What’s the Scoop with Michigan’s Soil?

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Though not always the most celebrated components of a landscape, soils are certainly one of the most important. While plants form the basis of habitats, soils are central in determining which plants can grow where. Consequently, the soil/s of an ecosystem can drastically affect wildlife communities. Soils also play a critical role in filtering fresh water, and have served as the very foundations of civilization. How much do you know about the marvel beneath your feet?

kalkaska sand

Kalkaska sand. Photo: Randall Schaetzl.

In 1990, Michigan declared Kalkaska sand as its official state soil. It’s relatively infertile owing to its acidic nature, but nonetheless abundant. Despite being one of over 500 soils present in Michigan, Kalkaska sand, so named for one of the 29 counties in which it is present, covers nearly 5% of the state. It can be found in the upper half of the lower peninsula, as well as most of the upper peninsula; but just how did it get there?

The movement of glaciers shaped Michigan’s soils over the course of hundreds of thousands of years into what is known as glacial till. Read more about the process here. In the time since, our soils have undergone many changes to provide support for forests, wetlands, prairies, dunes, swamps, and human agriculture alike. In fact, if not for Kalkaska sand, the coniferous forests of northern Michigan may not exist.

Many of the evergreens that grow in our northern forests, including our ever-important state tree (white pine), are adapted to highly acidic, dry, and nutrient-poor conditions. As such, they rely on otherwise infertile soils like Kalkaska sand. The rare Kirtland’s warbler breeds exclusively in jack pine, and many other well-known species depend upon plant communities derived from Kalkaska sand. In a very real way, we have this unique soil to thank for the natural landscape as we know it today.

kirtlands warbler - cindy mead

Kirtland’s warbler in a jack pine forest. Photo: Cindy Mead.

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Happy National Pollinator Week

By Eugene Kutz, MNA Intern

This year, the Michigan Nature Association is recognizing one decade of National Pollinator Week, put into place by the U.S. Senate to recognize the critical role pollinators have in ecosystem health and agriculture, and to recognize “the value of partnership efforts to increase awareness about pollinators and support for protecting and sustaining pollinators.”

pollinator weekThe U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior have designated June 19-25 as National Pollinator Week in 2017 ─ a statement on how critical pollinators are to food production and ecosystems.

National Pollinator Week is a time to share the news about the need for healthy pollinator populations (bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles) and what can be done to protect them. This important awareness week addresses the devastating effects that declining pollinator populations will continue to have on agriculture and ecosystems that we all rely on.

The National Pollinator Week is now celebrated and recognized by countries across the globe, where many are celebrating healthy ecosystems and the services provided by pollinators and their positive effect on all of our lives, from supporting wildlife to keeping watersheds healthy.

For more information, visit The Pollinator Partnership, the largest non-profit dedicated exclusively to promoting the health of pollinators through conservation, education, and research.

To see a list of events taking place in Michigan this week, check out http://www.pollinator.org/pollinatorweek/events#Michigan:

Michigan BeePalooza 2017 bumble
6/18/2017, 1:00 PM
1066 Bogue Street East Lansing, 48824
“A fun afternoon event on Father’s Day at the MSU Demonstration Gardens in East Lansing, with interactive educational displays about the Bees of Michigan, beekeeping, bee conservation for homeowners, bumble bee ecology, face painting, and more!”
https://www.facebook.com/events/712867558881877 ; http://www.beepalooza.org

Pollinator Day 2017
6/24/2017, 12:00 PM
34051 Ryan Road, Sterling Heights, 48310
“Eckert’s Greenhouse is hosting an Annual Pollinator Day! Go to three different stations to learn about the importance of Butterflies, Bees, Birds and Bats! Let us help you make a friendly pollinator garden from our wide variety of annuals and perennials.” http://www.eckertsgreenhouse.com/specials–events.html

Free Seminar: Create A Garden To Attract Pollinators
6/24/2017, 10:00 AM
English Gardens, West Bloomfield, 48322
“Our experts will share tips on creating a garden that pollinators will love to call home.” http://www.englishgardens.com/events/create-a-garden-to-attract-pollinators/
Contact information: ewinger@englishgardens.com

Stewardship Workday At Bluffs Nature Area
6/24/2017 9:00 AM
222 Sunset Rd, Ann Arbor, 48103
“Bluffs Nature Area offers trails for bikers, walkers and runners along with interesting views of the river and a small hidden prairie. Volunteers are needed to pull invasive plants that provide little food for wildlife and crowd out native wildflowers.”
www.a2gov.org/NAP; 734.794.6627; NAP@a2gov.org

For a complete look at all National Pollinator Week events in the U.S. this week take a look at this map: http://pollinator.org/npw_events.htm.

 

 

Sparing mute swans, bear cub decline and ‘fishy’ behavior: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

 

A mute swan glides atop the water. Photo by Karen Stamper, courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

A mute swan glides atop the water. Photo by Karen Stamper, courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Local policy revision spares non-aggressive mute swans (Great Lakes Echo): The invasive mute swan species growth in Michigan has been exponential, increasing by 10 percent each year since 2010. Currently there is legislation in place in west Michigan, authorizing the elimination of these creatures. After a recent survey found that people would prefer only the aggressive swans be killed, the Hutchins Lake Association is trying to negotiate a new plan.

Researchers look to spin grass into beef (Great Lakes Echo): The demand for grass-fed cattle is rising in Michigan. With a $460,000 federal grant, researchers from Michigan State University will explore the economic profitability of these cattle as well as environmental friendliness and encouraging consumers to eat frozen meat.

Changing fishery discard practices has cascading effect on ecosystems (Conservation Magazine): Unwanted fish are thrown over the side of sea vessels and fisheries experience up to 40 percent of discard on their trips. Fishing has cascading effects on wildlife, researchers found, because of the removal of some fish many species feed on. Research shows the resolution to this issue is “complicated.”

 

A polar bear with her two cubs. Photo by Frank Lucassec, courtesy of The Guardian.

A polar bear with her two cubs. Photo by Frank Lukasseck, courtesy of The Guardian.

Fewer polar bear cubs are being born in the Arctic islands, survey finds (The Guardian): Bear cub births in the Arctic islands of Svalbard decreased by 10 percent in 2014 alone, according to a small survey. Global warming continues to melt sea ice on which polar bears use to hunt seals. Of 29 female bears researchers tracked, only three gave birth to cubs that year, much less than the usual one-third of female bears to give birth.

Large muskies lured by the moon: study ties lunar cycle, fish behavior to angler success (Science Daily): In a recent study, a possible link between lunar activity and feeding time have encouraged fish to take the bait. Scientists analyzed the muskellunge in North America and found a correlation between lunar activity and the number of fish caught at fisheries.