In case you missed it, 2015 Shark Week officially started last Sunday, July 5th.
The week-long programming event was started by Discovery Channel in July, 1988. The intention then was to raise awareness and respect for sharks, though now, it seems to make even more people afraid of sharks…and definitely continues to raise Discovery Channel’s ratings.
Shark Week is now broadcast in 72 countries and is the longest-running programming event in cable T.V. history.
I am one of those people who have a fear of sharks (isn’t everyone afraid of sharks???). Through my blog, I’ve learned a lot more about them, and now I do have respect for these ancient creatures.
For Shark Week, I am posting links to my blog’s shark-related posts, just in case you don’t watch much T.V. and want to learn more about sharks.
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, contributed by Sean Van Sommeran
My first post was about a 4,000 lb “great white” shark tagged off Ano Nuevo Island (county of Santa Cruz, California) in the 1990’s and caught by accident in the Sea of Cortez, Baja area of Mexico in 2012.
Sharks have low reproduction rates, and because they are terrific at foraging and as predators in our oceans, the low reproduction rate worked just fine for them. That is.. until the introduction of modern fishing methods. Today, many shark species are considered threatened or endangered, and some sharks in the U.S. are regionally extinct. More here…
Shark photo from U.S. – NOAA website
And if you have ever wondered what the chances are of getting hit by lightning vs. being attacked by a shark on U.S. coastlines, there is a blog post with state-by-state details, from 50 years of data. Excerpt:
Over the last few years, there have been shark attacks off a California state-run beach near where we live. The most recent attack involved a 27-year-old surfer, in October of last year. Thankfully, the attacks were not fatal.
Of course if you stay out of the water, your shark attack chances are zero. But for those who love spending time and activities in the ocean, and have a fear of sharks, this post lists statistics and information that should allay your shark attack fears. More here…
Americans throw out a lot of perfectly good food — about $1,600 for a typical family per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
On a local level, many of us have heard of grocery stores throwing out food because it is nearing the “sell by” date… but we don’t often hear about the waste generated by food manufacturers.
Salinas Valley, California Farm Fields
Monterey County is the top producer of salad greens in the U.S. The bag salad was invented here, and many people now opt to buy these plastic bag salad mixes instead of a head of lettuce. It’s convenient, and perfect for our busy lifestyles.
It is understandable that farms can produce a surplus of food, and that sometimes, the excess bagged salad greens nearing the “sell by” date (if they cannot or do not donate to local food banks) must be sent to the municipal dump.
And just how much goes to the dump is the focus of National Public Radio’s (NPR) Allison Aubrey’s report on the Salinas Valley and the bags of salad greens that do end up in the dump.
I’ve included this NPR report on food waste to my earlier post on Iceberg lettuce and posting here.
Photo by Allison Aubrey via NPR’s Food News Program “The Salt”
I am surprised to learn how much garbage we are adding to our waste stream through this industry.
In light of the technology we have these days, it is disturbing that we have this much waste. Even more disturbing is the precious water wasted to grow food that is not eaten (especially that we are in our 4th year of drought), the addition of more garbage (that should be composted) to our landfills, and subsequent (and unnecessary) release of more methane gas to our atmosphere.
Hopefully, this industry is creating systems that minimizes this food waste. Reports like this one certainly help to highlight these problems.
Have you heard of similar food waste stories, whether through local grocery stores or food manufacturers near where you live? Do you know what they are doing about it or have suggestions?
I love seashells. I am a collector of little shells and interesting objects I find while walking on the beach.
While some beaches are known for their variety of seashells and for beach combing (like those in Florida, Hawaii and Gulf states), at the beaches here in Monterey Bay, you will likely run into seaweed or giant kelp that have lost their tether and left their undersea home, rather than shells. It is not a beach you visit to collect seashells.
My grandson, Gabriel, having fun with kelp that washed up on the beach.
But…you will see sand dollars, broken clam or mussel shells (perhaps remnants from many sea otter lunches), a lot of driftwood, and depending on the beach, pretty little stones, or smooth glass pieces.
The boys lining up their find of sand dollars… At this beach walk, each of the sand dollars they found (oddly) had barnacles growing on top.
The few shells that do end up on the beach are usually clean, because the animal that lived inside was already eaten by other creatures, shore birds and beach scavengers…or have rotted away before the tide and waves pushed them onto the beach.
My grandson, Jun, showing California mussel shells that washed ashore. Mussels filters two to three quarts (about two to three liters) of water every hour in order to collect enough food to survive.
My grandsons have picked up my little beach object collecting habit, and we have come back from beach walks with bits of shells, a pretty rock or tiny driftwood.
I started to put their treasures in glass jars, not because they are colorful or striking like those found at other beaches, but because they liked it and picked it up, and it was a little treasure to them.
Some of the little shells and rocks my grandsons collected are in this glass jar.
Although Monterey Bay beaches are not known for pretty seashells, tourist stores — especially those at the Fisherman’s Wharf — do sell colorful sea shells from different parts of the world.
Just as people enjoy eating seafood when visiting seaside towns, people also like buying shells and related products as souvenirs. I’m sure stores that sell seashells and dried up starfish and other marine animals can be be found in just about any seaside community that caters to tourists.
A few years ago, during the off-season for tourists, I stopped by a store off of Highway 1 that sold shells and seashell products.
Their sign indicated “Sea Shells from Around the World”… but really, the majority of the shells are from a certain part of the world, and that is the Philippines. In fact, when I went inside to browse, about 90% of the shells were marked as being from the Philippines.
Why is this? First, the Philippines has a rich and diverse ocean life (cited as “the center of the center” of biodiversityby researchers at the California Academy of Sciences) with an amazing array of seashells — many of which are prized by collectors.
Second, the Philippines is a poor country…so those in the shell trade could easily exploit locals with low pay to collect these shells for export to tourist shops.
Sea shell shop Monterey Bay “Off-season”
Growing up in the Philippines, I was accustomed to seeing seashell products fashioned into jewelry, necklaces and decorative items, or dried marine animals like starfish, seahorses glued onto frames and home decor items.
Because they were so common, I always thought that these seashells and marine animals were picked up by beach combing… as in, the creatures are already dead and washed ashore.
After a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seahorse Exhibit, I learned otherwise. From my blog post about the exhibit…
This is not the case, and much of these animals are collected ALIVE and dried to make these souvenirs.
I am saddened at how uninformed I was about this practice! Family and friends, please do not buy these souvenirs.
With everything else happening to our oceans, we all have to do our part to stop this. And please spread the word about protecting these fragile and fascinating creatures. In the process, we also protect and preserve their homes —and our home. More here
This poster from the Aquarium says it best…
In support of World Oceans Day and as part of a series for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge, I am again posting this information.
If I made this incorrect assumption about the shells and dried starfish or seahorses sold at tourist shops, then there are probably others who do not know this information. More from a shell article in Wikipedia:
…the majority of seashells which are offered for sale commercially have been collected alive (often in bulk) and then killed and cleaned, specifically for the commercial trade. This type of large-scale exploitation can sometimes have a strong negative impact on local ecosystems, and sometimes can significantly reduce the distribution of rare species.
I am also re-posting this video from the California Academy of Sciences, on the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world. Excerpt from my post about seahorses:
…The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.
US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source. See full post here…including a link about the sea dragons (and seahorses) supply chain and market.
Have you heard of, or used products with dried seahorses?
I can’t help but think that we are doing the same thing to our ocean and its resources, as we did with our forests. Are we going to look back 25 years from now and find out we unknowingly wiped out certain species of marine life because of unsustainable fishing… and what seems like an innocuous shell collecting hobby?
Can we stop and first find out how these shells are harvested? If it is done sustainably, or if these creatures are collected beach comb style, then we can happily collect to our heart’s content. But if not, then we need to find ways to educate the public so we can make responsible choices about the shells we buy. I don’t want my grandchildren to ask why our generation let the same thing happen to our oceans, as we did to our forests in the Philippines.
Are you a seashell collector? If you buy seashells from seaside tourist shops, should the shops let consumers know if the shells were collected from the shore, or sustainably harvested?
When my daughter was little, one of her favorite places to visit was the California Academy of Sciences, located within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. We spent a lot time looking at exhibits there, from the dramatic dioramas in the African Hall to working in a show at the Morrison Planetarium.
Of all the permanent and temporary exhibits at the Academy, the place where we spent the most time was the Steinhart Aquarium. It was a fascinating place for kids and adults, and when we had family visiting, it was often a place we took them during their stays with us.
The California Academy of Sciences looks much different today than it did when we lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and the Steinhart Aquarium now feature a Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit.
The 212,000 gallon exhibit includes the largest display of living coral in the world — all from the Philippines, a country that has the most diverse reef ecosystem in the world.
I’ve always wondered what the connection was between the Steinhart Aquarium and the Philippines, and recently learned that researchers from the Academy have worked in and around the Philippine archipelago (of over 7,000 islands) for over 100 years.
Last year, a team of scientists from the Academy explored new sites and depths in an area of the Philippines off the coast of the main island of Luzon, near Batangas.
This area — near Isla Verde — is called the “Coral Triangle” and reportedly has over 1/2 of the world’s species of coral.
From the Academy’s website…
Within the Coral Triangle is an area known as the Verde Island Passage—waters teeming with such an abundance of life that Academy scientists suspect it may be “the center of the center” of biodiversity.
Our 2014 expedition sought to document the astounding life in the Verde Island Passage by collecting and identifying species not yet described (and in many cases never before seen) and creating a base of knowledge that will help to protect this area going forward.
And what Academy researchers found in this “Coral Triangle Area” last year was amazing. On June 8th, 2015 — and to celebrate World Ocean Day — they made this announcement:
Here are photosof some of the new marine species found during the expedition…
These new marine species are stunning, and how incredible to learn that there are still undiscovered species living in our oceans!
And who knows… perhaps one of these newly discovered creatures will help us produce a cure for cancer or hold keys and answers to the mysteries of life on our planet.
So the challenge is…. how can areas like this “Coral Triangle” be protected, knowing what we do about the severe threats to marine life and the health of oceans surrounding the Philippine islands due to pollution, over-development of coastal areas, poverty, overpopulation, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices?
From the Academy website:
To combat these dangers, the Academy developed a practice of rapidly translating data collected in the field into effective marine conservation actions.
By working with Filipino and international governments, organizations, and communities, we’ve been able to create real-world change.
Real world change means that as new discoveries are made, scientists take the data and work in collaboration with Philippine government officials and decision makers so that in turn, policy makers can take immediate actions to help protect these areas.
I realize solving the problems that harm our oceans are complex, and will require global cooperation and focus — especially as it relates to pollution and poverty. But it seems to me, the method directed by Academy scientists may be a good model if immediate steps are indeed taken to preserve natural resources.
It is easy to be cynical (I know I am at times!) but I do think this approach, and increasing awareness about marine life is a positive step towards helping us — and the next generation of human beings — to be better stewards of our oceans and our natural resources.
Maybe the next time someone is tempted to leave trash or plastic bottles on the beach, they will remember these amazing creatures and the harm that it will cause…and do the right thing. Ideally, the new generation will place as much focus on conservation issues as is placed today on celebrity news / political gossip. Yes, I’m hopeful!
This video from the Academy tells how the 7,107 islands in the Philippines came to be…and the urgency in studying its marine biodiversity hotspots.
Have you heard of these new discoveries?
Are you hopeful, as I am, that scientists, conservation groups and a willing government / policy makers (and we, the public) can reverse the decline of our ocean’s health… or do you think it is too late?
This post is part of a series in support of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast. To take part in this blogging event and to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet”click here.
Previous Earth-Friendly Chroniclers articles posted on LolaKo.com are here.
As an immigrant to the U.S., I am always interested in immigration topics, especially as it relates to Filipinos.
If you have ever wondered about the country of birth of new American citizens, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) publishes this data through the Office of Immigration Statistics.
The Top 5 Country of Birth for New Americans (for fiscal year 2011 to 2013):
Dominican Republic (39.590)
And here is the chart of the Top 20 Country of Birth for New Americans:
Note: Filipinos dropped to #3 after India, from the #2 spot after Mexico in the data compiled for the previous report.
With Mexico being a neighboring country, it is no surprise that most new Americans were born in Mexico.
But what about the other countries? Does this country of birth data surprise you? For example, that India is #2 and that Iran (a country we often hear about in terms of U.S. foreign affairs) is in the Top 20 countries?
The chart below lists the top states where new Americans resided, at the time they became naturalized.
The number of new Americans residing in these 10 states represent 75% of those who naturalized. The data pretty much matches the states with the most population, and so there were no surprises for me on this chart. How about you?
Do you know what it takes to become a U.S. citizen? From the Department of Homeland Security:
An applicant for naturalization must fulfill certain requirements set forth in the INA concerning age, lawful admission and residence in the United States. These general naturalization provisions specify that a foreign national must be at least 18 years of age; be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR); and have resided in the country continuously for at least five years. Additional requirements include the ability to speak, read, and write the English language; knowledge of the U.S. government and history; and good moral character.
Up until the 1970s, most people who become American citizens were born in European countries.
It shifted from Europe to Asia because of increased legal immigration from Asian countries, and the arrival of refugees from countries like Vietnam in the 1970s. Since 1976, countries in the Asian region has led as the origin of birth for new American citizens.
I’ve seen this plant with beautiful, spiky purple flowers growing around Monterey Bay for many years. I took photos a few months ago when they were in full bloom.
The flower photo above is from a shrub growing in the wild, near the Salinas river, where the river merges with the Pacific Ocean. I spotted it while taking photographs for a post about my watershed.
I’ve always found these flowers attractive — and also photographed some in bloom at the entrance of Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.
I read on one of the blogs I follow that Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge theme this week was purple, and remembered these flowers. I have wanted to take part for a while, and thought the flowers were perfect to post for the theme.
Not knowing the name, I did an image search and learned that they are called Pride of Maidera (Echium candicans).It is a perennial shrub native to the island of Maidera in Portugal, much loved by bees and butterflies for its nectar. It is drought tolerant, and a popular ornamental plant in coastal California.
Click on the photo for more garden images, taken at the historic Monterey downtown area.
And lastly, a non-flower related (but these young girls are pretty as flowers!) photo of Baile Folklorico dance group members, performing for a community celebration on the occasion of Cesar Chavez Day.
Click on the photo to see more dance photos, for the commemorative holiday that celebrates the legacy of civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez (promoting community service).
If you live in California — or even if you don’t — you probably think about earthquakes every now and then, and most likely have heard of the San Andreas Fault.
The San Andreas Fault – Image via NASA (Public Domain)
From what I understand, this fault is a boundary where two parts of the earth’s crust (the Pacific plate – under the Pacific Ocean and the North American plate) meet.
The San Andreas Fault stretches for 810 miles (1300 km) across California, from the Salton Sea in the south all the way to Humboldt County, 200 miles north of San Francisco. It is the most studied boundary plate on our planet for the following reasons:
it is on land, and therefore easier to study than tectonic plates that meet in the ocean
the fault is in close proximity to educational institutions and organizations dedicated to earthquake research
There are cities and communities that sit directly on the San Andreas Fault, and we lived in one of these communities while stationed at a base in the Mojave Desert in Southern California.
Late in the summer of 1981, Jeff and I drove from our military base in the high desert to the San Gabriel mountains. He wanted to show me the little town where he and his friend, Bill, skied during the winter. The town we visited is called Wrightwod, and about 40 miles (64 km) away from the base, at 6,000 feet (1809 m) elevation.
At the time, there were just over 2,000 people living there, though in the winter, there were many more as it was a popular ski resort area about 75 (124 km) miles from Los Angeles, in San Bernardino County.
Vintage photo! Wrightwood, California, Fall of 1981. This area is covered in snow in the winter, and the bare ski trails of the Mountain High Ski Resort can be seen on this photo.
While in Wrightwood, we went to a pub, where the bartender overheard us talking about how beautiful it was there. He told us about a little cabin for rent just down the street. On a lark, we decided to visit the cabin, and met the owners (who lived in the house next door).
It was partly furnished, had 1 bedroom, a fireplace, a loft space, and knotted pine walls. It faced California’s State Highway 2, and behind the cabin was a hill.
The little cabin home we rented in Wrightwood, California.
Front of the cabin, facing California Highway 2
We rented it on the spot, not even thinking about the drive we had to make back and forth from the base (about 45 minutes to 1 hour each way).
Shortly after our move, we met a fellow service member living there, and a civilian who also worked at the base, meaning we were able to join in a carpool.
Cabin roof after the first major storm, winter 1981. We were trapped as it took a while for the highways to be cleared.
Later on, I learned that the town sat on the San Andreas Fault from a newspaper article a co-worker showed me. Wow…. a fault…oh, what is a fault? Earthquakes… really?
Philippine Casiguran Earthquake
When I was little and we lived in Manila, a big earthquake hit the Philippines. I remember my mother rushing us outside (that is what you were told to do back then), and the distraught neighbors around us talking about fires and something about the Ruby Tower.
With a bit of research, I found out that the Philippine earthquake happened in 1968 and was called the “Casiguran earthquake”.
Since it happened at night, I most likely was asleep when it hit. More about this earthquake from a Wikipedia article:
The city of Manila was the hardest hit with 268 people killed and 261 more injured.
Many structures that suffered severe damage were built near the mouth of the Pasig River on hugealluvialdeposits.
A number of buildings were damaged beyond repair while others only suffered cosmetic damage.
Two hundred and sixty people died during the collapse of the six-story Ruby Tower, located in the district of Binondo. The entire building, save for a portion of the first and second floors at its northern end, was destroyed. Allegations of poor design and construction, as well as use of low-quality building materials, arose. (More here)
Besides the earthquake in Manila, I had not experienced any other major earthquakes, and none while living in California at that point, so I didn’t really think much more about it.
California 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake
Years later, we moved to the San Francisco Bay area, and lived here when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit Northern California. The Loma Preita is in a segment of the San Andreas Fault.
The beautiful San Francisco skyline as seen from Treasure Island at sunset (2012) Photo LolaKo.com
The Loma Prieta earthquake is memorable because it happened during a World Series baseball championship, and was broadcast live on national television.
Due to the World Series, casualties were amazingly low (63 deaths and 3,757 injured). Instead of being in the rush hour traffic heading home, many people left work early to watch the game, and traffic was lighter than normal.
While casualties were low compared to other earthquakes of the same magnitude, the Loma Prieta earthquake remains one of the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the United States.
To the left of this photo is the Oakland – San Francisco “Bay Bridge”. Photo LolaKo.com
My younger sister was working in a San Francisco high-rise office building at the time of the earthquake.
It took us 5 hours to reach her by phone, when she finally made her way home…and we were relieved to find out she was safe and unhurt.
We lived in the East Bay, and I was in the car on the way to pick up my older sister when the earthquake happened. I suddenly lost the radio signal, and felt the car making unusual movements — movements that I could not control with my steering wheel.
A few minutes later, I arrived at my older sister’s workplace. She was already outside of the office building where she worked, and felt the earth quake beneath her feet, and saw the building she was just in, move and slightly sway. She opened the car door and got in…we both couldn’t believe that a strong earthquake had just occurred.
The collapsed upper portion of the Bay Bridge. Photo by USGS via public domain
We rushed to pick up my daughter from her after-school care. She was outside at the playground during the earthquake, and she (and her teachers) told us they distinctly remembered that the birds stopped chirping right before and after the shaking.
We tuned into the news as soon as we got home — and were glued to the television set for hours.
It was a mistake, because the constant image of fires in the Marina District of San Francisco, and the collapse of a portion of the Bay Bridge made my daughter anxious about crossing the bridge, for many years after the earthquake!
San Andreas Fault North / South
Another well-known earthquake in California was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed 80% of San Francisco and killed 3,000 people. The 1906 earthquake is also connected to the north part of the San Andreas Fault.
In terms of the death toll, the 1906 earthquake is the worst natural disaster in California’s history.
The part of the fault where Wrightwood is located is in the south part the San Andreas Fault.
If you want to read more about Wrightwood as it relates to the San Andreas Fault, past earthquakes and predictions for future earthquakes, visit this GeoScience World article.
There have been many earthquakes in this part of the fault, and they note “These observations and elapsed times that are significantly longer than mean recurrence intervals at Wrightwood and sites to the southeast suggest that at least the southermost 200 km of the San Andreas fault is near failure.“
San Andreas – The Movie
You may hear even more about the San Andreas Fault this summer.
An earthquake disaster movie with Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) is now playing in movie theaters, and it is called (what else?) San Andreas.
Here is the preview…
Nothing like seeing the place where you live (and that you love) destroyed and in total chaos…with millions of people in peril.
But at least it is just a movie, and perhaps it will make us think about our emergency preparedness, and supporting strict building codes and improvements that incorporate new technology to save lives in the event of “the big one”.
If the “big one” hits, will California fall into the Pacific Ocean?
Greater Los Angeles area – photo posted for article The Los Angeles Spread. Photo LolaKo.com
The San Andreas movie trailer shows the ground splitting, complete destruction of buildings in downtown Los Angeles, and a tsunami in the process of finishing off the city of San Francisco.
The tsunami scenario is certainly real… and of all the natural disasters in the world’s history (i.e., volcanoes erupting, heatwaves, floods, typhoons, cyclones) earthquakes by far have killed more people than any other.
But the myth that you may have heard of — that California could somehow fall into the sea — when the big one hits, well, it is just that, a MYTH.
…The San Andreas Fault System is the dividing line between two tectonic plates. The Pacific Plate is moving in a northwesterly direction relative to the North American plate. The movement is horizontal, so while Los Angeles is moving toward San Francisco, California won’t sink. However, earthquakes can cause landslides, slightly changing the shape of the coastline.
To further allay immediate concerns about a complete change in the California landscape should the big one occur on the San Andreas Fault (SAF), here is a clip from SanAndreasFault.org: on how long it would take for California to look different from how we see it today:
I don’t know about you, but for me…that’s good to know!
Do you live in an earthquake prone area?
It seems to me that the entire state of California is earthquake prone, but it has not stopped people from living here. There are now 38 million people that live in California — that is 1 out of every 8 Americans.
Have you heard about the San Andreas Fault or do you have earthquakes worries where you live? I would also like to hear about your own earthquake experience, so please do leave comment.
From SanAndreasFault.org, see cities and communities in the fault zone (San Bernadino, along with Wrightwood in Southern Claifornia, and closer to home here in the Monterey Bay — Aromas, San Juan Bautista…)
Data from the USGS on the largest and deadliest earthquakes over the last 25 years.
It is easy mistake the poison hemlock plant (Conium maculatum) with another plant called “Queen Anne’s lace” (Daucus carota – and also called wild carrot).
Poison hemlock and Queen Anne’s lace belong to the same family of plants (carrots and parsley). So, not only are the delicate, pretty white flowers similar, the leaves are similar too!
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful white flowers of these plants in different parts of California. I spent a lot of time on the road in my prior work — and a lot of time stuck in traffic in the Bay Area — which means, a lot of time to look out the window and see plants growing on the side the road.
I thought these flowers all came from the same plant (Queen Anne’s lace) and did not know very much about them.
Through the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge this month — focused on biodiversity — I now know that there are two different plants with very similar flowers that grow here in my ecoregion.
Challenge, #10 asked that we play a naturalist version of I “Spy!” at our ecoregion, to take a camera, and observe what we see. I went to the greenbelt space behind where we live here in the Central Coast.
I “spied” these familiar flowers and wanted to know more, because there were many of the plants here. Most were already flowering, with white, lacy blooms. There were rather tall plants (taller than me) and some of the flowers came from shorter plants.
While it is good to know that this plant is not (at least not yet) as problematic as the iceplant or starthistle in California, it was disturbing to learn that these plants have naturalized here and are now invasive.
Even more disturbing is to learn that all parts of these plants are toxic (flowers, seeds, leaves, canes)…and even the dead parts of the plants can remain toxic for up to 3 years.
And not mildly toxic, or an irritant, but really TOXIC, as in the plant is deadly for humans and animals.
Poison hemlock is native to Europe’s Mediterranean region. The ancient Greeks used the plant to poison prisoners condemned to death — including the philosopher Socrates.
The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David
Because these plants are in the same family of plants as carrots and parsley, it is understandable how people can accidentally ingest the plants. From a May, 2015 Food Safety News article:
All parts of poison-hemlock can kill humans and animals, even when it is dried. Foragers can easily mistake it for wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace), parsley, parsnip, sweet cicely, anise, fennel, wild chervil, and caraway, as well as other plants in the parsley or carrot family (Apiaceae), such as the violently toxic western-water-hemlock, or watercress, which is in another family.
…“Misidentifying poison hemlock or other toxic plants can have truly tragic results,” says Alison Halpern, executive secretary of the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board. “Learn from an expert before foraging for wild plants, and if you think you have poison hemlock on your property, contact your county weed board, conservation district, or WSU Extension office to learn how to safely get rid of it.”
While poison hemlock is considered invasive, the Quee Anne’s lace plant, though not native to California (and a plant that has also naturalized in the wild), is not considered invasive.
Which means…the plants that I’ve observed growing by the side of the road and in other places in California for all these years, were likely poison hemlock and not Queen Anne’s lace.
In other parts of the U.S., it may be easier to differentiate the two based on bloom periods, but in California, the flowering periods are similar: Poison hemlocks bloom from April to September, while the Queen Anne’s lace flowers from May to September.
Poison hemlock plants can grow up to 8 feet tall.
Last summer, my grandsons and I spent time a lot of time walking around this greenbelt area (where there are also invasive Himalayan blackberries — and poison oak).
They know to stay away from poison oaks…and I’m glad they did not try to pick any of these flowers.
Unless you are absolutely sure which plant is which, it is best to treat these lovely flowers as poisonous, and to be careful of handling them.
I don’t have photos of the Queen’s Anne lace plant yet, but you can view a good collection at this USDA plant database page.
The King County (Washington State) website has a section on noxious weed control. Excerpt and link below…
When digging or mowing large amounts of poison-hemlock, it is best to wear gloves and a mask or take frequent breaks to avoid becoming ill. One individual had a severe reaction after pulling plants on a hot day because the toxins were absorbed into her skin…(click here for more).
Since writing this post, I’ve noticed these plants in spots (by the roadside mostly) here in Monterey County, and I’m surprised that it is not listed on Monterey County’s weed threats.
Do poison hemlocks grow where you live?
Did you get the flower and plant confused with the Queen Anne’s lace flowers, as I did?
Starting in 1917 and up to the 1990’s, almost 1,500,000 military troops trained at Fort Ord. It was a major army post, located here in the Monterey Bay, in California’s central coast.
Although the post closed in 1994, many of the old buildings remain.
Because I was in the military, there is a part of me that is nostalgic about these buildings…and having lived at military bases, they are familiar to me.
In addition to its role as a major training base for the army, Fort Ord was also a staging and deployment area for troops that fought in World War II, as well as the Vietnam war.
Word War II is known as the most violent and largest armed conflict in history, and troops who trained here were involved in battles in the Philippines — my home country — after the Japanese conquered the Philippines in 1942.
Many of the old buildings at Fort Ord have already been torn down, and eventually, these will too, to be replaced with new housing communities, office and service facilities, and new shopping centers.
I’ve wanted to photograph some of these old buildings before they are gone forever, and glad that I finally had a chance to do so this month.
I was in the Air Force, and our living quarters were called “dormitories”. But in the army and other armed forces, buildings that house soldiers are called “barracks”. Definition below:
The English word comes via French from an old Catalan word “barraca” (hut), originally referring to temporary shelters or huts for various people and animals, but today barracks, are usually permanent buildings for military accommodation.
…The main object of barracks is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training, and esprit de corps.
Doors removed, stairs missing or overtaken by iceplants…
Debris around some of the buildings…
What remains at the Imjin exit side of Fort Ord are mature eucalyptus trees, and the ever-present and invasive ice plants — planted there to contain the sand and for erosion control.
Across the street from these barracks, a wellness center and a shopping center is in place, and beyond these new buildings are brand new housing communities.
The Ford Ord land also houses facilities used by California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB). With plenty of land available to construct new buildings, CSUMB is predicted to eventually be the largest in the California State University system.
It’s not all going to be developed though…
Thankfully, three years ago, a large part of the Fort Ord area became a national monument, and is federally protected from further development — a great thing for the Monterey Bay area!
In addition to the interior part of the Fort Ord land, beaches in this area are also part of the national monument / California State Park system, and land set aside for the public.
And so the Fort Ord land that started as an artillery training field almost 100 years ago, and was a major post for the military from World War I to 1994 now continues its transition, with much of the land going back to public use.
Are there military base closures where you live? How has the government and community transformed the land after closing the military facility?
…The protection of the Fort Ord area will maintain its historical and cultural significance, attract tourists and recreationalists from near and far, and enhance its unique natural resources, for the enjoyment of all Americans.
The focus for challenge #9 is biodiversity and invasive plant species…and what Jane, the host of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ call the plant “bullies”.
As with the yellow starthistle (my 1st post for this challenge)which grew all over Contra Costa County, the iceplant is another plant I mistakenly thought as native to this part of the central coast of California.
Photo taken just a few weeks ago at Fort Ord Dunes National Monument area. Don’t let the pretty pink flowers fool you, these plants are very aggressive, and crowds out native sand dune plants.
Why did I think it was native? Well, because these plants are plentiful all along the coast, especially around the Fort Ord Dunes area (photo above).
Articles about the beautiful coastal Monterey County town of Pacific Grove feature images of iceplants in full bloom —- including on the official city website. The Perkins Park area of Pacific Grove is noted for its “magic carpet” of iceplants.
Main page of the Pacific Grove official website. The mass of pink flowers are all iceplants.
Among the first scenic coastal photos we took when we moved here, featured ice plants in the background.
The photo below is my grandson, Jun-Jun, at a popular beach side / highway stop near Seaside, California. He is surrounded by…you guessed it, ICEPLANTS.
And at a paved road area at the Fort Ord Dunes (part of the Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Path) here is Jun riding his bike with his grandfather, where you can see iceplants growing on both sides of the road. To the left of the photo is traffic from California State Highway 1.
The photo below of my younger grandson, Gabriel, zooming away (actually, slowly foot pedaling away) on his toy cycle shows more of the red-hued leaves of the iceplant in the background, facing the Pacific Ocean. Yes, way more iceplants.
Iceplants are found on many beaches here in the Monterey Bay. The greenery you see on the sand dunes below at Fort Ord Dunes are indeed…more ice plants!
Iceplants are so common in this area that it is easy to assume that they have always been here.
Non-native plants have been brought to California since the first contact with Europeans. A little about the big problem of the loss of grasslands, and native coastal plants from ElkhornSlough.org:
Approximately 99% of California native grasslands have been lost over the last 200 years, making them one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the U.S.
Loss of coastal scrub in some parts of California has also been severe. Within the Elkhorn Slough watershed, coastal scrub assemblages often face threats from infestation by tall exotic weeds, such as poison hemlock, fennel, and jubata grass.
Because most of California has a mild Mediterranean climate, it is easy to see how plants from other parts of the world, especially with similar weather, can naturalize here.
Iceplants growing across the Moss Landing State Beach area, farm fields across the river water.
Typically, these plant invaders have no natural enemies, or wildlife that eat the plants, so it is easy for them to become plant bullies.
Photos above of iceplants spilling past fence areas at the Moss Landing State Beach pathway.
Apparently, iceplants are really good at crowding out native plants…the photo below is a good example:
The plant in the middle of the photo is a beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala), which is the most common California native plant found around sand dunes. You can see that this one is being encircled by the aggressive iceplant, which will eventually choke out the sagewort. Iceplants are very good at spreading!
While iceplants in their native South Africa are great for the wildlife there (where turtles, snakes, antelopes, lizards and other animals eat the plant’s leaves, flowers and seeds) it does not provide food or shelter to native California coastal wildlife.
Photo of iceplant covering landscape on the French Mediterranean island, Bagaud island, in the Port-Cros National Park. Photo by Vincent via Wikipedia and public domain
In parts of the Mediterranean coast where the iceplant naturalized, the plant also helps other invasive species to thrive. I found this part about invasive mutualism of interest from a Wikipedia article:
On the Mediterranean coast, Carpobrotus has spread out rapidly and now parts of the coastline are completely covered by this invasive species. Moreover, another invasive species, the black rat, has been shown to enhance the spreading of the ice plant through its feces. As the ice plant represents a food resource for the rat, both benefit from each other (invasive mutualism).
Invasive Plants in the Western United States
Here is more about invasive plants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in California:
Estimates indicate that invasive plants are spreading at about 4,600 acres per day on federal lands alone in the Western United States.
Weeds have invaded approximately 17 million acres of public rangelands in the West – more than quadrupling their range from 1985-1995. In northern California, yellow starthistle increased from 1 million acres in 1981 to 10 million acres today.
While the yellow starthistle were introduced by accident, the iceplants were planted in this area on purpose.
Ice plants at Moss Landing Harbor (in the water are two Southern Sea Otters) Click on the photo if you would like to see more photos and learn about sea otters that live in the Monterey Bay area.
Concerns about soil erosion, and the belief decades ago that iceplants would help to stabilize soil and sand dune areas led to mass plantings, especially in military bases, like at Fort Ord.
In the 1970s, drought issues and the need to use drought tolerant vegetation along California highways led CalTrans — the California Department of Transportation, who manage over 50,000 miles (80,467 km) of the state’s highways and freeways — to plant iceplants on some freeway embankments and dividers.
Except…the folks who promoted the use of iceplants to stabilize soil did not have the information we now have, or the awareness about biodiversity issues, and the extent (and ability) of these plants to crowd out native plants.
Despite its use as a soil stabilizer, it actually exacerbates and speeds up coastal erosion. It holds great masses of water in its leaves, and its roots are very shallow. In the rainy season, the added weight on unstable sandstone slopes and dunes increases the chances of slope collapse and landslides.
Oh no! So now what?
A lot of work will need to be done to remove iceplant infestations, and to re-plant native plants and restore dune habitat areas with California coastal plants.
The photo below from Moss Landing State Beach, where dune restoration projects are in place, gives an idea of what the sand dunes around these parts are supposed to look like…
Removing iceplants will give native plants a chance to recover, like the yellow sand verbenas (Abronia-latifolia)…
and the Monterey spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens).
So that eventually, the dunes here will look more like the photos below, instead of iceplant intensive, like what we are used to seeing…
Coastal cities and public agencies, as well as non-profit organizations are putting forth dune restoration projects, working sections at a time to remove highly invasive species like iceplants.
There are still many iceplant patches in this area that need to be removed, but native plants are returning to dunes at the Moss Landing State Beach area.
This will take funding, a lot of work, a lot of volunteers, and educating the public about the “return of the natives”.
Because ice plants are succulents and have a high water content, burning is not a recommended way to eradicate these plant bullies. They will have to be removed by pulling the plant out (thankfully, it has shallow roots), flipping them over and piling them up to compost in areas where it makes sense to compost them. I’ve also read about cities and agencies allowing the use of a specific type of herbicide to kill the plants, under expert supervision (see the Pacific Grove city website and type in “ice plant” in the search box for more details).
I hope by posting this information and photos, you learned more about this invasive plant (as I have), and it is another step towards helping to control the spread of this plant bully in the Monterey Bay area.
To join in the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Invasive Plant Challenge, click here, and be sure to visit blog posts for this event, including from South Africa / Cape Peninsula– by Nature on the Edge, from Australia – An Evolving Scientist and in Oregon, by challenge host Just Another Nature Enthusiast.
Talk about iceplants just being part of the landscape here…we got this magazine yesterday, and I see the red hues on the iceplants make a very nice addition to the front page cover photo.
Screen shot of digital version of Via Magazine’s Summer 2015 issue. The spot is listed inside the magazine as from Marin County, California (in the North Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge)
ABOUT FORT ORD – DESIGNATED A NATIONAL MONUMENT IN 2012
If you visit the Monterey Bay area and want to go to a super clean beach without many visitors, check out the Fort Ord Dunes State Park.
In April, 2012, a large part of the Fort Ord area became a National Monument, and is federally protected from further development — a good thing for the Monterey Bay!
Before becoming a U.S. National Monument, Fort Ord land was used by the U.S. Military as a training area. Starting in 1917 and up to the 1990’s, almost 1,500,000 troops trained at Fort Ord. In addition to its role as a major training base for the army, it was also a staging and deployment area for army troops that fought in World War II as well as the Vietnam war.
Fort Ord Barracks — awaiting demolition. Despite the military base closed for over 20 years now, ice plants survive — as you can see on this photograph — and are seen all over the Fort Ord land.
The base officially closed in 1994, and many of the military structures (mostly barracks) have been demolished, and the land now houses facilities used by California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), and other tracts of land are being developed for housing and commercial uses.
Return of the Natives – A California State Universtiy Monterey Bay (CSUMB) community and school-based environmental education program to restore native habitat – On why they are doing this work:
The Monterey area’s natural landscape and ecosystems are under siege from an army of invasive “exotic” plant species or WEEDS.
Most have been introduced for horticultural purposes, or came as agricultural stowaways, from areas of the world that have similar climates to central California. Spreading onto disturbed soils such as road cuts, and lacking natural enemies, these non-native invaders quickly replace native plants and overrun fragile ecosystems.
Sometimes, it is hard to know what plants are native to the area. If you see it everywhere, for as long as you can remember, it must be native, right?
Field of yellow starthistle – Photo via Invasive.org (Creative Commons) by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California – Davis, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.invasive.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5374358#sthash.rDPc2dA5.dpuf
Yellow starthistle is native to southern Europe and western Eurasia and was first collected in Oakland, California, in 1869. It was most likely introduced after 1848 as a contaminant of alfalfa seed. Introductions prior to 1899 were most likely from Chile, while introductions from 1899 to 1927 appear to be from Turkestan, Argentina, Italy, France, and Spain (Gerlach in prep., Hillman and Henry 1928).
By 1917 it had become a serious weed in the Sacramento Valley and was spreading rapidly along roads, trails, streams, ditches, overflow lands, and railroad rights-of-way (Newman 1917). In 1919 Willis Jepson observed its distribution near Vacaville and stated: â€œIt is 1,000 times as common as ten years ago, perhaps even six years agoâ€ (Jepson 1919).
Yellow starthistles grow and thrive all over Contra Costa County, and in particular in the Black Diamond Mine areas(part of the East Bay Regional Park District), where these photos of our dogs Jake and Sara were taken in spring and early summer.
Jake — our black lab mix and best pound dog ever!
Sara — the smallest, and sweetest Newfoundland…
During hikes in the summer and fall, we had to check our dogs during and after in case thistle spikes lodged near their paws, or attached to their fur.
Our dogs Jake and Sara — ahead of us in scenery typical of Eastern Contra Costa County, California. By summer, many fields (like this one) will be blanketed with yellow starthistle flowers…establishing itself in wider and wider areas…
By summer, you could see the yellow starthistle’s flowers across many of the fields and hiking trails. It crowds out native plants…and because of its long tap root, uses water that would otherwise be used by native grasses and native plants species.
It took me several years to completely get rid of it in our backyard. I don’t like using herbicides (or pesticides) so I manually pulled each one I found. Because of its long tap roots, I had to get at the base of the plant (with gloves because the rest of the plant also had sharp and itch-producing properties) and do a sort of twist and pull motion to get at it, and then dispose of it in the garbage.
After pulling out yellow starthistles from the backyard, we eventually had a decent garden and patio area. Photo of the garden area by the side of the house is of my daughter (in the middle) her friend, Jennifer at right, and our dog, Sara to the left.
With diligence, it is possible to get rid of yellow starthistles in an enclosed area, and once our garden plants and pavers were in place, I did not see anymore of it.
Yellow starthistle had spread to over a million acres of California by the late 1950s and nearly two million acres by 1965. In 1985 it was estimated to cover eight million acres in California (Maddox and Mayfield 1985) and perhaps ten to twelve million acres a decade later. It is equally problematic around Medford in southwestern Oregon and in Hells Canyon in Oregon and Idaho (Maddox et al. 1985). It also infests, to a lesser degree, areas in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and Idaho (Roch and Roch 1988).
Aside from small-scale manual removal, other methods to control this invasive species are listed on the California Invasive Plant Council, including mechanical methods (mowing down the plants before the flowers produce seed in the summertime).
The USDA has also approved and continues to experiment with insects that attack the plant’s flowers to minimize seed production.
Photo of horse taken at a ranch in Placer County, near the Sacramento Metropolitan area.
I’ve seen articles that indicated the yellow starthistle is poisonous to horses, but grazing by sheep, goats or cattle before seeds are formed can be an effective way to control growth if done at the right time (May and June).
Do you have an invasive plant in your area — or backyard and want to join in the WordPress challenge? Click here for details about this challenge, and visit links for the challenge guideline.
My next post will be about another invasive plant where we now live in the Central Coast of California —- the “ice plant”, which are seen along the coast and in the backyards of homes here in Monterey County.
Seventy percent of the planet Earth is covered by ocean water.
Do you think it is a coincidence that our bodies are composed of about the same percentage of water too?
For Earth Day, let’s remember how connected we all are, and that the future of our planet is in our hands.
Note: If you are still buying bottled water, or sold on the idea that water from a plastic bottle is somehow better than what comes out of your tap, please see this post 100% Natural Water.
It is a reminder for us to pay attention to, and to see through marketing tricks and ads, which sometimes feel like “green ads” from big manufacturers.
We are all getting smarter about his though, and I see many positive developments since I posted this article — so hopeful!
I understand that sometimes, we have no choice but to buy bottled water, but when possible, bringing your own water to special events or as we are out and about is a habit we can practice — and one that can make a big impact on our resources and reduce trash — trash that often ends up in the ocean.
The year 2015 is designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as the International Year of Soils, with the aim to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.
I am posting this inspiring film about Jadav Payeng in support of this month’s Earth-Friendly Challenge — on the topic of SOIL — hosted by Just Another Nature Enthusiast.
In 1979, when Payeng was 16, he started to plant each and every tree of what is now 1,300 acres of a pristine tropical woodland — and singlehandedly created a forest that is larger than New York City’s Central Park.
Payeng first became interested in planting the forest after noticing the effects of desertification on the island’s wildlife.
According to the Water Resources Management journal, “An estimated 175 Mha [million hectares] of land in India, constituting about 53 per cent of the total geographical area (329 Mha), suffers from deleterious effects of soil erosion…”
The North-East Indian forest created by Jadav Payeng is now home to 115 elephants, 100 deer, numerous rhinos, Bengal tigers, apes, rabbits and vultures.
This inspiring documentary film is narrated by photojournalist, Jitu Kalita and made by Canadian filmmaker William Douglas McMaster. Jitu Kalita is a wildlife photographer and the person who discovered — and wrote about — the forest created by Jadav Payeng.
The next time you feel hopeless about environmental problems, or overwhelmed about the depressing news on climate change and start to think “what does it matter what I do…what difference is it going to make…I’m only one person…there is nothing I can do…”please think about what Jadav Payeng accomplished, starting with one tree.
I heard my niece, Stephanie, calling out for me from the bathroom of my mother’s house. She is 15, and it is her first visit to the Philippines…
Rice Fields and Coconut Trees — Verdant Philippines — drive from the pier to home. I can’t imagine not liking the color green, especially if you grew up in the Philippines.
Stephanie found the journey to the Philippines unbelievably long. For her, it began in the U.S. state of Virginia — then to California, to first attend the wedding of my younger sister.
Several days after the wedding, we are headed from San Francisco, California to Manila — the largest city in the Philippines.
After a long layover in Manila, we take another hour-long, plane ride to the island of Cebu, then head to the pier for a 2 hour “Supercat” ride — a catamaran style ferryboat service that shuttles people from one island to the next. At the pier, we are picked up and all load into a van headed for my mother’s home.
But it is another 45 minute drive from the pier to our mother’s home…and by this time, we had been traveling for 24 hours. While in the van, a travel weary Stephanie asked…”so what is next after the van ride?”
water buffallo (kalabaw or carabao) Photo from late 1800s.
I told her that after we arrive, we would have to ride atop a water buffalo (a “kalabao” or carabao) with our luggage, and head up to the mountains. “The van cannot travel on those unstable roads” I tell her.
She shakes her head in disbelief…”A water bufallo???”. I smile at her and tell her I am just joking…the van is the last leg of the trip, and soon, we would finally be at my mother’s home.
The following day, she wakes up and wants to take a shower. It is hot, humid, and she is looking forward to a shower, especially after the long journey. She is calling me from the bathroom because she has turned the water faucet handles and no water is coming out.
I knock on the bathroom door and ask her what she needs.”Is there a trick to the faucets?” she asked. She opens the door, and I explain to her that there is no water pressure in the morning…and most likely, there will be no water available until the evening. “How am I suppose to take a shower, then…and why is there a big garbage can size container of water in the shower?”
I tell her…”well Steph, that container of water isyour shower”.
A Filipino “Tabo”
I point to the “tabo” floating on top of the big container of water in front of her, and pick it up. “You see this thing Steph, it is called a tabo. You dip it in the water, then pour the water over your head and body to rinse. Then you soap up, shampoo, then do the same with a final rinse”.
I tell her it’s a “tropical shower”, and add…”or…you can wait until this evening to take a shower, when the water pressure is back up”. Her jaw drops…then she responds “Really?” I answer back “Yes, Steph…really.”
I giggle as I close the bathroom door and imagine the culture shock she must be experiencing. Having grown up in the Philippines, and accustomed to preparing for water being unavailable from the tap, I find the situation amusing. And then I think, well, all in all, it is good for her because there is so much we take for granted living in the United States.
Photo of a young Filipina with a clay water jug, late 1800’s. My sisters and I fetched water during the early 1970s, and thankfully, the containers we had for our water were much lighter than the one from this photo…
While living in the province (“prubinsya” or away from the city) when my sisters and I were young, we experienced having to “fetch” water away from home. A few times when the water wells dried up, we had to walk up the road to a natural spring site to get fresh water.
To this day, we all remember fondly our time in the province and once in a while still utter…”okay…mag-igib na tayo nang tubig” — translated to “let us go and fetch some water now”. Then we laugh about it, because of how absurd it sounds, with all 3 of us now living in the states.
Can you imagine having to “fetch” water? Picture our little tribe of kids walking on the gravel roadside with our balde (buckets), and metal containers, headed to the natural spring source. We fill our containers and carefully walk back — trying not to spill what we fetched.
I remember our older sister scolding us every few steps because of the water spilling out from our heavy containers. She tells the group to be careful because we would all have to come back AGAIN if we keep letting water spill out.
We do our best, but I’m pretty sure we lost half of the water by the time we got back to our Nanay Lucing and Tatay Kerpo’s place (our Aunt and Uncle’s house).
Although my take for this challenge is a little humorous, I do hope the post will make us appreciate how we take water for granted here in the U.S. There are still many places around the world where clean water is hard to find — or does not even come out of a faucet.
Without water, we cease to exist. It’s as simple as that…
Photo taken during the time of Stephanie’s visit, of a group of us swimming at a natural river “pool”. My daughter is at the front, both arms up — she was 13 then (and now I am a grandmother to her 2 boys). Behind her is my mother, and from left, my older sister, our cousin Donah, my cousin Ate Violeta, and her daughter.
This post is also dedicated to my niece, Stephanie, who celebrated her birthday this week. Happy Birthday, Stephanie! We are still trying to convince her to come and visit the Philippines again…
Stephanie’s Baby Photo
My mother had a water tower installed several years after Stephanie’s visit. It is filled up every night, so that throughout the day, there is water available for cooking, washing dishes, gardening, washing clothes, or even….for taking showers.
Ready to visit again, Stephanie?
From left, my younger sister, older sister (celebrating her birthday) and her daughter —- my niece — Stephanie.
For this week, the challenge was to learn about dams that alter the flow of our river and tributaries, and the purpose of the structure (Economic? Social? Environmental?).
The Salinas River near Highway 1, water headed towards the Pacific Ocean.
This challenge was truly…well, a challenge! I did not get to the other questions to consider AFTER I learned about the dams in the Salinas river because the answer to this question was not very easy to find.
What made this challenge confusing was that the Salinas River actually covers two counties. Searching for dams in the Salinas River first yielded information about the “Salinas Dam” built in neighboring San Luis Obispo County (South of Monterey county and where the Salinas River begins).
The contract to build the “Salinas Dam” in San Luis Obispo County was signed seven months before the Pearl Harbor attack. It took 3 years to build this particular dam, for water headed to San Luis Obispo. I include this information in my blog post because their local paper (The Tribune) had a series of blog posts called “Photos from the Vault” that revisited local history. Imagine my surprise when I saw a connection to the Philippines (where I grew up) on one of the headlines related to the Salinas Dam, after Japanese troops took over the Philippine capital Manila during World War II:
It is a coincidence that had me sidetracked about information that was already a challenge to research. It brought back memories of stories told by my aunts and uncles about their difficulties during the war, when they had to hide out in the jungle and head to the mountains when our area was occupied — beginning when my mother was still a toddler.
The main tributaries of the Salinas River are the Nacimiento, San Antonio, Arroyo Seco, San Lorenzo, and Estrella Rivers.
Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia
The Salinas River watershed has three large dams in its upper portion: The Salinas Dam, built in the 1940’s; the Nacimiento Dam, built in the 1950’s; and the San Antonio Dam, built in the 1960’s. The Salinas Dam is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Nacimiento and San Antonio Dams are managed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.
Nacimiento River Dam photos via Monterey County Water Resources Agency
The Lower portion of the Salinas River is often referred to as the Lower Salinas River. The division of the river and its watershed in upper and lower portions is for administrative purposes only.
The Salinas River drains to both the Salinas River Lagoon and the Moss Landing Harbor in the center of the Monterey Bay.
So I will post this information for the challenge with this basic data, and will consider other questions posted for this challenge as time permits at a later time.
Based on the information below, sourced from government related websites…
…and because the area near where we live has already had seawater intrusion (I’ve posted information about this and sea level rise for the California King Tides Project) I’ll keep my blog post update for this particular challenge focused on seawater intrusion — at least for now.
Information on the California Drought
Several days ago, California’s drought conditions hit national news because our snow pack water content hit a new record low. The annual measurement was at 5% of average, which broke the previous record of 25% of average in 1977 and 1991.
The photo below — where California governor Jerry Brown is standing at the podium — is at 6,800 feet elevation. Normally, and for this time of the year, they would be standing on 5 feet of snow. Instead, they are standing on grass!
It is going to be a challenge to meet the new MANDATORY water reduction goal of reducing water use by 25%. So, whether we like it or not, we are all going to be learning a lot more about water use, and our water sources…which makes this focus on water for the March Earth-Friendly challenges very timely.
To learn more about the latest California water content measurement (Sierra Nevada Snowpack) click here. Excerpt:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) found no snow whatsoever today during its manual survey for the media at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Thiswas the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. observed thesurvey, which confirmed electronic readingsshowing the statewide snowpack with less water content today than any April 1stsince 1950. Attending the survey with Governor Brown was DWR Director Mark Cowin, who said Californians can expect to receive almost no water from the meager snowpack as it melts in the coming weeks.
Another great cartoon from Bizarro. More at www.bizarrocomics.com with the tagline “A daily blog by Dan Piraro, creator of the syndicated newspaper cartoon, Bizarro.It has cartoons, art, photos, thoughts, vids, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. Please enjoy responsibly”.
We can do better…let’s clean up and stop trashing our beautiful planet.
I spoke to Kristen at the above Monterey / Santa Cruz number for The Marine Mammal Center.
Kristen said that sometimes, the sea lions go ashore to rest or to warm up, and may go back out to sea. If they look thin, or sick, and especially if you see pups (which she said measure between 2 to 3 feet long) please call them and they will determine the actions they need to take.
They have the ability to take the seals in, or to transport them to San Luis Obispo or the main facility in Sausalito if needed (see The Marine Mammal Center website).
Never touch or try to push sea lions back into the ocean. There have been reports of misguided people doing this — very dangerous!
Further information from the pamphlet:
Sea lions, seals and sea otters are protected animals. It’s against federal law to disturb them or cause them to change their behavior.
You’re too close if an animal starts to stare, fidget or flee. Slowly back away and stay at least 150 feet or 46 meters away. Seals on land are especially wary and may rush into the water or abandon their pups, threatening their survival.
Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday about 940 sick and starving young sea lions have washed up on California beaches so far in 2015.
That compares to about 225 sea lion strandings that officials normally would see between January and April, said Justin Viezbicke, NOAA stranding coordinator for the West Coast region. Roughly 540 sea lion pups are being treated at rehabilitation centers between San Diego and San Francisco.
Climate change related? The article continues…
Scientists say warmer coastal waters are forcing nursing mothers in the Channel Islands or Mexico to head out farther for food, leaving behind their young for longer than the normal two or four days. An estimated 300,000 sea lions live from the Mexican border to Washington state.
NOAA Climatologist Nate Mantua said the warming is likely a historical record for the northeast Pacific and the West Coast. The ocean is between 2 and 5 degrees warmer for this time of year due to the same high-pressure system that has the state in its fourth year of drought.
This is the third year that an exceptional number of pups have stranded or died.
Sadly, the latest numbers for the sea lions strandings are now reported at over 1,400 now over 1,800(updated March 20, 2015).
It is great to see development projects focused on improving conditions for women, especially water projects — and I take comfort in my belief that dedicated people are working to alleviate the causes poverty and inequality in our world.
Especially because my Philippine laundry photos — in our modern times — should be MUCH different from the one below, taken over 100 years ago…
Photo circa around 1890s from the book “The Philippine Islands”.
Seagull populations have exploded in Northern California, causing problems for local business, especially at waste management operations and landfills — where seagulls congregate en masse for free food.
If you live near the coast, you have probably had a seagull poop bomb you, or had food or your picnic lunch stolen by aggressive seagulls.
Tourist photographing seagull – Pacific Grove
At one point, the Monterey Regional Waste Management District in Marina estimated having over 10,000 seagulls at their site on a daily basis, causing safety problems for tractor operators who have to get out of their vehicles to clean seagull poop off windows.
You may have seen Kate Marden from West Coast Falconryaround Pacific Grove, along with her falcon recently…
Kate Marden from West Coast Falconry with her Sonoran Desert Falcon
The city of Pacific Grove hired Kate to scare off seagulls before the nesting season, so that they do not nest on rooftops and nearby areas.
From the West Coast Falconry website:
“Falconry based bird abatement” is the use of trained birds of prey to intimidate and scare off nuisance birds which cause loss of revenue for crop growers, health hazards in water resources, landfills, and safety concerns in airfields.
Very often the presence of the raptor is enough to deter and intimidate the prey species. Falconry works because pest birds are “hard-wired” to be terrified of Raptors – falcons, hawks and owls- that are their natural enemies. It’s a natural predator and prey relationship that evolution has programmed them to avoid.
Pest birds never get acclimated to Raptors while they will become used to noisemakers such as propane cannons, shotguns, or recorded calls.
Kate and her Sonoran desert falcon were out yesterday (photographed in front of the Public Library) to educate the public about the program. She will also hold informational talks at local schools.
The city came in and removed the empty nests and now my job is to keep the gulls agitated so they don’t nest here in the downtown area,” Marden said.
Marden said there’s only a small chance one of her birds will actually take flight to scare the seagulls. She said for the most part just knowing there’s a bigger bird in town is enough.
March is when the gulls build nests and then lay eggs later in spring. Once there is an egg in the nest, the nest is federally protected. So the city is hoping the nests will be built near the ocean instead.
The city said no one should feel too bad for the gulls.
According to ornithologists the birds of prey will be doing the seagulls a favor if the project works. Right now the gulls are in town because of easy access to human food, but the animal’s natural diet of seafood is much better for them and their chicks.
Snowy plover at Salinas River State Beach
The seagull population boom is a problem for threatened birds like the snowy plover because gulls prey on other bird species, raiding nests for eggs and nestlings.
There are several beaches on the California Central coast named after the Salinas river.
We visit these beaches often, but I did not think about the name, or about the Salinas River or its source, until the blogging challenge for Earth-Friendly Friday on the topic “Water – What’s Your Watershed?”.
The challenges this month will focus on WATER — and coincides with water related events during March (International Day of Actions for Rivers and the United Nations World Water Day).
To get started for the first week in March, the challenge is to think about rivers and streams, and to post photos. and take a look at watershed rivers/streams near us — and to tell a little about them.
Photo of the Salinas RIver facing east, by California State Highway 1 byr the large Dole shipping facility near the city of Marina
This challenge is interesting because I did not know very much about watersheds — and in participating in this challenge, I learned something new!
The Salinas River Watershed
The watershed for our area is the Salinas river watershed and covers 4,600 square miles. It turns out that the Salinas river originates in San Luis Obispo county (south of Monterey County) before emptying into the Monterey Bay — and merging with the Pacific ocean.
The Salinas River flows northwesterly through the Salinas valley (the valley lies in the Coast Ranges and is defined to the west by the Sierra de Salinas and east by the Gabilan Range).
It is 10 miles wide and 155 miles long
Primary land uses in the Salinas River watershed are row crops, vineyards, pasture and grazing lands, as well as urban areas, military bases and public open space
Problems Facing the Watershed
I’ve posted several articles on my blog about Monterey County’s mild weather, rich soils, and its multi-billion dollar agricultural industry. The agricultural industry is a major source of jobs for many in this county, but is also a source of environmental problems.
The river flows into one of the worlds most diverse marine ecosystems, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
The river is designated by the California State Water Resources Control Board as one of the most critical watersheds in California (more on California water resources, here)
I’m planning on visiting some river areas farther up our county this year and learning more about the Salinas river, including about the 20 wineries along Monterey County’s “River Road Wine Trail”. I wonder…do these river road wineries follow the Salinas river or its tributaries?
Photo below from another California State Park beach area related to the Salinas river, near the town of Moss Landing, California.
Photo after sunset near Salinas River State beach at Moss Landing
To take part in this challenge and to see responses.. click here.
This new blogging event is inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax …” UNLESS . . . someone like youcares a whole awful lot,nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
The Salinas River is mentioned in many of Steinbeck’s novels.
Quote below from his 1952 novel, East of Eden…
“The Salinas was only a part-time river. The summer sun drove it underground. It was not a fine river at all, but it was the only one we had so we boasted about it –how dangerous it was in a wet winter and how dry it was in a dry summer.”
Severe weather — from climate change that lead to ocean warming as well as excess carbon dioxide that increase ocean acidity levels — impact marine wildlife.
It may not be obvious to most of us because we can’t see what is happening, but severe weather changes are already affecting our marine wildlife.
Jellyfish Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – photo Lolako.com
Warmer ocean waters contribute to jellyfish blooms.
While jellyfish are fascinating and beautiful, and abundant jellyfish is a great food source for giant Pacific leatherback turtles that migrates from Indonesia to the Monterey Bay, sea turtle populations have declined at an alarming rate — so there are not as many turtles to keep the jellyfish population in check.
Moon jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – photo Lolako.com
A combination of the decline in sea turtle population that feed on jellyfish and increasing jellyfish blooms creates an imbalance and a serious problem because among the food jellyfish (like the Pacific sea nettle) eat as they drift in our oceans are small fish and fish eggs.
You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out that this overabundance of jellyfish eating fish eggs results in fewer fish for other ocean creatures to eat (not to mention less fish for human beings to eat).
My grandson, Jun, mesmerized by the amazing Jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Jellyfish are another invasive intruder that can proliferate under warming ocean temperatures. These “weeds of the sea” have become more common in the Monterey Bay over the last decade, according to Nelson.
“We always had sea nettle jellyfish here in the late summer,” Nelson said. “But in the last eight to ten years we’ve been having huge blooms of them periodically — so much so that they’ve actually collapsed our water intake filters.”
Standing in a room lined floor to ceiling with jellyfish tanks, it was easy to imagine these boneless, brainless creatures expanding out from the aquarium and far into the ocean, decimating native species in their path.
Pacific Sea nettle jellyfish exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium – photo Lolako.com
Beyond the Monterey Bay, jellyfish blooms are creating problems in other parts of the world….from a power outage at Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear power plant caused by water intake systems clogged by jellyfish, to fishing boats in Japan capsized as a result of fishing nets inundated with jellyfish (more info here).
Severe weather will continue to impact all of us, in our interconnected world.
To take part in this blogging challenge or to see photos and articles for the challenge click here.
This new blogging event is inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax …” UNLESS . . . someone like youcares a whole awful lot,nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Among the photographs posted the year I began my blog in 2011 were images from a beach walk that turned out to be remnants of an old pier in Moss Landing, California.
We were still new to the area so I did not yet know the history. and I noted that “from this angle, it had a sort of mysterious, Stonehenge feel about it” on the blog post, and asked if anyone had information.
I immediately received comments from my friend Jean, who grew up in Santa Cruz, as well as Monterey County nativeMelanie Mayer-Gideoninforming me that the items jutting out from the beach were indeed remnants of the pier that once stood there.
I also learned the pier was used by whaling ships — and the area’s beach landed and processed whales, which may explain my Stonehenge comment, since Stonehenge was a burial ground in its early history.
Last month, the annual festival called “Whalefest” took place in Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf. The festival promotes the Monterey Bay as the “Whale Watching Capital of the World”.
The festival is in its 5th year and celebrates the migration of whales, the Monterey Bay’s marine wildlife, and raises funds that benefit local marine conservation and non-profit organizations.
While this festival is a positive one and educating the public on whales and wildlife conservation is important, I think it is also important to explore and look into the history of whales in this area…before “Whalefest”.
A publication from the state of California Fish and Game Commission titled “A History of California Shore Whaling” provided information, starting with early accounts of whales on our coast from 1602:
Perhaps whales were first mentioned on our coast by Sebastian Vizcaino in the year 1602, though this is of purely literary interest, for we do not need to be told that whales were on the coast as long as there have been such things as whales.
The following translation of Vizcaino’s voyage is given by Venegas in his history of California in 1758:
“This bay also had been already surveyed by the Almirante [one of Vizcaino’s ships] who gave it the name of Bahia de Belenas or Whale Bay, on account of the multitudes of that large fish they saw there, being drawn thither by the abundance of several kinds of fish.”
This was in Lower California, but farther on in the same account in writing of the Bay of “Monte-rey” he includes among the animals of the bay “huge sea wolves [or sea lions] and whales.”
Venegas himself says: “But the most distinguished fish of both seas are the whales; which induced the ancient cosmographers to call California, Punta de Belenas, or Cape Whale; and these fish being found in multitudes along both coasts give name to a channel in the gulf, and a bay in the south sea.” “Cape Whale” refers to Lower California, “both seas” to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California.
The report (by Edwin C. Starks, Stanford University and printed in 1923 by the California State Printing Office) discusses whaling methods, from conventional ship whaling to “shore whaling”.
The shore whaling part is where the Moss Landing pier history comes in.
Included in the report were historical photographs of the operation at the same beach where I took my photos in December, 2011.
Early societies used whale oil processed from whale blubber to light oil lamps as well as for soaps and margarine.
When kerosene (also known as paraffin) was invented and more economical vegetable-based oils became available in the mid 1800s, the demand for whale oil declined, and the whaling industry — including shore whaling operations — started to cease operations.
Whale hunting policies also changed after the signing of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in 1946 to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”. The regulation governed the commercial, scientific, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices for its fifty-nine member nations.
Uncertainty over whale numbers led to the introduction of a ‘moratorium’ on commercial whaling in 1986. This remains in place although the Commission continues to set catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling.
Today, the Commission also works to understand and address a wide range of non-whaling threats to cetaceans including entanglement, ship strike, marine debris, climate change and other environmental concerns.
It is interesting that the invention of kerosene, a by-product of petroleum, most likely saved some species of whales from extinction. Yet, another modern petroleum-based material — plastics and nylons used in marine nets, ropes / ship rigging — is now contributing to the trash problems plaguing our oceans and threatens whales.
I wondered why whales have been on my mind recently…and the purpose for this blog post. Maybe a combination of the disturbing news last week on the new study of the enormous amount of plastic trash entering our oceans had me thinking about marine life, and, as I am nearing my 4th year blog birthday, I am looking to see if older posts need updates, including one that had my Moss Landing pier photos (What Low Tide Reveals).
As it turns out, this blog post exploring the history of whales in the Monterey Bay, from hunting them to now celebrating them in a whale themed festival —- is actually one of hope for me…
It is validation that although we human beings can create suffering and havoc, we are also capable of change, that we can invent something — or come up with solutions to address the mess that we create (I am thinking about our current oceans plastics mess here, too!)
…a world center for advanced research and education in ocean science and technology, and to do so through the development of better instruments, systems, and methods for scientific research in the deep waters of the ocean
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) building now stands in the area previously used for whaling operations
And from their website on “Why MBARI is located in Moss Landing?”
Monterey Bay is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water in the world. The Monterey Canyon, which bisects Monterey Bay, is one of the deepest underwater canyons along the continental United States. MBARI’s facilities at Moss Landing are located within meters of the head of Monterey Canyon, allowing researchers to reach waters 3,600 meters deep within a few hours of leaving port.
Last night, the new series EARTH: A New Wild aired on PBS. Among the stories featured (focused on our oceans) was about turning a slimy, industrial wasteland at New York City’s Pier 29 back into an ocean habitat. They are doing this through helping oysters repopulate the area. The oysters and muscles filter the water, and quite quickly, it becomes clean enough for other species to move in.
Click on image to learn why whales sing….
If we can implement a way to clean the ocean water near a metropolis like New York City…well, why not other places? Again, hopeful!
The program is well produced, and I will try to catch the rest in the series.
Click on the whale photo to learn more, and to see the article about why whales “sing”.
Have you heard whale songs? When I was 15, my art teacher played whale songs in the background as inspiration during a week when she encouraged her students to create art, or write poetry about whales.
You see how teachers can inspire? Here I am now…a grandmother…who loves whales. Maybe that is the point of this post too…inspirations, and to always have hope.