Zooming Back in Time to get Perspective

Hi all,
I listened to the last, great zoom meeting which set my brain ablaze with a year’s worth of mulling things over. Overall I think we need to zoom way out for a bit then come back in to the details of ‘now what!’

One of the zoomed out pictures I encountered was that 99% of the biomass of the planet is plants and we (and other mammals) are trace elements within the remaining 1%. (However, that doesn’t seem to have kept us from becoming a major ecological force.) That led me to see plants as the ocean in which we swim and a renewed sense of obligation to understand them and our influence.

Also, I was thinking we needed to zoom out about 10,000 years or so and look at a larger set of patterns of vegetation. As I was poking around the internet with that thought, I found a couple of zoomed out articles that sort of covered a lot of the issues I was mulling over.

North American Forests in the Age of Nature – American Forests

North American Forests in the Age of Man-American Forests

I keep thinking we need to focus more on vegetation management (I really see it as a mosaic of plant communities that shift in time & space) as much as forest management or fuel load reduction. Here, where I’ve lived for 30 years, I’ve watched grassland go to chaparral and get a good start on being forest.

Also, what’s the optimal forest understory? How does it relate to prescribed burning? Does it optimize wildlife habitat? How important is that goal? What about understory perennial grasses? (We have 4 or more here, as well as 5 or more species of berries, etc, etc) D. Martinez recommends seeding grasses in after understory burns.

Dennis Martinez wrote an essay on Patterns of Indigenous Burning which outlines why and where they burned. (Managing food & materials, travel corridors, fuel load reduction, wildlife management) Plants were the basis of their economy so what they did, might not be the same as the choices we might make. But we do need to think about where, when & why we burn or use other disturbance regimes and how we follow up. Even if we do need to do short term fuel reduction.

And, of course, native perennial grasslands. Where were the 99% that are now missing? Probably ridge tops? Should we try to map that through the soils, etc.? Should we be developing seed sources? Here’s this from UC Davis:

Grasslands More Reliable Carbon Sink Than Trees

Questions, questions, questions…

However it does seem clear that climate change is more about saving the human race (and, of course, our favorite fellow travelers) than about ‘saving the planet’.

Think I’ll go back to playing my flute now. Sorry I can’t zoom in from my remote location.

My heart goes out to all of you who lost so much in this year’s fires!


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