Landscape Sketch – Verso

landscape-eakins-_versoThomas Cowperthwait Eakins (1844 -1916) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

The making of gardens and parks goes on with civilization all over the world, and they increase both in size and number as their value is recognized.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks–the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. — Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.
Nevertheless, like anything else worth while, from the very beginning, however well guarded, they have always been subject to attack by despoiling gainseekers and mischief-makers of every degree from Satan to Senators, eagerly trying to make everything immediately and selfishly commercial, with schemes disguised in smug-smiling philanthropy, industriously, sham-piously crying, “Conservation, conservation, pan-utilization,” that man and beast may be fed and the dear Nation made great.”
Thus long ago a few enterprising merchants utilized the Jerusalem temple as a place of business instead of a place of prayer, changing money, buying and selling cattle and sheep and doves; and earlier still, the first forest reservation, including only one tree, was likewise despoiled.
Ever since the establishment of the Yosemite National Park, strife has been going on around its borders and I suppose this will go on as part of the universal battle between right and wrong, however much its boundaries may be shorn, or its wild beauty destroyed.

These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.


John Muir (1838 East Lothian, Scotland – 1914 Los Angeles, California)

 

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In Our Hands Forests Sleep

lynx-la-balsaminaProbably from the botanical manuscripts of Federico Angelo Cesi (1585 – 1630), founder of the Accademia dei Lincei

 
Protea montana
 is a threatened species from the very highest peaks of the Western Cape of South Africa.
A fluffy seed coat allows it to be blown – after a fire has released it from the prison of a dead flower head – to a site where the same fluff allows it to corkscrew into the shallow soil and wait for winter rain.

For a thing so small, a seed bears a heavy burden: the future existence of its species.
If things go wrong for the seed, it could mean potential extinction.

Each plant species produces its own unique and beautiful seeds.
Beyond that beauty and uniqueness are the processes that place them into dormancy until the conditions are just right, distribute them, bring them out of their stasis and cause them to germinate.
Then each has its  pollination process allowing it to produce more seeds.

Mimetes stokoei
, the mace pagoda, has been declared extinct twice because there were no actual plants of this species growing anywhere on Earth.
What wasn’t considered at the time was that the mace pagoda had placed its entire future security as a species
on seed buried just under the surface of the soil, and was waiting for the right kind of fire to trigger germination.

Hope, so inextricably tied up in seeds, has led to them being one of our most important backup plans for the planet, and so humanity.
There are people out there all over the world busily collecting and storing seed; guardians of our future.
The wild relatives of our crops, endangered species, and culturally important varieties, are all important to seed-bankers.
In some countries, it’s the only way to preserve the sheer levels of genetic diversity there now.

We don’t really know what the future holds, so we must cover all bases.
On the day when we need to put endangered species back into restored habitats, or bring back genetic diversity to our crops, we will have all that potential locked away in the form of a seed.

Ecosystem restoration projects across the globe depend entirely on seed, along with the people collecting them and those who know how to grow them.
With some forethought, often on the part of enlightened governments, people are coming together to make sure the possibilities of seeds are realised.
In Thailand, rainforest is being restored using seed bombs dropped from army planes.
In the USA the Native Seed Network and the Plant Conservation Alliance are bringing together a united force of native seed collectors, growers, and landscape restoration experts in an attempt, fostered by the Obama government through its National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration, to make sure all degraded habitats are restored using seed of local provenance as a matter of utmost urgency.

 

Robbie Blackhall-Miles is a plantsman and conservationist. He tweets as @fossilplants.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2017/jan/13/seeds-little-time-capsules-that-could-secure-our-future?CMP=share_btn_tw#comment-91392416

https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/the-seed-shop/

 

It Could Take a Century to Recover

elephant5Portrait of an Elephant, Indian, c.1620-30

Study finds extremely slow reproduction rate unable to keep pace with deaths

African forest elephants have experienced serious poaching, driving an estimated population decline of 65% between 2002 and 2013.
Their low birth rates mean that it will take forest elephants at least 90 years to recover from these losses, according to researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Elephant Listening Project, Colorado State University, and Save the Elephants.

These findings are from the first-ever study of forest elephant demography just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

“Female forest elephants in the Dzanga population typically breed for the first time after 23 years of age, a markedly late age of maturity relative to other mammals. In contrast, savannah elephants typically begin breeding at age 12.
In addition, breeding female forest elephants only produced a calf once every five to six years, relative to the three to four-year interval found for savannah elephants.”
Andrea Turkalo, a Wildlife Conservation Society scientist, collected the detailed data on the elephants over several decades, in spite of tough logistical challenges and political instability.
“This work provides another critical piece of understanding regarding the dire conservation status of forest elephants.”

George Wittemyer, a professor in Wildlife Conservation at Colorado State University said, “Legislation regarding ivory trade must consider the collateral effects on forest elephants and the difficulties of protecting them. Trade in ivory in one nation can influence the pressures on elephants in other nations.”
And the forest elephant is particularly susceptible to poaching.

Forest elephants also have critical ecological roles in Central African forests, and many tree species rely on the elephants to disperse their seeds.
Those forests are vitally important for absorbing climate change gases.


http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=b35ddb671faf4a16c0ce32406&id=8dfd2ac2f4&e=d327cdd2ca

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

english songbird

Ithaca, N.Y.— In one of the greatest feats of endurance in the biological world, millions of tiny songbirds—many weighing less than an ounce—migrate thousands of miles to Central and South America each year. Now scientists are finding out how these featherweights do it: using elliptical routes that take advantage of prevailing wind patterns to save calories.

By shifting routes, birds are taking advantage of stronger tailwinds in spring and less severe headwinds in fall, a study has found. Tailwinds represent a huge advantage for birds heading back to their breeding grounds, while finding weaker headwinds in fall allows southbound birds to make the best of a bad situation.

The analysis also revealed that many more land birds than previously realized follow different routes in spring and fall—particularly in the East, where many species cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single overnight flight.
Many species in the Eastern and Central groups take southbound routes far to the east of their northbound routes, resulting in a clockwise migration loop that puts some of them out over the Atlantic Ocean on their way to their wintering grounds.

The findings may help refine ideas about how and where to plan for conservation along migratory pathways.

“All these species migrate at night, at high altitudes, where we can’t see them,” said Frank La Sorte, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology research associate. “But when the sun comes up in the morning they have to find somewhere to land . . . . “

The American frontier

CapturePisanello (c. 1395 – c. 1455)

The concept of conservation is a far truer sign of civilization than that spoliation of a continent which we once confused with progress.
Wildlife in America

We have outsmarted ourselves, like greedy monkeys, and now we are full of dread.
The Snow Leopard

Wild northern Alaska is one of the last places on earth where a human being can kneel down and drink from a wild stream without being measurably more poisoned or polluted than before; its heart and essence is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  in the remote northeast corner of the state, the earth’s last sanctuary of the great Ice Age fauna that includes all three North American bears, gray wolves and wolverines, musk ox, moose, and, in the summer, the Porcupine River herd of caribou, 120,000 strong. Everywhere fly sandhill cranes and seabirds, myriad waterfowl and shorebirds, eagles, hawks, owls, shrikes and larks and longspurs, as well as a sprinkling of far-flung birds that migrate to the Arctic slope to breed and nest from every continent on earth. Yet we Americans, its caretakers, are still debating whether or not to destroy this precious place by turning it over to the oil industry for development.
The New York Review of Books, October 19, 2006  

There’s an elegiac quality in watching American wilderness go, because it’s our own myth, , that’s deteriorating before our eyes. I feel a deep sorrow that my kids will never get to see what I’ve seen, and their kids will see nothing; there’s a deep sadness whenever I look at nature now.
Wildlife in America


Peter Matthiessen
(May 22, 1927 – April 5, 2014)

Popular Science Monthly, July 1873

beechTHE LONGEVITY OF TREES.
By Elias Lewis

IN the vegetable world, limits of growth and life are strangely diversified. Multitudes of forms mature and perish in a few days or hours; while others, whose beginning was in a remote antiquity, have survived the habitual period of their kind, and still enjoy the luxuriance of their prime. Some species of unicellular plants are so minute that millions occur in the bulk of a cubic inch, and a flowering plant is described by Humboldt, which, when fully developed, is not more than three-tenths of an inch in height. On the other hand, we have the great Sequoia, whose mass is expressed by hundreds of tons, and specimens of the Eucalyptus, growing in the gulches of Australia, surpass in height the dome of St. Peter’s. Some of the Fungi mature between the setting and rising of the sun, while the oak at our door, which awakens the memories of our childhood, has not perceptibly changed in bulk in half a century. Trees grow more slowly as they increase in age. Nevertheless, it is certain that growth continues while they continue to live. The development of foliage implies interstitial activity and organization of new material. In its vital processes there is little expenditure of force or waste of substance. Its functions are essentially constructive, and its growth and age are apparently without limits, excepting such as arise from surrounding conditions. Thus many trees represent centuries, and have a permanence that is astonishing and sublime. Travellers stand awe-struck before the monuments which for forty centuries have kept watch by the Nile, but the oldest of these may not antedate the famous dragon-tree of Teneriffe. It is not surprising that the ancients considered trees “immortal,” or, as “old as Time.” But, if the life of the tree is continuous, its leaves—the organs of its growth—have their periods of decay, and are types of mortality. The life of man is likened to the “leaf that perishes.” In an animal, the vital processes are carried on by a single set of organs, the impairment of which limits the period of its life. With the tree, decay of the organs is followed by constant renovation, and the foliage which covers it the present summer is as new and as young as that which adorned it a hundred or a thousand years ago. . . . The great living monuments of the vegetable kingdom. Fixed to a single spot, the tree is what it is because of the forces which act upon it. It is a monument of accumulated and concentrated force. Transmuted sunlight is in all its fibres, and who shall estimate the dynamic work which has been expended in its structure? Dr. Draper observes that “the beat of a pendulum occupies a second of time; divide that period into a million of equal parts, then divide each of these brief periods into a million of other equal parts, a wave of yellow light daring one of the last small intervals has vibrated 535 times. Yet that yellow light has been the chief instrument in building the tree.” In the delicate texture of its leaves it has overcome molecular force; it has beaten asunder the elements of an invisible gas, and inaugurated a new arrangement of atoms. The old dragon-tree represents forty centuries of this dynamic work—a sublime monument reared without toil by the silent forces of Nature! In the outer air it has awakened every note of sound, from the softest monotone to the rhythmic roar of the tempest; but in its inner chambers has been a murmur and music of life in the ceaseless movement of fluids and marshalling of atoms, as one by one they take their place in the molecular dance, which eludes the dull sense of hearing, and becomes obvious only in results. The veil which hides these ultimate processes of life has not yet been lifted, and Science pauses in waiting before it, but only waits.

. . . .

Trees Cry Out

“Scientists have known for decades that microphones can pick up the sounds that trees make. Now, scientists may have found the key to understanding these particular cries . . . In the lab, a team of French scientists has captured the ultrasonic noise made by bubbles forming inside water-stressed trees  . . . .”

Du Bon Usage Des Arbres

‘“Man is senescent, that is to say is programmed to die, but a plane tree is not,” says French botanist Francis Hallé. After its leaves have fallen, life begins again in the spring and the tree recovers its youthful genomes. If it is not subjected to accidents, diseases or humans, the plane tree could live for centuries . . . .’ 

The Fragile Populations

1280px-Studies_of_Flowers_and_Butterflies,_watercolor_painting_on_parchment_by_Joris_Hoefnagel,_Flanders,_1590,_HAA

Sharp Decline of the Monarch Butterfly

A new census found this winter’s population of North American monarch butterflies in Mexico was at the lowest level ever measured. University of Kansas insect ecologist Orley R. Taylor talks to Yale Environment 360 about how the planting of genetically modified crops and the resulting use of herbicides has contributed to the monarchs’ decline.

Taylor talked about the factors that have led to the sharp drop in the monarch population. Among them is the increased planting of genetically modified corn in the U.S. Midwest, which has led to greater use of herbicides, which in turn kills the milkweed that is a prime food source for the butterflies.

“What we’re seeing here in the United States,” he said, “is a very precipitous decline of monarchs that’s coincident with the adoption of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans.
The glyphosate used in agriculture has tripled since 1997, when they first introduced these Roundup-ready crops. The developers of these crops not only provided the seeds that were glyphosate-resistant, but they also provided the glyphosate — the Roundup. And, boy, that was a pretty good system. You could make money on both, right?

It’s a collateral damage issue. And one of the things that we’re worried about now is that it looks like there’s going to be a lot of collateral damage from the use of various herbicides and pesticides coming down.’

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/tracking_the_causes_of_sharp__decline_of_the_monarch_butterfly/2634/


In fact, insects such as butterflies, moths, bumblebees and mayflies have been disappearing for a long time, although hardly anyone except specialists has noticed or cared . . . http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/michael-mccarthy-this-isnt-just-about-bees-ndash-it-affects-everything-2189269.html

https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/bees-facing-a-poisoned-spring/

The Good Friday

‘A highly distinctive, solitary ungulate dwelling in deep forest, utterly unknown to the outside world until 1992, the saola is so unusual that is has been given its own genus: Pseudoryx.
“Not only is it its own genus, some believe it merits its own tribe with the Bovinae (the mammalian group which includes wild and domestic cattle, buffaloes, yak and some antelopes).
Saola is unlike anything known before,” says zoologist William Robichaud .

“Ironically, saola is one of the only wild Southeast Asian mammals bigger than a squirrel without a significant price on its head.
Most endangered terrestrial vertebrates in Southeast Asia are threatened primarily by wildlife trade, either for bushmeat or traditional East Asian medicine (or a few specialty luxuries such as ivory).
All sorts of taxa are getting hammered by this—turtles, pangolins, elephants, rhinos, deer, primates, bears, tigers, other cats, etc.
The Chinese never knew saola, and so it does not appear in their traditional pharmacopeia.
But snares set in the jungle for other species have pushed the saola to the edge of extinction.

muntjac

Martha was captured by Hmong villagers in January, 1996 in response to a cash reward and lived for three weeks.
(Saola need a specialized, varied diet of particular plants found in the Annamite Mountains.)

A Buddhist monk who came to see her told me,  ‘A nickname we have for saola is the ‘polite animal’, because it always walks slowly and quietly through the forest, and is never obstinate.’
Another Lao man who came to see her said, ‘The only thing saola are afraid of is dogs.’

She died at dusk on a Friday. Felt like Good Friday.
No living saola has been seen by the outside world since.
To compound the sense of loss, she turned out to be pregnant with a male fetus.”

The impetus across Asia is development at any cost, not conservation for future generations.
It wouldn’t be surprising in a decade or two to read that the long-unknown saola had vanished into the jungle’s shadows for good.’

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0404-hance_robichaud.html?newsmenu

“We cannot command Nature except by obeying her.” Francis Bacon, 1620

The last dusky seaside sparrow

Extraordinary photographer, Joel Sartore: http://www.joelsartore.com/http://vimeo.com/8426920

Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurled,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

Alexander Pope, Essay on Man