Light: The algal cells that the fungi farm need light to photosynthesize. Lichen species have different light requirements. Some prefer full sun on rocks while others like shady, cooler subclimates. Brightness and coloring are also affected by light. Species adapted to hotter and brighter conditions are generally more colorful.
Nutrients: Lichen nutrients include; oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Lichens use cyanobacteria to “fix” nitrogen from the air which is then used to organic acids and proteins.
Substrate: Any non-moving object the lichen can hold onto – rocks, trees, soil, tombstones, houses, farm equipment, etc.
Types of Lichen
Foliose: Leafy lichens that use tiny rhizines to attach to substrate.
Folios lichen – Plitt’s Xanthoparmelia plitti, Lettuce lichen/Lobaria oregana & Rhizine Photo by Ed Uebel – NOTE: Lichens are not parasitic. They do not hurt trees.
Forage: Hair-like and hanging species that are eaten by animals and humans
Crustose: Lichens grow flat on their substrate surface
Fruticose: looks like a shrub, bush, or coral
Lichens have multiple reproduction methods. If they reproduce sexually (by way of fruiting bodies) they create spores. If they reproduce asexually, a powdery substance – soredia – is released. Both methods use, wind, water, and animals to transport the newbies.
MYTH: Lichen do not harm trees.
Other Lichen Uses & Users
Clothing, wound absorbent, diapers, model train shrubbery, and an ingredient in concrete, perfume, and deodorant. Some lichens are being studied as new sources of antibiotics and medicines.
Camouflage for; lizards, moths, tree frogs and other insects.
Bats are the only flying mammals. Wing membranes are attached to their fingers. After rodents, they are the largest order of Earth animals.
Microbats live in California. they are insectivores and can eat their weight in insects daily. (Large bats, such as the Fruit Bat, also known as a Flying Fox, live in tropical climates.)
Roosts, which can contain up to thirty generations of family members, are used for protection, warmth, grooming, eating, resting, and mating. Roosting sites include caves, mines, bridges, buildings, crevices, and tree hollows. Bats are nocturnal. They leave their roosts at dusk to hunt and drink water at night.
Since roosts are where large numbers of bats congregate, it’s a system that provides fertile conditions for the spread of diseases such as, rabies, histoplasmosis, and other viruses. Roosts are where White-nose syndrome is spreading (see below).
The Mexican free-tailed bat or Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) is a migrating bat native to the Americas. Since it roosts in large numbers in few locations, it’s vulnerable to habitat destruction. This bat is considered a species of special concern in California because of declining populations.
A keystone species, bats keep ecosystems healthy by controlling insect populations, but they’ve got obstacles. Habitat loss and destruction of roosting sites, wind farms on migratory pathways, and drought are a few. White-nose syndrome, a muzzle and wing flesh-eating fungus, has decimated bat populations across North America.
Some good news for California bats may be forest lands opened up by wildfires. UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher Zachary Steel found that certain bat populations have increased in burned forests. The causes are still under study but causes may be increased food sources, roosting locations in dead trees, and/or more space for flight maneuverability
Bats hunt with echolocation, sounds out of human hearing range that help locate prey.
While bats can use their mouths to catch prey, most bugs are caught in their wing membranes and either eaten in the air or carried to a roosting spot.
Bats have bendy bones which makes them ultra maneuverable. Some say bats have the fastest horizontal flying speed of any animal, close to 99 miles per hour!
Among roosting bats that create large quantities of urine and guano, they’ve developed respiratory mucous Ph buffer.
Torpor is an important adaptation for microbats. It can range from a partial state of heterothermic arousal to full hibernation. Lowing body temperature reduces the need for food and fat storage.
A new study by University of California, Berkeley, researchers shows that bats’ brain activity is literally in sync when bats engage in social behaviors like grooming, fighting or sniffing each other.
Using scent markers and sound, mothers can locate their own babies out of thousands.
Females can breed after 9 months of age, they congregate in maternity roosts. Males become sexually mature at two years. Gestation is about three months. Generally, one pup is born per year. Young suckle for between four to seven weeks. Mother’s must eat their body weight in insects to keep up with nursing demands.
“WNS is considered one of the deadliest wildlife diseases, having killed over six million North American bats since it was discovered,” said CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian and Epidemiologist Dr. Deana Clifford. “WNS doesn’t affect human health or pets, but the ecological impacts of bat die-offs may indirectly impact agricultural systems through loss of the natural pesticide effect and nutrient cycling of bats.”
As of spring 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife detected white-nose syndrome in bats in Chester, Plumas County.
AUSTIN, TX (May 8, 2019) – Bat Conservation International (BCI) announced today that early signs of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) have been detected at one of the world’s premier bat conservation sites, Bracken Cave Preserve.
“It’s about the size of a mouse turd,” says Diana Six, Professor of Forest Entomology/Pathology at University of Montana, when describing the Mountain Pine Beetle.
Historically, the Mountain Pine Beetle contributed to a healthy forest by eliminating weakened trees, making room for new growth. Cold temperatures kept populations in check, only 20% of larvae would survive a winter.
At higher altitudes, Pine Beetles may live for up to two years; however, most beetles complete a life cycle within one year. They go through egg, larva and pupa stages beneath the bark of a tree. When summer temperatures warmed sufficiently, adults emerged in search of a new host. Females lead the charge, emitting pheromones that beckon males to follow.
Carrying a fungus in mouth pockets, it is released inside the tree when the beetles begin boring into it. The fungus grows, gathering nitrogen that supplies the beetles with needed food. A female will lay approximately 60 eggs. The fungus supplies nutrients to the growing offspring.
Fungus Kills the Tree
The fungus invades the sapwood, preventing the tree from using pitch to repel beetles. It also blocks water and nutrient transport inside the tree.
Pine Beetles are opportunists. When conditions are right, they colonize and reproduce. Now might be the beetle’s greatest moment in history.
Contributing Factors to Widespread Beetle Success
Managed forest landscapes – the practice of replanting only a single species
Years of fire suppression procedures
Climate change – low night temperatures at night don’t drop enough to kill larvae
Forest trees weakened by years of drought 2014 – 2017
Mountain Pine Beetles have been devastating forests in Canada, trees at higher altitudes with no natural resistance. The insects aren’t picky when food source areas are depleted, they move on to another one. Ponderosa and other pines in Nevada County, stressed and weakened by drought, are feeling the bite.
It may be the largest forest insect blight
ever seen in North America. – Wikipedia
Unfortunately, by the time tree needles turn red, the beetles have already settled in another host. A single besieged tree will nourish enough beetles to infect seven more. With numbers like that, they cut a wide swath through a forest quickly. Aside from keeping dead trees from becoming a hazard to humans or buildings, there is no effective method to halt or control the infestation…
Reddish dust and “boreholes”
“Pitch tubes” resing globules the tree produced in an attempt to protect itself
Leaves / needles turning yellow, then red
Horizontal larvae egg galleries under the bark
A blue-gray color in sapwood, caused by beetle introduced fungus
As disturbing as it is to see huge areas of forest turning red, a bright spot may be the survivors – genetic adaptors. These are trees that struggled in cooler, wetter conditions. The beetle blight is giving them an opportunity to flourish. Mountain Pine Beetles don’t ‘see’ those trees as food.
It is too soon to tell the effects that these species will have on animal habitats, water retention, and snow packs.
“Insects are expected to be one of the first indicators of climate change in terrestrial ecosystems because they are cold blooded. Everything they do – everything – is dependent on temperature.” -Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Empire of the Beetle
Sound as Pest Control
If you liked this post, check out Tree Mortality State of Emergency
Even though it has ‘tree’ in its name, the Sierran Tree Frog is mostly found near the ground.
Tree frogs live in bushes and grass. Their preference is for damp, moist areas.
Large toe pads that allow it to walk on vertical surfaces. The toe pads are also useful for clinging to sticks and twigs.
To avoid being eaten, the Sierran Tree Frog is fast! It can jump long distances and swim quickly to hide. It also remains perfectly still and changes color to stay camouflaged. Sierran Tree Frogs can change from green and gray to brown.
The Sierran Tree Frog is more often heard than it is seen. Males call to advertise availability and attract mates. Breeding and egg-laying occur from November through July. During this time, males establish a territory that they defend with encounter calls, butting, or wrestling with rivals.
Worms, small invertebrates, and flying insects are the frog’s dietary staples.
Tadpoles feed on algae, bacteria and organic debris. Their feeding activities help keep streams and waterways clear of slippery plant material.
Global Amphibian Issues
Scientists say that we are living in the Anthropocene epoch, a time when human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Unfortunately, the consequences of this are that many habitats and species will disappear.
Frogs and newts are indicator species because they have thin skin that easily absorbs pollutants. Since they live both in water and on land, they absorb toxins from both environments. Like the miners who used canaries to warn when toxic gas was present, amphibian health determines the quality of the environment.
There are a number of factors that affect amphibian populations. Not unique to Nevada County, these conditions are happening globally.
Factors Contributing to Amphibian Decline
Housing and Habitat Loss
“We’re running out of places where frogs are healthy,” Amphibian Study Volunteer
“It doesn’t matter how many frogs we save if there is no place to put them back in the wild,” Edgardo Griffith, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center
Chytridiomycosis (Batrachochytrim dendrobatidis) Skin Fungus – A Global Epidemic
The state produces half of the US agricultural produce.
99 percent of artichokes
99 percent of walnuts
97 percent of kiwis
95 percent of garlic
89 percent of cauliflower
85% of the lettuce
71 percent of spinach, and
69 percent of carrots
Contaminated agricultural water runoff affects the entire ecosystem.
“Atrazine (an herbicide) is the most common contaminant in our drinking water. It causes male frogs to turn into females.” – Tyrone Hayes, UC Berkeley Biologist
“Bullfrogs pose several threats to the native amphibians of California, many of which are endangered. When bullfrogs—the largest frogs in North America—escape or are released into the wild, they have a tendency to eat other amphibians and any other wildlife that will fit in their mouths. Their size also allows them to outcompete native species for food. Even worse, a large portion of the bullfrogs imported into this country—62 percent according to one study—are infected with the deadly chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), a lethal skin disease which has already been blamed for extinctions of about 100 amphibian species around the globe.” – Should California Ban American Bullfrogs? Scientific American Blog
How to Help
Speak up for Nevada County frogs, toads, and salamanders.
If you see a frog die-off (more than one dead in a single location) – DON’T TOUCH IT – but do report it
Don’t move amphibians from one location to another
If fishing, wash & dry gear before moving between spots
Don’t pour anything down a storm drain that would damage amphibians
At first glance, they look like curious, minuscule insect nests. Tiny baskets, holding a collection of
‘eggs,’ clinging to a dead log at the edge of Deer Creek.
Identification investigations revealed something more interesting than ‘just’ insects. Bird’s Nest Fungi – Nidulariaceae, Cyathus stercoreus – mushrooms that use raindrops to propagate.
Moving with the Rain
Raindrops aren’t the only way they move from place to place. At the base of the peridiole (spore sack) is a cord that unfurls when disturbed. Like newborn spiders, these cords are long and sticky. They cling to whoever or whatever passes by.
Anatomy of a Fungus
Once the peridiole drops off or is eaten and excreted by an animal, the spores are released to begin a new life cycle.
The ‘nests’ are approximately five millimeters in diameter, about half the size of a pencil top.
Bird’s Nest Fungi can be seen in late winter and early spring. Look for them in shady places growing on dead or decomposing wood.