Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

NEWS STORIES RELATED TO SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HIST ORY

November 30, 2017

Can migratory songbirds adapt to climate change?  Will migration and nature’s changing schedule cause population crises?

Trash vs. whale…trash wins.

New York City joins SF’s lawsuit against fossil fuel companies over climate change.

Scientists look at what climate change could do to California agriculture.

Modern agriculture  messes with environment; nature strikes back in Argentina.

Up to one-third of American wildlife species may be headed to extinction.

Heavy use of antibiotics, polluting planet and helping resistant microbes evolve faster.  Will this bring the demise of people?

Washington State has banned all Atlantic salmon farms in that state.  That follows an accidental but apparently careless release of Atlantic salmon into the wild when netting around a salmon farm broke in 2017.

San Francisco and Oakland vs. five big fossil fuel companies…in climate change lawsuit.

Bay Area biologist, Paul Ehrlich, predicts over-population will destroy civilization.

The heat blob diminishes in the Pacific Northwest.

Pacific plastic pollution worse than earlier estimated.

What’s killing starfish–the science.

San Francisco’s endangered manzanita.

Hot times in the Arctic…bad news for polar bears, coastal cities and life in general.

Drying earth leads to big crack in Arizona’s skin.

NOAA’s 2017 technical report on projected sea level rise in US.

Washington State ousts Cooke Aquaculture from one lease after the firm’s nets broke, releasing thousands of Atlantic salmon.

Dutch man comes up with plant to remove plastic pollution from the oceans.  We need to hurry because most seabirds on the planet are already carrying plastic inside them.  If Bill Gates puts enough of his money behind the clean-up, it could be good news. We need some.

Plastic is just another bad thing we humans are doing to coral reefs.

The ozone layer in the atmosphere is not recovering over cities…likely due to man-made chemicals.   One more self-destructive move by people against themselves.

Capetown dried up due to climate change.

Joys of fossil fuels: gas well explosion in Oklahoma.

2017 one of the three hottest years on record.  Other two: 2015 and 2016.  Get it?

Salmon killing ag chemical protected by Trump Regime.

Poison used by non-organic pot farms threatens wildlife.  I point in my book that poisoning rats in Golden Gate Park killed off the Great Horned Owls and it took them a decade to return.

New York City vs. Big Oil

Noise pollution hard on birds as well as humans.

How animals cope with extreme heat–some die.

Story on the size of 2017’s climate related disasters.

Graphic showing increasing costs of climate change influenced disasters. How long before our lifestyle drives this nation broke?

Leaning tower of San Francisco (Millennium) cited for fire risk.

Modern technology and economy killing the Earth’s oceans.

Oregon sues Monsanto over PCBs, decades after they were banned.

Is there a population problem on earth or is that a silly worry?

Greenland’s melting ice and coastal cities’ future.

Don’t flush those drugs down the toilet or put ’em in the sink or the landfill.

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San Francisco’s Natural History

April 20, 2017

Now I am shipping copies and taking orders.  This title is on sale at Green Apple Books near Sixth and Clement in the Richmond District, also at Alexander Book Company south of Market on Second Street.  This book is available for order from Amazon as a paperback and inexpensive Kindle download.

In June I will be giving a talk on this topic at two SF Public Library branches: Sunset and Inner Richmond.  Check you local branch for details if you live nearby.  I will also be speaking at the June meeting of the Audubon Society in San Mateo County.


SAN FRANCISCO’S NATURAL HISTORY
FROM SAND DUNES TO STREETCARS69644847_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7303473


This book sells for $25 with free shipping if you order from me.  See bottom of this blog for related websites and news updates on San Francisco’s environment.

This book traces the changes in San Francisco’s landscape from the days of the Ohlone to the present.  What native species were present when only Native Americans lived here? What animal grazed, flew or swam here? In the wild countryside what natural waterways supported life?  What trees, fruits, and flowering plants would the Ohlone have known and used?  And…what happened to all that after the Europeans arrived? It’s a dramatic cascade of changes, filled with disappearance and devastation, ruin, restoration and rebirth.  As the centuries passed and the cityscape developed and changed, so has the natural landscape and the creatures in it, including us–humans, whose values and actions have altered and shaped everything.

In spite of what amounts to obliteration of the old natural environment, many native species survive and even thrive in the modern city.  “Life” here includes wildlife. Contemporary restoration projects mover forward.  Brown Pelicans and coyotes have been joined by new immigrants like collared-doves and eastern gray squirrels.  Forests of introduced trees today host Red-shouldered Hawks and Hooded Orioles. And yet, there is not stasis and never has been. Now comes climate change.  All is flux.

Through this book, I hope to help provide knowledge and perspective on what has gone before, but also what we now face.  To protect and preserve this peninsula, this beautiful piece of our planet, the decisions we humans must make are not just cosmetic, they are matters of life and death.  People must understand what’s happened and what’s happening in order to avoid repeating devastating mistakes of the past, and in order to proceed wisely and humanely into the future. From open space to micro-plastic pollution, the decisions rest with us.

SOME EXCERPTS

The want of sufficient level space on which to found so great and growing a city, has been partially rectified, at an enormous expense, by taking building ground from the waters, and by lowering, and in many cases absolutely removing bodily the multitude of sand hills, by which the place is immediately surrounded. What with digging out and filling up, piling, capping and planking, grading and regrading the streets, and shifting, and rebuilding, and again rebuilding the houses, to suit the altered levels, millions upon millions of dollars have been spent.                                       –Frank Soule, et al., The Annals of San Francisco, 1855

***

Nature’s plan has evolved through millions of years while man’s plans for the earth cover a short span of time and are very often both selfish and short-sighted.
–Helen Cruickshank, Thoreau’s Birds, 1964


***

Captain Jean François de La Perouse from France was the first European from outside the Spanish Empire to visit California after the founding of the missions and pueblos. In September 1786, he spent time in Monterey. About Monterey Bay he wrote: “It is impossible to describe the number of whales with which we were surrounded, or their familiarity. They spouted every half minute within pistol shot of our frigates, and caused a most annoying stench. We were unacquainted with this property in the whale, but the inhabitants informed us that the water thrown out by them is impregnated with this offensive smell.”

***

            In 1792–1793, Archibald Menzies, the medical officer for the British Expedition, headed by Captain George Vancouver, was immediately taken with the dramatic “broad sheet of water” that is the bay, described in the epigraph to this chapter. The observations by Menzies and other expedition crew are valuable as baseline information about how the area was changed over the decades that followed their visit. During their stay in the fall of 1792, the British sailors reported a large number of waterfowl in the marsh that is now Crissy Field. Menzies describes the area between Fort Mason and Fort Point as a “low track of Marshy Land along shore, with some Salt Water Lagoons that were supplied by the overflowings of high Tides and oozings through the Sandy Beach: on these we saw abundance of Ducks and wild Geese…”  Vancouver mentions large livestock flocks. He is visiting in 1792, less than two decades after the first colonists arrived from Mexico. Yet, already hundreds of domestic animals are ranging across a fragile landscape.

***

1820   Estimated 200,000 northern fur seals killed for their pelts.

1932  First Mockingbird sighted in San Francisco.

***

One of the few surface streams still to be seen in San Francisco runs down Glen Canyon. It constitutes the headwaters of Precita Creek, which joins Islais Creek, named from the Ohlone word for hollyleaf cherry… In 1869 America’s first dynamite factory, the Giant Powder Company, blew up in Glen Canyon. Also, in the late 1800s, the canyon, then known as Rock Gulch, supported a private zoo and amusement park.

***

San Francisco’s original grasslands and coastal scrub are almost gone. Most grassland fell before invasive plants, pavement, housing, and other heavy use. A large swath of coastal prairie in McLaren Park became Gleneagles Golf Course. Fortunately, a parcel of nearly natural habitat survives on the eastern slope of Mount Davidson.

***

Farallones: Research over the past four decades by Point Blue has shown that Common Murres are now breeding earlier in the year, in response to climate change and its effects on upwelling in the California current.

***

Golden Gate Park: In 1870, when this land was set aside by the city government for a park, it was largely sand dunes. Before it was landscaped and planted, there were a few willow-bordered lakes on the site, some squatters in residence, and scattered oak groves in sheltered areas furthest from the windy beach. The most respected landscape expert at the time was Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park. He warned San Francisco these lands outside the city limits were not suitable for a proper urban, forested park. Olmsted’s conclusion about a park in the city was part cautionary, part damning: “There is not a full grown tree of beautiful proportions near San Francisco, nor have I seen any young trees that promise fairly, except, perhaps, of certain compact clump forms of evergreens, wholly wanting in grace and cheerfulness. It would not be wise nor safe to undertake to form a park upon any plan which assumed as a certainty that trees which would delight the eye can be made to grow near San Francisco.”

***

In 2010, the public had no idea that harmful micro-beads of plastic were being put into many consumer products and we were all guilty of spreading them across the planet. The San Francisco Estuary Institute and its partners are now studying the presence of micro-plastics and nano-plastics in San Francisco Bay. This research is being led by Dr. Rebecca Sutton. Her preliminary study found the bay was more contaminated by plastic than the Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay.

***

Perhaps most threatening are a group of invasive Asian earthworms first identified on the East Coast and found in Oregon in 2016. The risk from these invaders is that they feed on the surface material in forests, quickly turning leaf litter and fallen plant matter into worm food and then feces. They drive out nondestructive worm species and clear the soil for erosion and desiccation, weakening forests trying to survive climate change and drought.

***

Climate change: Just how bad can this get?  A scientific look back at a previous die-off caused by ocean acidification brings up terrifying images if you value any currently living creature.  Volcanologist Seth Burgess studied the geological and biological changes that took place at the end of the Permian period about 250-255 million years ago.  It wasn’t simply the end of a geological age, it was the end of most living organisms.  Fossil records show that 90% of all ocean organisms and 70% of those on land went extinct. Trees and coral reefs disappeared. 

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Other links pertaining to this book:

Newslinks, stories pertinent to San Francisco’s natural history—present and future.

Table of Contents

Species named in the book

San Francisco images, before 1860 
San Francisco images, 1860 to present