|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 485 December 10, firstname.lastname@example.org||Victoria, B.C.|
The tropical plant that would become one of the symbols of Christmas came to the attention of botanists when Baron Wilhelm Friedrich von KARWINSKY von Karwin (1780-1855) pressed and dried a specimen of it somewhere in Mexico in 1827. The specimen ended up in the herbarium of Carl Ludwig WILLDENOW (1765-1812) at Berlin, who considered it an undescribed species of the large genus Euphorbia. There it was seen by botanist Johann Friedrich KLOTZSCH (1805-1860). In 1834, Klotzsch published in Allgemeine Gartenzeitung the name that Willdenow had scribbled on the specimen: "Euphorbia pulcherrima."
The year after Karwinsky made his specimen, the United States' Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts POINSETT (1779-1851), came across the species himself. He shipped the plant (either as seeds or living specimens) back home to Charleston, South Carolina. From there, they were shared with Philadelphia nurseryman Robert BUIST (1805-1880), who tentatively called that plant "Euphorbia poinsettiana."
In 1834, Scottish nurseryman Robert BROWN (1767-1845) and botanist James McNAB (1810-1878) travelled through the United States and Canada, collecting plants to cultivate. Among the material they carried back to Edinburgh that November was Buist's "Euphorbia ponsettiana." At the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the species flowered twice during 1835, and again in February 1836. These living plants were studied by Dr. Robert GRAHAM (1786-1845), chair of botany at the University of Edinburgh and Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. He realized it was the same as Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch, but felt that it was different enough from the other species of Euphorbia to be reckoned a distinct genus. In 1836, he described the new genus Poinsettia in The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal. With the original specific epithet (the Latin superlative for "beautiful") it became Ponsettia pulcherrima (Willd. ex Klotzsch) Graham.
Most botanists today take a very broad view of the genus Euphorbia and do not recognize Poinsettia as a distinct genus, thus, the plant's name in most botanical references is Euphorbia pulcherrima, while "poinsettia" remains a perfectly fine common name.
The Nature Conservancy is buying 47,921 acres of timber company land between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum, a move that will provide habitat corridors for critters, water for fish and recreation wildlands for people on both sides of the "Cascade Curtain."
The 75-square-mile acquisition is part of a $134 million deal with the Plum Creek Timber Co. that includes 117,000 acres of the Blackfoot Valley in Montana. It continues a process of bringing together public and private holdings long under fragmented ownership and management. "One hundred fifty years ago, we gave away public lands to induce railroads to traverse the West: Now we are reassembling those lands, which is an absolute necessity for connected wildlife habitats and for outdoor recreation," said Bill Chapman of the Mountains to Sound Greenway. The Nature Conservancy will nearly double its holdings in Washington, to more than 102,000 acres. "This is our largest land acquisition in Washington," said Melissa Garvey of TNC.
The Conservancy's philosophy in Washington can be summed up in two words: Think bigger. In the 1970's, it specialized in acquiring small and unique places: The eagles nesting atop Point Disney on Waldron Island in the San Juans owe thanks to the Conservancy. A tiny gem in the San Juans, Yellow Island, boasts unique wildflowers.Larger projects have come more recently: Ellsworth Creek is an 8,800-acre watershed in Southwest Washington, with 1,500 magnificent acres of old growth forest shielding one of the state's premier salmon streams. The Conservancy is protecting giant cedars that shield spawning pools, and restoring cut-over surrounding lands. And, in Eastern Washington, the Conservancy has acquired land in Moses Coulee, preserving plant species and habitat for the endangered sage grouse.
Of Monday's acquisition, Garvey said: "Our intent is this land will be actively managed for restoration as has been done in Ellsworth Creek. … Some of it has been thinned, some of it is dense forest. The land is in a lot of different conditions."
Snoqualmie Pass was, 40 years ago, in active danger of becoming a mountain slum. Sprawl was moving east. Timber companies were liquidating old growth forests in their land holdings, sending the raw logs for export to Japan.
A sea change has since taken place in the high country. With money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, slopes and streams bordering on the Alpine Lakes Wilderness were acquired in the 1990s. A pair of key riparian zones, along the upper Yakima River, were preserved thanks to generosity by the late philanthropist Patsy Bullitt Collins.
The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, once domain of dumping parties and chop shops and a big meth lab, was rescued for recreation. Proposed legislation would add the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River to the protected Alpine Wilderness Lakes area, Saturday Jun 21, 2013. Weekend visitors fish on the Taylor River, which connects to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, Saturday Jun 21, 2013. And, last year, the state of Washington acquired 45,000 acres of timber lands in the Teanaway River north of Cle Elum: The Teanaway offers some of the best rainshadow hiking in the Cascades, car camping, and is home to a wolf pack that lives in its remote west fork.
The Nature Conservancy acquisition includes land bordering on three reservoirs - Lakes Keechlus, Kachess and Cle Elum - as well as 390 miles of rivers and streams. It safeguards headwaters of the Yakima River, site of a major plan to store additional water for both irrigation and salmon restoration.
"We're absolutely not locking it up," said Garvey. "We're not just about forest restoration, we're allowing public access for recreation." The preserved lands form "a mosaic," Chapman said. The just-acquired Plum Creek lands adjoin the newly created Teanaway Community Forest. Plum Creek is one of the largest private landowners in America, with about 6.7 million acres in the Northwest, Northern Rockies and Southeast U.S. Its forests in these parts are a legacy of the Northern Pacific Land Grant, an inducement to building a transcontinental railroad, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. Conservationists long treated Plum Creek as a villain, for its clearcuts in the Rockies and its efforts to keep company lands from becoming part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. But the company's CEO Rick Holley spoke Monday of "ecological and recreational values" and said the sale would "accommodate the public interest." "This is an important conservation project that recognizes the highest benefit these lands offer - protecting ecological values and helping to maintain public access," Holley said.
The full task of preserving and protecting the I-90 corridor is not "done," Chapman emphasized, but "what happened today completes a substantial percentage of what we need to do. It's of huge, significant benefit to Seattle and Kittitas County, to the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and to the integrity of the land itself." The lands being acquired stretch for 25 miles on either side of Interstate 90. The biggest chunk runs along slopes above and east of Lake Cle Elum.
Perspectives on the role of fire on the land have changed dramatically over the last century. Only in the latter 20th century have land managers and researchers recognized that fire played key roles in shaping many vegetation types. As a result, prescribed fire has increased dramatically as a tool for maintaining the diversity of fire-adapted ecological systems over the last several decades.
Prescribed fire began to be studied in the lowland prairies of the Pacific Northwest in 1986 on Yellow Island in the San Juans (Dunwiddie, 2002). By the mid-1990s, prescribed fires were used regularly on the island to maintain and restore grassland and savanna vegetation, and were beginning to be used in other similar habitats in western Washington for conservation purposes, such as at Mima Mounds in South Puget Sound. By the early and mid-2000s, prescribed burning was becoming widespread as a management tool at Joint Base Lewis McChord in South Puget Sound, at sites on Whidbey Island, and by the National Park Service at English Camp on San Juan Island. This increasing use of fire grew out of a recognition by managers and researchers of the important historical role fires set by Native Americans played in maintaining these ecosystems. However, until recently, there has been relatively little research carried out to document the effects of this fire management. Observations of changes associated with these fires have largely been anecdotal, or confined to documenting effects of one or two burns on a site. As conservation land managers continue to apply fire in Northwest prairies, savannas, and woodlands, it is important to more fully understand both the benefits and limitations of this key management tool. This article describes some of the primary areas where information is most lacking, and researchers and land managers can make the greatest contributions in using fire more effectively.
Historically, fires set by Native Americans burned repeatedly across the landscape, perhaps every 2-5 years (Hamman et al., 2011). Such frequent disturbances undoubtedly had cumulative effects that built up over time, producing changes in soil properties, fire behavior, litter accumulation, vegetation composition and structure, just to name a few. Studies focusing on the effects of a single burn cannot be directly extrapolated to understand the cumulative effects of repeated fires on a site. Therefore, there is an urgent need to establish and maintain carefully designed long-term studies to track ecological changes in sites that are being frequently burned.
Prescribed fires are set in natural areas in an attempt to replicate an ecological process that is thought to have been a key in maintaining these fire-adapted systems. However, Native American harvesting of camas bulbs (Camassia spp.) must also have occurred on a massive scale in many areas. The accompanying soil disturbances would have had significant ecological effects that are rarely replicated in conservation areas today. Understanding how fires burned in prairies that experienced extensive camas harvesting may teach us much about how these processes interacted to maintain assemblages of native plants, insects, and other animals. In many areas today, fire is being explicitly used to help control invasive species such as Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and tall oatgrass (Arrhenatherum elatius). Yet the very presence of these species strongly affects how the fires themselves behave - how hot they are, how continuously they burn across the ground surface, and under what conditions they will burn. Understanding these interactions of fire with invasive species is critical in using it effectively both to control the invasives while sustaining or restoring native species.
Frequent fires on a site prevent large amounts of fuel from accumulating. As a result, individual fires tend to be patchier and less intense. Historical fires and their effects may have been quite different than what we see with prescribed burns today, since the former occurred on a landscape with patches of bare soil from camas harvesting practices, the scattered burrows of native pocket gophers, and an absence of extensive stands of rhizomatous grasses such as colonial bentgrass (Agrostis capillaries), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), and red fescue (Festuca rubra). Attempting to replicate such patchy burns may be an important management challenge that could be difficult to replicate in today's highly altered landscape. Yet this may be essential for maintaining populations of rare butterflies, other sensitive invertebrates, as well as some plants that perhaps need lightly burned or unburned refugia to survive and repopulate within extensively burned landscapes.
Reintroducing fire to a prairie is just the first step in re-establishing a diverse assemblage of native species. Most prairie remnants have lost significant numbers of species, and many others may only persist in a few, isolated patches within a site. Furthermore, studies have shown that many extant species are severely seed-limited. As a result, few natives may have the capacity to rebound significantly once fires are restored to a prairie that is already dominated by non-natives. Understanding how to efficiently and economically produce, sow, and establish diverse mixes of native seed following burning is a significant challenge in restoring native prairies in the region.
The landscape in which prescribed fires are being set is continually changing. Climates are changing, creating conditions that increasingly favor some species over others. Urban sprawl and rural development continue to fragment prairies that already have been reduced to a fraction of their historical extent. Many of these changes make it increasingly difficult to use fire as a management tool, creating conflicts with everything from nervous neighbors and fire officials to air quality regulators and seasonal burn bans. In the face of such obstacles, it will be a growing challenge to train and retain competent burn crews, maintain the specialized equipment necessary to safely conduct burns, and sustain the ecological and on-the-ground expertise needed to build programs that can continue to successfully apply prescribed fires.
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