City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

June 1, 2017

June 1st

Genetics of Angiosperm Leaf Out Times

6:30 p.m. This is the first day of summer as defined by convention in the 1800s and as used by Thoreau. Modern astronomical summer begins on June 20th, and ecological summer, the estival or hottest season of the year, begins on June 15th. A summer-like storm approaches, the sky is overcast, but the warm temperatures only threaten, but do not bring, rain. The stream is lower today. The SNOTEL station at Lookout Peak records that only about 10 inches of snow containing 5.8 inches of water remain in the high elevation snowpack. Since May 1st, the snowpack at the peak has declined from 82 inches of snow containing 36 inches of water equivalent. Per SNOTEL records on average, it will take another 8 days before the remaining balance will be gone, but my feeling is the snowpack melt will be complete in half that time. Then life in the canyon will have to rely on water stored deep underground below the Salt Lake salient.

As I leave Guardhouse Gate, grey clouds have turned to low dark clouds, horizontal lightening jumps between black clumps, and a light rain begins to fall. Birds are silent with few exceptions. Below picnic site 1, a lone Plumbeous vireo sings, and a Song sparrow calls at mile 0.4. At milepost 1.0, a lone robin tweets. Lightening increases, strong winds blow, trees wave, and the rain turns heavy. The stream swells in response. It is wet, soggy, and shirtless, but refreshing, jog back down canyon. Bicyclists stream down canyon squealing with glee. A single Chirping sparrow complains from a rain soaked River birch. As I reach the Gate again, the storm is clearing, high grey clouds return, and a Warbling vireo again sings.

Tracey Aviary’s Bryant Olsen and his team returned to the canyon May 25th. In addition to the current cast of avaian characters (May 20th), they see two new birds: the Northern rough-winged swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) and the Western wood-peewee (Contopus sordidulus). The diet of both consists of almost entirely of insects, and their arrival is consistent with rising temperatures and flying insects increasing numbers. Mountain chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Black-capped chickadees, who dominated winter birds and who survive the winter on conifer seeds, are now rarely heard.

Today, the United States executive branch announced action to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, on the grounds that American manufacturing and energy production must be unshackled from excessive regulation so the nation can compete with China and India. Implications are discussed below.

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The Blake edition of Thoreau’s “Journals” resume on June 1st, and continue with respect to his Concord observations through July 10th. Per the convention of his time, Thoreau declares summer to begin informally on June 1st (“Journal” on June 1st, 1853). In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 1st, 1852, he notes sounds during a full Moon night including night-hawk, crickets, peet-weets, and a whippoorwill. He notes that the river waters are at their summer low level. On June 1st, 1853, he notes that the season has changed. Blooming is over and a period of rapid growth begins. Bees are swarming. Most trees are covered in leaves and berries are forming, and plants are quickly growing. White oaks have red tinge on the sun-exposed side. He examines a gall on a tree. Conversely, he notes that lupines are in full bloom, and sees snapdragons, geraniums, and lambkill. Birds are at low numbers. He examines a night-hawk nest and its eggs, and the parent night-hawk strafes his head to drive him from the nest. On June 1st 1854, he notes that within two weeks, a forest leaf canopy has developed and the forest floor is covered with new shoots. The new shoots are being eaten by numerous worms and insects. On June 1st, 1857, he examines a redwing nest and he hears a bobolink.

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Spring leaf out is governed by genetics but fall leaf loss is governed by environmental factors. Panchen and colleagues recorded the leaf out times of approximately 1,600 woody plants at eight temperate arboretums spread around the globe (Panchen et al 2014), and after controlling for latitude, they organized the average leaf out dates into phenological clade diagram (id, Table 5 and Fig. 6). Members of the Rosaceae family began leaf out on average on the 87th day of the year (s.d. 7.72 days), and this includes Woods rose, serviceberry and chokeberry in the canyon. Members of the Fagaceae family, which includes Gambel’s oaks, leafed out on average on day 109 (s.d. 1.93 days). Other relationships by tree family emerged. Angiosperms leafed out on average 19 days before gymnosperm trees. Shrubs leafed out 10 days before trees. Panchen’s team also investigated the leaf-loss, called leaf senescence or abscission at four of the eight temperature arboretums (Panchen et al 2015). Unlike spring leaf-out, autumn leaf-loss is much more variable and cannot be not organized by tree families (id, 871).

This is seen in the canyon’s Gambel’s oaks. Within broad elevation based, Gambel’s oaks turn at once. Conversely, within bands, the effect of lower temperatures at altitude are apparent. The oaks at Guardhouse Gate are fully leafed out, but broad swaths of oaks on the high slopes at mile 5.0 have not yet begun to bud.

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Today, the United States executive branch announced action to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, on the grounds that American manufacturing and energy production must be unshackled from excessive regulation so the nation can compete with China and India. Long-term national polling indicates that the country is not behind the executive branch as more than 50 percent of citizens in each of the 50 United States are in favor of the Agreement (Leiserowitz et al 2017), and prior to the announcement, local cities and governments issued press releases indicating that they would further the Agreement notwithstanding the federal position. I am having a disconnect while watching a broadcast of the announcement, which occurs under a clear, blue skies and beautiful spring day on the White House lawn. The World AQI monitor page shows an AQI index near Washington, D.C. of 36, but over much of China and India the AQI scales are between 150 and 400. Delhi, India has monitors reading 621 and two at the meters reach the maximum of 999. Huangshan, China, near Shanghai, that nation’s largest industrial center, reads 291. As I noted back on February 8th, one consequence of the decision in the 1980s to de-industrialize the United States through globalization in the 1980s was the transporting of pollution to other countries, and Americans have grown accustom to relatively clean air. The source of my disconnect with the President’s broadcast is that it does not acknowledge the trade-off. Bringing back heavy industry under current technology will return United States’ air quality now seen in India and China. The broadcast would have been visually more honest if it had been done against the backdrop of a Beijing bad air day. Conversely, United States de-industrialization did offshore jobs, reduced the middle class, and increased income inequality. That is not a politically stable path for the nation. But these social and economic trends also represent an opportunity, different from that of the current federal executive branch, to correct the missed vision and path at the end of Jimmy Carter’s 1979 administration. Then the vision for America’s future was energy independence and transition to a service economy with clean industries. Omitted from that vision (and later abandoned by the Reagan administration) was the development of clean manufacturing technology for basic necessities. Globalization simply moved pollution intensive manufacturing to with countries with lower pollution standards, and economists claimed, ignoring non-economic impacts, that this was more efficient, but including non-economic impacts it is not. Investment and research in clean manufacturing is the way forward; it is necessary; but it will be more expensive for the American consumer than simply exporting pollution or than the United States racing to the bottom to match India’s and China’s low pollution standards.

For the birds in the canyon, this executive action weighs in favor of further declines in continental bird populations based on Soykan and colleagues’ 2016 study (May 28th; Soykan et al. 2016). But for the canyon, this may mean increases in western bird populations as species continue to migrate north and to retrench around the best watered habitats, e.g. – City Creek Canyon. The executive branch is out of step with the rest of America and is representing a vocal minority. It remains to be seen how the matter will play out in the future.

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On June 1st, 1921, Mayor C. Clearance Nelsen and city officers inspected the City Creek watershed and reported more snow and lake water than average (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 1st, 1920, Dr. Will Ellerbeck urged the creation of a highway through City Creek Canyon to connect Salt Lake and Morgan counties (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 1st, 1919, the Salt Lake Tribune promotes a new automobile using City Creek as the backdrop. On June 1, 1904, two young men became lost in City Creek and Emigration Canyons while horseriding (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 1st 1903, fifty prisoners were assigned to work on the City Creek Road over the summer (Salt Lake Telegram).

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