Manzanita species, native only to San Francisco area — from feared extinction to treasured revival

KQEDondemand | January 19, 2011 | With their reddish bark and bell-shaped flowers, manzanitas are California’s iconic plants, adapted to the state’s many ecosystems. One of the two manzanitas that grew exclusively in San Francisco’s foggy climate, the Franciscana, was thought to have gone extinct in the wild until it was rediscovered in 2009. QUEST explores how the San Francisco Botanical Garden is toiling to give one of the city’s rarest native plants a second chance.
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The psychology of gardeners and environmentalists studied

Happy ecologists

American Society for Horticulture Science January 15, 2011, press release:

Taiwanese researchers Hui-Mei Chen, Hung-Ming Tu, and Chaang-Iuan Ho published a study in HortScience that explored an array of attitudes toward horticultural activities. The results showed that people engage in gardening and related activities for both psychological and environmental reasons.

The researchers used qualitative and quantitative methods to explore participants’ attitudes toward horticultural activities. In the first study, seven themes and several subthemes of attitudes were induced from open-ended interviews with participants. Based on interview results, a questionnaire was designed and a quantitative survey was conducted to identify the dimensions of attitudes toward horticultural activities. The researchers extracted five critical “dimensions of attitudes” toward horticultural activities: increasing positive mood, improving the environment, leisure belief, improving social relationships, and an attitude the researchers label “escaping.” Respondents rated the dimension of “increasing positive mood” highest, indicating an emphasis on psychological benefits such as feeling glad, pleased, optimistic, relaxed, tranquil, and comfortable as the essence of their attitudes toward horticultural activities. The researchers also found that that engaging in horticultural activities can provide people opportunities to forget worries, transfer attention, or experience another way of life, or “escape.” That the respondents rated the dimension of escaping so high emphasizes the importance of the restorative benefits of contact with nature, observed the scientists.

Participants also rated “improving the environment” as a critical dimension of their attitudes toward horticultural activities. This is a notable change from the well-known Leisure Attitude Scale (LAS), a 1982 model widely used by researchers in the leisure field; the LAS does not include “improving the environment.”

“To further promote horticultural activity as a form of leisure, it is crucial to first ascertain participants’ attitudes about it. Our research shows that horticultural activities are beneficial not only for individuals, but also for the environment,” the researchers wrote.

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Horticulture science recognizes five outstanding plant species for green roofs

Green roof module planted with blue grama grass in the first season of the trials. Photo by Jennifer Bousselot.

American Society for Horticulture Science January 16, 2011, press release:

Used throughout the world to lessen the environmental impact of urbanization, green roofs can offer a wide range of ecological and aesthetic benefits. A new study from researchers at Colorado State University’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture published in HortScience evaluated six plant species to determine the plants’ ability to thrive on extensive green roofs in Colorado. Five plants that survived the two-year experiment are recommended for use in semiarid regions.

Extensive green roofs are characterized by shallow-depth (typically less than 15 than centimeters deep) growing media. Previous research on species that can survive and thrive on extensive green roofs has shown that succulents outperform most non-succulents. Jennifer Bousselot, who led the Colorado study, noted that other green roof studies conducted elsewhere in the United States evaluated nonsucculents that were “typically native to areas with high annual precipitation and relatively deep soil profiles.” The CSU researchers postulated that plants native to the Rocky Mountain region, especially those that inhabit areas with shallow, rocky, well-drained soils, may be better suited for use in extensive green roof systems. According to Bousselot, until this study extensive green roofs have not been scientifically evaluated in the high-elevation, semiarid climate of Colorado.

Though visual assessment and visual ratings have traditionally been used for measuring plant success on green roofs, these methods are usually subjective and not quantitative. To obtain more accurate data, the Colorado State University scientists compared digital image analysis data (DIA)—a process that incorporates periodic photographing of plants and digital analysis of the images—with manually collected converted two-dimensional data (C2D). The team determined that DIA and C2D are both useful for quantifying plant cover. “The DIA analysis appears to be a reliable substitution for the less accurate C2D method. Additionally, DIA can be used to estimate biomass accumulation, specifically for groundcover species.”

The researchers examined plant area covered for six species. Plant cover increased for all six during the 2008 growing season, but one species, Kannah Creek Buckwheat, experienced low winter survival and was removed from the study in 2009. Of the remaining five species evaluated, blue grama and hardy ice plant outperformed small-leaf pussytoes, brittle pricklypear, and spearleaf stonecrop. Bousselot noted that because five species survived over the two years of this study, these species should be considered for use on extensive green roofs in semiarid regions.

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The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/45/8/1288

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at ashs.org

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Community program builds gardens in low-income homeowners’ yards

NeEddra | January 18, 2011 | Check out this brand new video of a free garden installation for a low-income family in east Oakland, California. This video was made to commemorate the Innovation in Philanthropy Award Planting Justice recently received.
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Bumble bees in decline; habitat loss likely contributor

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Jan. 3, 2011, press release:

A three-year study analyzed the geographic distribution and genetic diversity of eight species of bumble bees in the U.S., relying on historical records and repeated surveys of about 400 sites. The researchers compiled a database of more than 73,000 museum records and compared them with current sampling based on intensive national surveys of more than 16,000 specimens.

The national analysis found that the relative abundances of four of the eight species analyzed have declined by as much as 96 percent and that their surveyed geographic ranges have shrunk by 23 to 87 percent. Some of these contractions have occurred in the last two decades.

Researchers have many hypotheses about what is causing the declines, but none have been proven. Climate change appears to play a role in the declines in some bumble bee species in Europe. Habitat loss may also contribute to the loss of some specialist species, she said. Low genetic diversity and high infection rates with the parasite pathogen are also prime suspects.

Read more here.

IMAGE by Janet Sinn‑Hanlon of the Imaging Technology Center, Beckman Institute, University of Illinois

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Sudden oak death: USDA publishes comprehensive report

https://i1.wp.com/www.nasa.gov/images/content/105917main_suddenOakDeath.jpg

Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus that causes the disease known as Sudden Oak Death. Depending on the plant species, its infection may occur on the trunk, branches, and/or leaves of a tree. Infections on the woody portions of a tree are referred to as cankers. Cankers on the trunk of oak and tanoak trees are the most damaging and often lead to death. This fungus thrives in cool, wet climates. Photo: Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service

 

USDA December 27, 2010, press release:

Synthesizing more than 10 years of cooperative research on the exotic invasive, quarantine sudden oak death pathogen, the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) recently published “Sudden Oak Death and Phytophthora ramorum: A Summary of the Literature.” This 181-page comprehensive report covers a wide range of topics, including a history of sudden oak death, identification and distribution of the disease, epidemiology and modeling, management and control, and economic and environmental impacts.

The pathogen was new to science when identified in 2000.

Read more here.

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Town builds water treatment system with natural landscaping

ANewsVanIsland | December 15, 2010 | The town of View Royal, British Columbia, is set on improving both its roads, and the cleanliness of the stormwater runoff from them.

A big part of the Island Hwy Improvement Project is the adjacent Portage Park storm water treatment area.

The natural landscaping utilizes a number of native plants, storm drains, and holding ponds to filter heavy metals and impurities, such as oil, before it trickles down into Thetis Cove.

The area is abundant with wildlife, including herons, ducks, and other waterfowl, that feed there.

And despite the short-term pain, these improvements, including bike lanes, are expected to cut carbon emissions by almost 5,000 tons per year, while creating an environment that all species will benefit from.

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Climate change and earlier flowering linked by UC biologist

University of Cincinnati November 16, 2010, press release:

According to research published today by a University of Cincinnati faculty member, native plants in southwestern Ohio are flowering significantly earlier, a finding he attributes, at least in part, to global warming.

UC biologist Denis Conover, field service associate professor, has spent countless hours walking the Shaker Trace Wetlands at Miami Whitewater Forest over the last 18 years to survey hundreds of different plant species.

Conover’s results, published in the December issue of Ecological Restoration, reveal that for species that were observed flowering during two distinct multi-year surveys, a significant number of wild plants (39%) bloomed earlier from 2005 to 2008 than when he recorded the same species’ blooming times from 1992 to 1996. Forty-five percent of the plants bloomed at the same time, and 16% bloomed later.

Read more here.

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New study: Medusahead grass will outcompete other invasive grasses in U.S. West

Medusahead

University of California-Berkeley photo.

 

Oregon State University November 11, 2010, press release:

A new field study confirms that an invasive weed called Medusahead [Taeniatherum caput-medusae] has growth advantages over most other grass species, suggesting it will continue to spread across much of the West, disrupt native ecosystems and make millions of acres of grazing land almost worthless.

The research, by scientists from Oregon State University and the Agricultural Research Service, was one of the most comprehensive studies ever done that compared the “relative growth rate” of this invasive annual grass to that of other competing species in natural field conditions.

“Medusahead is now spreading at about 12% a year over 17 western states,” said Seema Mangla, a researcher in the OSU College of Forestry. “Once established, it’s very hard to get rid of. It displaces native grasses and even other invasive species that animals can still eat. Unless we do more to stop it, Medusahead will take over much of the native grassland in the West.

Read more here.

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Invasive plants can rob migratory birds of nutrition needed to cross Gulf of Mexico

kkbrasted | November 8, 2010 | Invasive plants out-compete the native plants for resources like sunlight, moisture in the soil, and space. The invasive plants, particularly Chinese Tallow and Chinese Privet, are fast growing. When you have a disturbed habitat, like that occurring following a hurricane, the invasive species move in and out-compete the natives. The entire northern gulf coast is critical stop-over habitat for migratory birds. Millions of birds migrate across the gulf coast every fall. They return in the spring. The birds tend to eat the Chinese Tallow seeds but do not provide the nutritional value the birds need to sustain themselves across the gulf in their travels. At the height of spring migration as many as 20 million birds can cross the gulf in one day. These coastal forests are critically important to provide re-fueling areas for migratory birds.
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