Floodplain Restoration – Defenders of Wildlife Blog

GR:  If you’ve ever wondered if we could get along without nature, if you’d like to know if the only plants we need are those we plant for food, and if you wonder if the only animals we need are those we ride or eat, you may find this article interesting. It’s concerned with maintaining and restoring one of nature’s essential functions and one of the richest types of ecosystems.

Restoring Floodplains: A Multi-Benefit Strategy in a Warming Climate

“The dramatic failure of the spillway at Oroville Dam and the evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents highlight the importance of effective flood management in California. After years of drought, Californians are suffering from water whiplash, with the current swing from drought to flood conditions.

“If you think something strange is happening here, you’re right. The last seven years have included a wet 2011, five years of drought (2012-2016) – four of which were the driest four-year period in state history – and now an extraordinarily wet 2017.

“This fluctuation from wet to dry – without anything approaching average conditions – is consistent with the projections of climate scientists. In 2011, the State of California warned “(a)s the climate warms, extreme events are expected to become more frequent, including wildfires, floods, droughts, and heat waves.”

“You don’t need to make a trek to the arctic to see on-the-ground impacts of climate change. Californians can simply look to their local rivers or the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra snowpack is now the largest in two decades – 177 percent of average. This comes just two years after a record low snowpack that was only 6 percent of average. Californians are already seeing more extreme weather events.

“The last five years taught Californians that we need to make conservation a way of life and that we must invest in tools like water recycling that are drought resilient. This year – and the weather patterns of the past seven years – teach us that California must prepare for floods as well.

How can we prepare for floods?

Floodplain:  The normal overflow zone that fills with water after rainfall. It must be large enough to handle the runoff from heavy rainfall, and it must be well vegetated with flood-tolerant shrubs and trees that slow the water. This is necessary to prevent erosion and the sudden arrival of too much water downstream. (Diagram from Wired.)

“One of the best ways is to restore portions of our historic floodplains to increase the ability of our rivers to handle high flows. We’ve seen the flood-protection benefits of floodplains this year. By opening gates to the Yolo Bypass floodplain, flood managers have lowered the risk to the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, and avoided potentially catastrophic flooding.” –Rachel Zwillinger (Continue reading:  Floodplain Restoration – Defenders of Wildlife Blog).

Political Platform for Nature-Conservation

Nature Conservation Platform

We must apply much more effort to conservation if we want to keep the benefits we derive from natural ecosystems. We need leaders that can promote activities that improve living conditions and guarantee long-term benefits from nature.

Children playing outdoors.

Children playing outdoors.

Political platforms usually emphasize human social and economic equality. The Justice Democrats platform is an example that lays out a set of goals for leaders focused on human society. It includes climate change. Here are the nature-conservation goals I recommend we add to political platforms.

I’ve listed subjects and actions in rough order of priority. I don’t think the first items are more important than the ones that follow. They are first because the emergency conditions we’ve created require that we act on them immediately.

  1. Global warming. Make an immediate switch to renewable energy. This is part of the Justice Democrats platform, but the best statement is in the Our Revolution platform. I’m repeating the item because it deserves emphasis (climate-change*).
  2. Population. Make knowledge and technology for family planning free or inexpensive worldwide (population).
  3. Habitat Loss. Stop ecosystem destruction resulting from these human activities: construction, farming, spreading invasive species, mining, releasing toxic wastes, and water diversion (construction, farming, invasive species, mining, pollution, water).
  4. Sustainability. End fishing, grazing, and logging harvests that take more than natural processes produce (deforestation, desertification, fishing, forestry, hunting, livestock grazing, logging, soil erosion).
  5. Equality. Respect the right of sentient beings to live wild and free according to their natural instincts (animal cruelty, animal rights, sentient beings, wildlife)
  6. Restore. Restore and set aside half the Earth’s lands and seas for wild plants and animals (ecological restoration, half for nature).
    *Search terms for information and discussions on this website. The most recent search results will appear at the top of the list.

Destroying the land for material that will destroy the air.

Conservationists, land managers, wildlife biologists, and educators will see nothing new here. We have years of observations, research, and experimentation on each of these topics. It is time to start full-scale application of what we’ve learned. For this, we need dedicated leaders that understand the value of watersheds, soils, pollinators, and ecosystems. We need leaders who recognize that we are in the midst of both a climate and an extinction crisis. We need leaders who are convinced that humanity cannot survive without healthy ecosystems.

Conditions are in flux. I would be delighted to have your suggestions and questions.  Thanks.

Ecological Special Forces

GR.–No guns and bombs.  We need commando units specializing in background investigations and exposure of perpetrators of ecological harm.  Let’s have more hacker gumshoes working for nature.  We need more ecological whistleblowers and we need more support for whistleblowers.  And we need more organized legal representation for nature (the link takes you to a list of organizations and resources for nature protection).

Deep Green Resistance.–

“The planet needs commandos”

“It wasn’t until the 1940’s that what we think of as the “commando” or special forces units were standardized by the British Army. With the goal of disrupting German forces in western France and later in the Mediterranean and North Africa, the first commando units were modeled on small groups of Arab fighters who had great success pinning down much larger British Army units during the uprisings in Palestine in the 1930’s.

“These units proved to be very effective during World War II and have since become a staple of modern warfare. Today, the U.S. empire largely projects military force through targeted special forces operations and bombing campaigns, rather than outright warfare and traditional military maneuvers.

The Case for Ecological Commandos

“Our planet is on the verge of total ecological collapse. Nothing is getting better. Governments and corporations continue business as usual while every day, carbon dioxide levels rise, forests are cut down, and 200 species are driven extinct. Forty percent of all human deaths can be attributed to pollution. Ocean fish may not exist by 2050.

“Even in ecological preserves, life is suffering; there has been an 85% decline in mammals in West Africa’s parks. Major dams continue to be built. Environmentalists are being murdered around the world. African lions are in precipitous decline, as are tigers, leopards, elephants, polar bears, rhino, and countless other species. Most of the species who are driven extinct haven’t even ever been described by western science; they slip into extinction with barely a ripple.” –Deep Green Resistance.  Ecological Special Forces: A Proposal | Deep Green Resistance Blog

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)

Humboldt’s Importance

Alexander von Humboldt was the most influential man of his age.  His contributions helped unify our understanding of nature and how human alterations could lead to dangerous changes.  Heads of government, scientists, engineers, artists, and authors were inspired by and consulted with him on a range of topics. Around the world, there are more cities, parks, mountains, and rivers named for Humboldt than anyone else that ever lived.

 Dr. Ulloa Ulloa (front, left) and field assistants at the Humboldt statue on Chimborazo in 2009.

Dr. Ulloa Ulloa (front, left) and field assistants at the Humboldt statue on Chimborazo in 2009.

Humboldt’s strengths were his curiosity, his tireless desire to record his experiences, his ability to see connections, and his ability to write about objective facts with lyrical prose.  He described nature as a web of life, noting and mapping the plant and animal changes with elevation on Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador a century before C. Hart Merriam mapped life zones in central Arizona.  He invented isotherms, the lines on maps connecting areas of equal temperatures, and he warned that human destruction of nature was having widespread consequences.  He described the drop in stream flow, lake level, and general climate change resulting from cutting forests and diverting streams for monoculture farming.  Humboldt influenced and inspired Goethe, Darwin, Hooker, Bolivar, Thoreau, Muir, and many more.  Without Humboldt’s books, Darwin might never have gone to sea, South America might have remained a slave-holding Spanish colony for another century, and nature conservation might have lagged even farther behind human alteration of the land.

Humboldt1805-chimborazo-live zones

Humboldt’s zonal flora and fauna map of Chimborazo.

I am delighted to report that my grandson born in October, 2014 bears the name Alexander.  Alex’s birthplace is just 15 miles west of my home in Humboldt, AZ.

The essay introduced below provides links to some the books by and about Humboldt.  The one by Andrea Wulf is one of my all-time favorite biographical works.

Humboldt and Bonpland’s Essai sur la géographie des plantes and its significance

By: Randy Smith, Image Technician | Metadata Librarian. Peter H. Raven Library, Missouri Botanical Garden

“Over 210 years after Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland’s work titled Essai sur la géographie des plantes was published, climate science, book conservation, and botanical research have converged around this 1805 work. This book was digitized and made available in 2008 by the Missouri Botanical Garden for the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Modern science meets historic data

“In 2015, scientists published a paper detailing their findings as they retraced the path that Humboldt and Bonpland took on their ascent up the dormant volcano, Chimborazo, in Ecuador. The paper, “Strong upslope shifts in Chimborazo’s vegetation over two centuries since Humboldt,” utilized the data and map contained in Essai sur la géographie des plantes and presented modern data from the same locations as detailed in Essai to reveal the effects of climate change on the volcano.

“As Stephen T. Jackson writes in the 2009 book, Essay on the geography of plants, the significance of Humboldt and Bonpland’s work describing their ascent up Chimborazo lies in the detailed data they collected at various elevations. Jackson and historian Andrea Wulf have noted that while most people have forgotten Humboldt, his significance in unifying early scientific disciplines into an inter-connected web of life cannot be understated. Measurements taken on Chimborazo include light intensity, temperature, barometric pressure, and gravitational force. Descriptions of the flora and fauna at various levels of Chimborazo were described and illustrated on the map contained with Essai sur la géographie des plantes.”  Continue reading.