the leaves  represent an excellent sample of chlorosis and necrosis from exposure to ozone - NOT DROUGHT!
And in the paper there are a number of statements along these lines, followed by explanations of the chemical means by which ozone causes foliar damage, decreased nutritive value, and early senescence:
background levels have doubled since pre-industrial times, (that from a 2004 citation!)
Ozone is the most phytotoxic of the common air pollutants, and its widespread distribution presents a risk for considerable plant damage. Visible foliar injury under ambient conditions is reported from more than 20 countries in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
East Asia, India, Pakistan, many countries around the Mediterranean, Europe, parts of Mexico and Brazil are likely experiencing reductions in crop and forage production due to ambient O3
Ozone poses a critical threat and a challenging problem to world food security, fiber and timber production, conservation and genetic diversity of natural plant communities
Growers may not be aware of yield losses due to O3 when sensitive cultivars are no longer grown near resistant ones, when distinctive symptoms do not occur on more resistant cultivars and particularly when yield losses on adapted, O3-resistant cultivars are not identified because there is no clean-air control for comparison under commercial production conditions. Yield losses due to O3 exposure have been reported in cases where no visible injury symptoms were observed (Reich 1987US EPA 1996). Powell et al. (2003) observed altered foliar chemistry and decreased forage nutritive quality in the absence of foliar injury.
You might think this birch has lost its leaves because it's  normal for this time in September.

But if that were the case, this birch across the street would be leafless as well.  Instead, it just isn't quite as dead yet.
One study, "Adverse Effects of ultraviolet (UV)-B radiation and ozone (O3) on crop growth and productivity" concludes:
"Perhaps the most pressing need at the moment is to obtain field information about the effects of UV-B and O3 that are clearly identified with one or more of the different scenarios outlined in Table 7.7. To such studies should be added elevated levels of CO2 in view of the preliminary observations that indicate significant interaction with the effects of O3 While such information is needed for direct effects on crop species, the studies must also include information about the possible long-term effects on growth, joint effects with other pollutants, incidence of pathogens and insect pests, intra-species competition, and crop-weed relationships (Krupa and Kickert, 1993; Runeckles and Krupa, 1994)...
In view of the urgency of acquiring information on the potential impacts of the various components of climatic change, including UV-B and tropospheric O3, that can be realistically envisioned, every effort should therefore be made to avoid wasting research effort and resources on studies that will do nothing to reduce the uncertainties associated with our present information, and which fail to recognize the potential importance of the interactions among the various components (Runeckles and Krupa, 1994)."
Instead of becoming the beautiful colors of autumn, the leaves are turning brown.
Upon closer inspection it is surprising to see that many are actually torn.
These authors provide all sorts of long handy charts which detail the percentage of crop reductions under different levels of exposure, for instance, for ozone alone:
"a 26-42% reduction in weight of dry beans at 38-50 ppb...
a 36 and 45% reduction in shoot and root growth in radish at 70 ppb...
a 50% reduction in wheat seed weight/head at 96 ppb...
a 45% reduction of shoot dry weight for Timothy grass at 55 ppb..."
And there are other charts examining lowered yields due to (UV) - B radiation, which might explain why, according to this article, the apple crop is diminished in Massachusetts due to "sunburn!"

Chinese scientists are studying whether ascorbic acid will innoculate rice against rising levels of ozone...I wonder why?  They are also investigating effects on wheat, and found
"The results of meta-analysis indicated that elevated [O3] decreased grain yield, grain weight, grain number per ear, ear number per plant and harvest index by 26%, 18%, 11%, 5% and 11%, respectively, relative to ambient air. The decrease in leaf physiological characters was much greater than that in yield when wheat was expose to elevated [O3], while light-saturated photosynthetic rate (Asat), stomatal conductance (Gs) and chlorophyll content (Chl) decreased by 40%, 31%, and 46%, respectively."

From a comment by Catman, I found these lyrics to Jackson Browne's "Rock Me on the Water" - one of many songs prescient about ecosystem collapse and the failure of humanity to prevent it, that he is compiling on a youtube channel.

Oh people look around you
The signs are everywhere
You left it for somebody other than you
To be the one to care

You're lost inside your houses
There's no time to find you now
Oh your walls are burning
And your towers are turning
I'm going to leave you here
And try to get down to the sea somehow

Rock me on the water
Sister won't you soothe my fevered brow
Rock me on the water
Gotta get down to the sea somehow

The road is filled with homeless souls
Every woman child and man
Who have no idea where they will go
But they'll help you if they can

Now everyone must have some thought
That's going to pull them through somehow
Well the fires are raging hotter and hotter
But the sisters of the sun are going to rock me on the water now

Rock me on the water
Sister won't you soothe my fevered brow
O-oh rock me on the water
I gotta get down to the sea somehow

Oh people look among you
It's there your hope must lie
There's a seabird above you
gliding in one place like jesus in the sky
We all must do the best we can
And then hang onto that gospel plow
When my life is over, I'm going to stand before the father
But the sisters of the sun are going to rock me on the water now

Rock me on the water
Sister will you soothe my fevered brow
Rock me on the water, maybe I'll remember how
Maybe I'll remember
Maybe I'll remember how

Rock me on the water
The wind is with me now
Rock me on the water
Gotta get down to the sea somehow
I'll get down to the sea somehow

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"It's Time To Stop Flying"

I will have to find an elephant costume - what a brilliant idea!  We should have herds of elephants stampeding the airports.  Tom Bennion has blended the notion of the unspeakable elephant in the room with the dire need to take direct action. The rest is from his website, StopFlying:

Wellington lawyer Tom Bennion feels so strongly that we need to act on climate change, that he is taking to the streets dressed as an elephant.

Mr Bennion will walk along Lambton Quay,... asking people to stop flying.

"Climate change is a very dangerous problem which we need to talk about," he says.

"We still have time to fix it but we must take urgent action.  My message is: let’s talk about the quite big but doable steps we need to take."

He says stopping all but essential flying is the biggest single change people can make to reduce their personal emissions. A trip to Europe produces around 12 tonnes of CO2e, easily exceeding an entire year’s household emissions from all other sources, including car use. Even a trip to Australia or the Pacific Islands produces around a tonne of carbon per person. And cutting out flying is far easier for families and individuals than trying to do without a car, cutting heating etc.

Why are you dressed as an elephant?

"In the recent Australian election a climate elephant made its appearance at some of the candidates’ press and photo ops. I liked the idea of the elephant in the room. It gets the message across in a simple and friendly fashion."

Are you part of an organisation?

'This is a personal initiative. But there are hundreds of people who are cutting back on flying out of concern about climate change.'

Why flying? Why not driving or changing lightbulbs?

"A trip to Europe produces around 12 tonnes of CO2e, easily exceeding an entire year’s household emissions from all other sources, including car use (about 2 tonnes per annum). Even a trip to Australia or the Pacific Islands produces around a tonne of carbon per person. And cutting out flying is far easier for families and individuals than trying to do without a car, cutting heating etc.

Cutting out flying also sends a clear message to governments that people are ready for urgent steps to be taken at the national and international level to stabilise the climate."

What do you hope to achieve?

"There is a lot of frustration about how to raise public understanding about the short time we have to act. I am hoping that meeting an elephant with a “stop flying” sign will generate discussion about the steps that we have to take today."

Are you serious?

"Yes. I think that there is a special responsibility on professions that deal directly with climate issues to tell people how urgent this issue has become. This seemed to me to be the most direct way to do that."

Tea Time with Sarah Palin

click here to take the pledge to "...only vote for candidates who recognize the sound and settled science of climate change and support clean energy climate policies that create new jobs"!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Heat Advisory

There's no better place to start than the beginning.

This unwieldy post, which consists of pictures from California taken last week, has been crushing me like a choking albatross (which, by the way, is a fascinating bird - 19 of 21 species of which are on the verge of extinction thanks to humans - and don't forget the curse that none of the sailers escaped in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner! Auuugghhh. This is how these posts get so unwieldy and take so long. I start thinking things like, what about those albatrosses anyway?). These lilies are a prime example of what feels so impossible to convey - a vibrant burst of fecund pink against a gruesome backdrop of suffocating brown.
On top of which, too many reports, studies, and news articles pile up every day! I scarcely know which to include. So, first a bit of fun...and then close behind, the fury.
Fun is, I got to stay with my old housemate and friend from when I was in my 20's and living in Berkeley - (Bambi) Lynn. We looked a lot different back then - but never mind!
I went to visit youngest daughter, who is sitting patiently, waiting for the slow tortoise who lives around the corner from Lynn's house to appear.
Finally he crept out! His name is Thelonious. There is an adorable note left on a youtube video -

"Monk Monk Monk Monk Monk - Your slipper-shuffling madness on the ivories will be treasured throughout the years eternal, you beautiful mad genius."
We went to the Santa Cruz boardwalk, which boasts the 6th oldest rollercoaster in the US. I rode on it many times when I went to college at UCSC - it remains a clackety wooden treasure of nostalgia.
I enjoy amusement parks
for their ludicrous, garish color and indigestible concoctions,
replete with ridiculous notions like Deep Fried Twinkies. I managed to resist that temptation.
The shrieks of faux terror are cathartic.
Those of us in the shrinking middle class of the declining American Empire are lucky to live in this brief period of time and place where we are so accustomed to safety, we scarcely realize how fragile our stability will become as resources dwindle.
But right now, we do not have to fear murderous marauders, or hungry animals, or the dark.
I rather suspect most people expect we never again will. Youngest daughter spotted this bobcat and tracked it to the shadows of the underbrush, where it dragged some vanquished prey - but I barely caught a glimpse.
According to a new archaeological study, people have been doing horrible things to each other in times of extreme deprivation far back into human history. Please do NOT click on that link if you are underage (that means you, Highschooler!), have a queasy stomach, or prefer to imagine that people are innately benevolent.
Along the river, birds perch in the bare branches of fragrant eucalyptus, surveying the town of Santa Cruz.
We ambled through the charming downtown and side streets. The pictures that follow reflect almost universal damage to the plantings around the shops - and a few pretty flowers that defy the decline.
It is phenomenally frustrating that forestry experts will diagnose individual species of trees as being threatened by all sorts of diseases, insects and fungi - but it's nigh impossible to get one to admit that there is something egregiously abnormal in the fact that EVERY species is in existential peril.
Pick any sort of tree and you will find studies from scientists revealing it is in danger of extinction.
But try to get an expert to focus on the fact that ALL trees are in danger of extinction, and just why that incomprehensibly unlikely coincidence should be - good luck with that one!

Now as it turns out, the death of western conifers isn't just being blamed on bark beetles that are increasing from warming - according to the NYT there is now also, ho ho, a newly rampaging disease, white pine blister rust.
Why these researchers refuse to acknowledge the studies that have demonstrated in controlled experiments that plants weakened by exposure to ozone are more susceptible to insects, disease and fungus, I just don't know!

I could have taken countless pictures of the aphid infestations but they are disgusting, so I didn't. Here's one:
High in trees I saw these sticky panels, labeled: "Government Insect Trap...DO NOT REMOVE." Do you suppose someone noticed there is a problem?

An absolutely extraordinary University of Toronto study was reported in this article,

"Can Our Forests Stand the Heat," with the subtitle "Scientists discover unusual die-off in sugar-maple leaves due to high spring temperatures"

"You might expect warm weather to be good for trees. But new research by professors and students in the Faculty of Forestry suggests that a balmy spring can be bad for temperate forests. The group, studying a patch of forest in theHaliburton Highlands, discovered that many sugar-maple leaves that developed during three record-hot days in May died without expanding to their full size; other leaves are stunted.
'In early June, when the canopy should be its greenest, the canopy was tinged brown,' says Sean Thomas, the Canada Research Chair in Forests and Environmental Change and a professor of forestry. “In my 10 years of working in this region I’ve never seen anything like this. The foresters I work with who have been there many decades have never seen anything like this.'...
Thomas says the death of new leaves is an effect few would have predicted for warmer springs; the researchers have ruled out other causes, such as disease, pests and rainfall."
Right...they ruled out disease, pests and rainfall - but didn't even consider ozone!!
Now, where have I heard something about leaves tinged brown, and stunted?? Well, at least they didn't blame it on drought. I am SO sick of people blaming early fall color and leaf drop on drought, when the same thing happened last year, and that was supposedly because it was so rainy!
I was delighted to come across an organization that is new to me: The Eastern Native Tree Society, which measures, maps, and documents trees...and also a related work in progress, a film called the Vanishing Hemlock. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the producers are blaming this tragedy exclusively on the wooly adelgid.
I also discovered that the National Park Service has established a forest monitoring project, called the Northeast Temperate Network, established in 2006.
Incredible as it seems, they are measuring forest health by the amount of dead wood - Oh yes, in this Orwellian world, dead is good!

"Coarse woody debris (i.e., dead trees and the remains of branches on the forest floor) and snags (i.e., standing dead trees) are one indicator of forest health. Forests in most NETN parks do not have enough snags or coarse woody debris."

Of course not - virtually all of them have been clear cut at LEAST once!! So although healthy old-growth forests should naturally have a certain percentage of standing dead and woody debris, it doesn't follow our modern forests should, when they are only 100 or 150 years old - not when the trees are meant to live for CENTURIES! And yet, in an inverted form of insane logic, the foresters at the Park Service have deemed woody debris on the forest floor, and standing dead trees, to be a sign of forest health! I have to wonder, are they being deliberately deceptive - or are they just delusional...or merely stupid??
Here's what this publication from Cornell has to say about healthy maples:

"Sugar maple trees average about 1 foot of height growth and 0.2 inch of diameter growth annually for the first 30 to 40 years. Hence a 30-year-old tree might be 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 30 to 35 feet in height. After about 140 to 150 years, height growth ceases and radial growth slows greatly. Although rare, old-growth sugar maple stands can average 300 to 400 years in age; individual trees range from 70 to 110 feet tall with diameters at breast height of 20 to 36 inches."
It was revealed, in 2008, that the world's oldest tree resides in Sweden,
and boasts a whopping 9,550 years!
The giant long-lived redwood trees on the UCSC campus are yellow instead of the deep green they should be.
Our busy friends at the Forest Service have developed a swell web page, Forest Threats, which has the following special section:

"Featured Forest Threat

Thousand Cankers Disease (Geosmithia sp.)

Thousand cankers disease has been found in many Western States. The first confirmation within the native range of black walnut in the East was in Tennessee during July 2010.
Thousand cankers disease - Photo by Ned Tisserat, Colorado State University, Bugwood.orgWhat is thousand cankers disease? Dieback and mortality of eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra) in several Western States have become more common and severe during the last decade. A tiny bark beetle is creating numerous galleries beneath the bark of affected branches, resulting in fungal infection and canker formation. The large numbers of cankers associated with dead branches suggest the disease’s name—thousand cankers disease.
How does it spread? The principal agents involved in this disease are a newly identified fungus (Geosmithia sp. with a proposed name ofGeosmithia morbida) and the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis). Both the fungus and the beetle only occur on walnut species.
Why is thousand cankers disease a concern? An infested tree usually dies within 3 years of initial symptoms.The potential damage of this disease to eastern forests could be great because of the widespread distribution of eastern black walnut, the susceptibility of this tree species to the disease, and the capacity of the fungus and beetle to invade new areas and survive under a wide range of climatic conditions in the west."
Let's not lose sight of the oaks either - a paper indicates that they just aren't viable in the long run!

"It has been proposed that North America’s oak (Quercus spp.) forests may be entering an extended period of poor growth and susceptibility to invasive pests and droughts...a situation that has been a national forest health problem since 1960... The deterioration of oak forest health, evidenced by numerous symptoms and precipitated by various causal factors, is collectively termed ‘‘oak decline’’...

Oak decline results from the interaction of predisposing stress factors (defoliating insects, drought, frost/ice damage, poor site quality, and advanced tree age) and secondary disease and insect pests (root fungi, canker fungi, and insect borers) ...This multitude of stresses eventually weakens oak trees resulting in sparse foliage, thin crowns, crown dieback, reduced radial growth, and eventually death...

The decline and mortality of oaks have been noted across its range in the northern US since the late 1970s and oak decline is one component of the broader issue of oak sustainability ...Despite oak’s prevalence across the northern U.S., evidence from recent studies suggests that both oak sapling mortality and a lack of seedlings portend a doubtful future for oak forests."

Here's an oak from downtown Santa Cruz.
And here are the leaves...Au revoir, oaks!
Yet another study about TWO kinds of beetles causing devastation is purportedly a "comprehensive synthesis" but looks only at temperature and doesn't even consider ozone. This and the other studies mentioned above are simply obtuse in that they are not aware of the role of ozone in tree mortality, which is referred to in the long list of literature linked to at the top of this blog, on the "Basic Premise" page.

"The potential for outbreaks of spruce and mountain pine beetles in western North America's forests is likely to increase significantly in the coming decades, according to a study conducted by USDA Forest Service researchers and their colleagues. Their findings, published in the September issue of the journal BioScience, represent the first comprehensive synthesis of the effects of climate change on bark beetles."

At home in New Jersey flowers have been blooming out of season - and lo and behold, the same oddity can be found in California. This wisteria should bloom in spring.
The leaves of course are lacking chlorophyll.
Primula is another spring flower, but here it is, in September!
Landscapes like this are frightening.
This entire row of young maples is severely stressed and there is nothing growing in the dirt around them.
What leaves remain are badly burnt.
An ivory, waxy Southern Magnolia blossoms on an evergreen tree with leaves that are crumpling.
They are falling to the ground beneath.
Looking down a side street, huge trees are bare.

The redbud trees are spectacular colors.

Since I don't live in California, I don't know if it is normal for them to turn so early, in the middle of September. It seems highly unlikely however.
They are just starting to turn in New Jersey.
The crown of this tree is in typically abysmal condition.
And the leaves are wrinkly and prematurely senescent.
The morning glory vine looks much healthier than those at home,
and has a luminous glow.

But the same lichen that is so closely associated with dying branches in New Jersey is to be found on many species of tree.
None of the plants in this yard were salvageable, so the owners ripped out everything but the tree.
The tree will have to go, too.
Jasmine - heavenly!

This enormous tree has an elegant structure.
This tree is bleeding sap, a fatal sign of internal fungus which has destroyed many trees in California.
I saw so many plants I didn't recognize, like this obscure green flower.
There are many well-tended gardens.
The colors of flowers are flamboyant.

The sweetgum is gorgeous.

The streets all through the town are lined with dying trees.
When trees in urban cities in the north die it is often blamed on salting the roads, but that is obviously not a factor here.
This brown tree is a pine with almost no needles left.

Random branches just turn brown.
Thin and early color - both symptoms of an imminent demise.
These leaves are shriveled.
A bridge looms over dead grass and leads to a copse of transparent crowns.
It looks like this part of earth is on the way to becoming a desert.
There are acres of earth devoid of living vegetation, punctuated occasionally by clumps of brilliant poppies.
An attempt was made to landscape with a row of shrubs.
But the leaves indicate the effort is hopeless.
This bougainville vine is in much better shape.
The color is utterly scintillating.

The seed pod is more subdued, but in my estimation even more beautiful.
We spent an afternoon at the university arboretum, which has a greenhouse with tables bursting with cacti and succulents.
However, outside the arboretum is such a wreck that I have had a difficult time processing the experience. The other night, I dreamed some vicious person hacked off my hands with a cleaver so I couldn't type on my laptop!
Because of the mild climate the curators were able to import many plants from all over the world.
They are all only shadows of their former glory, in varying shades of dead and dying.
Whether viewing one microcosm of a few leaves or a groundcover that barely covers the dirt,
or taking in the totality of the scenery,

the conclusion that everything is rapidly dying is inescapable.
I just can't think of any more captions so some of these images will have to speak for themselves.

Seed pods and cones have terrific shapes.
This bed has rocks with lichen, shriveling plants, much bare stone, and brown, fallen leaves.
This is the top of a tall redwood - thin and with yellowing needles.
A Natural Resources Defense Council publication warns that increasing temperatures from global warming will mean worse impacts on human health. That is what a "heat advisory" in the weather report really means - it is dangerous to breathe the air.
Global Warming Will Lead to serious Health Problems
"Outdoor work, play, and exercise increase the amount of air pollution people inhale. In controlled clinical studies, breathing ozone has been linked to reduced pulmonary function, increased cough, and chest tightness. Reduced lung function and physical performance, increased airway reactivity, and acute inflammation have been found at exposure well below 80 parts per billion (ppb), even in healthy adults.2 Other health effects of ozone include an increase in hospital admissions and even premature mortality, and ozone exposure has been linked to school absenteeism and restricted activity days."

"Exposure to ozone also heightens the sensitivity of asthmatics to allergens and impairs lung function, especially in children and the elderly. In many places, including Atlanta and Mexico City, ozone has been linked to increased hospital admissions for lower respiratory infections and asthma in children."
It seems reasonable to extrapolate that higher temperatures, which increase the level of ozone, will also increase the impact on vegetation.

To get an idea how enormous this sparsely foliaged tree is, compare it to youngest daughter who is walking down the path, in the lower right corner of the picture.
More lichen...
And everywhere, leaves that are stippled, burned, singed, losing color and lacking robust texture.

A large section of the arboretum contains plants that originate in South Africa.

The bark from these eucalyptus trunks is peeling off in giant strips.

There are so many desiccated branches that the overall scheme is a pronounced ugly mix of shades of brown, grey, and blackened green.
It isn't possible to find a shrub in full leaf, without significant percentage of dead tissue.

Only the tips of this tree are green - the inner needles are red.

And I thought the bark in New Jersey was splitting!
This flower is funereal.
I love the bee coming in for a landing!
Lately I have been wondering if it even matters that the ecosystem is collapsing thanks to toxic greenhouse gases, because the amplifying feedbacks of climate change from CO2 are running amuck.
Here's a terrific synopsys of the science, the power point presentation from a talk by the the White House Science Advisor, John Holdren. It's a handy visual introduction to the real-world effects of global climate disruption...But even so is woefully inadequate.
He appears to accept a target for CO2 in the atmosphere of 450 ppm, when it's quite obvious that the 388 we have already achieved is a threat to life on earth.
And of course, he had better figure out what ozone is doing if he thinks a core mitigation strategy is to reduce deforestation, and increase reforestation.
Also frankly, his idea that we are going to somehow technologically "scrub" greenhouse gases from the atmosphere or employ "geoengineering" to create cooling effects are about as realistic as a massive conspiracy to blanket the earth with chemical contrails...but then again, why not?? In this crazy world, which reeks with duplicity and evil, anything could happen!
I have been - actually, still am - quite skeptical about the theory that there is a conspiracy to release chemicals from aircraft into the atmosphere.
However, I certainly feel deep kinship with those who recognize that trees are dying, whether or not they attribute it to acid rain, ozone, cell phone radiation, or contrails.
In that spirit I have to confess that I saw myself exactly what such advocates depict - a bizarre criss-crossing of white SOMETHING in the sky. I've never, ever seen it on the east coast. I also saw the crusty white on trees on tree bark which has been attributed to pollution.
Here, for Deborah Whitman, the creator of Environmental Voices, are my photos that corroborate your findings, for whatever they are worth! And I hope many people visit your website, and join in our crusade to save trees from extinction.
Sure enough once the morning fog burned away, we had a lovely, clear blue sky.
I was busy taking pictures of dying trees and shrubs when I realized that long narrow clouds were appearing above.
It wasn't long before they were filling the sky.

They seemed to multiply and spread.
I didn't see or hear any planes.
For all I know, this is a perfectly natural phenomenon.
So I make no judgment about the likelihood of chemtrails.
But one thing is for certain - that grass is dead, and the trees and shrubs are on the verge.

The clouds persisted for the rest of the day.

Thanks to Rita, a reader, for sharing this trailer!

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