4 Ecosystem processes
- Water Cycle
- Mineral Cycle
- Community Dynamics
- Energy Flow
How to create effective water cycle
- Ground litter
- Reduce compaction
- Biodiversity in plants and soil microbes
- Water is held at surface to slowly percolate deep into soil
- * Not so much about amount of rain but how effective!
What makes up effective percipitation?
- require oxygen, water, energy (sunlight source) micro-organisms
- need essential minerals for life
- minerals are dropped through animal feces
- Soil food web below ground that pull minerals into group and change composition
No grazing or over rest
- new growth is sparse
- plants oxidize and nutrients are locked up
- low palatability and nutrition for grading animals
- Lack of grazing damages landscapes that are adapted to it, because they were shaped by it
Consequences of over grazing
Progressively shorter root sytem
- 30-40% of the carbon fixed by grasses is released through the root systems to feed soil life
- the more soil life, the more essential plant nutrients are made available from the soil
- the volume of carbon released is directly proportional to the root mass and soil rate of growth
collection of organisms that exist in one locality
Why are community dynamics constantly in flux?
- plants and animals continually die and are replaced
- varying conditions promote some species over others within that one season
- At Highest level of Development-changes in specie composition, number and age structure
General Principles about community dynamics
- 1. No Hardy Species- just prefer specific environment
- 2. Non-natives Have Their Place- Nile Perch vs Honey Bee - community will adjust, better to manage as a whole!
- 3. Collaboration is More Important than Competition
- 4. Stability Tends to Increase with Increasing Complexity
- * Biodiversity – diversity of plant/animal species and their genetic material, and age structure of populations within a given community
- 5. Most of Nature’s Wholes Function at the Community Level – one specie cannot thrive outside of its community as a whole (interconnectedness)
- 6. Most Biological Activity Occurs Underground - avg upper soil layers contain 7.75 tons/acre of microbes
- - American Prarie grasses w/ 20 foot root systems
- > scientists estimate 75-85% of life’s biomass underground
- 7. Change Generally Occurs in Successional Stages - simplicity to complexity
3 Dimensions of Energy Flow
How to ranch with long term success
- Nature always wins
- Understand, Work with, and mimic natural systems
Water cycle tests
- Water infiltration
- Penetrometer (easy =pore space, root growth)
- Aggregate test
- Ground cover
Mineral Cycle Tests
- Aggregate test
- smell test
Community Dynamics tests
- Aggregate test
- smell test
Energy Flow tests
- aggregate test
- smell test
- ground cover
How much water can organic matter hold?
Organic matter can hold up to seven times its weight in water
What holds more water
- Small spaces (clay soil) holds more water
- Aggregates are good, hold water
Transformational vs Modificational change
- Transformation: Beliefs and Behaviors
- Modificational: Actions and Strategies
- Planting annual crops such as barley, oats, and small grains on top of warm season grasses
- They grow at different times so grasses are dormant while crop grows, then crop is harvested as grasses start coming in
- What are the benefits of this type of farming
Watch Succession Video
What are tools?
Everything that gives humans the ability, which most organisms lack, to significantly alter our ecosystem in order to enhance or sustain our lives
Look at notes from guest speaker
What are some tools to manage ecosystems?
- Human Creativity
- Animal Impact
- Living organisms
- Money & Labor
Animal Impact (tool)
- anything they do besides grazing
Repeatability of Data
- Location (be very clear - use GPS)
- Observations must be practical and affordable
- Understandable and interpretable open data (make sure data is important)
Manage your land so it does what
Manage your land so it functions better
Metaphor of throwing rock in pond
- It creates the ripple effect
- It is like putting wolves in Yellowstone
Primary vs Secondary
- Primary: wind, erosion on rock
- Secondary: Pioneer species (1st to establish a site after damage)
Animal Impact and Grazing as tools
- Are tools by themselves
- But they also can be included as "living organism"=overlap of tools
Living Organisms as tools
- Considered a tool when we introduce them
- Buying ladybugs and putting in garden
Direct Impact on Environment
- Microbes in Dung
- Maggots in feces-birds eat feces
Fire as a tool
- Considered most ancient tool
- Occurs naturally
- Effects of ecosystem processes depends on:
- –Frequency of use
- –Brittleness of environment
- Humans have increased frequency
Fire's Effects on ecosystem processes
Effects the mineral cycle is effected by cycle = removal of animals and top soil with key nutrients
Anything that humans devise to help them meet their needs and wants
Downfall of technology
- removes from the natural world
- disconnects with nature.
How important is technology to feeding the world?
- “Many products we use everyday can effect environment in ways we never anticipated. Effects may be delayed for days, months or years and may show up far from the site of application” - Savory
- BUT we also need technology to continue to feed the world
Cautions of using Technology
- -Avoid using it in a way that is pathological
- - Use decision testing to align use with Holistic Context and expose non solutions
- - BE MINDFUL of letting technology dictate the way we live, how we interact with each other and nature
Money and Labor
- Neither can be used other than through the use of another tool
- They cannot be used without each other so they are grouped together
- Human tendency is to try to get maximum effect with as little labor as possible > barter, family/friend labor
Cautions of money and labor
- Wealth and reality need to be one in the same!
- > “focus on sustainable source of wealth because wealth is more vital than the symbol (money) in the long run”
3 types of wealth
- Mineral Dollars
- Paper Dollars
- Solar Dollars
- Raw resources that provide wealth that can be used cyclically or non-cyclically over prolonged period of time
- Combo of:
- – Human creativity
- –Raw resources
- Solar is most renewable source
- –PAPER, PLASTIC, METAL
- Created from raw resources but only cyclic if it is recycled
- –SOIL, TIMBER, DUNG
- constantly recycled/regenerated with only free solar inputs
Non Cyclic Example
- Raw resources that are mined in consumptive and non-cyclic manner
- Oil & Gas – if burned as fuel but cyclic if make products/parts that are recyclable
- Water – if too polluted to be reused by humans/life
- Agricultural Soil?
- $ from human creativity and labor
- Does NOT consume other resources
- Backed by government & banks
- Can be made over years or quickly overnight >>can be lost in seconds!
Examples of Paper dollars
- –INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY–
- –SERVICES: lawyers, consultants, educators…
- –ENTERTAINERS: athletes, dancers, comedians, musicians…
- aka Renewable dollars
- WEALTH created by capitalizing on RENEWABLE energy
- INVOLVES HUMAN CREATIVITY, LABOR, AND CONSTANT SOURCES OF ENERGY
- NONCYCLICAL BUT INEXHAUSTIBLE
- TENDS NOT TO DAMAGE LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS OR ENDANGER HUMANKIND
Examples of Solar dollars
- –GEOTHERMAL HEAT
- - WAVE ACTION
- –FALLING WATER
- –SUNLIGHT (growing crops/pasture)
What is special about solar dollars?
How to improve solar dollars
- ONLY dollar that can actually feed people itself > CROPS GROWN
- Income from solar dollars can be improved by ENHANCING MINERAL RESOURCES (increasing potential for mineral dollars)
- = BIOLOGICAL CAPITAL in short term
- = provides for humanity in long term
Examples of Wealth
- For example:
- Selling Cupcakes: ingredients from nature so depending upon management of those systems can be providing = Solar Dollars to farmer/producer
- Transportation: ingredients, products, equipment require fossil fuels = Mineral dollars to fuel company but is Non-cyclic consumption
- Production of Cupcakes: knowledge and creativity of baker to create and market= Paper dollars to baker
Transport Nutrients and water, create plant available phosphorus
2 characteristics of pioneer species
- Fast growing
- found in a wide range of environments
Why are aggregates important for soil structure?
- Fundamental unit of soil
- Creates microclimate where water holding capacity and nitrogen fixation bacteria can work
- found on hyphae of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).
- These fungi are ancient
- microorganisms that evolved with plants to aid in acquiring nutrients, especially immobile nutrients like phosphorus (P).
- Hyphae are not covered with bark like tree branches.
- Instead AMF
- produce glomalin to coat hyphae to keep water and nutrients from getting lost on the way to and from the plant.
How does Glomalin work?
- resistant to microbial decay
- does not dissolve easily in water
- Glomalin is soluble at high temperatures
- These properties make glomalin a good protector of hyphae and soil
- The unusual extraction conditions remove high quantities of the rich organic material leaving soil a mineral grey color
Management of Glomalin work
- Minimum or no-till to reduce disruption of hyphal network
- Reduced inputs, minimum P
- Cover crops to maintain living roots
- Nonmycorrhizal crops (canola, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) equal no glomalin production
- play a key role in the functioning of this foodweb, drawing down atmospheric CO2
- as dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and providing much-needed energy for the soil ecosystem.
Mycorrhizal fungi improves
- improve aggregate stability, enhance soil structure, build stable
- soil carbon, improve plant water use efficiency and increase the
- efficiency of utilisation of important nutrients like phosphorus,
- sulphur and nitrogen.
What are mycorrhizae and how do they work?
- hey acquire their energy in a liquid form, as dissolved organic carbon, siphoned directly from actively growing roots.
- Mycorrhizal fungi produce thin, hair-like threads of cytoplasm (hyphae) with a hyphal tip at each end. One tip enters a plant root and the other tip explores the soil matrix.
Mycorrhizal symbiotic relationship
In exchange for soluble carbon from their host, mycorrhizal fungi supply nutrients such as phosphorus, zinc, calcium,boron, copper and organic nitrogen.
Mycorrhizae and soil carbon
Networks of fungal hyphae also provide an important first step for the polymerisation of dissolved organic carbon, ultimately leading to the formation of humus, a high molecular weight gel-like substance that holds four to twenty times its own weight in water.
What is the "carbon exchange" with plants, what do plants get from this carbon exchange?
Primary pathway to form topsoil=liquid carbon flow - how does this work?
- Liquid carbon is basically dissolved sugar.
- Sugars are formed in plant chloroplasts during photosynthesis. Some of the sugars are used for growth and some are exuded into soil by plant roots to support the microbes involved in nutrient acquisition.
- In order for carbon to “flow” to soil, there has to be a partner-ship between plant roots and the soil microbes that will receive that carbon.
Heterotroph vs autotroph
- Plants are what we call autotrophs. That
- is, they feed themselves by combining
- light energy with CO2 to produce
- biochemical energy.
- As heterotrophs, we obtain energy by eating plants or eating animals that ate plants.
What is humus?
- Humus is an organo-mineral complex comprising around 60 percent carbon, between 6 and 8 percent nitrogen, plus phosphorus and sulfur.
- Humic molecules are linked to iron
- and aluminum and many other soil
- minerals, forming an intrinsic part of
- the soil matrix.
What is Mycorrhizal fungi, what is its purpose, how does it help plants?
- mycorrhizal fungi also transport a wide
- variety of other nutrients, including nitrogen, sulfur, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and essential trace elements such as zinc, boron, manganese and copper.
- In dry times they supply water.
- form networks between
- plants and colonies of soil bacteria.
- Plants can communicate with each
- other via messages sent through these
What is the Brix level refer to?
- High-Brix plants have formed relationships with soil microbes able to supply trace elements and other nutrients that the plant needs for self-defense, for its immune system.
- Once Brix gets over 12, the plant is largely resistant to insects and pathogens.
What is a soil aggregate, what are some features of aggregates/purpose?
- The aggregate is the fundamental unit of soil function
- fueled by liquid carbon
- Liquid carbon streams into the aggregates via
- these roots or fungal linkages, enabling the production of glues and gums that hold the soil particles together
What is a rhizosheath?
- Rhizosheaths are protective cylinders that form around plant roots.
- a bunch of soil particles held together by plant root exudates
What is the difference between organic nitrogen from bacteria vs inorganic nitrogen from fertilizer, how are they made available to a plant
- Nitrogen- fixing bacteria produce ammonia,
- a form of inorganic nitrogen, inside soil aggregates and rhizosheaths.
- inorganic nitrogen applied as fertilizer often ends up in plants as nitrate or nitrite
- Nitrates cause a range of metabolic disorders including infertility, mastitis, laminitis and liver dysfunction. There is also a strong link between nitrate and cancer.
What are three principles she talks about that are important for soil health?
- 1. The first rule for turning this around is to keep the soil covered, preferably with living plants, all year round.
- 2. maximize diversity in both cover crops and cash crops.
- 3. avoid or minimize the use of synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and herbicides
What are the Morrow Plots, what did they discover regarding soil carbon levels by adding synthetic nitrogen?
- The Morrow Plots are the oldest continuously cropped experimental fields in the United States.
- They discovered that the fields that had received the highest applications of nitrogen fertilizer had ended up with less soil carbon — and ironically less nitrogen — than the other fields.
Importance of fungal dominant soils vs bacterial (which we have long believed was better)
- Fungi are important for soil carbon seques-
- tration as well as nutrient acquisition.