Posts Tagged ‘fungi’

Climatic Migration is happening. Are we ready?

February 25, 2016

Anthropologist, Brian Fagan paints a sobering world picture for us in his book, The Attacking Ocean. We in NH are far enough inland and upland that unless we have past experiences of living near the ocean and can go back and experience the then and now, it is difficult to accept the reality of rising sea levels and loss of habitable land.

Fagan takes us through the natural events he considers our greatest threat: earthquakes, tsunamis, and tropical storms “which spread water horizontally over low-lying coastal landscapes and river deltas, some of the most densely inhabited environments on earth.”

Our challenge internationally is to figure out how we can cooperate to absorb the migrations that have already begun. In the US, inland migration has begun. How do we plan to share our space, food and water? Earth is prepared to nourish us if we are willing to cooperate and look at the big picture.

We already know that GMO monoculture plowed crops are destroying the life of the earth’s soil, despite the slick rhetoric advertised. The reality is that the fantastic network of soil mycorrhizal fungi which absorb and redistribute carbon and other nutrients through roots, and help to set in motion the release of oxygen we need, is being destroyed by plowing, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Courtney White traveled all over the world to observe innovative farmers and he takes us along through his book, Grass, Soil, Hope: A journey through Carbon Country. The good news is that permaculture farming, developed by two Australians: Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, is spreading all over the world. Also called no-till farming, permaculture farming avoids the use of plows, pesticides and herbicides. Instead, Prehistoric and Native American practices of no till (permaculture) farming not only enriches our soil, it stores abundant carbon as well.

Permculture farming assures erosion control by not disturbing the network of soil microbes, beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes (tiny worms). Mulching, cover cropping, and companion planting of diverse crops encourage a strong network. By not plowing up this network, these practices are reclaiming and protecting the soil, producing greater harvests of robust, healthy foods, free of harmful chemicals.

When Hurricane Irene hit Dorn Cox’s permaculture farm in Lee, NH, he noted “lots of rain but no damage”. Farmers who plowed had no underground network to protect their crops from hurricane energy.

White, a New Mexico farmer himself, takes us to visit ranchers out west who fence off their grassland into paddocks. By rotating herds through the paddocks, they avoid overgrazing and assure good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together; the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.

At a tenuous time when it seems as though every aspect of survival is up in the air, we could literally ground ourselves by reconnecting with Earth’s network as the snow recedes around our homes. How might we encourage the underground internet to flourish?


Lichen Alert

October 16, 2013

Two of the wonders of our White Mountains are our granite outcroppings and the array of lichen that are drawn to them. We marvel at the rich hew of color they add, busily painting every rock they anchor themselves on. Their story is one children delight in.

We usually tell children about the way lichen come to be. It goes something like this: fungi are slimy little organisms with strong tentacles that can grab onto rough granite and anchor themselves in the rock or on trees. They are so tenacious that if you ever try to scrape them off, you’ll find it difficult not to leave some of the fungi in place. BUT, fungi need food and since they’’ve anchored themselves to a rock, they can’t go shopping.

Algae are at home swimming in our lakes. They are like little food factory plants that float up into the atmosphere in the water cycle and get carried by the winds until they land on fungi. There, the algae find a solid foundation and the fungi have the food they need. When the algae and fungi come together like this, they become lichen. Because they give each other what they need, we call this a symbiotic relationship.

Now, the plot thickens, especially when we hike in the White Mountains, especially when or after it rains. Lichen, often dry and crusty on rocks when baked be the sun, willingly slurp up any rain and become slimy sluiceways that hikers need to beware of. One step on wet lichen and you would be amazed at how quickly balance is lost and you risk injury. Here’s how.

Last week twelve of us met to hike the 10 mi. Baldface loop in Evans Notch. We hiked up the first few miles in the understory of a variety of trees, shrubs and plants and hopped the rocks across streams.  It was great just to be out with friends. As we came to the open areas leading to the summits, we were relieved to find the rocks dry, making scrambles doable. This hike, being a loop over two summits, brings spectacular views of lakes, surrounding mountains and the burst of fall colors. We grazed on some ripe  blueberries and abundant cranberries, and found a sheltered well out of the wind to huddle in for lunch.

I love hiking into the wind over bald granite summits and down again into the shelter of trees, especially when hiking with friends and enjoying rich conversation from different perspectives. The last mile of this hike is relatively level and we were hiking in a closer pack with ease. Unconcerned with underfooting,  my mind focused on conversation, in the shadow of late afternoon light, I stepped on a slab of dark brown wet lichen and instantly went down, fracturing my left humerus.

Fortunately, we all carry emergency first aid supplies, my arm was gently put in a sling, I was handed a couple of ibuprophen tablets, my adrenalin kicked in for a safe mile out, and I was taken to the N. Conway ER.

Moral of the story: Hike with friends, carry emergency supplies and WATCH YOUR STEP, ESPECIALLY NEAR WET LICHEN.