looking for ideas

dwheeler at teleport.com dwheeler at teleport.com
Wed Dec 31 15:01:07 EST 1997

In article <19971230220800.RAA25453 at ladder02.news.aol.com>,
  jkrist at aol.com (Jkrist) wrote:
> I am an editorial writer and opinion-page columnist for a 100,000-circulation
> daily newspaper in Southern California. I have been awarded a fellowship by the
> Society of Professional Journalists to research non-confrontational resolutions
> of environmental conflicts, and I am inviting suggestions from members of this
> group.

As far as I can tell, each conflict boils down to one person's attempt to
extract value from forest over someone else's attempt to reserve that
value as natural.

Both sides have good points. This appears to be a case of a diverse
population wanting all things for all people. I just wish some of it were
based on trees and ecosystems. Little is said over planning a new ski
resort covering a square mile (or several) on high altitude slopes. This
is great for erosion and additional salt added to the water tables. It is
not good for plants.

> The subjects I am interested in are preservation of biodiversity, including
> recovery of endangered species; resource extraction, including logging, mining,
> grazing and water diversion; and rural land use patterns. I am particularly
> seeking approaches that rely on collaboration or market-based forces to produce
> outcomes that are economically desirable and biologically sound. These may
> include such things as adoption of sustainable rangeland or forestry
> techniques, development of voluntary habitat conservation plans, and use of
> conservation easements or land trusts to prevent urban sprawl and habitat
> fragmentation.

The majority of species are soil organisms, which in general either feed
on fungi or on leaf-litter deposited each year. I have one reference to
at least 100,000 species per cubic foot of soil collected from the H.J.
Andrews Experimental Forest outside of Eugene, Oregon.

Also in Oregon, fungi comprise the majority of live biomass (The Primary
Source estimates 52-55% of all biomass of forest or plantation is
fungal). An attempt to deal with other models while ignoring fungi is an
experiment in determining failure.

If you do not manage fungi, it _will_ manage you.

> If you know of a specific example of such techniques being used to resolve a
> potential conflict over natural resources or land use, I would appreciate
> hearing from you. Please include a brief description of the program, along with
> the name and phone number or address of a contact person if possible. Please
> reply directly to me by e-mail at: JKrist at aol.com.
> Thank you for your consideration.

Since I have little say over whether environmentalists or foresters
extract trees from public lands, I have worked exclusively with private
treefarmers. In 1986 I began innoculation attempts to grow truffles on a
Christmas tree farm outside of Oregon City, Oregon. These attempts have
apparently been successful. (See the website below).

I prefer to grow trees by introducing naturally occuring mycorrhizal
fungi. But I also recognize that trees have a succession of these fungi
as they mature. Some will, I hope, come in naturally with animal feces,
especially owl. This reason is essentially why the Northern Spotted owl
is important to ecosystems: it disperses mycorrhizal fungi in its dung
and pellets everytime it defecates or regurgitates. (This is nature: it
is not necessarily pretty). Of an estimated 3,000 species of mycorrhizal
fungi found with Douglas fir, I have now cultivated perhaps 30. This is
not a good or even profound number. But it is about 25 species more than
anyone else I know of.

Some of these fungi have considerable value. And because one or more
species fruits every year, they become a truly renewable crop. And to
ensure this, most years I or the land-owner re-innoculates.

However, this is a plantation: 99% pure Douglas fir, originally planted
as a Christmas tree farm with 5-foot spacing between trees. Most of these
trees will die from lack of sunlight, competition for soil nutrients and
water, and potentially parasitic fungi. The most common reason for
old-growth trees death each year is not clearcutting, but a saprophytic
fungi called Fomes annotosum, or Douglas fir root rot. Clearcutting does,
however, provide Fomes annotosum with an abundance of food. The fungus
can then transfer from dead wood to growing trees via underground
mycelium and roots. Thus the name, Douglas fir _root_ rot. In nature
fires char and sterilize the surface of wood, ensuring that most of it is
infected with other species of rapid-growing fungi. Fomest annotosum is
very slow growing, and can remain in an area for hundreds of years. A
single fruiting body (sporocarp) can producing millions of spores each
year, and the sporocarps are perennial. You've probably seen some: they
are called conks.

Ironically, plantations may be part of the answer. Tuber gibbosum (Oregon
White truffles) and possibly other mycorrhizal fungi, act as fungal
prophylactics against infection with Fomes annotosum. Thus plantations
innoculated with Tuber gibbosum are more likely to remain relatively
healthy for the first 50 years of life at least. Perhaps after another 50
years, science will be able to help some with the cultivation of
mycorrhizal fungi found with trees older than 50 years.

Recently on the Internet, a study was published detailing how a single
..5cm of rootlet was colonized by 7 different species of mycorrhizal
fungi. Helen V. Smith, an expert in the genus Cortinarius, found 57
different species of Cortinarius mushrooms fruiting at the same time on
an isolated Douglas fir surrounded by sand dunes. It was estimated the
nearest tree was over 100 yards distant, thus confirming that a single
Douglas fir can host not just one species of mycorrhizal fungi at a time,
but at least 57 different species at once.

At the treefarm where I grow truffles, Charles LeFebre of Oregon State
University visited in July, 1997. His purpose was to try to find
mycorrhizae of Tuber giganteum, which is abundant on the site. Several
ounces of T. giganteum were collected. The roots near these fungi were
also collected. Charles later e- mailed me saying that nearly 100% of the
roots were innoculated: with Rhizopogon mycorrhizae. This is strong
evidence that there is successional fungi in forests. The stand was first
innoculated with Rhizopogons in 1986, and with Tubers in 1986-7. This may
have been fortuitous. The site is producing several hundred pounds of
truffles per acre per year at this time. These truffles appear to be
worth more than the trees. But the truffles also grow the trees rapidly
by gathering water, phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen.

All truffles are mycorrhizal. Dr. James Trape has noted it is easy to
find a tree in forest without mycorrhizal fungi: it's dead.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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