Today is #WeedAppreciationDay. Before humans, weeds were almost entirely beneficial for Earth’s ecosystems. Problems began when we transported weeds across natural barriers created by deserts, forests, and oceans. In their new homes without their natural consumers, some of the weeds become malignant. They replace local species and destroy local ecosystems. Diversity and stability often decline. The damage is extensive and it is increasing. Here’s a link to more information on weeds: https://garryrogers.com/invasive-plant-articles-by-garry…/
As the human population grows and consumes more of the planet’s resources, the number of wild animals and plants declines. Encounters with insects outdoors and in our homes are falling rapidly. Birds numbers are falling, and wild mammals are disappearing.
“The Living Planet Index tracked 20,811 populations of 4,392 vertebrate species and it recorded a 68 percent decline between 1970 and 2016. Over-consumption by humans is primarily to blame, particularly deforestation and agricultural expansion–Niall McCarthy, Data Journalist.
I’ve reported on this issue in many posts over the past few years. In fact, most of my posts are related. Like the rest of the world’s citizens concerned with nature, I’ve been an ineffectual nag. I have come to believe that even if we had 100 Greta Thunbergs demonstrating for nature, we would fail to evade calamity. But it is fair to imagine all is not lost. Caught in the whirlpool of human nature, we can still believe remnants of nature will survive to reseed Earth’s living complexity and beauty once again.
Earth’s Human Population Is Not Sustainable
Human population growth threatens all life on Earth. Notice how the linked Guardian article focuses on Humans. We all know, and the article’s author would probably agree, Human destruction of Earth ecosystems harms other species as well as Humans. This might end when Human civilization ends, but population’s daughter product, climate change, might continue destroying life long after Humans are gone.
The Guardian article gives a brief update on population projections.
“In 1798, Thomas Malthus wrung his hands as he contemplated the growing mass of humanity, warning: “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.” –Guardian Editorial.
You are a Scientist
I heard someone ask “why do scientists lie so much.” Thinking about how I would answer, and with my grandchildren in mind, I composed the following statement:
Half for Nature
As we age and grow more familiar with our surroundings, the limits of the Earth begin to appear through the clouds of our experience and reactions. When I think of the Voyager Golden Records travelling into the Cosmos for the past 43 years, I wonder if some alien species will one day trace humanity’s greetings back to a barren planet no longer wrapped in life and promise. In the linked article, Helen Kopnina and her coauthors gracefully lay out the mutually beneficial path we must follow to save our planet’s life and ourselves.
Header photo: College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley.
My Birds of Coldwater Farm is an illustrated guide to 146 bird species seen at Coldwater Farm from 1997 to 2022. I included photographs, conservation status, and comments on species abundance trends at the Farm. Keywords: Birds, Coldwater Farm, Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, Conservation, Natural History.
The photographs and comments in this book will give you a name and some information for the birds, but you will also want a field guide. You can find one in most bookstores and you can download an app for your phone. Field guides help you distinguish similar bird species and they provide much more information than this book. Away from my desk, I use the Audubon Society Bird Guide app. It has pictures, recordings, range maps, and descriptions of each species’ preferred habitat and its mating, nesting, and feeding behavior. It also describes nests, eggs, and conservation status. At my desk, I use the fabulous Cornel Lab Birds of North America Online. Both the Audubon app and the Cornel Lab website have simple interactive tools that will let you become an instant success at bird identification (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/).
With concern for the health and survival of the birds, I dug into the published conservation literature on each species. I found that two species at the Farm, the Southwest Willow Flycatcher, and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo are on the U. S. endangered species list and numerous other species that visit the Farm are in decline. Philipe Guerrero and other ornithologists helped identify many of the birds.
The book is available in all the usual places and here’s the Amazon link.
Rogers, Garry. 2021. Birds of Coldwater Farm, Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, Coldwater Press, Prescott, AZ. 177 p.
Most of the birds are shown in the Photo Gallery
[Alfred E. Neuman said “What, me worry?” — perhaps he was our spokesperson after all, eh Joe?]
The 2017 Blog Post
GR [in 2017]: An article from June, 2016 should be on everyone’s mind now. Here’s my discussion followed by a link to the article.
A group of scientists analyzed the sources of CO2 and the dynamic relationship between the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperature to devise a global carbon budget they could use to assess the effect of timing of changes in CO2 emissions. The analysis enabled them to calculate the changes we must make to preserve a livable climate. You’ll have to read the article to see the individual sources of CO2 that must be adjusted. I wanted to mention the timing for the budget. The analysis shows that if CO2 emissions begin to fall immediately and reach zero in 30 years, we will remain within the global warming limits set by the Paris treaty. After the flat emissions of 2014, 2015, and 2016, the authors believed that the fall in emissions was ready to begin. This is good, because their budget shows that if we wait to 2020 to start tapering off CO2 production, we only get 20 years to reach zero emissions. If we wait to 2025, we get less than 10 years to reach zero. Transforming our energy use that quickly would be impossible.
SO, how are we doing. Six months after the analysis was published, we find that 2017 emissions have gone up, not down. Lot’s of positive changes have begun, but we have to wait to see what happens in 2018. If we begin to taper off CO2 emissions by 2020, we will have 20 years to reach zero emissions. I suggest you take a look at the six milestones the authors believe must be reached by 2020. Then you can monitor the world’s progress toward painful climate change (the Paris treaty) or disastrous climate change (with too many storms, fires, heat waves, and rising seas).
Climate change is just one of the approaching disasters. Human population and its impact is growing, wildlife species are going extinct at incredible rates, freshwater supplies are dropping, and toxic wastes are building up. If we can’t do much more than take our CO2 emissions to zero over the next 20 years, most of the diversity and beauty of life on Earth will disappear.
Yesterday, a visitor sent an email containing corrections and additions for my Legal Tools & Links page. So much appreciated, I made the changes and checked a few other sites too. It occurred that the list needs something more helpful than alphabetization. Okay, that’s on my to-do list. Any suggestions would be most welcome (the image is from the scclegal website).
Expect the Best, Be Prepared for the Worst
Stinknet Has Reached Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona
Yesterday (June 14, 2019), I discovered a new invasive weed growing in Humboldt. The plant’s small yellow flowers caught my attention as I walked along Old Black Canyon Highway. Roads are common dispersal routes for invading weeds. First the roadsides, next the yards and hillsides.
The first thought produced by Stinknet is that its bright yellow flowers are beautiful. The next thought, however, is that something stinks. Stinknet produces resinous sap that smells like a rotten pineapple. The odor plus the tendency for the plants to grow in tight formation create real impediments to outdoor activity. Even worse, Stinknet is a strong competitor that replaces native plants. But worse still, the plants are highly flammable and encourage destructive wildfires. If Stinknet invades, the quality of natural habitats will decline and many soil organisms, native plants, and native animals will disappear.
Stinknet is spreading across the hot deserts of California and Arizona. I’ve known about the weed since 2008 when Andrew Salywon of the Phoenix Botanical Garden ranked it as one of four weeds posing the greatest threats to Agua Fria National Monument 20mi south of Humboldt. The plant has not been reported above 2300ft in Arizona, and I assumed that at 4500ft, Lonesome Valley winters would be too cold for Stinknet. I did not even include it in the list of possible future weeds in Weeds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona. Let’s hope that other dangerous weeds that I did not list will not reach Lonesome Valley.
Treatment: How to Control Stinknet
Though people have carried Stinknet thousands of miles from its South African home, and though the plant has dispersed rapidly along Arizona highways, Stinknet may not survive and spread in Dewey-Humboldt. However, that’s not a safe bet. Like medical doctors, weed professionals practice EDRR (Early Detection Rapid Response). Now’s the time to begin watching for the plant along the highway and town streets. At this early point in Stinknet’s invasion of Dewey-Humboldt, the best control tactic is pulling and bagging the complete plant including the roots. If the plant spreads, control will become much more difficult and expensive. Like any disease, weed invasions are easier to cure when discovered early.
Stinknet (Oncosiphon piluliferum) Daisy Family—ASTERACEAE.
Annual with persistent roots. Small, less than 2ft tall. One to five or more thin stems arising from base, sparse alternate leaves, striking yellow flowers in small tight balls less than 10mm diameter. Stinky.
Conservation Easement Nearing Completion
Thanks to generous donors, the Coldwater Farm conservation easement is almost complete. During the spring we’ve had several guided bird walks to reward contributors. The walks were led by ornithologists Ryan Crouse and Carl Tomoff. A final walk, for contributors of $1,000 or more, is in two weeks. It will be led by field ornithologist Felipe Guerrero and will be followed by a picnic breakfast in the Farm’s bird garden. (Photo: Rare Black Hawk at Coldwater Farm, Copyright, 2019, Garry Rogers).
The conservation easement will protect the farm from all future development. We will continue to occupy our house and pay property taxes, but no other building will ever be permitted. !