Nature’s Silence Is Golden

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Yesterday’s post, linking to an article from the same source, combines with this one to confirm that some venerable members of the “mainstream media” see an audience (us, for example) for green-leaning reporting. Then we found this, about a remarkable Norwegian silence-hunter who has gone to the ends of the earth; and now finds himself in the East Village of New York City. Instead of featuring that story, this one below is must-read on the topic of quietude:

Lessons in Stillness From One of the Quietest Places on Earth

In the wilderness of Washington State’s Hoh Rain Forest, a poet searches for the rare peace that true silence can offer.

THE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK stretches down coastal Washington and east toward Seattle on a thumb of land known as the Olympic Peninsula, some 60 miles long by 90 miles wide. Around a three-hour ride by car from Seattle, it feels much farther, as if you have passed into an otherworldly realm. Within it are volcanic beaches scattered with the remains of massive Sitka spruces, evergreen-crowded mountains, broad, flat valleys and the Hoh Rain Forest, through which 12 miles of hiking trails and the glacier-formed Hoh River run. The Park, in total nearly a million acres, is home to what may be the most complex ecosystem in the United States, teeming with big-leaf maples, lichens, alders, liverworts, Monkey flowers, licorice ferns, club mosses, herbs, grasses and shrubs of remarkable abundance. Today, thanks to federal protections, it is home to some of the largest remaining stands of old-growth forest in the continental U.S. Continue reading

Oregon’s Underground Economy

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A forest floor dark honey fungus, or Armillaria ostoyae. The “Humongous Fungus,” living beneath the soil in Oregon sends these fruiting bodies, or mushrooms, above ground to disperse spores. Credit Arterra/UIG, via Getty Images

The Science section of the New York Times is a dependable source of occasionally brilliant ecological findings (amidst the more common overdoses of dark and dreary news) and this one helps start a new week on solid ground:

The Humongous Fungus and the Genes That Made It That Way

A new genetic analysis reveals the tactics that helped fungi in the Armillaria genus get so good at expanding and killing host plants.

Thousands of years ago, two microscopic spores spawned and created a monster. It grew — up to three feet a year — sending out dark, gnarly, threadlike organs called rhizomorphs that explored the subterranean darkness, foraging for food. Now it’s a nebulous body, a tangled mat beneath the Oregon soil that occupies an area the size of three Central Parks and may weigh as much as 5,000 African elephants.

Its scientific name is Armillaria ostoyae, but you can call it The Humongous Fungus. It’s the largest known terrestrial organism on the planet, according to the United States Forest Service.

Continue reading

Hooved Fire Prevention

Image: Renee Lewis

Goats have appeared on these pages in various guises, including being part of urban park maintenance. Thanks to environmental reporter Renee Lewis and the Earther.com for sharing this good news fire prevention story.

Firefighting Goats Devour Fuel Across the West Before it can Burn

Roslyn, WA—After one of the worst fire seasons in recent memory in the Pacific Northwest this summer—with the unforgettable smoke-pocalypse that socked in the region with thick smoke for weeks—a new tool is being added fight against wildfires: goats.

“More and more, people are looking at goats as a tool for fire suppression,” said Craig Madsen of Healing Hooves, a company based in Edwall, Washington, that maintains a herd of about 250 goats that are used for natural vegetation management.

The goats bleated loudly and walked towards Madsen as we approached the plot of land where the herd was busy grazing.

“The goats are complaining because of the rain,” Madsen said, as a cool, fall shower began.

Madsen stood under the overhang of the trailer he uses to to transport the herd, across the road from the land where the goats were grazing. The guard dog, Gigi, sat under a tree keeping watch as the goats—bucks, does, and kids—worked together to devour everything within reach.

Every car that drove by stopped to look at the unusual sight, and many asked Madsen about what he was doing out there with all those goats.

Continue reading

Regenerating Biodiversity Is Hard Work In The Best Of Circumstances

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Jon Asgeir Jonsson, who works for a private forestry association, with larch saplings in western Iceland.

It’s never easy being green, but especially millennia after deforestation. Thanks to Henry Fountain and the New York Times:

Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them?

GUNNARSHOLT, Iceland — With his flats of saplings and a red planting tool, Jon Asgeir Jonsson is a foot soldier in the fight to reforest Iceland, working to bring new life to largely barren landscapes.

The country lost most of its trees more than a thousand years ago, when Viking settlers took their axes to the forests that covered one-quarter of the countryside. Now Icelanders would like to get some of those forests back, to improve and stabilize the country’s harsh soils, help agriculture and fight climate change. Continue reading

Keep National Parks Safe, Know Your Chocolate

Choc.jpgThe rise in artisanal cacao farming, as we have noted on occasion, can have important implications for conservation. Whether you are a chocoholic or just a casual dabbler in the sweet bi-product of cacao, this report deserves your attention (click on the image to go to the source):

Chocolate is everywhere. It is the afternoon pick-me-up, the sensual indulgence, the accoutrement to seduction. Lovers gift truffles, skiers sip on rich hot chocolate, and connoisseurs savor the tiniest, richest bite of single origin dark chocolate. The ancient Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac, and the emperor Montezuma was reported to gorge himself on chocolate in advance of his trysts. Continue reading

Elephants, Orangutans, Rhinos & Tigers–What Are They Worth To Us?

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Deforestation in the Leuser ecosystem, one of the last homes to Sumatran elephants, orangutans, rhinos and tigers. Photograph: Sutanta Aditya/Barcroft Images

Thanks to the Guardian:

Pepsico, Unilever and Nestlé accused of complicity in illegal rainforest destruction

Palm oil plantations on illegally deforested land in Sumatra – home to elephants, orangutans and tigers – have allegedly been used to supply scores of household brands, says new report Continue reading

Adapting to Change

The jungle is constantly changing. Large mammals break through low growing plants, fungi break down fallen material, and birds, insects, and monkeys are constantly roaming about the canopy.

The most recent edition of the Chan Chich trail map was produced in 2006. However, since then, the wildlife has continued to go about its business making small modifications to the landscape over the past eleven years. Not to mention, the occasional tree fall from storm interrupting the balance. As a result, because of the organic, unpredictable movement of nature, this map isn’t as accurate as it was a decade ago. Now, Alana and I undertaking the task of updating the maps to reflect how the trails look now.

Continue reading

Farmers, Loggers & Biodiversity

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Serro Ricardo Franco is in one of the world’s biggest and most diverse ecological reserves. But reality on the ground is different, putting many animals at risk, such as Yacare caiman and giant river otters. Photograph: Angelo Gandolfi/Getty Images/Nature Picture Library

Sometimes, sitting in a glass house, reading the news makes me want to throw a stone. The glass house where I live includes a farm in an extremely biodiverse area. It is surrounded by nearly half a million acres where logging happens. But there is farming, as you can read about in the news below, and there are plenty of better ways of farming; there are loggers like those in the news below, and there are forests where extraction happens according to standards such as those set and enforced by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Instead of throwing a stone, I get up every day and make sure the glass around here is as transparent as possible, because we can demonstrate a better way of supplying food, of harvesting wood, and doing so with the protection of wildlife in constant view. Meanwhile, I do read the news from elsewhere and continue to share it here (thanks to the Guardian’s Jonathan Watts in Vila Bela da Santíssima Trindade for this one):

Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park

The Sierra Ricardo Franco park was meant to be a conservation area protecting rare wildlife

To understand why the Brazilian government is deliberately losing the battle against deforestation, you need only retrace the bootmarks of the Edwardian explorer Percy Fawcett along the Amazonian border with Bolivia.

During a failed attempt to cross a spectacular tabletop plateau here in 1906, the adventurer nearly died on the first of his many trips to South America. Back then, the area was so far from human habitation, the foliage so dense and the terrain so steep that Fawcett and his party came close to starvation.

He returned home with tales of a towering, inaccessible mesa teeming with wildlife and irrigated by secret waterfalls and crystalline rivers. By some accounts, this was one of the stories that inspired his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Lost World about a fictional plateau jutting high above the jungle that served as a sanctuary for species long since extinct elsewhere. Continue reading

Leading Legumes To A Better Place

 

Anthropocene’s Emma Bryce has summarized the science of Building a better soybean:

What will it take to build crops that can withstand future climate changes? A group of plant biologists think they might be on to a solution for soybeans. Using genetic engineering, they’ve created a plant whose yields remain unaffected by high-stress conditions. The key lies in a genetic tweak that makes the plant overexpress a particular enzyme, which is thought to boost the efficiency of their photosynthesis cycle and enhance seed production. Continue reading

Sound, Noise & Wilderness

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I’m sorry, what was that? Ints Kalnins / Reuters

Sound is often profound. Noise often annoys. Thanks as always to Ed Yong, touching on a topic we have been sensitive to for some time now:

A Not-So-Silent Spring

Even America’s protected areas are being subjected to harmful levels of noise pollution.

If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one around, the National Park Service will still hear it. Continue reading

Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

Biophilia Bathing

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
― John Muir

Muir has long been a muse for many on this site, as we ponder the concept of Biophilia and the power of nature in our lives. We are motivated to work on conservation initiatives for plenty of reasons, including our belief in the link between wellbeing and a fix of nature. From bonsai, bamboo fountains and the meditative sand raking in Zen gardens, the Japanese have a long cultivated the restorative forces of natural elements, so their embrace of forest bathing is no surprise…

The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to be good for you

The tonic of the wilderness was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. Continue reading

Please Support Sierra Club On This Initiative

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Photo credit: B. Bartel/USFWS

We know that most of our readers on this platform, and most guests we serve at the various properties we have developed and managed over the years, care deeply about primary forests and the ecosystems they support. Here is a chance to vocalize together with one of the influential organizers of vocalization:

Help Protect Tongass National Forest: Stop the Clearcutting

They’re about to start their chainsaws. Timber companies are trying to clearcut one of the most primeval wild places — and this is our last chance to stop them.

Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is nothing short of magical: it contains centuries-old trees and one-of-a-kind wilderness, home to animals like Alexander Archipelago wolves and bald eagles. Your voice is needed to pressure Congress to bring an end to old growth logging and save the Tongass for our children and grandchildren.

Take action today to save the Tongass National Forest.

Forest Attrition Distance

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A forest in Oregon along Highway 30, part of which has been clear-cut. Researchers say the average distance to the nearest forest from any point in the continental United States widened in the 1990s. Credit Leah Nash for The New York Times

Thanks to the Science section of the New York Times, for the description of the research as well as for the name of the measurement:

How Far to the Next Forest? A New Way to Measure Deforestation

Foraging Fellowship In New York City

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Reishi mushrooms (left) and Trametes versicolor collected in a folded map. ZACK DEZON

Thanks to Wired author Charley Locke for his story MEET THE OBSESSIVE MUSHROOM HUNTERS OF NEW YORK CITY:

ON A PARTICULARLY gorgeous Sunday in October, 30 explorers with the New York Mycological Society met at a cemetery in Brooklyn to hunt for mushrooms.

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Reishi mushrooms on a stump. ZACK DEZON

They rummaged through leaves, carefully inspected the headstones, and gingerly reached into tree trunks, hoping to find something amazing. A turkey tail, perhaps, or hen-of-the-wood. “It was like a scavenger hunt,” says Zack DeZon, a photographer who joined them on the search. “It struck me as the analog equivalent of Pokemon Go.”

DeZon is not particularly enamored with fungus, but a mushroom-obsessed friend’s Instagram feed piqued his interest. The fellow pointed him toward the Mycological Society which has since 1962 catered to those with an interest in mycology and mycophagy. The society, created by the composer John Cage, has 430 members and meets throughout the year to find mushrooms, eat mushrooms, and discuss mushrooms.

Continue reading

Banks, Rainforests, We The People

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Young orphaned orangutans on a climbing expedition with their keeper at International Animal Rescue’s orangutan school in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Credit Kemal Jufri for The New York Times

We first started paying close attention to the plight of the ecosystem in the image above when we saw the talk given by Willie Smits, who has taken action, to say the least, in the interest of protecting that rainforest and its inhabitants. It is not because of the orangutans (though see the photo below and try to resist reading on) that we find this article compelling; it is because there is a clear and compelling call to action on holding our institutions accountable:

How Big Banks Are Putting Rain Forests in Peril

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In early 2015, scientists monitoring satellite images at Global Forest Watch raised the alarm about the destruction of rain forests in Indonesia.

Environmental groups raced to the scene in West Kalimantan province, on the island of Borneo, to find a charred wasteland: smoldering fires, orangutans driven from their nests, and signs of an extensive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Continue reading

Something’s Wrong With This Picture

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Under current legislation, European bioenergy plants do not have to produce evidence that their wood products have been sustainably sourced. Photograph: Wolf Forest Protection Movement

Thanks to the Guardian for this coverage of disturbing news from Europe:

Protected forests in Europe felled to meet EU renewable targets – report

Europe’s bioenergy plants are burning trees felled from protected conservation areas rather than using forest waste, new report shows

Arthur Neslen

Protected forests are being indiscriminately felled across Europe to meet the EU’s renewable energy targets, according to an investigation by the conservation group Birdlife. Continue reading