Invasive species shift Great Lakes ecosystems – Summit County Citizens Voice

GR:  Invasive species are weakening and eliminating ecosystems around the world. In many instances, people introduced the invasives to increase food production for domestic livestock. In other instances, people introduce the invasives to control other invasives. The search for magic bullets such as pesticides, diseases from the original homeland of an invasive, and introduction of more competitive aliens from the homeland continues, but without much success. Many times, the only effective means to eliminate an invasive species is to apply manual labor: catching, pulling, or mowing.

“The Great Lakes have seen successive invasions by non-native species that alter the ecosystem, including quagga mussels that filter the water and remove nutrients. At least partly as a result of the invasive mussels, Lake Michigan is becoming less hospitable to Chinook salmon, according to a new study led by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Michigan State University.

“The scientists concluded that stocking could help sustain a population of Chinook salmon, but that the lake’s ecosystem is now more conducive to stocking lake trout and steelhead salmon. These two species can switch from eating alewife, which are in decline, to bottom-dwelling round goby, another newly established invasive prey fish that feeds on quagga mussels.

“Findings from our study can help managers determine the most viable ways to enhance valuable recreational fisheries in Lake Michigan, especially when the open waters of the lake are declining in productivity,” said Yu-Chun Kao, an MSU post-doctoral scientist and the lead author of the report.” –Summit County Citizens Voice (Continue: Invasive species shift Great Lakes ecosystems – Summit County Citizens Voice).

Weed killer designed to save farms is devastating them

GR: With the chemical industry in control of Congress and government regulators, every plant and animal of every country on Earth is in danger. Toxic chemicals added to the land, air, and water cause death, disease, and disruption of natural ecosystems. They poison the insects and spread through the food chain weakening and killing wildlife. As biodiversity declines, natural flood control and soil protection is lost and air and water filtering declines. The result is a great loss productivity and ever-increasing toxicity of the environment.

BLYTHEVILLE, ARK. — “Clay Mayes slams on the brakes of his Chevy Silverado and jumps out with the engine running, yelling at a dogwood by the side of the dirt road as if it had said something insulting.

“Its leaves curl downward and in on themselves like tiny, broken umbrellas. It’s the telltale mark of inadvertent exposure to a controversial herbicide called dicamba.

“This is crazy. Crazy!” shouts Mayes, a farm manager, gesticulating toward the shriveled canopy off Highway 61. “I just think if this keeps going on . . .”

“Everything’ll be dead,” says Brian Smith, his passenger.

“The damage here in northeast Arkansas and across the Midwest — sickly soybeans, trees and other crops — has become emblematic of a deepening crisis in American agriculture.

“Farmers are locked in an arms race between ever-stronger weeds and ever-stronger weed killers.

“The dicamba system, approved for use for the first time this spring, was supposed to break the cycle and guarantee weed control in soybeans and cotton. The herbicide — used in combination with a genetically modified dicamba-resistant soybean — promises better control of unwanted plants such as pigweed, which has become resistant to common weed killers.

“The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is that dicamba has drifted from the fields where it was sprayed, damaging millions of acres of unprotected soybeans and other crops in what some are calling a man-made disaster. Critics say that the herbicide was approved by federal officials without enough data, particularly on the critical question of whether it could drift off target.

“Government officials and manufacturers Monsanto and BASF deny the charge, saying the system worked as Congress designed it.” –Caitlin Dewey (Continue: Weed killer designed to save farms is devastating them).

Thanks to Bob Vella the Secular Jurist for finding this story.

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.
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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.