Fall 2005
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Woods of Wisdom

                            Fall - 2005

 

   


 

"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively, the land ... a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land – community to plain member and citizen of it ... it implies respect for his fellow members, and so also respect for the community as such."

--- Aldo Leopold, "Sand County Almanac"

In the Swamp

Today I saw green tree frogs hiding in thickets of reeds, but not when I looked for them. The first one appeared in the crook of a reed, where the leaf stem meets the stalk. But try as I might, I couldn't copy the pattern and re-see it. The harder I tried, the less success I had. But like the time I was pulled to a young buck skull, as if there were a rope between us and the skull was yanking me off the path towards it, so was the ability to see the frogs.

Searching the plants for the lime green creatures who would shortly light up their voices in praise of the night, the same pull occurred. I was quickly whipped around from the waterlogged clump of reeds I was searching, and laying on the stem of a flowering jewelweed was a large, fat, female tree frog in all her glory. There wasn't any search, just direction. Ah to learn how to turn it off, to turn in on.

Cardinal flower is in bloom right now, a beauty in the swamp, and the kingbird is feeding its young. The mosquitoes are competing with the chiggers for the last ounce of my blood......

----------- Nighthawk

 

The Economic Benefits of Open Space

Stephen Miller
Executive Director, Isleboro Islands Trust

Waters, you are the ones who bring us the life force.
Help us find nourishment so that we may look upon great joy.
Let us share in the most delicious sap that you have, as if you were loving mothers.
Let us go straight to the house of the one for whom your waters give us life and give us birth.
For our well-being, let the goddesses be an aid to us; the waters be for us to drink.
Let them cause well-being and health to flow over us.

-- Hindu Prayer

Conserving and investing in life support ecosystems and interrelated socioeconomic systems provides some resilience to change and maintains the basis on which successful economic activity can continue. Nature's real producers are found in open space. Human production draws energy, materials, even inspiration from these real producers. Humans create possessions (and ideas); natural systems are the basis of that creation (oxygen, chlorophyll, water, soil, etc.). The economic system is a subsystem of the global ecosystem and local economies are subsets of local ecosystems. Open space provides functions that are essential to our economic well being. These open space economic benefits, then, provide the basis for satisfying human needs and are the ground on which human actions play out their life long drama. Finding the language, the measures, the means of charting the economic and ecologic relationship is not easy or always clear. New methods and improvements in old methods are available, and a brief survey follows.

Our lives are embedded within a vast network of natural systems. We live within the confines of natural processes and components, the sum of which are the earth's ecosystem. As illustrated in the accompanying figure, natural processes and components provide goods and services for human use (such as soil for agriculture, water for drinking, wetlands for waste absorption) but also represent hazards and risks in various forms (such as hurricanes, floods, system complexity, irreversibility). Human actions, on the other hand, can impact the natural system negatively (through species eradication, soil erosion, acid rain, degraded water quality) or positively (through increased soil fertility using organic amenities, forest improvement through species diversification), although it is often difficult to make positive contributions to the ecosystem that improve on pre-industrial levels of ecosystem function.

Many studies have pointed to the costs of development. A DuPage County, IL report conducted by the regional planning commission found commercial development, in particular, cost municipalities in the region far more than it paid in property tax revenues. The Guldner study in New Hampshire concluded that all but the most expensive residential development also costs more than it pays. These results prompt one authority to say, "The traditional view of the matter, which prevailed into the 1970's, was that most development 'pays its way.' The emerging view today is that virtually no development does..." (Altshuler, 1991).

The costs of development are so large that, in some places, municipalities have considered purchasing land rather than absorb the losses due to development. For example, in Wayland, MA, a professional analysis found that development of 1250 acres of open space would cost taxpayers $328,350 a year more than the development added in new tax revenues. This represented a $7.75 increase in the tax rate. On the other hand, to purchase the property would only add $4.25 to the tax rate (Bryan).

If a scenic view is lost, or a wilderness experience, or a hunting ground, or fishing capability, or any other amenity flowing from open space, and this loss is due to development, then the value of what has been lost must be considered. It is, in such instances, a cost of development. Retained, the environmental amenity is a public benefit contributed by the open space property. Therefore, one indirect benefit of open space is that it helps a municipality avoid the costs of development.

Some development projects so alter the natural ecosystem of the site as to render it essentially destroyed. In such cases, since the two alternatives (preservation and development) are mutually exclusive, the economically efficient choice is the one that maximizes the value of benefits. The value of the benefits from the natural system continues for an indefinite time into the future. It is tempting to say that the benefits of preservation of the ecosystem in such a situation would approach infinity since future generations would be allowed enjoyment of the environmental services forever.

 

Lightening Bugs

Lightening bugs fly without any thunder,

But they are just as great a wonder.

Each makes a light to attract a mate.

They flit around but never wait.

 

Their light is cool so they don’t get hot.

It isn’t as much as even one watt.

But their mate must be one of their kin –

For no one else they’d want to win.

 

Little kids may put them under glass

Making a bright light of bugs in a mass,

But if they can’t fly their light will fade.

But kids will enjoy them in evening’s shade.

 

The rest of us carry flashlights to mark

Where there’s a bench in a local park.

One that’s safe from a policeman’s check

And no one drops peanuts down our neck.

 

We’d like to find a possible friend,

One who a parent would recommend.

We want to sit with one about our age

Never mind a rich old sage.

---- Betty Buck Reynolds

"A Flower Garden of Thought

 

Aroma Wetland Restoration;

Yesterday and Today

Before: Winter, 2002

The wetland had become overgrown with woody brush, and the moisture level of the soil had become severely reduced. Native wetland species were crowded out. A few years ago this wetland was rich in Marsh Marigold, Jewelweed and many other wetland dwelling plants; this wetland plant community had been disappearing.

Work in progress: special machinery designed for restoration work, with oversize tires to reduce compaction, is used to clear overgrown brush which has crowded out the wetland plants.

A grant from U.S. Fish & Wildlife provided funds for the restoration project. The restoration project was designed and carried out by site development director Doug Short, of Natural Resource Management.

             

              After

          

Today, the area is transformed and native wetland plants have returned. These pictures show the transformation which occurred by the following summer. No additional seeding or replanting was done; the seeds of these species have lain in the soil waiting for the right conditions to re-appear

 

The land slopes gently upward from the low wetland meadow, with a transition area leading into larger deciduous trees.

 

Joe Pye Weed flourishes at the transition area between wetland meadow and forest edge.

 

 

 

Towards the river, wet woodland forest trees such as Burr Oak and River Birch form a canopy over the moist forest soil. This wet woodland habitat provides a home to many woodland wildflowers which bloom in March and April as the days grow longer and the early springtime sunlight pours through the trees before they have fully leafed out. Later the shade of the trees keeps the forest floor cool and sheltered. As you walk from the open wet meadow area into the woodland along the river, you can feel the change in temperature that is part of the uniqueness of riparian habitat.

 

 

 

A Caretaker’s Vocabulary

Acid mine drainage: the runoff from sulfur-rich mining wastes that react with water to form sulfuric acid, polluting natural waterways.

Old Growth Forest: a forest which has not experienced a major disturbance for a long enough period of time that extremely large trees, snags and logs occur.

Aquifer: an underground layer of rock that is porous and permeable enough to store significant quantities of water.

Corridor: A connective strip linking two reserves, functions as habitat for native species so as to join the two reserves into one.

Cumulative Effect: the totality of a number of specific negative impacts (e.g. clearcuts, dams) which has a combined effect greater than the sum of the individual impacts.

Disturbance: an event, such as fire or windstorm, which causes a rapid change in an ecosystem.

Edge Effects: the conditions which exist along the interface of two different biological communities (i.e., ancient forest and clearcuts), which alter the quality of habitat for some species. For instance, humidity and temperature changes near the edge of a forest.

Ecosystem: the living and nonliving components of an area, and their interactions

Eutrophication: the pollution of a body of water by enrichment with nutrients, with a consequent increase in the growth of organisms and a resultant depletion of dissolved oxygen.

Extinction: the loss of a species from an area within its historical range. Extinction may refer to a population disappearing from a local area (often termed extirpation) or to global disappearance.

Fossil water: water stored in aquifers which accumulated millennia ago; considered non-renewable because the recharge rate is very slow even in terms of geologic age. The Ogallala aquifer is an example, rapidly diminishing due to irrigating crops on what was once semi-arid prairie.

Fragmentation: The combined effect of disturbances (generally human-caused) on habitat in an area. For instance, clearcuts and roads not only radically change habitat in a specific area, but also cause edge effects and spread of non-native species. All of these effects together are termed fragmentation.

Ground water: water contained in soil and bedrock; all subsurface water.

Habitat: the environment in which an organism or species fulfills some aspect of its biological needs, i.e., food, shelter, breeding.

Hard water: water containing Ca 2+ and/or Mg 2+ ions.

Hydrologic cycle: the cycling of water, in all its forms, on the Earth.

Indicator Species: A species of plant or animal, or a community, whose occurrence serves as evidence that certain environmental conditions exist.

Island Biogeography: the theory that isolated areas of habitat function similar to islands at sea. Small "islands", and those that are farther from other islands, support fewer species than large, and/or near islands.

Landscape Ecology: the study of how ecosystems interact within and between one another (at various scales, such as stands or watersheds) across the land.

Keystone Species: Species that interacts with a large number of other species in a community. Because of the interactions, the removal of this species can cause widespread changes to community structure. Compare with immigrant species, indicator species, and native species.

Minimum Dynamic Area: the smallest size an ecosystem (or reserve) can be while still maintaining internal recolonization sources under natural disturbance patterns.

Native: a species which was historically (before human alteration) present in an area.

pH: a measure of acidity. pH = the minus log of the hydrogen ion concentration.

Pollution: the impairment of the quality of some portion of the environment by the addition of harmful substances.

Re-colonization: a species may reinhabit an area after being extinct there. Recolonization may occur by individuals moving to the area from adjacent or nearby habitats where the species had survived whatever event(s) caused the extinction elsewhere.

Refuge: an area of land dedicated as habitat for native species and ecosystems.

Residence time (for water): the average time that a water molecule spends in a particular region such as a lake or underground aquifer.

Riparian: the area along the banks of a stream or river which is influenced (e.g., more moist or sandy soil) by the watercourse. Vegitation may be very different in riparian areas than in upland areas. Riparian areas may extend several hundred feet from the water.

Respiration: the process by which plants and animals combine oxygen with sugar and other organic matter to produce energy and maintain body function. Carbon dioxide and water are released as by-products.

Runoff: the flow of water toward the ocean through surface and underground pathways.

Saltwater intrusion: the movement of salt water from the ocean to terrestrial groundwater supplies that occurs when the water table in coastal areas is reduced.

Shifting Mosaic Steady State: as disturbances effect an area from year to year, the location of specific ecosystems will change creating a "shifting mosaic" of ecosystems or habitats. But, even though the actual locations change, the amount of each habitat over a large area may remain somewhat constant (steady state).

Soft water: water that is mostly free of Ca 2+ and/or Mg 2+ ions.

Snag: Standing dead tree

Succession: changes which occur in an ecosystem over time. At different ages, different species and structures (e.g., large trees or logs) occur.

Subsidence: the settling of the surface of the ground as an ore, oil or deep groundwater is removed.

Thermal pollution: a change in the quality of an environment (usually an aquatic environment) caused by raising its temperature.

Transpiration: the vaporization of water through the tissues of plants, especially through leaf surfaces.

Vaporization: the transformation of liquid water to water vapor.

Viable Population: the size of a population (number of interacting individuals) necessary to sustain the long-term health of that population. This number may be quite large since populations are always confronted with genetic, demographic and environmental stresses.

Water table: the upper level of water in the zone of saturated subsurface soil and rock.

Zone of saturation: the subsurface zone of soil and rock that is completely saturated with water.

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last updated on August 6, 2013