Lichens, indicators of forest health


This video from the USA says about itself:

Climate Change and the Mosses and Lichens in the Columbia River Gorge

9 June 2011

A short look at the mosses and lichens in the gorge and the effects climate change may have on them. This video was created by the Gifford Pinchot Task Force for the Multnomah County climate change short films series, thanks for viewing!

From Science News in the USA:

Lichens are an early warning system for forest health

Scientists tap symbiotic lichens as sentinels of air quality, and now, climate problems

By Amy McDermott

5:30am, November 15, 2016

View the slideshow

Ecologist Linda Geiser works her way through thick undergrowth on the steep hills of the Bull Run Watershed just outside of Portland, Ore. Every step in her heavy boots is deliberate. It would be easy to break an ankle here, or worse. A dense sea of ferns and berry bushes hides deep pits and sharp fallen branches.

This treacherous slope is a U.S. Forest Service 
field site, one of many in the United States, recognizable by its bright orange flagging fluttering from the trees. Geiser has patrolled terrain like this for 30 years. As manager of the Forest Service’s 
air-quality program, she’s tasked with monitoring pollution. So she has come here, not to check sophisticated equipment, but to find lichens.

Fringed and fuzzy, or as slick as a coat of paint, lichens are mosaics of fungi partnered with algae or cyanobacteria that speckle tree bark and dangle from the canopy (SN: 11/7/09, p. 16). In those precarious perches, lichens absorb their food from fog, wind and rain. With no roots but very absorbent tissue, lichens are exquisitely vulnerable to gases released from burning fossil fuels and other 
pollutants carried by the wind and rain. That sensitivity makes lichens powerful sentinels of forest health.

“Where there is pollution, there is a predictable effect on lichens,” Geiser says. Rare and delicate lichen species that are highly specialized to their habitat are some of the first to die out as air quality falls. Less-sensitive, generalist lichens hang on longer and, in some cases, even survive and expand. Both can signal problems to come.

In the presence of high levels of excess nitrogen, moderately sensitive wolf lichens (Letharia vulpine, left) languish while candleflame lichens (Candelaria pacifica, right) thrive.

Jason Hollinger/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0); J-DAR/MUSHROOM OBSERVER (CC BY-SA 3.0)
A 2014 study linked an abundance of the nitrogen-loving lichen Candelaria pacifica in Yosemite National Park with hot spots of excess nitrogen blown over from the sprawling farmlands of 
California’s Central Valley. Nitrogen becomes a pollutant at very high concentrations. A 2015 study in Washington State tied an area of heavy metal pollution, detected in lichen tissues in the Colville National Forest, to a zinc and lead smelter just across the border with Canada.

Pollution builds up inside lichen tissues in proportion to its concentration in the wider environment. Anything poisoning lichens is also accumulating more broadly in the forest. Lichens and other supersensitive species begin to shift first, but the same contaminants may hit hardier plants and animals next.

That’s why Geiser is hiking in the shadow of Mount Hood. She jots down the name and abundance of every lichen species she finds at Bull Run to track changes in the lichen census since the last survey of this plot, 10 years ago. Geiser carries a large, clear bag in her pack and fills it with a seafoam green lichen called Platismatia glauca. In a lab at the University of Minnesota, researchers will dissolve the P. glauca in acid to measure levels of 24 air pollutants. Other tests measure sulfur, nitrogen and mercury.

The Forest Service has used lichens to track air quality since the 1980s. What began as a few pilot studies has expanded into a national program, with thousands of lichen-monitoring plots across the country. The information collected at those sites is cataloged in a database, used by the Forest 
Service to track changes in the lichen landscape. Until now, that database has not been publicly available. But in 2017, it will be released — along with an atlas of lichen distributions nationwide — so anyone can track this early warning system.

The timing is good, because while these fungal mélanges have been counted on as air monitors for decades, they have now also begun to show their worth as sentinels of climate change in the Lower 48 states and, increasingly, in the Arctic.

Environmental watchdogs

Far from the rain-drenched forests of the Pacific Northwest, on the gray streets of 1860s Paris, a botanist named William Nylander noticed a peculiar pattern. More lichen species grew in the oasis of the Luxembourg Garden than elsewhere in the city. The park was less polluted than the rest of Paris. Nylander inferred a connection: Better air quality meant higher lichen diversity.

Proof that lichens respond to air quality came about a century later. Studies in the 1950s found that lichen diversity fell as sulfur dioxide rose. In 1958, botanist Erik Skye found that airborne sulfur dioxide, emitted from a Swedish oil works, killed lichens surrounding the factory. The sulfur 
dioxide acidified the lichens’ cells, disrupting metabolism and photosynthesis. Other pollutants, like nitrogen dioxide, can also kill some lichen species by overfertilizing them. Without protective structures common in plants, such as a waxy cuticle and pores that can close to keep out unwanted substances, lichens are especially vulnerable to environmental vagaries.

By the 1980s, most large cities in Central Europe monitored lichens to track air quality, says biologist Christoph Scheidegger of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf. What’s appealing, he says, is the tight relationship between lichen diversity and pollution levels. When the number of sensitive lichen species goes down, it reveals areas where pollution levels are going up.

In the United States, lichens help the Forest Service and National Park Service set pollution targets and identify areas where those targets are being exceeded. Those agencies don’t have the authority to set pollution laws. Instead, they make recommendations to state governments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the amount of pollution an ecosystem can withstand before falling into decline.

To figure out how much pollution is too much, government scientists look to lichens, as well as alpine plants, trees, grasses and other parts of the ecosystem, says ecologist Tamara Blett of the National Park Service, which also monitors air quality. Many field studies show that lichens “start to disappear at a lower amount of air pollution than other species,” Blett says. Other organisms “aren’t affected until the pollution is higher.”

That means lichens set the high bar for pollution standards. Protect them, and everything else is safe. Once pollution thresholds are established, U.S. scientists can use lichens to identify hot spots that exceed recommended limits. It works like this: Scientists like Geiser hike into forest field sites to collect lichen tissues and survey the number and abundance of lichen species. In the lab, the tissues are analyzed for concentrations of nitrogen, sulfur and other potential pollutants. From the results, ecologists make a map that reveals “red zones,” “orange zones” and “green zones,” where pollution thresholds are met or exceeded across the landscape, Blett says.

Fluffy, green wolf lichen (Letharia vulpina) collected in 2011 along a major road in California’s Sierra Nevada had nitrogen levels exceeding recommended pollution limits. In Wyoming’s Wind River Range, an area plagued by air pollution, nitrogen concentrations were twice as high in lichens growing near natural gas drilling operations as those growing farthest away, researchers reported in 2013; concentrations decreased exponentially with distance from drilling sites.

Machines and nature

The lichens are “like teeny living instruments,” Blett says. Studying them is an order of magnitude cheaper than installing human-made air-quality monitors. Each lichen plot costs $150 to $500, says Forest Service lichenologist Sarah Jovan, who leads the lichen program with Geiser.

Measuring pollutants directly, using a human-made air-quality monitor, would cost $3,000 to $20,000 a year, Jovan says, depending on the instrument and pollutants measured. “It’s an incredible savings,” she says.

Plus, Geiser adds, lichens can provide evidence of ecological harm, while chemical and physical methods tell only what’s in the air or precipitation. “They don’t tell you if that level is harmful to living things.”

While lichens have a huge cost advantage, they also have limitations as indicators. In general, Jovan says, the content of lichen tissues today points to pollution over the last six to 12 months. They don’t offer the same time frame precision as pricier instruments.

Agencies navigate these pros and cons by using lichens in combination with other monitors. In places where the source of pollution isn’t clear, it doesn’t make sense to install expensive instruments across the landscape.

Instead, lichen studies are a first step to identify pollution hot spots, Blett and Jovan explain. Then more expensive monitors are installed at heavily polluted sites. “Using the two approaches together creates incredible efficiency,” Jovan says, “and cost savings.”

When the EPA and the Forest Service set out to track regional environmental health in the early 1990s, they called on lichenologist Bruce McCune, of Oregon State University in Corvallis. The agencies asked McCune to design pilot studies using lichens to assess air pollution. That early work grew into the same lichen census that brought Geiser to Bull Run.

The Forest Service has almost 25 years of lichen data from more than 6,000 sites nationwide. “It’s unprecedented to have this scale of information,” says Jovan, who created the atlas over the last decade. “This is the first time all of the data we’ve ever had has come together.” Federal 
agencies including the Forest Service, the Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management are all interested in lichens as environmental sentinels, she says. “Now all of a sudden, everyone and their mom wants to use lichens.”

When these data are released publicly in 2017, she says, they will set a baseline for lichen distributions nationwide. In 10 years, or in 50, scientists will be able to track large-scale changes over time.

Climate ups and downs

Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions presents its own kind of air-quality problem. And lichens may help keep an eye out for climate changes, too.

Small differences in temperature and moisture mean big changes in the number and diversity of lichens in the landscape. Lichen diversity in 
Sweden and Alaska dropped with rising temperature, and lichens were more sensitive to change than vascular plants, according to a study published in 2012.

Earlier work in western Europe found that drought-tolerant lichens become more common in response to warming, while acid-loving species decline. In the Netherlands, Hyperphyscia adglutinata increased in abundance substantially from 1995 to 2001. During the same period, Lecanora conizaeoides declined by more than 60 percent.

By tracking which species increase or decrease with changing temperature and rainfall, ecologists are learning to read the climate story lichens are telling. The idea, Geiser says, is to use lichens to understand the on-the-ground realities of climate change.

The value of the lichens data trove will only increase with time, McCune says. Today, decades of lichen data offer a national snapshot that “contains priceless information on air quality and a basis for comparison in the future,” he says. “Can you imagine 50 years from now,” when “we’ve got thousands of plots in the U.S. with data from way back in 2000 or something like that? It’s going to be fantastic to see the difference between 2050 and 2000.”

In the meantime, the lichens of the Northwest that Geiser walks among will keep growing and changing in step with the changing planet. They’ll breathe in the mountain air and soak up water as it drips down the trees. These and other lichens will stand as a beacon of what’s to come.

Bernie Sanders election victory in Oregon


This video from the USA says about itself:

Bernie Sanders Wins Oregon Primary Election, Ties Hillary In Kentucky

17 May 2016

Bernie Sanders has won the 2016 Oregon Democratic primary election, Kentucky appears to be a tie. Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparian and John Iadarola, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won the Oregon Democratic primary by a wide margin and came within 2,000 votes of winning the Kentucky primary, dealing a blow to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The victory in Oregon, by 53-47 percent, was the first for Sanders in a closed primary, where only registered Democrats are allowed to cast ballots. Clinton had won the previous 11 closed primaries, including Kentucky: here.

This video from the USA says about itself:

17 May 2016

How important are the Kentucky and Oregon primaries to the future of Bernie Sanders‘ chances in the Democratic race? Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparian and John Iadarola, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

Birdie Sanders, new sticker from the USA


Birdie Sanders sticker

From Jeff Weaver, of the campaign of Bernie Sanders for president of the USA:

A little birdie told Bernie we were going to do very, very well last weekend

The day before we swept three critical West Coast caucuses, Bernie’s rally in Portland was momentarily interrupted when a little bird landed on his podium. The crowd in attendance loved it, and word spread quickly among our supporters across the country. So we decided to make a sticker to commemorate the event.

Make a contribution of ANY AMOUNT to our campaign and we’ll get this Birdie Sanders sticker out to you in the mail.

We have a very limited number of stickers, so this email is probably your only chance to get one. All you have to do is make a contribution of ANY AMOUNT and we’ll get it out in the mail.

Thank you for standing with Bernie… and Birdie.

In solidarity,

Jeff Weaver
Campaign Manager
Bernie 2016

The bird on the sticker is more colourful (blue, the Democratic party colour) than the female house finch landing at Bernie Sanders‘ Portland rally.

This is another video about the Portland, Oregon, female house finch’s appearance at the Bernie Sanders United States presidential election rally.

This video from the USA says about itself:

House Finch Family June 19 2010

On May 25th mom and dad Finch built this nest on our front porch. June 19th is when we first noticed their offspring had hatched.

The Hillary Clinton campaign and its backers in the media are increasing the pressure on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to end his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Clinton campaign aides waged a full-court media campaign Monday, effectively reneging on a previous agreement to debate Sanders in April and May, declaring that Sanders had violated previous pledges not to engage in “negative” advertising, and claiming that Clinton would clinch the number of delegates required for the nomination by the end of April: here.

Barrow’s goldeneye dives, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

27 January 2016

A Barrow’s Goldeneye dives in Oregon. These are diving ducks and primarily found in the western mountains of North America. They dive to forage, and eat aquatic invertebrates and fish eggs, and occasionally small fish and vegetation.

Songbird lands at Bernie Sanders meeting


This video from Oregon in the USA says about itself:

Bernie Sanders ‘put a bird on it’ at Portland rally

25 March 2016

A bird flew on the podium at the Bernie Sanders rally in Portland held at the Moda Center.

A commenter on this video says the bird was a female house finch.

This video from that Sanders rally says about itself:

#BirdieSanders: Footage Emerges of the Bernie Bird Before She Shot to World Stardom

Credit: Taylor Tunes

Rarely is the show stolen from Bernie Sanders, but that’s exactly what a tiny bird did during the Vermont senator’s event in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, March 25. The female house finch perched herself on Sanders’ lectern as he addressed thousands of people, soon receiving a standing ovation.

The moment went viral with tens of thousands of people tweeting about the encounter using the hashtag #BirdieSanders.

One rally-goer captured the bird on camera moments before she shot to global stardom. The bird appears to be listening intently to Sanders’ address before flying off to get a closer look at the senator.

This 2012 video from the USA says about itself:

Male house finch sings to nesting female

A female house finch has built a nest in our window awning. I decided to put a webcam in the window and record some of their activities. I enjoyed watching the male sing to his mate, unfortunately my dog started barking and scared him away.

It as like the house finch at the meeting wanting to say: ‘Mr Sanders, if you will become president then please don’t forget us!’

A commenter on the Sanders meeting video wrote:

It was supposed to be a bald eagle landing on his podium, but they’re all busy attacking Trump.

And another commenter wrote:

Bernie Sanders is an advocate of animal welfare and ensuring animals’ humane treatment. He has co-sponsored several pieces of legislation to protect the interests of animals and has recently received a 100 percent rating from the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Bernie Sanders interrupted by tiny bird and both get standing ovation

Mr Sanders was campaigning ahead of three contests on Saturday

Andrew Buncombe

26 March 2016

The US presidential campaign has seen plenty of protesters trying to disrupt rallies, or even storm the stage.

But until Friday night in Oregon, it had not witnessed a tiny bird land on the podium and earn a standing ovation. The beneficiary of the bird’s intervention – both because it was his rally, and as a result of his splendid response when the bird hopped onto his lectern – was Bernie Sanders.

“I think, I think there may be some symbolism here,” Mr Sanders told the crowd in Portland, Oregon, which roared and cheered.

“I know it doesn’t look like it, but that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace. No more wars.”

A frequent critic of American military interventions abroad, Mr Sanders voted against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has often pointed to contrast between himself and rival Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. “She was wrong, I was right,” he said.

Mr Sanders encounter with the bird – which triggered the Twitter hashtag #BerdieSanders – came as he campaigned ahead of votes in three states on Saturday where he is hoping to make up ground on Ms Clinton.

Democrats vote to select a presidential candidate in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.

While few public polls are available, all three contests on Saturday are being conducted with caucuses, a format that has favored the Vermont senator.

Republicans Say Lyin’ Ted Cruz And The Liar Donald Trump Are Equally Dishonest. GOP voters give them similar marks for honesty: here.

#BlackLivesMatter and wildlife refuge gunmen in the USA, who’s the terrorist?


White supremacist gunmen in Oregon vs. Black Lives Matter, cartoon

This cartoon from the USA is about the recent occupation by ‘YallQaeda’ gunmen of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in the USA.

The cartoon makes one think about the Black Lives Matter movement. Contrary to the extreme right gunmen in Oregon, they don’t run around brandishing guns. Contrary to the extreme right gunmen in Oregon, they don’t occupy federal government buildings while brandishing guns. Contrary to the extreme right gunmen in Oregon, they don’t threaten to kill police if police would try to get them out of these buildings. Contrary to the extreme right gunmen in Oregon, they don’t say their occupation of a federal building is the start of a violent overthrow of the federal government of the USA.

Yet, the Department of Homeland Security in the USA links the Black Lives Matter movement to ‘domestic terrorism’ and spies on it.

On 2 September 2015, there was an article in the Washington Times, a far right daily owned by the ‘Unification Church’, also known as the Moonie cult. The title of the article was ‘Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group’. The article was by Washington Times employee Tim Constantine, a supporter of Republican Party presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

As we have pointed out, to qualify as terrorists, the Black Lives Matter movement should at least have done what the ‘YallQaeda’ gunmen have done; which they have not.

But, back to the cartoon. Let us, for the sake of argument, presume that the Black Lives Matter movement, like the white gunmen in Oregon … no, saying they are white does not say enough. As they are white supremacists on record as whitewashing slavery for African Americans … OK, let us presume that the Black Lives Matter movement, like ‘YallQaeda’, would run around brandishing guns. That they also would occupy federal government buildings while brandishing guns. That they would threaten to kill police if police would try to get them out of these buildings. That they would say their occupation of a federal building was the start of a violent overthrow of the federal government of the USA.

If so, then … one would have the situation as pictured in the right half of the cartoon. And very soon after that, a situation, not depicted in the cartoon: all people inside the federal building would be killed. As they would not be extreme right white supremacist gunmen.

Let us also presume that some small group of Muslims would have done the same as ‘YallQaeda’. That these hypothetical Muslim federal building occupiers, would say, like ‘YallQaeda’ says, that they did not want violence. That they would not start it, but would react violently if police would try to remove them. As they did not recognize the federal government, but considered the occupied building as headquarters of an Islamic state in Oregon and eventually all of the USA. Well, we all know what would have happened in that theoretical case. The right half of the cartoon. Then, very soon, everyone inside the building killed.

And, if not (not much of a chance), if there would be no bloodbath, then the Rupert Murdoch media, the Washington Times, the teabaggers, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, various conspiracy theorists, etc. etc. would claim that proved their point that President Obama really supposedly is a ‘closet Muslim’ and supposedly not born in the USA.

Oregon ‘terrorists’ don’t plan siege very well, put out plea for snacks and supplies: here.

Photos Of Damage Caused By Oregon Occupiers Proves They Aren’t Fit To Manage Anything. The small government advocates left behind a big, expensive mess for taxpayers: here.

LEADERS OF OREGON WILDLIFE RESERVE STANDOFF ACQUITTED “Bundy and others, including his brother and co-defendant Ryan Bundy, cast the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a legitimate and patriotic act of civil disobedience. Prosecutors called it a lawless scheme to seize federal property by force.” [Reuters]