holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Please DO NOT dispose of your Christmas Tree in North Beach Park or any other greenspace or natural area. The tree may have been treated with flame retardant chemicals or other additives that will decrease the quality of the greenspace. The City of Seattle will pick up Christmas Trees until January 31; here are the directions. In fact, it would take less effort to dispose of the tree correctly than to dump it. Yard waste dumping, of any type, is not helpful to greenspaces or natural areas, and contributes to or worsens the problem with invasive species.

Friends of North Beach Park had been actively restoring the North Beach Park ravine since April, 2011; this is considered one of the more successful restoration projects in Seattle. We are composed of volunteers and friends from the Ballard, Crown Hill, North Beach, and Olympic Manor neighborhoods. We have regular work parties on the fourth Saturday of the month, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. January 23 will see us planting native trees and shrubs that are under-represented in the park. All are welcome to join us, please register at the link above or write to lukemcguff [at] yahoo [dot] com for further information.

If you want to have your Christmas tree contribute to restoration projects, you can participate in Swanson’s Trees for Salmon program next year: Salmon Says: “Buy A Living Christmas Tree!.” If a living tree is a little out of your reach, there are medallions you can buy at Swanson’s that will donate restoration plants to local parks (Carkeek Park and King County Parks). (NOTE: Friends of North Beach Park has received plants from this program in the past, but is not participating this year.)

Thanks! We look forward to seeing you in the ravine!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Three Forks is one of my favorite places to work because it has a great view of the south side of Mt. Si, which is practically across the road. I worked there many times last summer, with groups large and small — just a few Parks staff, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and employees of the Norton Group (who gave us a BBQ lunch!), students from Ryther, and others I’m sure. What we had done is work on clearing blackberry from along the shoreline and in a small meadow.

Employees of The Norton Group and King County park staff work to clear blackberry at Three Forks Natural Area in July.

Employees of The Norton Group and King County park staff work to clear blackberry at Three Forks Natural Area in July.

Working again in the fall to plant in the cleared areas gave me a good sense of the cycle of restoration work. I’ve been through that cycle several times with North Beach Park, of course, but I felt it strongly Saturday morning.

The weather was perfect: brilliantly sunny, with an overnight frost that made the morning beautiful.

Frost rimed grass.

Frost rimed grass.

Unfortunately, the overnight cold temperatures had turned the potted plants into potted popsicles. We spent the first hour digging holes to give the plants time to thaw.

A field of popsicles, staged for planting.

A field of popsicles, staged for planting.

About eight members of the Northwest Fly Anglers joined us. Over the course of about four hours, collectively we planted nearly 300 plants. Trees and shrubs along the shoreline, and trees a little upland.

Northwest Fly Anglers Conservation.

Northwest Fly Anglers Conservation.

The planting had been delayed by three weeks, two floods, and four cancelled events, as the Parks project manager put it. Flooding had moved lots of plants, so before the volunteers arrived Parks staff had to restage them. You could see the flooding in two ways. Many plants had a layer of river silt on top of the potting soil.

River silt on top of potting soil.

River silt on top of potting soil.

Another way you could see the effects of the flooding was that many of the pots had a layer of dirt on one side.

River silt on the pots.

River silt on the pots.

When I had last been to this site in early August, there was a gravel bar large enough to comfortably hold 50 people for lunch. Here it is from last Saturday.

The lunchroom gravel bar completely covered.

The lunchroom gravel bar completely covered.

Keep in mind that this is several feet below the height of the flood — where my coworker (she’s brandishing the shovel) and I are standing would have been a couple feet under water.

The sun was warm enough to keep us comfortable as we worked. We were even able to wrap up early enough for the Parks project manager to give the fly fishermen a brief tour of the site, including Morgan Creek and the conjunction of Morgan Creek and the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie.

If I work for King County Parks again next summer, I’m sure I’ll return to this site several times. The plants will need mulching and weeding, and maybe watering. There’s also more blackberry to remove.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Well, it was another great work party with the Friends of North Beach Park, accompanied by a number of UW students in the ESRM 100 class (Environmental Science and Resource Management). We all did a lot of great work, accomplishing a lot in a short time (and finishing up just as the sprinkles started).

An important beginning to a successful work party: Make sure everyone is registered!

An important beginning to a successful work party: Make sure everyone is registered!

Original plans — to transplant some wetland trees and shrubs from a nearby parking strip — had to be put on hold because the plants were still too vigorous, due to the warm, dry fall. So we constructed some trailside erosion control instead, and cleaned up an area where a tree had fallen last winter.

I got so excited, in fact, that a lot of the pictures I took were blurry. Oh well.

The trailside erosion control was done near the entrance to the park, in an area called the Headwaters Bowl. There are places where the water runs off the side of the trail down the slope, and is starting to form dips in the trailside down to the slope.

We brought a lot of fallen tree branches up from a lower slope, cut them to size, and laid them alongside the trail.

The cut branches were laid along side the trail in semi-neat rows. Stakes were put in on the slope-side of the branch piles.

The cut branches were laid along side the trail in semi-neat rows. Stakes were put in on the slope-side of the branch piles.

After the branches were in place, we staked them for support and added wattles (burlap sacks filled with mulch) to help slow down the water.

Bagging mulch to make wattles.

Bagging mulch to make wattles.

The work stretched for a couple hundred feet along the trail. Notice also the raking that happened on the trail — it’s a good idea to keep organic matter off a trail if possible.

Wattles alongside the trail.

Wattles alongside the trail.

We were able to split into two work groups. The second group cleared the area where a large maple had fallen last winter, cutting the branches up into brush, and setting some aside to be used as ivy platform logs. (Unfortunately, those were some of the blurry pictures.)

Here is the group photo of all the hard workers.

All the participants at the Friends of North Beach Park work party.

All the participants at the Friends of North Beach Park work party.

Thank you everyone for your hard work!

The students were evenly split between being from China and South Korea. Their majors included biology, math, economics, and sociology.

I thought it would be interesting to think about how these various majors could find application in ecological restoration. Biology is easy, of course: one can look very specifically at, say, how different species of mycorrhizae affect the nitrogen-fixing root nodules of alder trees, or the interaction of plant communities at the landscape level. For economics, a lot of people are looking into how to quantify “ecological services” — how can we calculate the amount of stormwater a healthy urban forest absorbs, and how much does that save us in terms of water processing or pollution of our larger bodies of water? How do we calculate the value of volunteerism? Sociologists look at how and why people volunteer, how we can attract more volunteers, and so on. I don’t know of anyone doing research in mathematics applied to ecological restoration, but math is certainly a tool used throughout a restoration project, whether calculating the stresses on a slope, the flow through a stream, or how to achieve specific planting densities in particular areas.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Duwamish Alive! is an annual event held to bring awareness about the Duwamish River and its importance to the history and ecology of Seattle. It also provides a focus of energy, as all the different groups involved in the restoration of the Duwamish River sponsor events. This year there were more than 15 events, including a shoreline restoration challenge, a kayak clean up, and numerous native planting work parties. Sponsors included Forterra, EarthCorps, Nature Consortium, the Rose Foundation, and many others.

Cecil Moses Memorial Park

Cecil Moses Memorial Park

King County Parks held a work party in Cecil Moses Park, located at the north end of the Green River Trail, which travels along the shore of the Duwamish River for 19 miles, to the North Green River Park in Kent. Cecil Moses is located at an important transition point in the river, where tidal influences mix the fresh water of the river and the salt water of Puget Sound. Young salmon pause here on their way to the ocean to acclimate themselves to salt water. Cecil Moses is also located close to North Winds Weir, an important historical location to members of the Duwamish tribe.

The day started cool and cloudy, with just three of us and an awful lot of plants.

Tools at the ready for eager volunteers.

Tools at the ready for eager volunteers.

We kept plugging away, though, and as the day continued, the sun came out more strongly and we were soon enough joined by two families. That made the rest of the day a breeze, and we got all the plants in the ground and most of them mulched.

Left to right: Cam (red shirt), Theresa, William (white shirt), and Leslie. Theresa is giving the planting demonstration.

Left to right: Cam (red shirt), Theresa, William (white shirt), and Leslie. Theresa is giving the planting demonstration.

Left to right: Kirstie, William, Ann, and Theresa.

Left to right: Kirstie, William, Ann, and Theresa.

Cam (red shirt) and Moss (behind Cam) watch as Leslie plants a shrub.

Cam (red shirt) and Moss (behind Cam) watch as Leslie plants a shrub.

I like to see children at a restoration event. The families live near the park and regularly walk the trails together. They’ll be able to see the changes over time as the restoration progresses. That’s what it’s all about.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

I’ve just finished a seasonal job with King County Parks; the job title was “Parks Specialist I.” Generally, seasonals work in a specific resource or management area all summer long. However, I was hired by the volunteer program to help in their restoration projects. The work was about half with volunteers groups, ranging in size from two or three up to forty and more, and in age from middle-schoolers up to retirees. The other half of the time was after-care of projects: weeding, watering, and monitoring; or clearing and preparing areas for fall planting. This work took me and my coworker literally all over King County.

There are several reasons why this is about the best job I could have had at this time. As I said above, we worked with a wide variety of volunteers, of different ages and races. We worked with different organizations, including Mountains to Sound Greenway, Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, Student Conservation Association, AmeriCorps and others. It also gave me direct field experience in a wide variety of different types of restoration projects. We worked in old pastures, floodplains, old farms, urban parks, regional trails, and second-growth forest, and from mountain sides to lowland bogs.

Here is a complete (I hope) list of the parks I worked in between April and October. The pictures below were taken during volunteer events.


  • North: Sammammish River Trail in Bothell.
  • South: Bass Lake Complex NA, south of Black Diamond.
  • East: Tanner Landing, east of North Bend.
    Taken during a Mountains to Sound coordinated event at Tanner Landing.

    Taken during a Mountains to Sound coordinated event at Tanner Landing.

  • West: Maury Island Marine Park, Vashon Island.

Urban parks and trails:

  • Renton Park
    The folks who worked on Renton Park one day. In the front are two of  my coworkers, Lina and Kirstie.

    The folks who worked on Renton Park one day. In the front are two of my coworkers, Lina and Kirstie.

  • Five Mile Lake Park
  • Sammammish River Trail, Redmond
  • Sammammish River Trail, Bothell
  • Northshore Athletic Fields
    Derby Creek is a cold-water tributary to the Sammammish river, making it very important for salmon. Daylighting and restoring it would improve salmon habitat for miles. Stakeholders include King County (numerous departments), Snoqualmie tribe, WA state departments, and others. Striding up the bank in the center of the picture is my boss, Tina.

    Derby Creek is a cold-water tributary to the Sammammish river, making it very important for salmon. Daylighting and restoring it would improve salmon habitat for miles. Stakeholders include King County (numerous departments), Snoqualmie tribe, WA state departments, and others. Striding up the bank in the center of the picture is my boss, Tina.

Watershed Parks:

    Snoqualmie River:
    • Tanner Landing
    • Three Forks Natural Area [NA] (Scott Property)
    • Chinook Bend
      Anna, volunteer coordinator for Mountains to Sound, explains the lands they're protecting, and the role the Snoqualmie River plays in that preservation.

      Anna, volunteer coordinator for Mountains to Sound, explains the lands they’re protecting, and the role the Snoqualmie River plays in that preservation.

    Cedar River:

    • Dorre Donn Reach NA
    • Belmondo Reach
    • Cedar Grove
    • Cavanaugh Pond
      A Boeing volunteer at Cavanaugh pond holds up a blackberry root.

      A Boeing volunteer at Cavanaugh pond holds up a blackberry root.

    Green River:

    • Green River NA
    • Whitney Bridge Park
    • Flaming Geyser NA
    • Metzler
    • Bass Lake Complex Natural Area

    Bear Creek:

    • Upper, Middle, and Lower Bear Creek Natural Areas
      The President of the Water Tenders explains the importance of Bear Creek to salmon habitat (another cold water tributary to a larger river).

      The President of the Water Tenders explains the importance of Bear Creek to salmon habitat (another cold water tributary to a larger river).

    Issaquah Creek:

    • Log Cabin Reach NA
      A group of middle schoolers from the Tahoma School District being planting a field at Log Cabin, a natural area on Issaquah Creek.

      A group of middle schoolers from the Tahoma School District being planting a field at Log Cabin, a natural area on Issaquah Creek.


  • Carnation Marsh
  • Log Cabin
  • Queen’s Bog (Klahanie Park)
    Queen's Bog is the oldest bog in King County, and is in about the best shape. It's being degraded by rainwater runoff from the nearby sprawl housing projects. This picture shows part of the acre that burned this summer when a recreational fire got out of hand.

    Queen’s Bog is the oldest bog in King County, and is in about the best shape. It’s being degraded by rainwater runoff from the nearby sprawl housing projects. This picture shows part of the acre that burned this summer when a recreational fire got out of hand.

Working forests:

  • Taylor Mountain Forest
  • Danville-Georgetown Open Space
  • McGarvey Park Open Space
    A group of students celebrate cutting several dozen suckers from a Big Leaf Maple stump.

    A group of students celebrate cutting several dozen suckers from a Big Leaf Maple stump.

Miscellaneous Parks:

  • Soaring Eagle Regional Park
  • Duthie Hill Park (where the volunteer program office was located)

All in all, it was about the best summer I’ve ever had. The working conditions — particularly during the height of the heat waves and drought — were sometimes grueling, but the work was always worthwhile. We worked in some of the most remote and beautiful areas of King County. Our “lunchrooms” were along nearby rivers and creeks. Almost all the time we felt like we weren’t working at all. I often daydreamed of writing blog posts about it while it was happening, but alas, I was often too tired to do much more than just read when I got home.

Now it’s on to the next adventure.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Although my season has ended as a KC Parks employee (about which more soon), I’m still interested in volunteering with them. To which end, here is a flyer for their upcoming events through December.

Fall for Salmon 2015

For what it’s worth, the ones I currently plan to attend are Cecil Moses Park (10/17) for Duwamish Alive!, White Center Heights on 10/31 (for Halloween! oooooo, spooky kids!), and Tanner Landing (11/21). Oh, and Taylor Mountain Forest on 12/5.

All events are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. King County will provide tools, gloves, and guidance. You wear weather appropriate layers that can get dirty, and closed-toe shoes or boots. Some water and light snacks are provided, but it’s a good idea to bring some of your own as well.

Some of these work parties are in parks that aren’t generally very accessible, so it’s a rare chance not only to help restore forests and salmon habitat but to get to see the parks.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

The weather forecast was for warm temperatures and “decreasing rain” — we had no rain at all and perfect temperatures.

We had a great crew of fifteen people, including forest stewards and students from the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at the UW.

We planted 75 plants, spread over the South Plateau.
The South Plateau
(This is looking into the South Plateau, which is the largest flat, dry area in the park.)

We planted four Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), more than eleven Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), and about 15 each dwarf Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), bald-hip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), and Nootka rose (R. nutkana). All these plants are under-represented in the South Plateau and have been reintroduced by restoration planting (although not this time). They’ll help to stabilize and buttress slopes and add more visual texture to the currently open and bare area.

Here is an “after” picture of the hearty crew:
The hearty crew

All in all, this was a pretty easy-going work party. We had plenty of time for some ivy and herb robert removal and even some attempts to help slow the water flow down.

The next work party for the Friends of North Beach Park will be February 28, at 9 a.m. We’ll be planting shrubs in the main body of the park. Please sign up here if you’d like to join us.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Planting season has hit the Pacific Northwest, and restoration projects all over the place are getting their shovels dirty. No less is happening in North Beach Park — we have planting parties planned for the next FOUR work parties, October, November, January, and February!

The October work party happens Saturday, October 25, from 9 a.m. to noon. Please sign up here. The Friends of North Beach Park will be joined by international students from North Seattle College, volunteering with their I-CARE program.

October features wetland graminoids (grasses) and one forb. These plants will come from 4th Corner Nursery in Bellingham, and are purchased with monies from a stewardship grant from the Central Puget Sound Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. We also appreciate the support of our fiscal sponsor, Seattle Parks Foundation, for processing the money.

These will be planted in the Headwaters Bowl and Central Valley habitat management units of North Beach Park.

Scientific Name Common name Size Form Number
Carex amplifolia Broad-leaved sedge br Gr 50
Carex stipata Sawbeak sedge br Gr 100
Deschampsia caespitosa Tufted hair-grass br Gr 50
Glyceria elata Tall mannagrass br Gr 100
Juncus ensifolius Daggerleaf rush br Gr 50
Scirpus microcarpus Panicled bulrush br Gr 100
Veronica americana American brooklime br Fo 100

Although this is 550 plants, they’re all pretty small.

The November work party will happen on Saturday, the 22nd. Build up that appetite and enjoy your Thanksgiving feast that little bit more, because you’ve done some good for Seattle parks! Sign up here. Friends of North Beach Park will be joined again by international students from the North Seattle College I-CARE program.

November will see more plants installed in the main body of North Beach Park. These plants are provided by Green Seattle Partnership. There will be one tree, one shrub, and two grasses and two forbs.

Scientific Name Common name Size Form Number
Acer macrophyllum bigleaf maple 1 gal Tr 6
Asarum caudatum wild ginger 1 gal Fo 20
Oplopanax horridus Devil’s club 1 gal Sh 10
Petasites frigidus coltsfoot 1 gal Fo 20
Scirpus acutus hardstem bulrush 1 gal Gr 8
Scirpus microcarpus panicled bulrush 1 gal Gr 8

For the first three years of restoration, we planted hundreds of conifer trees in North Beach Park. Now we’re going to switch gears for a while: Let the new conifers establish and get well-situated for the next three to five years, and do some replacement of the deciduous canopy.

We skip December, because the 4th Saturday falls between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We hope you have a good holiday.

In January, we return to the South Plateau to plant the last of the plants provided by Green Seattle Partnership. The entrance to the South Plateau is at NW 88th St. and 27th Ave. NW. The January work party will happen on Saturday, the 24th. The event is not posted to Cedar yet, but it will have full directions and information. We DO know what we will be planting, though.

Scientific Name Common name Size Form Number
Holodiscus discolor oceanspray 1 gal Sh 11
Lonicera involucrata twinberry 1 gal Sh 7
Mahonia nervosa dwarf Oregon grape 1 gal Sh 25
Malus fusca Pacific crabapple 1 gal Tr 5
Polystichum munitum sword fern 1 gal Fe 25
Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas fir 1 gal Tr 5
Rosa gymnocarpa bald-hip rose 1 gal Sh 25
Rosa nutkana Nootka rose 1 gal Sh 25

This will be our last planting work party for the 2014-2015 planting season. Well, that we’re planning on as we write (four months in advance). Who knows what the future portends?

This work party will feature shrubs and small trees, the second half of the stewardship grant purchase from the Washington Native Plant Society.

Scientific Name Common name Size Form Number
Fraxinus latifolia Oregon ash 6-12″ br Tr 50
Malus fusca Pacific Crab Apple 3-6″ br Tr 50
Physocarpus capitatus Pacific ninebark 6-12″ br Sh 50
Salix lucida Pacific willow 6-12″ br Tr 50
Salix sitchensis Sitka Willow 6-12″ br Tr 100

The February work party will be back in the main body of the park, and will happen on the 28th. As soon as the information gets posted to Cedar, we’ll link to it on Nature Intrudes.

We also plan to do a little experiment: Hold back some of the plants of each species, and keep them in a well-tended nursery for a year or two. The question is: Will the plants that get the extra attention have a better survival rate than the plants installed immediately?

That’s a little over a thousand plants altogether. Most of them are going into wetter areas of the park, which means they should make it through the summer drought fairly well.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Eight friends of North Beach Park gathered Saturday (6/28) morning to help restore this neighborhood pocket of our urban forest. This month, we concentrated on aftercare, weeding and watering plants that had been planted in the last year or two. Generally, restoration plants are left to sink or swim on their own. But even a little water in their first year or two can be very helpful in getting them fully established to survive the summer droughts.

Weeding, watering, and after care

We concentrated on the rim of the park, along 24th Ave., and along the upland side of the first couple hundred feet of the main trail.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)
This salal is looking pretty good. Salal takes a while to establish, but can really take off after a few years. The fact that it has flowers is a good sign.

Overall, it was a pretty easy going work party. The people who brought wheelbarrows of water up from the stream, or the people who brought the tires up from the wetlands, might disagree with me. ;> But I do know a good time was had by all.

As always, there are a few more photos on Flickr.


There is a lot happening in the park this summer, restoration-wise. We’ve already had a visit from SPU, a drainage specialist and a wetland scientist, to talk about our wetlands and what we can do (they were favorably impressed, and made some good suggestions).

Monday, June 30, we’re going to do a cross-gradient transect of the park, examining plant life and restoration issues in detail along a nearly 700 foot line. We’ll be working with Stewart Wechsler.

In early July, we’ll have a visit with a person from King Conservation District, who will help us plan some outreach and financing (through grants) larger projects in the park.

And in July and August, I (Luke) will be working on a restoration management plan for the park. A lot of the information provided by the site reviews and transect will be used in the management plan.

Our next work party is July 26th, 9 a.m. to noon. We’ll meet at the main entrance to the park, 90th St. and 24th Ave NW. Wear weather-appropriate layers and sturdy shoes that can get dirty, bring water or a snack if you need it. We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Join us and find out how much fun it is to help restore our forested parks.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

This is a longer than usual post this time because there is so much to catch up on! But we start with the important bit: The work party announcement.

Saturday, June 28th, 9 a.m.: Welcome the early days of summer to North Beach Park at our June work party. Because the spring was relatively dry, we’re going to concentrate on after care for some of the newer plants in the upland areas. That means we’ll be getting buckets of water from the stream (carefully) and watering plants along the rim and main trail. A great way toget some exercise in! (Unless it’s raining, then we’ll do something else.) Please sign up on Cedar so we can make our plans.

We meet, rain or shine, at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St NW. Wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and sturdy shoes or mud boots. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and a snack as you need them but there are no facilities at the park. All ages and skill levels are welcome, but children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Parking is on 90th St., east of 24th Ave. The #61 bus stops across the street from the park, and the #40 and #48 stop at 85th and 24th; check Metro for details.

Save the date for upcoming workparties: July 26th, August 23rd, and September 27th. All workparties are 9 a.m. to 12 noon and meet at the main entrance to the park (90th and 24th).

Saturday, June 14th, 10 a.m.: Join Groundswell NW next week for the Ballard Open Space Discovery Day in Ballard Commons Park (57th and 22nd). Groundswell did an open space inventory for Ballard in 1996 and used that information to create many parks. The needs of Ballard have changed, and what we consider open space has changed as well. Friends of North Beach Park will be working with Groundswell NW in the area between 24th and 32nd Ave., and from 85th St. north to 100th St. We know there is a lot of open space that could be brought forward into better public use. Find out more Or take the open space survey.

North Beach Park News: Friends of North Beach Park was recently awarded a $500 stewardship grant from the Washington Native Plant Society. We’ll use this money to improve our wetland plantings. We’d like to thank the members of the Washington Native Plant Society – Central Puget Sound Chapter for their role in making this grant possible. The plants will be installed starting in early fall.

We’d like to say thank you to all the donors who made “GiveBIG” on May 6th so successful for North Beach Park. We raised more than $800, and the donors ranged from neighbors of the park to as far away as Wisconsin and Georgia. All this money will go to our restoration efforts. If you would like to donate, please see below.

A video crew from the Seattle Channel joined our April work party to document how burlap sacks are used in Seattle Parks. Most of the burlap used is donated by Distant Lands Coffee, and we’re grateful to have a good supply of free burlap to use on our hillsides. Watch the video.

Also in April, FoNBP was awarded one of the Groundswell NW 2014 “Local Hero” awards for our work in the park. We got the chance to meet the Mayor and babbled like an idiot when it came time to say thank you. But great fun was had by all.

Can’t join us for a work party? You can always support our restoration efforts by making a tax-deductible donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. All moneys donated will be used for the restoration of North Beach Park. Please visit their website for more information.

Thank you for participating and helping in the restoration of North Beach Park.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Here are the links that were on the handout for the forest steward refresher training on March 29, 2014. At the end I’ve added links and information received from comments during the presentation.

Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward Outreach Toolkit
First place to go for public outreach resources. There is a PDF listing neighborhood events, with the general dates of the events and links to the sponsoring organization when known.

GSP provides a great kit of outreach materials, including numerous brochures, a small banner, and a table skirt. You can also get a pop-up canopy. Contact Andrea Mojzak at least four weeks in advance to reserve the materials. You have to transport to and from the Forterra offices (or storage locker).

ESRM 100 (UW)
All UW students are required to take this class. One of the assignments is to attend a three-hour restoration work party. The attendance can vary widely from the advance sign up, but we’ve found that the students who do show up work. The assignment is due about week six, so you’re more likely to get students early in the quarter.

Write to the TAs at eschelp[at]uw[dot]edu. Provide all the helpful details: the date and time of the work party, address of meeting location, the work you’ll be doing, what you’ll provide (there was a suggestion of “food” which makes sense)bus routes that stop near the park, and parking availability. I always offer a tour of the park or a Q&A about restoration and about half the time it happens. You have to provide a follow-up email to the TA’s saying who participated.

There are a number of “Friends of…” Facebook pages that might be of interest to forest stewards. These include Friends of Cheasty Greenspace/Mt. View, Friends of Lewis Park, Friends of Seattle’s Urban Forest, Friends of the Atlantic City Nursery/Rainier Beach Urban Farm, Friends of the Southwest Queen Anne Greenbelt, Friends of Green Lake, and Friends of the Jungle. If you know of others, please mention them in a comment.

And let’s not forget, of course, Green Seattle Partnership Forest Stewards, which I hardly need mention because of course you’re already subscribed to that page. ;>

YMCA Earth Service Corps
There are numerous clubs in high schools throughout Seattle. They tend to be focused on on-campus projects, but they might be interested in joining a work parghety or visiting a restoration site. There was a large group from the Ballard HS club that worked in Golden Gardens recently. If a school near your park is not listed on the website above, write to Geoff Eseltine at geseltine [at] seattleymca [dot] org and he’ll let you know if there’s a club in your school. Not every school has a club.

Other Possibilities

This list includes ideas from the workshop and some things I just started looking into. In most cases, the only thing that’s happened so far is I’ve sent a query/contact email.

Introductory class for Program on the Environment students. This includes a component for a project in a local park. I’ve written to the advisor.
Seattle One Brick
From their website: “One Brick provides support to local non-profit and community organizations by creating a unique, social and flexible volunteer environment for those interested in making a concrete difference in the community. We enable people to get involved, have an impact and have fun, without the requirements of individual long-term commitments.”

I filled out their “Request Help” form Friday evening. Here is more information.

Intrafraternity Council
Panehellenic Association
The fraternities and sororities often have a service component. In both cases, I’ve sent a query email to their general contact address.

If you have any information on ways for forest stewards to do outreach, please feel free to leave it in the comments. I’ll make a new post if something works out really well.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

March work party crew
The valiant crew: Loren, Drexie, Morrie, Ryan, and Tasha (left to right).

The day was cloudy, but dry; the temperature cool enough to get us moving, but not warm enough to make us uncomfortable. The ground was wet from the March rains and we were all eager to get some work in. All in all, this made for a very productive work party.

TIdying the mulch pile
Loren tidies the mulch pile.

We started by tidying up the mulch pile. We’d ordered it last summer for a big project that cooler heads decided should be done by people experienced with steep slope work but have been nibbling at it ever since. This has allowed us to do some low-priority but still important mulching — such as along the 90th St. edge.

90th St.
Drexie, Ryan, and Tasha spread the mulch.

This doesn’t get much run off, but it’s a visible little slice of the park — not only the people who live up on 25th Ave. drive past it, but the moms’n'dads picking up their children from North Beach Elementary park along the other side of the street.

The mulching didn’t take long at all, which allowed us to go to the newly cleared area at 850 feet. We started working in this area in February, and we’ll work our way upstream until we meet where EarthCorps left off last year. In the fall and winter, we’ll plant it up.

We picked this area because it’s fairly dry and stable, and so overgrown with blackberry it’s a monoculture.

Cleared area
Everything at Loren’s feet is blackberry cane; rising up behind him are the brambles.

One nice side effect of the clearing was that it made more of the park that’s across the stream visible, such as this grove of skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage grove

Before we cleared the blackberry, it was completely obscured. The area we’re working in is also a big gap in the canopy, so it will be a good place to prioritize conifer reintroduction.

In April, we’ll continue working here. We have to balance where we work against a couple logistics: Don’t want to work too close to the stream bank until the summer, when it’s dryer; and don’t want to work in areas with a lot of piggyback or Pacific waterleaf until those have bloomed and died back. One lesson (among many) I’ve learned repeatedly is that a gradual approach is best, to take some time and learn the lay of the land and get to know the processes of the forest better.

Our next work party is April 26th, 9 a.m. to noon. As ever, we’ll meet at the main entrance to the park, at 90th St. and 24th Ave. All ages and skill sets are welcome.

If you can’t join us for a work party, you can support our work by making a donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation and earmarking it for North Beach Park. All proceeds donated will go to support the Friends of North Beach Park in our restoration efforts.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

The day started out cool and foggy, as a couple early arrivals helped us unload some late-season wetland plants.

Unloading the plants.
Drexie, Julie, Damore’ea, and Keishawn finish up unloading.

The Plants
The plants came to us in early December, and had been stored through the cold snap in the Carkeek nursery. Hopefully they’ve survived our benign neglect.

Sometimes we get ESRM 100 students at a work party. This is a class on the environment that everyone at the UW has to take. One of the assignments is to attend a 3 hour restoration work party and write a brief paper. I knew Damore’ea and Keishawn were from the UW from their address on the sign-up form, but I had no idea they were stars of the football team. Tad did, though, and was very impressed.

Football stars
John, Keishawn, Tad, Damore’ea.

Once we got all that sorted out, we set to work. First the ESRM students transported a few cubic yards of mulch into the forest, then Tad worked with them to clear some ivy and plant. As frequently happens, I didn’t get a picture of everyone working.

But here are three volunteers.
Headwaters Bowl
That’s Julie, Wenny, and Drexie (left to right) planting wetland plants into the bottom of the Headwaters Bowl. This is a permanently saturated area and everything we plant does well. So we’ll keep planting away as long as we’re able.

There were also some signs of spring in the park:

Siberian miner’s lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) is starting to sprout.
Sign of Spring
This is a very tasty little plant that goes well in salad mixes.

SIgn of Spring
The Pacific Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum tenuipes) is also starting to come back. This sprouts in the spring (I think this is a little early, because we’ve had such a relatively warm winter), blooms in early summer, and then dies back completely by August. The blooms are nothing to write home about, but the pollinators love them. I remember one summer the Waterleaf patches were humming with bees.

In addition to the planting that other people were doing, a high school student and I did some mulching.

Before the mulching.

After mulching
After mulching — much better. This strip along 90th St. gets some street run off, so the mulch there will help slow it down and infiltrate the soil, rather than just run off onto the slope.

After that, it was mostly wrapping up. The last few plants were planted, Tad took the ESRM 100 students on a tour of the park, and we had time for a last group shot:

"After" group picture
Back row: John (left), Damore’ea (right). Middle, left to right: Morry, Tad, Julie. Front, left to right: Keishawn, Drexie, Wenny.

Our next work party will be February 22nd. All the usual details apply. We hope you can join us, the park should be much greener then!

There are a few more pictures on flickr.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

This year, on the spur of the moment, I decided to “borrow” one of the trees to be planted in North Beach Park for a Christmas tree. This is neither strictly forbidden nor an accepted practice. Most people buy cut trees, after all, and the trees for planting are only a foot or so tall. I picked a hemlock and decided I would plant it on January 6th.

Which I then immediately realized would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. So it had to be. Further reinforcing this idea was that the 6th was a Monday, the day three of us usually work in the park.

The Hemlock
Here it is on the kitchen table. We didn’t really decorate it, just a couple strands of LED lights.

Here is Tad, planting the tree. I’d picked a magnificent cedar stump that is one of a pair I call the Grandfathers because they’re so large. They’re upended in the stream, and must have fallen there after a landslide.

Nurse Log Garden
Fallen trees or stumps become nurse logs for the next generation. They will be nurse logs as long as they were alive, and contain more living matter as a nurse log than they did as a “living” tree.

This picture shows how complex a nurse log garden can be; there is red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), sword and wood ferns, and several mosses and lichens. Red huckleberry and hemlocks are known for growing in cedar nurse logs and stumps. Another plant that grows well on cedar and conifer nurse logs is bunchberry (Corylus canadensis), a dwarf shrub in the dogwood family. We’re going to introduce that to the park soon.

A sense of scale
To give you an idea of the size of this stump, this picture was taken at my eye height, about five and a half feet. It reaches well over my head.

Hemlock I
Here it is, all mulched in place and with its happy flagging tape. This lets us know it was planted in the 2013-14 planting season.

As we walked away, I thought a little bit about calling the stumps the Grandfathers. Both my grandfathers were dead before I was born, and one grandmother died within a few months of my birth. The remaining grandmother was stern and not very warm. She lived down the street from us in a small apartment, then with an uncle, then with an aunt on the other side of the country. So I never really had the experience of grandparents.

My nieces and nephews, however, had a great experience of grandma in my mother. She had 30 years as a grandmother, and loved every minute of it. Everyone called her Honey, all her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and so on.

My father, on the other hand, had very little experience as a grandfather, dying about two years after my first nephew was born. I felt that my parents were reunited now, and Honey could tell Daddy all her stories of being a grandmother.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Two of the other forest stewards and I were planning 2014 (the planning was fun and we’re looking forward to the activities), and the question of plant diversity came up. How much had we increased native plant diversity in North Beach Park? We had a couple plant lists handy, and were quickly able to come up with a pretty good idea. Other than the first order (made in 2011, before I barely knew anything), we’ve concentrated on ordering plants we knew to be under- or unrepresented in the park. Once I got home, I looked through previous lists and came up with a pretty definite figure.

But first, why does increased native plant diversity matter? It’s such a mantra for forest stewards the question deserves to be asked.

  • It provides more food sources for the creatures that eat plants. That’s, basically, everything else. If a creature doesn’t eat plants directly, it eats things that eat plants. More insects eating plants means (we hope) more birds eating insects. Invasive plants don’t provide food for insects that eat plants, which is why native diversity is important.
  • It also increases the length of the bloom season. Particularly helpful are plants that bloom early in spring or late in summer.
  • The greater variety of food sources and extended bloom time are examples of functional redundancy. There isn’t just one plant blooming, but several, which serve different pollinators. And there isn’t just one genus of wetland plant filtering the water, but three or four.
  • It improves the soil structure with a diversity of roots. Plants taking water from the soil and releasing it through their leaves (evapotranspiration) is important to soil stabilization. And a variety of root structures will make the soil more lively, which will feedback and make the soil better for the root structures.
  • The Pacific Northwest forests need plants at every canopy level — from ground covering forbs and ferns up to the tallest Douglas fir trees. Because (see first item) there are things that eat plants at every level.
  • Many of the forest types we target in our restoration have similar plant communities and associations, with the main difference being proportions between the plants. Planting with as wide a palette as possible provides the opportunity for the plants to sort themselves out a bit.
  • Plant diversity also builds in resilience to disturbances, whether fire, flood, famine, or climate change. And given that we work in a ravine, we could well be creating a refuge for many plants to escape the worst effects of climate change.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but this is what I can think of off the top of my head.

Oh, the statistics. We — the people engaged in restoration in North Beach Park, whether EarthCorps, a crew contracted by the Parks Department, or people working with Friends of North Beach Park — have planted 63 different species of plant in the park. Of these, 39, or 62%, were unrepresented in the park. Note that these aren’t necessarily rare plants, they’re just unrepresented in North Beach Park. And I’m not saying we’ve increased the diversity by that much. That would need a complete survey of all the plants in the park, native and invasive. But it’s still a fairly good number.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Words by Lynda V. Mapes
Photography by Steve Ringman
Mountaineers Books, 2013

The Elwha River flows out of the Olympic Mountains north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. It’s wild and steep, and until dammed in the early 20th century was known for its dense fish runs.

This book tells the story of the Elwha, from the time the dams were built until the beginning of their removal. The history of the dams is excellently covered, and the reporting of the efforts to remove the dams – who wanted them removed, who wanted them to stay, how they were to be removed, who did the pre-removal baseline monitoring of the ecosystems, who would do the post-removal restoration – gives I think a fair credence to all sides of the story.

There’s no question that the dam removal was necessary. They were built without even the few safeguards and fish passage required in the early 20th Century, making them basically always illegal. The Olympic National Park boundaries later included the upper dam. In both cases, removal was cheaper than updating and refitting for new licensing compliance.

In the meantime, the power they provided to Pt. Angeles and its lumber mills was replaced by power from the Bonneville Power Administration, so they were not only illegal but irrelevant. There’s a large emotional aspect to dam removal, on all sides of the issue. People like me, who feel “it’s the right thing to do” as strongly as we can point to river warming, blocked fish passage, silt-transport blockage, and so on. Or people who feel “they should stay” as strongly as they can point to power provided, dam maintenance jobs, and even novel ecologies that will be lost when the lakes are drained. I think Mapes, in fact, could have covered the anti-removal side of the story in a little more depth; it might have helped me understand it a little better.

This is a minor lack in otherwise excellent coverage. The writing verges on the poetic when describing the “Niagara of the West,” and just as easily switches to conveying scientific details. The words and pictures unite to tell us just about every aspect of the story: The politicians and activists who worked for and against removal; the people it would benefit; the scientific research being done under sometimes very trying conditions (such as dry-suit snorkeling in shallow tributaries fresh off the glacier).

The Elwha dam was completed in 1910, with no fish passage. The Glines Canyon dam was completed in 1927. The first movements to remove the dam began in 1986. The upper dam is still being removed in 2013. The project, because of obstructionism, became vastly more expensive than originally estimated, and left almost no one satisfied with the process. The restoration is vastly underfunded, partly because the purchase price of the dams became so inflated.

Despite the difficulties of removal, I think it’s a success story: for the environmental and social justice of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, for the ecologies of the river and the forest it drains, and the fish that can now swim to their spawning grounds.

The book ends with a moving depiction of the ceremony at the very start of removal (September 2011), and a ritual of the Lower Elwha Klallam to call the fish back to their home. This is an appropriate and optimistic place for the book to end, but the story continues, and will continue, for at least as many generations as it has already.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Intelligent Tinkering: Bridging the Gap between Science and Practice
Robert J. Cabin
Island Press, Washington, DC, 2011
216 pp., with index and selected bibliography

The tropical dry forests of Hawaii are an extremely endangered environment, threatened by almost everything. They were slow to evolve, because of the dryness and frequent interruption by lava flows. Plants and wild life had evolved together for thousands of years before the Polynesians arrived. There was so little competition in the benign environment that roses had lost their thorns; some birds had lost their flight. The Polynesians began shaping the land to their needs, resulting in the extinction of some local species and introduction of many others.

The catastrophic shocks, though, were felt when the Europeans arrived, and began removing forests for plantations and farms. Today, all four counties in Hawaii are in the top five counties for federally listed endangered and threatened species. Some remnants are so small with no regeneration or succession that they’re considered living dead ecosystems. Hawaii is an ecological disaster.

Is it even possible to restore these endangered ecosystems? Is it “worth it”? There are about 12,000 species that exist nowhere else in the world. More new species are being discovered, and supposedly extinct species rediscovered, regularly. 90% of the flowering plants and 80% of the birds are endemic to the islands. Most of the climates and ecosystems of the world exist somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii is also one of the most racially diverse places in the world – and also, unfortunately, one of the most economically stratified.

Cabin spent several years in Hawaii, performing both the science of restoration ecology and the practice of ecological restoration on the tropical dry forests, an ecosystem so endangered you might not have heard of it. An early experience with a restoration work party had a strong resonance with me:

As the morning progressed, I couldn’t help noticing how different we all were. In almost any other situation, most of us would have little if anything to say to one another, and if for some reason we did strike up a substantive conversation, we probably would have discovered that we had radically different opinions about such things as politics and religion. Yet here we were, donating our time on a beautiful Saturday morning and working harmoniously together.

That is exactly my experience, right down to the Saturday morning. Volunteer-driven restoration brings people together in a way that rarely exists in the United States any more. I frequently think that we’re restoring the idea of community built through shared work (as in quilting bees or barn raising) as much as we’re restoring ecological functions.

But a problem with volunteer-driven projects is we are, to some degree, amateurs. On the other hand – on the other side of the wall, to some degree – there are all the scientists doing research into restoration ecology. Cabin asks the question, what can we do to bridge the science and practice gap?

This is a big and important question, but frankly, I was more taken with his stories of the on-the-ground restoration: the physical details of working in a tropical climate to eradicate, even over a few hundred square feet, something as pernicious as fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum). How much political effort it took to build a six acre exclosure. The reward when you return to a spot after a couple years and are surprised and gratified at how well it’s doing. And the disappointment when you return to a spot and nothing has established, or it’s not doing nearly as well as you’d hoped.

The practice of ecological restoration is holistic; you have to be aware of many of the influences – the water, the soil, the aspect of slopes, the surrounding mosaic of land uses – that can affect your project. The science of restoration ecology is necessarily reductive, with its need for clearly delineated experimental design, replicability, awareness of control factors, and a falsifiable hypothesis. There is also the short-term cycle of much scientific research. A grant might only be for a couple years, a master’s or doctoral research project will only last for a few years. Ecological processes can take decades .

Despite these differences, I think research in the science of restoration ecology can have a positive effect on the practice of ecological restoration. For instance, it was a Master’s thesis at the UW that provided a lot of the background for GSP to institute its target forest types. Other research can settle the “obvious” questions that might otherwise be a source for endless debate. Which is best for a cedar seedling: mulch, irrigation, or irrigation gel? (Mulch.)

I think my own practice could benefit from a much more methodical approach, and better record keeping. The truly successful projects, the restoration work that has been going on for ten years and more, are all methodical in their plans and record keeping. (Well, the ones that I know of, at least).

Cabin suggests a model that he calls “intelligent tinkering,” a phrase from Aldo Leopold. It relates to keeping all the cogs and gears of a car as you take it apart. You don’t know what’s essential to the machine, what’s sacrificeable. Your first actions are small and cautious, but as you learn more about the machine, you can take bolder actions.

I think this is happening all over Seattle, in all the different parks and nature areas being stewarded by GSP volunteers. Some of the parks are large, with many different habitat types (Carkeek, Golden Gardens, Discovery). Some are very small, less than two acres (John C. Little). North Beach Park, at 9 acres, is about mid-sized.

It may not be the case that a restoration ecologist could come into one of those parks, and do a specific experiment that has immediate results. But I think it is the case that the general work being done, in all environments and look at many different questions asked by the science of restoration ecology, can have a positive effect on the practice of ecological restoration.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

2013 has been a tremendous year for North Beach Park. Between EarthCorps, Friends of North Beach Park, and a Parks Department contract crew, we cleared more than 20,000 square feet of new area. This is a significant percentage of our little park.

November will feature two major planting parties, one coordinated by EarthCorps and one by the Friends of North Beach Park. Both are on Saturdays.

Saturday, November 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: THIS SATURDAY join EarthCorps for their last work party in North Beach Park. There is a LOT of planting to be done. EarthCorps cleared ivy and other invasives from a long strip of the park between the trail and the stream. Now it’s time to plant it up! Please register in advance at the EarthCorps website — select the North Beach Park event on Nov. 9 (the 2nd one listed for that day). EarthCorps provides coffee, energy bars, and a sanican.

Saturday, November 23, 9 a.m. to Noon: Join the Friends of North Beach Park for their fourth Saturday work party. Build up your appetite for Thanksgiving! This is the last one of the year, and we have 200 plants to put in the ground. This includes some plants well-represented in the park, but also many that are being reintroduced to the park. In addition to their beauty, these plants provide food for insects and birds and other species. The different bloom times give the park a visual texture that lasts well into the summer. Register for this work party at the Green Seattle Partnership Cedar website. Please register in advance so we know how many shovels and buckets to provide.

Both events meet at the main entrance to the park, 24th Ave and 90th St. NW. Wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and sturdy shoes or mud boots. We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and a snack as you need them but there are no facilities at the park.

Events happen rain or shine, but if it’s VERY windy, we might cancel at the last minute.

There is parking on 90th St. east of 24th Ave. The #61 bus stops across the street from the park, and the 40 and 48 stop at 85th and 24th; check Metro for details.

Can’t join us for a work party? Make a year-end donation to Seattle Parks Foundation to support restoration efforts at North Beach Park. Visit their website and click on the “Donate” button. We use these proceeds for tools, materials, and outreach.

We hope to see you in the woods!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Douglas W. Tallamy

Note: I read a library copy of the hardcover published in 2007. The link above is to a revised trade paperback edition, with an expanded resource section and updated photographs.

“Bringing Nature Home” thoroughly covers all aspects of how and why to use native plants in a home garden. The problem with alien plants is simple: they disrupt the food web by being inedible to insect herbivores. Insects have specialized gut bacteria and enzymes that neutralize (or even utilize) the defenses of their native plants. Some can only eat a single type of plant. When supplies of native plants are replaced by alien plants, the insects starve. This ripples through the food web, as most birds feed their nestlings insects, which have the highest dose of fat and protein and provide the best energy resource.

With no insects eating native plants, there are no insects for the birds to eat, resulting in fewer birds. The larval forms of many butterflies and moths need native plants for survival as well. Their adult form may be generalist enough to get pollen from nonnative species, but if their larval forms have no food, there will be no adults.

Tallamy provides a table towards the end of the book showing that even if an alien plant was introduced a couple hundred years ago, it still provides little or no food or resources to native insects. A few species might have made a transition to the new plant, but the native will host dozens more. In a few cases, an alien plant is close enough to a native that the insects can eat with no problem. But again, insects get more benefit from the native plant, and not all species hosted by the native can transition to the alien.

By reintroducing native plants into the home garden, we provide food for the insects and the birds that eat them. The chapter “What Should I Plant?” addresses this. Because this book is written for a national audience, the advice has to be very general. Tallamy focuses on trees of especial benefit to Lepidoptera because butterflies and moths are charismatic and attractive to people.

The original publication of this book in 2007 sparked a great conversation about gardening with natives. There is now a website, plantanative.com, that provides links to native plant societies, suggestions about what to plant, and more. Nowadays there are numerous books, organizations, and websites about using native plants. This interest was sparked in part by the earlier publication of “Bringing Nature Home.” There is still a long way to go, but progress is being made.

Two good resources for this area are the Washington Native Plant Society, and Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, which I’ll look at soon.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Science is good at measuring short term events, ranging from a day or so for bacterial growth down to femtoseconds for some physical processes. Science is also good at extrapolating very long term events from observations, such as geologic process shown in rocks or cosmological events in the microwave background.

However, there is a middle ground that is difficult to study, events that take anywhere from several years to a few decades. They’re within the span of a human lifetime, but gradual enough to appear static. This is what Magnuson (1990) calls “the invisible present.” This is the scale of most ecological processes, and why researchers sometimes have to gather data for decades before being able to make an informed hypothesis.

Most scientific research is centered on the “falsifiable hypothesis.” That is, a scientist has a question they want to explore, and tries to construct the experiment in such a way as to disprove their original question. This can work for relatively short term processes of three to five years or less (which, by remarkable coincidence, is about the length of the grant cycle).

I think the scale of “the invisible present” makes climate change such a difficult process to grapple with socially. The evidence has been accumulating for decades and is incontrovertible now. But the change has been so gradual that it’s only noticeable in long-term records, such as the 170+ years of ice-coverage data for Lake Mendota (WI) or the bloom records kept by Thoreau at Walden Pond compared to bloom dates of the same plants today.

When I was young the perceived risks to nuclear war or pollution were immediate. I heard the sirens every week, we did the duck’n'cover exercises under the desk, there were headlines about Mutually Assured Destruction. You could see the sky turn brown with smog and the rivers foam with phosphates. We’ve since cleaned up those problems (even though some were “cleaned up” by exporting the pollution to China).

But because the change caused by climate change has been so gradual, and below the threshold for direct human perception so far, we haven’t begun to make the deep cultural changes needed to make to deal with it.

Magnuson, John J. “Long-Term Ecological Research and the Invisible Present.” BioScience, Vol. 40, No. 7 (Jul. – Aug. 1990), pp. 495-501.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


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