THE SITUATION AND THE POTENTIAL
California’s drought has claimed well over 70 million trees, from drought-induced bark beetle infestations. In many communities of the central and southern Sierra Nevada range, “80 percent of trees are dead,” said Ken Pimlott, the state’s top forester as director of Cal Fire, the state forestry and fire-protection agency. “There will be no conifers when this is done.” But the current convergence of drought, bark beetles and oak disease is changing ecosystems enough that scientists cannot say when the tree population might be restored.
The projects of Dryland WFS center around ground-zero of the California gold rush. The vast destruction of the Sierra’s watershed during the mid 1800s has removed key hydraulic features of benefit. Miners would remove and pile up cobble and boulder stream-side, while proceeding to erode and ‘process’ the remaining sand and silt. In a lot of cases, hydraulic cannons were used to wash away hundreds of tons of earth. Basically these waterways have been stripped down to a skeletal stature, crushing the local habitat. ‘Creek beds’ are frequently reduced to smooth ‘V’ or ‘U’ shaped mini-valleys of bedrock (hydrologically-analogous to, removing the plug from a bathtub). With California in need of a bath, our resources at Dryland WFS have been targeting the reestablishment of this bath ‘plug’. Our first step is to replace the previously removed boulder, returning roughness and stability to the creek floor. We have seen exceptional results repairing these channels with consecutive check-dams, essentially terracing the water flow. Creating a softened seasonal drought, being a one month reduction in the first year (creek scale [flow rate=25 gal/sec]). Considering over sixty percent of water used by Californians, drains from the west slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. There is immense water resources waiting to be captured with long-term projects like this one.
Within the first couple years of earthworks and tree sowing, substantial hydrological influences may be observed. In our experience even several small check dams will shrink seasonal drought by about a month in the surrounding riparian zone. In most cases these efforts will establish self-sustainable sources of food, medicine and building materials. The methods we use, aim to drastically improve several benefits towards the expansion of our regional water cycle, mainly: 1) increased condensation; 2) increased orographic lift-related, atmospheric friction; 3) increased water infiltration; 4) reduced erosion; 5) increased soil organic matter; 6) carbon sequestration; 7) reduced wind desiccation; 8) Wildlife Support, and ; 9) Increased hydraulic pressure.
Behind waterway restoration, afforestation and reforestation remain as some of the best tools in curbing the widespread stressors of California’s forests. Dryland WFS heavily weighs on long-term plans towards the evolution of our regional environment. Initial projections of an integrated, ecological template have been published on our website. With longer stroke, environmental rhythms being framed in our upcoming evolutionary master plan. This master plan will delineate key pathways for every phase of development. Allowing public or private interests to configure suitable templates of resource management (i.e. timber producing locale, wildlife conservancy.. Etc.).
Our idea of human integrated ecosystems, puts the human as a fractional piece of the puzzle, reserving dominance for gravity. We aspire to lay the ecological foundation for small communities across the world. Societies most efficient tools will be returned as a mainstay to the homestead lifestyle (water wheels, ram pumps, solar ovens…). Simple mechanical systems along with solar, bio-gas, wind and hydro-electric will be the muscles of our ecovillage developments.
Within our efforts we hope to be exceptionally considerate about every possible ‘butterfly effect’ scenario we foresee. Pristine forests across the world have immense resilience, while also susceptible to key weaknesses. These weak spots, may rapidly destabilize a land in short order. We are not attempting to change our ecosystem in the way of, replacing key species with other species, or any such radical changes. Rather, we wish to slowly introduce dozens of latitudinally-native, non-invasive species into our existing oak-chaparral ecosystem.
Our primary goal is to increase annual precipitation + condensation by at least 10% within 12 years. Goal date: 11/ 1/ 2028.
It is critical to understand our Climate Summary to fully comprehend our long-term plans towards the evolution of our regional environment.
PHASE #1 Seed Dispersal (2016 to 2020)
Input: large-scale seeding (trees, pasture mixes, shrubs/herbs/vines)
Output: Increased wildlife food, softened drought period.
PHASE #2 Watershed Management (2016 to 2028)
Input: Low-profile regional earthworks to recover destroyed waterways, and stabilize watersheds.
Output: Shortened seasonal drought, maturing seed library.
PHASE #3 Guided Stewardship (2017 – 2028)
Input: Selective forest thinning (dead/diseased plant material). Potential adjustments to the ecological template.
Output: The natural maturation of permanent seed dispersal pathways (waterways, wind, birds, insects, rodents, and other mammals).
PHASE #4 Finishing Touch (2025 – 2028)
Input: Addition of new support species.
Output: Entering full production.
PHASE #5 Maturity (2028 beyond)
Input: Evolutionary Master Plan.
Output: Vast food, medicine and materials, maturing to full production. Substantial increase in wildlife density and diversity. Appreciation.
PROJECTED ECOLOGICAL TEMPLATE
Riparian Climate, Keystone Species
– Tall Tree: phoenix dactylifera (date palm)
– Shrub/Tree: ficus carica (fig)
– Herbaceous: symphytum officinale (comfrey)
– Vine: vitis californica (grape)
Valley Climate, Keystone Species
– Tall Tree: morus sp. (mulberry)
– Shrub/Tree: alnus cordata (italian alder)
– Herbaceous: lupinus spp. (lupine)
– Vine: vitis vinifera (common grape)
Dry Ridge Climate, Keystone Species
– Tree: pinus pinea (stone pine)
– Shrub/Tree: ziziphus jujuba (jujube)
– Herbaceous: amorpha fruticosa (desert false-indigo)
– Vine: vitis vinifera (common grape)
Shady Climate, Keystone Species
– Tree: arbutus unedo (strawberry tree)
– Shrub/Tree: cornus kousa (kousa dogwood)
– Herbaceous: sambucus spp. (elderberry)
– Vine: aristolochia californica (dutchman’s pipe)