If you plan to apply a pesticide, use the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s VOC calculators to determine emissions from fumigant and nonfumigant pesticides. Get there by clicking the Air Quality button at the top of each treatment table in the UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines.
Simple steps can minimize the release of VOCs into the air:
- Use pesticides only when necessary
- Decrease the amount of pesticide applied if appropriate
- Choose low-emission management methods
- Avoid emulsifiable concentrate (EC) formulations and fumigants
Ozone, or smog, is caused by mixing VOCs, nitrogen oxide and sunshine. High levels of ozone can harm people and crops. Regions in California that do not meet federal or state air quality standards for ozone, called nonattainment areas, may restrict the use of pesticides that release VOCs.
Cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands, according to research by the University of California, Davis.
The study, published June 27 in the journal PLOS ONE, is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date.
“There’s been a lot of concern about public lands and water quality, especially with cattle grazing,” said lead author Leslie Roche, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We’re able to show that livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals.”
Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western United States each year, the study said. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.
“With an annual recreating population of over 26 million, California’s national forests are at the crossroad of a growing debate about the compatibility of livestock grazing with other activities dependent upon clean, safe water,” the study’s authors write.
“We often hear that livestock production isn’t compatible with environmental goals,” said principal investigator Kenneth Tate, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “This helps to show that’s not absolutely true. There is no real evidence that we’re creating hot spots of human health risk with livestock grazing in these areas.”
The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. Nearly 40 UC Davis researchers, ranchers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California.
These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander.
UC Davis researchers analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorous.
The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83 percent of all sample sites and 95 percent of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for human health.
The study noted that several regional regulatory programs use different water quality standards for fecal bacteria. For instance, most of the study’s sample sites would exceed levels set by a more restrictive standard based on fecal coliform concentrations. However, the U.S. EPA states that E. coli are better indicators of fecal contamination and provide the most accurate assessment of water quality conditions and human health risks.
The study also found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern.
The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Region 5.
Through Calbug, any volunteer with Internet access can help read and transcribe hand-written field notes accompanying a million insect specimens, many dating back more than 100 years.
Along the way, participants are getting a peek into history and the treasures held in museum collections. Among the many scientifically valuable objects in the Essig collection is at least one – a ground beetle from Tierra del Fuego, Chile – that was collected in 1833 by none other than Charles Darwin.
Calbug teamed up with two other natural history collections – one focused on plants and the other on birds – to create Notes from Nature, a citizen science project that draws on the public to tame the voluminous records stored in drawers, jars and bookshelves in natural history museums throughout the world. The project was officially launched last month.
“What really turns people on is knowing that they are contributing to science in a meaningful way,” said Calbug co-investigator Kipling Will, associate professor of Environmental, Science Policy and Management. “These citizen science projects speak to the importance of public engagement in science.”
“Without the help of citizen scientists, processing the sheer volume of records held in natural history collections — estimated to be well over 2 billion worldwide — would take generations,” added Rosemary Gillespie, director of the Essig Museum and principal investigator of the Calbug project.
Notes from Nature is among the many projects that fall under the umbrella of Zooniverse, a highly successful Web-portal where citizens can help answer a diverse array of scientific questions, such as how stars form, what whale calls mean, and what life was like in the ancient Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus.
“Our projects help answer research questions that can only be solved by a significant amount of human attention — they require people, not computers,” said Arfon Smith, director of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and the technical lead for Zooniverse. “People have responded in a way that is truly great. There is an appetite for contributing to something real.”
In addition to insects, Notes from Nature participants can help digitize plant records from the Southeast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC). The SERNEC collections include thousands of specimen images, labels and ledgers from hundreds of herbaria in the Southeast United States.
The Calbug project originally began with support from a 2010 National Science Foundation grant to digitize the first I million — out of 6.5 million total — specimens from California’s eight major entomological collections. Besides UC Berkeley, Calbug includes insect collections from the California Academy of Sciences, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, the California State Collection of Arthropods, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, San Diego Natural History Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum.
“California has a rich history of insect collecting dating back to around 1900 and earlier,” said Gillespie, a professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “Through Calbug, our goal is to make at least some of those records, which are normally inaccessible to the public, available to people around the world. And by converting those labels into electronic records, it will be possible for us to track any changes in range for different species, and that provides insight into how animals react to changes in the environment.”
(BiGCB), an ambitious effort to analyze biological records during ancient and more recent episodes of environmental change to better forecast how plant and animal populations might adapt to our rapidly changing planet.
“We originally thought digitization would have to be done by brute force alone, which meant hiring undergrads to manually enter the data one record at a time,” said Will. “Even for a small portion of our collection, this would have taken many years to complete. By joining the Notes from Nature partnership, we expect to meet and exceed our goal, and in the process develop methods that other collections can adopt.”
Questions remain about the level of accuracy of the transcriptions entered by the citizen scientists. Researchers from the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History are working with Zooniverse to evaluate the cost, accuracy and speed of volunteer transcriptions from the Notes from Nature site.
Thanks to a beta launch in late April of the first 20,000 images, which included an array of insects like bombardier beetles and skipper butterflies, Calbug is already well on its way to completion. About a third of these records have already been transcribed by more than 2,000 users, including Maggie Sanders, a homemaker from Fuita, Colo., who has completed nearly 400 transcriptions since late April.
“I have no background in science whatsoever, but I love seeing patterns in nature,” said Sanders. “I’ve at least dabbled in about a dozen citizen science projects through Zooniverse. That’s the beauty of it all: there are no time requirements, no qualifications, just a few moments of training, and suddenly I’m transcribing ancient Greek papyri or describing galaxies or measuring fish. What I love about Citizen Science is that I feel like I’m part of something important. And then, after I make my daily contribution to science, I just turn off the computer and go back to making dinner or reading with the kids!”
It's National Pollinator Week. Have you hugged your pollinators today, particularly the bees?
If you don't pay attention to the bees around you, you may think that every floral visitor is a honey bee (Apis mellifera) or a bumble bee (Bombus).
If you look closely, you'll see bee diversity: leafcutter bees, green metallic sweat bees, cuckoo bees, long-horned bees, carpenter bees, and squash bees, just to name a few.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, has detected 80 different species of bees - and counting - in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis. The half-acre garden, planted in the fall of 2009, is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It's intended to be a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators, to raise public awareness about the plight of bees, and to demonstrate what you can plant in your own garden.
"Of about 4,000 bee species known in the entire United States, about 1,600 have been recorded in California," according to Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, Robbin Thorp and their colleagues, in a must-read article in California Agriculture.
They point out: "...many types of urban residential gardens provide floral and nesting resources for the reproduction and survival of bees, especially a diversity of native bees. Habitat gardening for bees, using targeted ornamental plants, can predictably increase bee diversity and abundance, and provide clear pollination benefits."
Be sure to check out UC Berkeley's Urban Bee Gardens website that's described as "a practical guide to introducing the world’s most prolific pollinators into your garden." It's an educational treasure.
Bottom line: It's good to bee-aware, especially when research studies show that our pollinator population is declining worldwide.
A male cuckoo bee, Triepeolus concavus, the cuckoo that is a cleptoparasite on Svastra, according to Robbin Thorp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female metallic green sweat bee, Agapostemon texanus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male leafcutting bee, Megachile sp., on rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male long-horned bee, Melissodes communis, on salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Scotch, Spanish and French broom were introduced from Europe in the mid-1800s as lovely, easy-to-grow garden accents and land stabilizers, but they have become aggressive invaders threatening native plants and increasing fire hazards.
“These brooms crowd out our native flora and form large, dense stands of just broom,” said Scott Oneto, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in the Central Sierra. “It’s also displacing the birds and animals that would live in this environment with native plants.”
The characteristics of invasive brooms cause several problems. The plants grow large and upright, developing thick trunks at the base. After its relatively short life span - typically 7 to 8 years, 15 at the most – they die and become tinder-dry woody skeletons that can burn high and hot.
The brooms are also a member of the legume family. Legumes are unique in the plant world. They have evolved a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that live on their roots. The bacteria are able to pull nitrogen from the atmosphere and deposit it into the soil, where it feeds the plant.
“These soils are naturally very low in nitrogen,” Oneto said. “Our native plants thrive in low-nitrogen soils. Large populations of broom are changing the soil chemistry so even after they are removed, the area is no longer ideal for our native vegetation.”
Large stands of broom are also a significant concern for rangeland managers. Cows don’t like the taste; only goats will eat it. When the plant is grazed off or cut back, it readily re-sprouts from the crown. The plant’s spread is bolstered by its intriguing ability to scatter seeds widely. Brooms grow seed pods that are naturally spring loaded. When the seeds are ready for dispersal, they fling from the pod with the force of a tiny explosion.
In collaboration with the non-profit California Invasive Plant Council, which received a grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Oneto is working to eradicate broom from a particularly sensitive location. Highway 120, for many the “gateway to Yosemite,” has populations of French and Spanish broom.
“We’ve started by mapping the broom along Highway 120 and plan to eliminate the population to prevent it from moving further into the forest and eventually into Yosemite National Park,” Oneto said.
The grant is providing the funding for environmental and regulatory compliance so that control measures can be implemented.
“Once the regulatory compliance is complete, the project will be shovel-ready and we can begin treatment,” Oneto said.
“If broom is growing wild or as an ornamental on your property, we suggest you remove it and replace it with a non-invasive plant,” said Rebecca Miller-Cripps, natural resources program representative with UCCE Central Sierra. For example, forsythia produces yellow flowers and a shrub of about the same size and shape as brooms, but isn’t invasive, she said.
For more about invasive broom, see the video below: