We Love This Coast

#StopKinderMorgan – Standing Up for Our Precious Coast – #welovethiscoast #OrcasNotTankers


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No-take sanctuaries proven to be most effective way to resuscitate and protect ocean life

Only 3.5 percent of the ocean is under some type of protection, and less than 2 percent is in no-take marine reserves. Despite the recent increase in large MPAs worldwide, we are still short of the United Nations target of 10 percent of the ocean. So we have a lot of work to do.
Ocean Views Posted by David Maxwell Braun of National Geographic Society  June 13, 2017
New analysis of previous studies shows that biomass of whole fish assemblages in marine reserves is, on average, 670 percent greater than in adjacent unprotected areas, and 343 percent greater than in 15 partially-protected marine protected areas (MPAs), according to an essay published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science. Marine reserves also help restore the complexity of ecosystems through a chain of ecological effects (trophic cascades) once the abundance of large animals recovers sufficiently, say the authors, Enric Sala, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, and Sylvaine Giakoumi, Universite Cote d’Azur, in their opinion essay Food for Thought: No-take marine reserves are the most effective protected areas in the ocean. (Download a PDF)
There are significant additional benefits from a rigorous protection of portions of the ocean. “Marine reserves may not be immune to the effects of climate change, but to date, reserves with complex ecosystems are more resilient than unprotected areas. Although marine reserves were conceived to protect ecosystems within their boundaries, they have also been shown to enhance local fisheries and create jobs and new incomes through ecotourism,” Sala and Giakoumi say in their essay.
National Geographic Voices interviewed Sala about the role of MPAs as an essential tool for reversing the global degradation of ocean life, and how that then enhances local fisheries and creates jobs and new incomes through ecotourism. Read on to learn more about the importance of protecting the oceans and what you can do to help.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and ecologist, Enric Sala.

 

 

What is the purpose and most significant finding of this new analysis?

We show that no-take marine reserves where fishing is prohibited have, on average, almost seven times more fish biomass (the total weight of fish per square mile) than unprotected areas nearby. But we also found that “marine protected areas” (MPAs) that allow fishing within their boundaries are not able to even double fish biomass. While these partially protected areas are useful for managing use conflicts, it is no-take reserves that are the most efficient in bringing back marine life and protecting ecosystems.

What are marine reserves designed to do, and how do they provide more than what they were initially designed for, as stated in the paper?

Marine reserves were initially designed to protect marine life within their boundaries, but over time we’ve discovered that they produce so many fish and other animals, that some of them spill over the reserve’s boundaries. That helps the local fishermen who now can catch more outside the reserve boundaries. And when the fish come back, the divers come in, bringing in more revenue and helping to create more jobs than fishing.

How successful are the reserves?

Reserves can be very successful, as shown in our research. As an example, there is a little marine reserve on the Costa Brava in the Mediterranean, the Medes Islands, that is only 1 square kilometer in size. But it contains one of the largest abundances of large fish in the Mediterranean, which attracts thousands of divers from all over Europe. That square kilometer brings in 12 million Euros per year through ecotourism.

Should artisanal or traditional fishing be allowed in marine reserves?

Marine reserves should be closed to fishing, so that they can bring marine life back and preserve it. Traditional fishing should be carried out in a sustainable way, but outside the reserves. Research shows that artisanal fishing does better next to reserves anyway.

What are the most significant challenges in proclaiming marine reserves and enforcing their protection?

Biggest challenge is opposition from the fishing industry, mainly because either they are not aware of the benefits of reserves to fishing, or because they opt for short-term economic gain at the expense of the resource they exploit. But I’ve met fishermen who were against reserves initially, but who now want more reserves, because they’re better off because of them.

How much of the ocean do you believe should still be set aside for marine reserves? Are there any specific areas that should be given high priority?

A study indicated that, on average, about 40 percentof the ocean should be protected to achieve ecological protection but also sustainability of fisheries. I think that we should protect half of the ocean, which according to another study would allow to catch the same amount of fish in the other half, fishing less.

It also should be made clear that protected should mean truly protected. No-take reserves are protected areas. MPAs that allow fishing, in my opinion, should not be called protected areas, but “managed areas”. And these managed areas should not count in the global tally of how much of the ocean is protected. Calling an area that allows fishing a “marine protected area” is like calling a timber concession (no matter how well managed) a “protected forest.”

How much of the ocean is protected now?

Only 3.5 percent of the ocean is under some type of protection, and less than 2 percent is in no-take marine reserves. Despite the recent increase in large MPAs worldwide, we are still short of the United Nations target of 10 percent of the ocean. So we have a lot of work to do.

What ultimately can the public do to help conserve the oceans?

Avoid single-use plastic such as straws and plastic bags, and eat less meat and more vegetables. And of course, if you eat fish, eat only fish that have a label of sustainability.

What is your current/next research project?

We continue to survey the most pristine places in the ocean and work to inspire leaders to protect them in large marine reserves. For updates on the project please see pristineseas.org

See article here……


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Two-thirds of Canada’s electricity now comes from renewable energy

The National Energy Board says renewables are responsible for 66 per cent of Canadian electricity, with 60 per cent of all power n Canada coming from hydro.

A young male grizzly bear peers over his feeding grounds in the Great Bear Rainforest’s Mussel Inlet on Aug. 31, 2016. File photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

Inside the story:

  • How climate change, resource development and trophy hunting threaten salmon, whales and bears
  • Which legislative loopholes leave the Great Bear Rainforest at risk
  • How provincial government decisions have left B.C. wildlife in the lurch
  • What kind of action is needed to preserve the province’s northwest coast

Stimo’on. Misoo. Gyne’es. Ye’ee. Uuux.

These are the names of the five species of Pacific salmon in Sm’algyax, the language of the Gitga’at First Nation on the northwest coast of British Columbia.

It’s a territory they’ve occupied for thousands of years, long before the names ‘pink,’ ‘sockeye,’ ‘chum,’ ‘chinook,’ and ‘coho,’ were conceived by scientists.

The salmon are the lifeline of the First Nation, says Gitga’at Councillor Cameron Hill. As the salmon go, they go.

“Salmon keep us connected to our language and culture,” he tells National Observer. “This whole ecosystem is our way of life. We depend on it so much that we can’t do without it.”

The Gitga’at, who live in the remote community of Hartley Bay, harvest 90 per cent of their food from the land, sea, rivers and streams. Their territory encompasses roughly 7,500 square kilometres of mainland, water and coastal islands, and is the permanent home of nearly 200 of the nation’s members.

They have watched “disheartened” and “devastated” for decades, says Hill, as the rainforest’s wildlife has been ravaged by industry, climate change, trophy hunting, and weak environmental policy.

The great natural bounty of the region, known today as the Great Bear Rainforest, has never failed them before, but for the first time in their lives, they’re worried it will.

The Gitga’at will not let the Great Bear Rainforest go down without a fight: As stewards of the territory, they will “fiercely defend and protect” their land and way of life, says Hill.

Coastal Guardian Watchmen, Gitga'at First Nation, Great Bear Rainforest, Gribbell Island, spirit bearCoastal Guardian Watchmen from the Gitga’at First Nation watch over Gribbell Island, home to some of the Great Bear Rainforest’s moved beloved Spirit Bears. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

The beating heart of the rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest coastal temperate rainforest on Earth, stretching 64,000 square kilometres from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Alaska. It’s a rare and remarkable ecosystem roughly twice the size of Belgium, whose misty fjords, glassy waters, mossy mountains and thundering waterfalls paint a landscape of overwhelming natural beauty.

For thousands of years, the rainforest has sustained indigenous populations as one of the richest and most productive ecosystems on the planet. Its spectacular circle of life includes grizzly bears, orcas, sea wolves, Sitka deer, and the elusive white Spirit Bear — a bear found nowhere else in the world.

And the heart of it all, says B.C. biologist Alexandra Morton, are the salmon.

“They are a blood stream, a power cord,” she says from her home in Echo Bay, where she has studied Pacific salmon and their habitat for more than 30 years.

“They feed everybody. If we pull them out, this coast will go dim.”

Salmon are what’s known as a ‘keystone species’ in the Great Bear Rainforest, Morton explains, a creature whose impact on an ecosystem is disproportionately large compared to its biomass.

Their carcasses are rich in nitrogen, sulfur, carbon and phosphorus, and when bears and wolves drag them through the forest, these nutrients are deposited in the soil and landscape. From there, scientists estimate they find their way into more than 190 species of the rainforest’s food chain — from moss to mink and seals to Spirit Bears.

Isotopes from salmon who return to spawn in the rainforest have even been found in its old-growth trees, says Morton. And the bigger the salmon run, the bigger the trees grow.

Mussel Inlet, salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, salmon forest, Great Bear RainforestA Pacific salmon passes its nutrients on to the Great Bear Rainforest’s ecosystem during spawning season in August 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

Warming waters wearing down salmon

But Pacific salmon — even those who spawn in the far away Great Bear Rainforest — are in trouble.

According to scientists from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, exceptionally warm conditions partnered with extreme climate events like El Niño have compromised their diet by bringing smaller, less nutritious plankton into B.C. waters.

With them come migratory predators like shark and mackerel that feed on salmon — a dangerous combination of events that has resulted in lower river flows and higher water temperatures that make it difficult for the fish to spawn and survive.

That in turn, he adds, weakens the resilience, density and diversity of salmon forests like the Great Bear Rainforest. It has a particularly strong impact on the ecosystem’s vulnerable and threatened predators, including grizzly bears and northern resident killer whales, whose diet mainstay is salmon.Just south of the rainforest, a decrease in salmon stocks also threatens to obliterate their southern resident killer whale neighbours — a distinct species of orca whose population has dwindled to fewer than 90 members. The southern resident feeds almost exclusively on chinook salmon, which are declining rapidly across both the Salish Sea and Columbia River basins.

But it’s not only climate change that threatens salmon and the animals that rely on them for food — it’s liquified natural gas (LNG) projects, pipeline proposals, forestry, and fish farming as well.

As British Columbia inches closer to its provincial election on May 9, all four have been thrust into the spotlight as jobs, economy, and resource development dominate political conversations.

Great Bear Rainforest, Andy Wright, grizzly bear, Greenpeace protests, B.C. rainforest, timber industry, B.C. forestry, coastal temperate rainforest, spirit bear
A rare Spirit Bear — a black bear whose recessive genes give it stark white fur — enjoys a wriggling salmon snack in the Great Bear Rainforest. File photo by Andrew S. Wright

Can tankers tank the Great Bear’s wildlife?

BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark has vowed that the province will see its LNG heyday.

Despite low global oil prices and an increasing supply of natural gas that has depressed its value on the international market, she has campaigned in communities inside the Great Bear Rainforest, promising not to give up on LNG because “quitters can’t be leaders.”

The party did not respond to requests for comment on this story and the premier’s office declined to comment. But the B.C. Ministry of Energy Mines has touted LNG as a source of clean energy, and an “opportunity to achieve significant GHG emissions reductions” while boosting provincial jobs and revenues.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canada’s oil and natural gas industry advocate, declined to say whether it felt LNG or crude oil projects could be done safely in the Great Bear Rainforest or on B.C.’s northwest coast at large. Instead, it said the onus is on governments to decide whether a project is “acceptable to proceed” in an email statement to National Observer:

“Any major development must undergo a rigorous environmental assessment prior to construction… We’ve seen several projects in northern B.C. meet the environmental requirements and gain approval.”

As it stands, there are 19 LNG export proposals in various stages of development in the province, about two thirds of which include infrastructure or shipping routes that would plough through or beside the Great Bear Rainforest.

The $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project, for example — already given the green light by the B.C. and federal governments — aims to build a natural gas pipeline that would cut straight through the rainforest to get to a proposed terminal on Lelu Island.

This will bring it right next door to Flora Bank, a sensitive and ancient underwater habitat in northwestern B.C. where new research indicates all five species of Pacific salmon feed and grow for weeks at a time.

According to Pacific NorthWest’s consultants, Flora Bank is a temporary stop for juvenile salmon, not a rearing site. Federal conditions placed on the project also require the company to monitor the area, and ensure that its marine terminal does not result in adverse effects on Flora Bank and its salmon. If constructed, the project is expected to generate roughly $2.5 billion in tax revenue for governments and 4,500 jobs during peak construction.

But according to whale researcher Janie Wray, LNG infrastructure — and the fracking that accompanies it — pose an enormous risk to wildlife that in many cases, cannot be mitigated. Add in the tanker traffic for its overseas shipments, she says, and it could spell catastrophe.

A humpback whale dives to the depths of a channel in the Great Bear Rainforest after surfacing for air near a tour boat. File photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey

“When these tankers go through, the wave action hitting the shoreline has got to be having an effect on the environment forage fish may be spawning in,” she explains. “There’s just so many factors to think about beyond the incidence of a spill, which is devastating no matter what.”

To reduce the risks of a disastrous oil spill in the Great Bear Rainforest, the federal government is enacting a crude oil tanker moratorium for B.C.’s north coast. But there is little legislation to protect the ecosystem from LNG tankers, whose most egregious impact may be acoustic pollution, says Wray.

Wray, stationed at Cetacea Lab in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, has been listening to the songs of humpbacks, orcas, and fin whales for more than 20 years. They return to the region annually, she says, likely because they know the waters to be safe, quiet, and full of prey.

Whales use vocalization not only to hunt and herd their food, she explains, but also to court one another, play, and navigate through the Great Bear’s dark waters. Other reasons for their melodic cries are “still a beautiful mystery,” she says, describing resident orcas as “chatty,” and humpbacks as having “a lot of culture.”

Experts agree that if tankers start roaring through this habitat, the noise disturbance would seriously disrupt whale communication, resulting in symptoms ranging from deafness to death. They would also dramatically increase the odds of a whale-vessel collision, says Wray: tankers can’t turn on a dime to avoid whales, which have a habit of surfacing unexpectedly.

And while landmark conservation agreements protect much of the terrestrial habitat in the Great Bear Rainforest, she says the lack of protection for its marine inhabitants is “embarrassing.”

Janie Wray and her team research whales from Cetacea Lab on Gil Island in the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo by Jorge Amigo

Critical habitat for whales

“There’s no coastline like this on the planet,” she insists. “I think we need to seriously think about setting aside an area along the coast of B.C. that is ‘critical habitat for whales.’”

Under the federal Species at Risk Act, a critical habitat designation could help prevent large-scale industrial development that produces intense noise, contaminates or alters the habitat, as it has done for Canada’s North Atlantic right whale.

It’s especially important for the southern resident killer whale, which hunts just below the Great Bear Rainforest, as it faces a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic through its favourite feeding grounds.

The proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion — whose Alberta-B.C. pipeline and crude oil tanker traffic has already been approved by governments — will almost certainly drive them into extinction, says Jason Colby, a University of Victoria professor and expert on orca-human conflict.

It’s impossible to claim you are serious about saving the species, he adds, if you also support projects that result in increased tanker traffic through their habitat.

“Those are absolutely, fundamentally, contradictory positions,” he says in an interview. “We need to ask ourselves what this place will look like, and what our identity is if we lose the southern resident killer whale.

“What will have we lost in our regional and cultural identity, along with our tourist economy?”

Southern resident Killer whale, Pacific Ocean, British Columbia, Trans Mountain
A pod of southern resident killer whales swims through Admiralty Inlet off Washington State before migrating north to British Columbia. File photo by The Canadian Press

An issue of jurisdiction

When it comes to the matter of marine protection, says Colby, it’s important to note that the B.C. government has limited powers. Oceans fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, which in addition to a crude oil tanker ban for the north coast, has announced a new Oceans Protection Plan to help protect whales from tanker traffic.

According to the plan, researchers will locate and track marine mammals in high tanker traffic areas and relay that information to mariners. They will identify and assess the most pressing local environmental issues, along with the effectiveness of existing mitigation measures.

This plan would be in place by the time Trans Mountain’s tankers roll through, as will the company’s own Marine Mammal Protection Program, which is due to the federal National Energy Board regulatory agency three months before the pipeline starts its operations.

None of that will change the fundamental issue facing the whales, says Colby: a massive increase in tanker traffic is bound for their hunting grounds, carrying either oil or LNG.

While it may not have jurisdiction over marine protection, the B.C. government could have commissioned more intense study not only of endangered whale populations, he argues, but the reason their favourite salmon stocks are declining as well. That would strengthen B.C.’s position in lobbying the federal government for increased protection for marine wildlife, he says, and better equip them to make decisions on the LNG projects to come.

“If you lose healthy salmon runs, you’re not just talking about lost fishing jobs, which has been happening for a long time,” he tells National Observer. “You’re talking about profound ecological change in the water sheds, rivers and forests.”

As it stands, approval of both the Trans Mountain expansion and the Pacific NorthWest LNG project has been taken to court by local First Nations, who say they threaten vital salmon runs throughout their traditional territory.

Meantime, if governments want to start protecting this keystone species — and by extension, the entire Great Bear Rainforest — salmon aficionado Alexandra Morton recommends starting with a crack down on net-pen fish farming.

Farmed salmon a danger to wild Pacific stocks

According to the BC Salmon Farmers Association, there are 109 salmon farms spread throughout the B.C. coastline. Dozens are located in the Great Bear Rainforest, raising Atlantic salmon from Campbell River to Klemtu, home of the Kitasoo/ Xai’xais First Nations.

In total, says the association, these farms occupy half a per cent of B.C.’s coastal waters and at each and every one of them, fish hygiene and safety is a top priority.

“Pen nets are cleaned regularly from top to bottom,” says the unnamed narrator of a promotional video on the association’s website. “Operators are consistently striving to improve farming practices, and underwater monitors guard against overfeeding, ensuring a lower impact on the ocean floor and a cleaner, safer habitat for the fish.”

Oversight of the industry — which generates more than $1.1 billion for the province every year — is a shared responsibility of the B.C. and federal governments. In order to keep their licenses, salmon farmers must adhere to a strict set of rules designed to protect wild salmon by minimizing their contact with farmed fish and stopping the spread of disease and bacteria.

But according to Morton, these measures are failing. While the threat of commercial fishing has largely been extinguished, she says deadly viruses have been detected in B.C.’s open-net cage farms that can make wild Pacific salmon extremely sick.

Compounded with the warming waters and ocean acidification brought on by climate change, she says net-pen farming may push some Pacific salmon runs to the breaking point.

An introductory video by the BC Salmon Farmers Association explains what net-pen salmon farming is all about.

Morton and her lawyers at Ecojustice have taken the federal government to court for allowing the transfer of farmed salmon that have not been tested for a dangerous virus into underwater pens in the wild — a practice they say is illegal under federal fishing regulations.

“The sea lice and the viruses coming from the farms are an enormous threat to them,” the biologist explains. “There is no place in the world that wild salmon and farms are thriving together. It’s like two worlds colliding.”

 

 


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The Secret Life of Trees: The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate

“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.”

beautiful-trees

Illustration by Arthur Rackham for a rare 1917 edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales

Brain Pickings by Maria Popova

Trees dominate the world’s the oldest living organisms. Since the dawn of our species, they have been our silent companions, permeating our most enduring tales and never ceasing to inspire fantastical cosmogonies. Hermann Hesse called them “the most penetrating of preachers.” A forgotten seventeenth-century English gardener wrote of how they “speak to the mind, and tell us many things, and teach us many good lessons.”

But trees might be among our lushest metaphors and sensemaking frameworks for knowledge precisely because the richness of what they say is more than metaphorical — they speak a sophisticated silent language, communicating complex information via smell, taste, and electrical impulses. This fascinating secret world of signals is what German forester Peter Wohlleben explores in The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (public library).

Wohlleben chronicles what his own experience of managing a forest in the Eifel mountains in Germany has taught him about the astonishing language of trees and how trailblazing arboreal research from scientists around the world reveals “the role forests play in making our world the kind of place where we want to live.” As we’re only just beginning to understand nonhuman consciousnesses, what emerges from Wohlleben’s revelatory reframing of our oldest companions is an invitation to see anew what we have spent eons taking for granted and, in this act of seeing, to care more deeply about these remarkable beings that make life on this planet we call home not only infinitely more pleasurable, but possible at all.

But Wohlleben’s own career began at the opposite end of the caring spectrum. As a forester tasked with optimizing the forest’s output for the lumber industry, he self-admittedly “knew about as much about the hidden life of trees as a butcher knows about the emotional life of animals.” He experienced the consequence of what happens whenever we turn something alive, be it a creature or a work of art, into a commodity — the commercial focus of his job warped how he looked at trees.

Then, about twenty years ago, everything changed when he began organizing survival training and log-cabin tours for tourists in his forest. As they marveled at the majestic trees, the enchanted curiosity of their gaze reawakened his own and his childhood love of nature was rekindled. Around the same time, scientists began conducting research in his forest. Soon, every day became colored with wonderment and the thrill of discovery — no longer able to see trees as a currency, he instead saw them as the priceless living wonders that they are. He recounts:

Life as a forester became exciting once again. Every day in the forest was a day of discovery. This led me to unusual ways of managing the forest. When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.

The revelation came to him in flashes, the most eye-opening of which happened on one of his regular walks through a reserve of old beech tree in his forest. Passing by a patch of odd mossy stones he had seen many times before, he was suddenly seized with a new awareness of their strangeness. When he bent down to examine them, he made an astonishing discovery:

The stones were an unusual shape: they were gently curved with hollowed-out areas. Carefully, I lifted the moss on one of the stones. What I found underneath was tree bark. So, these were not stones, after all, but old wood. I was surprised at how hard the “stone” was, because it usually takes only a few years for beechwood lying on damp ground to decompose. But what surprised me most was that I couldn’t lift the wood. It was obviously attached to the ground in some way. I took out my pocketknife and carefully scraped away some of the bark until I got down to a greenish layer. Green? This color is found only in chlorophyll, which makes new leaves green; reserves of chlorophyll are also stored in the trunks of living trees. That could mean only one thing: this piece of wood was still alive! I suddenly noticed that the remaining “stones” formed a distinct pattern: they were arranged in a circle with a diameter of about 5 feet. What I had stumbled upon were the gnarled remains of an enormous ancient tree stump. All that was left were vestiges of the outermost edge. The interior had completely rotted into humus long ago — a clear indication that the tree must have been felled at least four or five hundred years earlier.

How can a tree cut down centuries ago could still be alive? Without leaves, a tree is unable to perform photosynthesis, which is how it converts sunlight into sugar for sustenance. The ancient tree was clearly receiving nutrients in some other way — for hundreds of years.

Beneath the mystery lay a fascinating frontier of scientific research, which would eventually reveal that this tree was not unique in its assisted living. Neighboring trees, scientists found, help each other through their root systems — either directly, by intertwining their roots, or indirectly, by growing fungal networks around the roots that serve as a sort of extended nervous system connecting separate trees. If this weren’t remarkable enough, these arboreal mutualities are even more complex — trees appear able to distinguish their own roots from those of other species and even of their own relatives.

Art by Judith Clay from Thea’s Tree

Wohlleben ponders this astonishing sociality of trees, abounding with wisdom about what makes strong human communities and societies:

Why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tree canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.

Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance.

[…]

A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.

One can’t help but wonder whether trees are so much better equipped at this mutual care than we are because of the different time-scales on which our respective existences play out. Is some of our inability to see this bigger picture of shared sustenance in human communities a function of our biological short-sightedness? Are organisms who live on different time scales better able to act in accordance with this grander scheme of things in a universe that is deeply interconnected?

To be sure, even trees are discriminating in their kinship, which they extend in varying degrees. Wohlleben explains:

Every tree is a member of this community, but there are different levels of membership. For example, most stumps rot away into humus and disappear within a couple of hundred years (which is not very long for a tree). Only a few individuals are kept alive over the centuries… What’s the difference? Do tree societies have second-class citizens just like human societies? It seems they do, though the idea of “class” doesn’t quite fit. It is rather the degree of connection — or maybe even affection — that decides how helpful a tree’s colleagues will be.

These relationships, Wohlleben points out, are encoded in the forest canopy and visible to anyone who simply looks up:

The average tree grows its branches out until it encounters the branch tips of a neighboring tree of the same height. It doesn’t grow any wider because the air and better light in this space are already taken. However, it heavily reinforces the branches it has extended, so you get the impression that there’s quite a shoving match going on up there. But a pair of true friends is careful right from the outset not to grow overly thick branches in each other’s direction. The trees don’t want to take anything away from each other, and so they develop sturdy branches only at the outer edges of their crowns, that is to say, only in the direction of “non-friends.” Such partners are often so tightly connected at the roots that sometimes they even die together.

Art by Cécile Gambini from Strange Trees by Bernadette Pourquié

But trees don’t interact with one another in isolation from the rest of the ecosystem. The substance of their communication, in fact, is often about and even to other species. Wohlleben describes their particularly remarkable olfactory warning system:

Four decades ago, scientists noticed something on the African savannah. The giraffes there were feeding on umbrella thorn acacias, and the trees didn’t like this one bit. It took the acacias mere minutes to start pumping toxic substances into their leaves to rid themselves of the large herbivores. The giraffes got the message and moved on to other trees in the vicinity. But did they move on to trees close by? No, for the time being, they walked right by a few trees and resumed their meal only when they had moved about 100 yards away.

The reason for this behavior is astonishing. The acacia trees that were being eaten gave off a warning gas (specifically, ethylene) that signaled to neighboring trees of the same species that a crisis was at hand. Right away, all the forewarned trees also pumped toxins into their leaves to prepare themselves. The giraffes were wise to this game and therefore moved farther away to a part of the savannah where they could find trees that were oblivious to what was going on. Or else they moved upwind. For the scent messages are carried to nearby trees on the breeze, and if the animals walked upwind, they could find acacias close by that had no idea the giraffes were there.

Because trees operate on time scales dramatically more extended than our own, they operate far more slowly than we do — their electrical impulses crawl at the speed of a third of an inch per second. Wohlleben writes:

Beeches, spruce, and oaks all register pain as soon as some creature starts nibbling on them. When a caterpillar takes a hearty bite out of a leaf, the tissue around the site of the damage changes. In addition, the leaf tissue sends out electrical signals, just as human tissue does when it is hurt. However, the signal is not transmitted in milliseconds, as human signals are; instead, the plant signal travels at the slow speed of a third of an inch per minute. Accordingly, it takes an hour or so before defensive compounds reach the leaves to spoil the pest’s meal. Trees live their lives in the really slow lane, even when they are in danger. But this slow tempo doesn’t mean that a tree is not on top of what is happening in different parts of its structure. If the roots find themselves in trouble, this information is broadcast throughout the tree, which can trigger the leaves to release scent compounds. And not just any old scent compounds, but compounds that are specifically formulated for the task at hand.

The upside of this incapacity for speed is that there is no need for blanket alarmism — the recompense of trees’ inherent slowness is an extreme precision of signal. In addition to smell, they also use taste — each species produces a different kind of “saliva,” which can be infused with different pheromones targeted at warding off a specific predator.

Wohlleben illustrates the centrality of trees in Earth’s ecosystem with a story about Yellowstone National Park that demonstrates “how our appreciation for trees affects the way we interact with the world around us”:

It all starts with the wolves. Wolves disappeared from Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, in the 1920s. When they left, the entire ecosystem changed. Elk herds in the park increased their numbers and began to make quite a meal of the aspens, willows, and cottonwoods that lined the streams. Vegetation declined and animals that depended on the trees left. The wolves were absent for seventy years. When they returned, the elks’ languorous browsing days were over. As the wolf packs kept the herds on the move, browsing diminished, and the trees sprang back. The roots of cottonwoods and willows once again stabilized stream banks and slowed the flow of water. This, in turn, created space for animals such as beavers to return. These industrious builders could now find the materials they needed to construct their lodges and raise their families. The animals that depended on the riparian meadows came back, as well. The wolves turned out to be better stewards of the land than people, creating conditions that allowed the trees to grow and exert their influence on the landscape.

Art by William Grill from The Wolves of Currumpaw

This interconnectedness isn’t limited to regional ecosystems. Wohlleben cites the work of Japanese marine chemist Katsuhiko Matsunaga, who discovered that trees falling into a river can change the acidity of the water and thus stimulate the growth of plankton — the elemental and most significant building block of the entire food chain, on which our own sustenance depends.

In the remainder of The Hidden Life of Trees, Wohlleben goes on to explore such fascinating aspects of arboreal communication as how trees pass wisdom down to the next generation through their seeds, what makes them live so long, and how forests handle immigrants. Complement it with this wonderful illustrated atlas of the world’s strangest trees and an 800-year visual history of trees as symbolic diagrams.

See article here……..


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Tributes are flowing for the worlds oldest killer whale granny

Tributes are flowing for the world’s oldest known killer whale, known as Granny, who was presumed dead by scientists as 2017 ticked over.
granny

Pickle.nine by Dannielle Maguire   January 4, 2017

Thought to have been born in 1911 – a year before the Titanic sank – Granny has not been seen with her pod since October.

Known as a devoted grandmother by researchers, this absence has led them to believe she has since passed away.

                                                                         She is pictured here with her son, Ruffles, in 2010.

Granny, who was known to biologists as J2, was the star of a BBC documentary about whales and menopause, teaching scientists a thing or two about the power of supportive familes in ensuring survival.

Killer whales are among only three species of mammals which experience menopause, with the others being short-finned pilot whales and humans.

Hailing from the North Pacific Ocean close to Canada, Granny was a popular personality of the water.

“She leaps clear out of the ocean to delighted gasps from everyone on my boat,” BBC journalist Victoria Gill wrote in August.

But sadly, this may have been among one of the old girl’s last appearances.

As news broke of her death, fans of the sea-dwelling centenarian took to Twitter to say their goodbyes.


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Initial Necropsy Results: Southern Resident Killer Whale J34

Initial examination indicates that the animal appears to have blunt trauma to the dorsal side, and a hematoma indicating that J34 was alive at the time of injury.

west-coast-map

An approximately 18 year old male killer whale, identified as J34 was found dead near Sechelt, B.C. on December 20th, 2016. J34 was a Southern Resident killer whale, a population listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in Canada. A necropsy was performed to determine the cause of the animal’s death.

Initial examination indicates that the animal appears to have blunt trauma to the dorsal side, and a hematoma indicating that J34 was alive at the time of injury. A CAT scan will be conducted on the skull to determine if there are any fractures. Additional information from tissue and blood analysis can take 2-8 weeks. DFO is investigating what may have caused the blunt trauma to the animal. Anyone with information please call our Observe Record Report line at 1-800-465-4336.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada would like to acknowledge the Sechelt First Nation, whose efforts and collaboration were central to locating the animal and facilitating a successful necropsy. We would also like to thank the BC Ministry of Agriculture (and in particular, Dr. Stephen Raverty, Veterinary Pathologist who performed the necropsy exam), Vancouver Aquarium staff, as well as numerous dedicated DFO staff and biologists.

The results of J34’s necropsy will feed into a growing body of knowledge to assist in assessing the threats to Southern Resident killer whales from a population health perspective. This data allows us to look at trends, pathogens, or other indicators that may affect their survival.

This page will be updated as new information comes in.

See official site here….

The following are news articles.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/orca-death-b-c-1.3909858

http://www.whaleresearch.com/j34

 

 


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Every lake, every river……. (w/ video) Restore the Navigable Waters Protection Act

Restore the Navigable Waters Protection Act

Council of Canadians

97 lakes, 62 rivers and 3 oceans. – (in all canada only this number protected!!!)

This is the number of lakes, rivers and waterways that are protected under the Navigation Protection Act right now.

Before the former Harper Government gutted freshwater protections, the law was called the Navigable Waters Protection Act and it protected every lake and every river. It was the pipeline industry that drove these changes. And now they are fighting to keep them off.

The Trudeau government has announced a review of environmental and freshwater laws. Big Oil doesn’t want the current laws to change. Yet pipelines, mining, fracking, climate change and other risks are threatening clean water in municipalities and Indigenous communities. 99% of the lakes and rivers are no longer protected and pipelines are exempt from federal scrutiny under the Act. But every lake and every river must be protected.

Here are 3 things you can do to call on your Member of Parliament to stand up to Big Oil and restore and strengthen the Navigable Waters Protection Act:

  • Sign this petition to Prime Minister Trudeau to restore and enhance freshwater protections

 


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The 40 year old Federal Salmon Study that should have killed Pacific Northwest LNG

Desmog Canada: By Emma Gilchrist                                                                              September 29, 2016

The report is dated July 17, 1973, and stamped by the Department of the Environment.

Scientists had undertaken a study of fish in the Skeena estuary due to proposals to build a super port in the Prince Rupert area.

salmon-skeena

The federal government wanted to know: “What destructive consequences could be imparted on the fisheries resource by superport construction?”

So the scientists set out to find out which areas of the Skeena estuary — home to Canada’s second largest wild salmon run  — are most important for fish.

They found Flora Bank, one of the largest eelgrass beds in B.C., is “of high biological significance as a fish (especially juvenile salmon) rearing habitat,” and advised that “construction of a superport at the Kitson Island — Flora Bank site would destroy much of this critical salmon habitat.”

Forty years passed, with the federal government knowing Flora Bank was no place for industrial development.

And then, this Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the building of a massive liquefied natural gas export port in that very spot — a spot that scientists say would disrupt a complex system that effectively holds Flora Bank in place.

What changed?

I think the politics must have changed,” said Jonathan Moore, Liber Ero chair of Coastal Science and Management at Simon Fraser University. “All I can say is that as a scientist, the results haven’t changed. In fact, the data has gotten stronger.”

Out of all the places that you could imagine in the area, it is the worst possible place in terms of risks to fish.”

You wouldn’t know that from reading the report commissioned by Pacific Northwest LNG and filed to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) on May 5, 2015. In that report, engineering firm Stantec argued there will be little to no environmental impact from building an LNG terminal on Lelu Island, next to Flora Bank.

That submission included no field data on fish, yet concluded that “salmon do not use Flora Bank eelgrass habitat for nursery habitat or other life dependent processes.”

Stantec was sent back to the drawing board three times to provide credible science.

The government and the proponent have never even acknowledged that the project is in important salmon habitat.

It’s like pretending open heart surgery is like a haircut,” Moore said.

Bought Science’ Undermines Environmental Assessment

This kind of “bought science” represents a major conflict of interest and yet forms the foundation of the environmental assessment, Moore told DeSmog Canada.

Ideally you’d have more of a third-party body that’s producing the science that underpins the decision-making,” he said.

Moore and his associates from Simon Fraser University and the Skeena Fisheries Commission submitted their own research during CEAA’s “comment period.”

About 300 million juvenile salmon rear in the Skeena estuary every year at the critical moment when they graduate from fresh to salt water. The Skeena salmon run is worth more than $110 million annually.

The abundance of salmon is part of the reason Lax Kw’alaams First Nation members overwhelmingly rejected a $1-billion cash offer over 40 years from Petronas, declining to give aboriginal consent to the project.

Unlike the Stantec research, Moore’s is peer-reviewed and has been published in scientific journals Science and PLOS.

The proposal highlights a troubling blind spot in Canada’s environmental decision-making,” the article in Science reads.

We have shown that the proposed development area supports particularly high abundances of juvenile salmon from more than 40 populations that are harvested in at least 10 First Nations territories throughout the Skeena watershed and beyond.”

For Moore, whose collaborators have sampled more than 200,000 fish during more than 100 days on the water, the science is clear.

The data hits you on the head when you’re out there seeing it,” he said.

Based on our most recent in-depth study where we compared 25 different habitats across the Skeena estuary … we found the Flora Bank area had 25 times more salmon than other locations.”

When the federal government announced its decision on Tuesday, Moore was disappointed — but more than anything, he was frustrated by the feds’ rhetoric about “evidence-based decision-making.”

You read these statements that say this was based on science and no, it really wasn’t,” Moore said. “You used some science that was paid for, but you ignored an even larger body of science that was independent. You also ignored four decades of practice and knowledge from your own fisheries programs.”

I understand that decisions aren’t about just the environment. I understand that the economy has to factor into that. But let’s not pretend. If there are great risks to the environment, let’s have full accounting and honest accounting of those risks.”

See article here……..