Dog Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Dog salmon. So their jaws look like dog jaws. Or is it that because they run last – middle of November to December – and freeze into the ice where Inuit would thaw them to feed their dogs. This much maligned salmon is just fascinating. Hardy. Beautiful. And mysterious.

The life cycle is fairly straightforward.

What is truly fascinating is the role these salmon play in the local stream ecology. One of the most iconic images is bears eating salmon. And obviously the decaying carcasses feed a variety of fauna in the stream itself. What isn’t so obvious is the fertilization of trees and plants along the stream side. Water from the stream percolates back into the soil surrounding the stream and provides nutrients.

Now if you are like me then the next question is what nutrients are involved. It turns out that nitrogen and phosphorus are particularly important.  Fueling the growth of vegetation as surely as a farmer bringing the fertilizer apparatus to his field.

So as salmon swim up – they reverse the flow of nutrients to the sea and complete another cycle in the great balance we call nature.


Fraser Basin Council

One of the things that I learned very quickly about ecology and landscape management was that there is always a context. In the San Juans a major part of the context is the Fraser Valley. That there is a group that is focussed on this area and that they are producing a “Sustainablity Report Card” annually is wonderful.

The Fraser Basin Council has undertaken a number of initiatives including:

  • preparing for the next great Fraser River flood,
  • controlling the spread of invasive plant species,
  • managing the effects of climate change,
  • strengthening rural communities,
  • developing a sustainable fish and fisheries strategy,
  • building constructive aboriginal and non-aboriginal relationships and
  • measuring our progress towards sustainability.

It is this last that produced the Sustainability Report. While some of the Report strikes me as “Soup of the Day” – there are parts that are truly imaginative in delivering a State of the Union snapshot.


Balancing Business and Ecology…

ScienceDaily: Mixing Exploitation And Conservation: A Recipe For Disaster

Near and dear to my heart are those stories and studies that look at finding the balance between human survival – business and the ecosystem in which they exist. This study was done in Holland with an exquisitely ecosystem adapted bird. The red knot is a sandpiper like bird that depends on cockles to fuel its travels. 50% of the population flies through a small area. Harvesting the cockles using suction dredging is harming the population is the conclusion.

A couple of things that came to mind as I read the study. One of the important findings was that the density of cockles wasn’t changing in the dredged area. Now this might be considered an important indicator that the harvest was indeed sustainable. The kicker is that the nutritional value was going down. The result was that the a portion of the red knot population couldn’t eat enough to get the energy they needed for migration.

The second thing that rang through my mind was something a forester friend said to me as we negotiated land use for his employer. The problem with the environmentalists “ecosystem approach” to planning is that it doesn’t take into consideration the largest user on the land – man. His schtick was that we needed think about the impacts that man had on the land. Not to stop them – necessarily but to consider and plan for them – try to see all the impacts and plan for them.

A note to the reader. While I intend to focus on the particular species and ecology of the San Juans – I also want to use this space to bring in issues and information from across the globe that will impact this fragile space. Feel free to tell me to take a hike. That’s what comments are for.


Salish Sea Reprise

In my search for info on the Salish Sea I came across a much more articulate individual that writes in much the same vein as I. Salish Sea is a blog description of one of the more inspiring moments in the forest life. Transcendental or not the quiet closeness of the observation of the forest leaves much much to be respected.