Sunday, November 25, 2007

Invasive Species Challenge

The conflict between beauty and order versus diversity and complexity is a wicked inconvenience of invasive species issues. Fear of and for nature collide in the quest for the moral high ground. The simple serenity of a traditional landscape with its easy to comprehend species syntax, is set in high relief to the swirling interactions and complicated relationships which require a great amount of landscape syntax to understand. The cultural collision of our ideas about nature is focused as we contend with the desire to subdue and control while at the same time the need to preserve and protect.

The brilliant burning red color of the burning bush, Euonymus alatus, is, at first glance, a beacon bringing the eye to a specific point, and helping find easily recognized reference points within the garden. At the same time at some subliminal level we note and store the signal of warning and danger that red sends. The traditional garden gives comfort to short term feelings of tranquility and peace; the long term needs of our common environment our obscured by our short term near horizon decision making dynamics. We are constantly pulled in different directions that are seemingly irreconcilable. They need not be. If color is the landscape design need, then sumac in the Chesapeake region is a native replacement. If the tight, well manicured look is called for, then someday, researchers at faculties like the National Arboretum will perhaps discover sterile cultivars of the burning bush. I am radically moderate in my belief that we can find consensus in future adaptations and adjustments to changing expectations and needs. We can find the common ground which will propel us forward into tomorrow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

USDA BARC Turkeys and the Holidays

Just a little holiday fun from the people and programs of the USDA's Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. The picture is from 1943 at Behnke Nurseries, William Behnke, son of Albert and Rose, the founders, and the "Beltsville Small White" turkeys, stars of the segment in the link provided.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Invasive Species go 'round and 'round; where they'll stop, no one knows

Invasive species issues are at the very least a casual out-come of our modern efficient market place, and our world-wide assumption that we can use cultural ideas of commerce from the past while benefiting from modern technological advances. Finding new commodities to enhance our quality of life, transporting goods faster and faster, assuming that the refuse of the capital equation will somehow be taken care of, these are idea-pathways or vectors for invasive species. We, in the United States, expect to eat strawberries from New Zealand in January, because we can, and therefore will; somehow we are owed this without consideration of possible unthought-of of long-term consequences.

“On 30 Aug 2007, the Italian Ministry of Health notified, through the Early Warning and response System (EWRS) and under the revised International Health Regulations [IHR(2005)], the EU Member States, the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the IHR contact point of the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for Europe, about a
laboratory confirmed outbreak of chikungunya fever in the region of Emilia-Romagna in north eastern Italy.”[1] “Chikungunya fever is a viral disease transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a member of the genus Alphavirus, in the family Togaviridae. CHIKV was first isolated from the blood of a febrile patient in Tanzania in 1953, and has since been identified repeatedly in west, central and southern Africa and many areas of Asia, and has been cited as the cause of numerous human epidemics in those areas since that time. The virus circulates throughout much of Africa, with transmission thought to occur mainly between mosquitoes and monkeys.”[2]

“The current outbreak of chikungunya in Italy is the 1st documented vectorborne transmission of the virus in continental Europe. The autochthonous transmission has extended beyond the initial 2 villages, resulting in the establishment of at least 3 secondary transmission foci by local mosquitoes. In addition, the transmission in the initial villages had not yet ceased at the time of our visit, more than 2 months after the initial case occurred. The importance of this event should not be underestimated and its comprehensive documentation is crucial to ensure a maximal benefit to control its spread and for future preparedness in case of similar occurrences of mosquito-borne disease transmission, in Italy and elsewhere."

"Risk for sustained virus transmission of Chikungunya virus in Italy Several factors seem to have contributed to the establishment of local transmission in continental Europe:- - the presence in high density of _Aedes albopictus_ in an area of the Emilia-Romagna region where it had appeared relatively recently and was therefore not yet covered by the vector monitoring system;- - an ecological situation favourable for the development of the vector and for virus transmission, considering the dense local vegetation and domestic backyards with plant pots and potential water containers in the 2 villages;- - the introduction of the virus by a visitor returning from a chikungunya high endemic area;- - sufficient (human) population density.”[3]

And now the interesting part for both oblivious Americans and Americans who may think that invasive species issues are unique to the United States:

"Based on the available data, it is likely that the transmission of chikungunya virus will persist in the coming weeks, probably until the end of October 2007 when the local vector activity should disappear. This may result in additional chikungunya fever cases occurring and being reported until then. It cannot be excluded that, in case of a particularly mild winter, local vector activity may persist during winter, especially in urban settings, potentially resulting in few sporadic cases which would, however, maintain mosquito-to-human transmission cycles until the spring. In addition, considering the existence of vertical (trans-ovarian)transmission, reported "in natura" in a tropical region, mosquitoesinfected with Chikungunya virus may re-appear in the spring of 2008, whenmosquito eggs hatch and vector activity starts again after the winter.”[4]

A friend of mine wrote eloquently the following:

“This is most unfortunate. The U.S. got the "lovely" invasive Asian tiger mosquito from import of used tires from Japan several decades ago. Obviously not having learned much from this mistake, the U.S. has sincepassed the ATM on to Italy so they can be miserable outdoors as well. And the Italians get the added bonus of a disease. Can anyone tell me WHY we all keep shipping mosquito infested used tires around the world that are obviously being shipped with water and mosquitoes in them? The benefit of the international used tire trade (I assume there is a benefit) cannot outweigh these disadvantages. If we can't address something seemingly simple like this (e.g., can the tires be drained or maybe chipped first?), it's hard to be hopeful about other prevention and early detection rapid response efforts against the really serious exotic pests. Seriously, can someone explain this to me? Please? Thank you”

[1] communicated by: Roland Hubner, Scientific Collaborator, Health Council, FPS Public Health
[2] CDC fact sheet
[3] communicated by: Roland Hubner, Scientific Collaborator, Health Council, FPS Public Health
[4] communicated by: Roland Hubner, Scientific Collaborator, Health Council, FPS Public Health

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Standards & Guidelines for Sustainable Landscapes

I am delighted to be able to serve as a Sustainable Sites Initiative member on this project, which addresses, among many things, invasive species and our garden designs; and to be given the opportunity to assist in the creation of a new paradigm for landscaping and land development in our dynamic environment. Many of my past posts have commented on the need to have a voluntary conservation alternative when we choose how to address our world and our eco-systems.

"The Sustainable Sites Initiative is developing national, voluntary standards and guidelines for sustainable land development and management practices as well as metrics to assess site performance and a rating system to recognize achievement. It is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden and a diverse group of national stakeholder organizations. The U.S. Green Building Council, a major stakeholder in the initiative, has committed to incorporating these guidelines and standards into the future evolution of the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

The initiative is in the process of developing the Standards and Guidelines for Sustainable Sites - a compilation of current research, technology, and practices to provide technical guidance and performance benchmarks. The Preliminary Report on the Standards and Guidelines ( is now available for comment. The purpose of this report is to provide a snapshot of the first findings of the initiative with the intention of collecting feedback from professionals and stakeholders. It is critical to receive knowledge and input from other professionals and stakeholders to ensure that the products of the Sustainable Sites Initiative are relevant to those who influence land practices. Please share this document with other colleagues. An online feedback form ( is available to submit comments on the preliminary report. The public comment period will be open until January 11, 2008.

Many local and regional efforts now provide guidelines for improved land development and management practices. Sustainable Sites recognizes the importance and relevance of these programs and is interested in information sharing and partnering.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact"