Wednesday, October 26, 2005

WENT 'SHROOMIN'

I was absent from this page yesterday. I took the opportunity to do something I haven't done in years: I picked Chantrelles. For me this is just a matter of walking, as I live on the edge of some of the finest silvaculture in the world, currently in cycle between its second and third re-forestings. Formerly I tramped the lands now in twenty year old hybrid Douglas Fir under hundred year old timber that was for all practical purposes old-growth yet would have never been considered such. In those walks I reaped a bounty. Yesterday, walking the remains of the second forest I was less fortunate but was still rewarded.

I have of late discussed the merits of Spotted Owl Protection with blogger Sagebrush recently re-sited at http://www.sagebrusher.com/ As so often happens in long-running controversies, in the current debates of this subject the original reason for studying the Owl has been completely lost:

'Shrooms.

It may seem odd, but those massive old-growth are utterly dependent on certain fungi in the soil and duff of the forest floor for survival. The fungi and their co-inhabitants perform the all-important nutrient recycling that feeds the behemoths above. The specific players in the system and the food chains they support vary from place to place but the pattern persists.

In other parts of the world, declines in the forest floor biota have accompanied the death of the forests. Whether this is causual or coincidental has not been established. What has been noted is this die-back tends to occur in forests that have been managed for silvaculture for long periods of time. The die-back becomes evident at or after the third forest.

So how do you study a tiny fungus? You study the food chain it participates in. The original Spotted Owl studies were intended to track squirrels which fed on fungi. Count Owls, examine their droppings, and work backward. A healthy squirrel population gives an indication of the health of their food.

The hell of it is, after all the grief, all political twisting from both sides, we still don't have a good answer to the original questions and they are important.

I'd sure be more comfortable if I could find more 'shrooms.

Comments:
shrooms ... mmm. I used to go up on Mt Rainier and pick Chanterelles by the hefty bag. Now I'm usually stuck buying at Costco. I'm jealous.
 
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