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Almanac Archive for January 3, 2013

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Quote of the Week
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
--Aldo Leopold

Conservation Calendar

Green Fire Burns at MV Film Center
On Saturday, Jan 12 the Green on Screen collaboration between VCS and the MV Film Society expands to include Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation for a presentation of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time. From the film's site:
Green Fire highlights Leopold’s extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. Leopold remains relevant today, inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.
The film, brought to our attention by SMF, will be preceded by opening remarks from their Executive Director Adam Moore. The event will be at the new Martha's Vineyard Film Center at the Tisbury Marketplace on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. Admission is $10, or $7 for VCS and MVFS members. Doors open at 3:30 pm, showing begins at 4:00, and a discussion will follow the movie.

Introduction to Dragonflies and Damselflies

Tuesday, Jan 8, 8:00 to 9:00 pm, at the Vineyard Haven Public Library.
Susie Bowman, Teacher/Naturalist at Felix Neck, will present a slide show/lecture on these fascinating acrobatic insects. She will also talk about Felix Neck's Citizen Science Odonate Survey Project, which welcomes interested volunteers. Free, no registration required.

Geology Rocks with The Trustees of Reservations

Saturday, Jan 12, 10:00 am to noon, West Tisbury.
Explore the beaches and sandplain grasslands of Long Point with a naturalist guide. Free event, dress warmly, no dogs allowed. Meet at the winter (Deep Bottom Rd.) parking lot (directions here). Call 508 693-7662 to preregister.

Polly Hill Winter Walk
Saturday, Jan 12, 10:00 am, at the Polly Hill Arboretum.

Tours run for a little over an hour. Meet at the Visitor Center and dress for the weather. Free. For details, see website or call 508-693-9426.

Sassafras Winter Programs

Beginning January 12:
Squirrels and Coyotes
Children's programs for ages 6+, Saturdays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Adult Dirt-Time
3rd Sunday of the month (Jan 20) from 1:00 to 4:00 pm

Women's Circle
Monday, Jan 14
For more information on these and other programs, see website or call 508 645-2008.
In Season Recipe
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
This hearty, warming soup recipe, adapted from CHOW Test Kitchen’s Christine Gallary (video here) may seem complicated at first, but makes up for that and more by avoiding the annoyance (and danger!) of trying to peel winter squash.

  • 2 locally-grown medium-size butternut squash (about 4 lbs), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium tart apple (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

For methods, see CHOW.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Local News

Next Winter Walk: Sunday, Jan. 13 at Katama Airpark

Aviation and conservation lie side by side in Katama. Is it a picture-perfect example of harmonious coexistence or habitat fragmentation? Probably a little of both, yet neither. (Photo by Brendan O'Neill)

The historic Katama Airpark is the site of the 3rd VCS Winter Walk this season. Katama’s grass-only airfield allows visitors the amazing luxury of landing within easy walking distance of a perfect beach day, with the ability to fly home that afternoon. Because it also happens to sit amidst the globally rare and threatened sandplain grassland and coastal heathland ecosystems that define the unique ecological character of our island, conservation at the site has long been a priority.
Ecologist Matt Pelikan from the Nature Conservancy will help lead the walk and share insight into the conservation history of the area and the unique flora and fauna of the sandplain grassland ecosystem. As always, the walk is free and cider and cookies will be served. For more information or details about the walk, call 508 693-9588 or check our website next week.

Holding Human Health Over the Coals

The next installment of Liz Durkee's series on climate change impacts on our island tackles one of the more challenging subjects: the effects on our own physical and mental health. Some effects are obvious – more heat waves mean more heat strokes – but in many cases the connections are murkier than those between climate change and the physical world.

Building on an impressive amount of old-fashioned reporting legwork, in this article Liz makes the case that our health is connected to the environment in general. From that it follows that changes to the environment inevitably lead to changes to our health.

"As humans and patients we need to understand the connection between human health and the environment. Mold, for example, is linked to allergies which are linked to depression (which is linked to Lyme Disease); all spring from the natural world – moisture, plants, air quality, extreme weather. Seeing the causes can help bridge the gap between symptoms and successful treatment.”

State News

Stream Restoration and Coastal Flooding Protection Get a Boost from State Government

This week, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill to provide funding for the removal or repair of dams and coastal infrastructure. The bill states that half the money is to go to dam projects and half to coastal flooding mitigation. Though seemingly similar on a fundamental level (we have some big walls meant to hold water in place, and they need attention), the bill lumps together two distinctly different problems. Removal of dams from streams and rivers is primarily an ecological issue; or, more completely, a balancing of improving the health of waterways by restoring natural streams against the cost of removing the dams and people’s attachment to them for cultural or economic reasons. People like ponds (and hydroelectric power), but freshwater streams provide more important habitat.
However, improving infrastructure to protect against coastal flooding is, from the environmental perspective, a bit thornier. There is no doubt that there are coastal resources – homes, businesses, and the beaches and wetlands themselves – in need of better protection. Hopefully, this half of the money will be spent in ways that are both environmentally aware and conscious: let’s build our new protections with the reality of more powerful storms and rising seas in mind, but also avoid new hard structures that save one building or beach while destroying another.

Other News

Scientists Attempt to Untangle Web of Changes Affecting Wetlands

Experimental enclosures at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's field site on the Chesapeake Bay (photo by Adam Langley)

Viewed in total, the interconnections of earth’s various systems – physical attributes, like water, land, and climate, and the myriad ecological interactions among the biota – are so massively complex that it’s no wonder that relatively simple changes can have huge and unpredictable consequences. Take, for example, the introduction of a single exotic species that, surprisingly well-adapted for its new environment but free of the natural enemies that ordinarily keep it in check, runs amok in a new home creating all sorts of cascading effects far beyond merely out-competing the previous resident of its ecological niche.
It is no wonder, then, that when multiple dimensions are altered at once (the true state of affairs here on earth) the results are maddeningly complex. What happens when we not only introduce an invasive species, but also add a sprinkle of pollution, lots more nutrients, and change the climate all at once? At some level, a precise answer is unknowable since the situation is continually changing while the data is being collected, but scientists are giving it a shot.
As described in Smithsonian Magazine, scientists working in tidal marshes of the Chesapeake Bay have been taking a more holistic, yet still properly controlled, approach to studying the ecosystem effects of recent changes to coastal waters. Large enclosures in the Bay are pumped full of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to create conditions more similar to those predicted for the near future, where impacts on the plants, animals, and soil within the enclosures can be clearly monitored. Recently they’ve added a third category of variable to the soup – the invasive reed Phragmites australis.

Unsurprisingly, the reed responds positively to more nutrients and CO2. Since Phragmites itself tends to transform the ecosystems it invades, we can be fairly certain that the invader, working in concert with other ongoing changes, will create complex and significant alterations. So what happens if those other changes – more nutrients, warmer water, higher CO2 concentration – actually give Phragmites (or other invasives) an edge in its competition with natives?
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Copyright (C) *2013* *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.

Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.