Fish and farming

This is a really neat article that briefly touches on several really broad concepts as well as a couple of specific applications: The Sushi Project: Farming Fish And Rice in California’s Fields

The basic concept at work here is changing human use of agricultural land to benefit wildlife – or to reduce our impact on other areas. Here, they are trying out flooding rice fields after harvest and before starting the next crop, and either letting young salmon hang out there until they’re ready to move on to the ocean, or, in fields that do NOT connect back to the river, raising forage fish (small fish that bigger fish – and people – like to eat) and then turning those forage fish into food for us or our animals.

This recreates floodplain areas that had been disconnected from the river because of agriculture and city water needs – floodplains and marshy areas that were very important for young salmon, since it provides them a safer environment to spend time in while they eat and get big enough to go into the ocean. With these areas of slow water basically removed from so much of the watershed due to human impacts, the juvenile salmon end up out to sea a little too small, so this can restore some of that area and may help salmon populations increase.

. . . in the late 1990s two scientific teams . . . sent juvenile salmon downstream across floodplains instead of via rivers, where predators were more numerous. Their work showed that juvenile salmon diverted from the Sacramento River’s main channel and retained in its adjacent floodplain for a few weeks grew more than twice as fast as fish that stayed in the river.

In 2012 Cal Marsh & Farm Ventures and the scientists joined forces in the Nigiri Project, named after a kind of sushi because both combine rice and fish, to use rice fields to promote salmon restoration. The scientists have since compiled persuasive evidence that salmon benefit greatly by lingering in flooded rice fields, while Johnson has started another enterprise that uses rice fields to grow forage fish for protein.

Encouraging fish to inhabit the flooded rice fields benefits the rice crops, as the fish waste provides fertilizer, and the overall impact may help restore, to some degree, the bigger food webs that used to exist when the area was naturally floodplains and marshes. Already, the vast number of flooded rice fields has become very important for many species of birds.

The article calls the fish-and-rice use of the fields a

. . . prime example of reconciliation ecology, first articulated in a 2003 book called Win-Win Ecology: How the Earth’s Species Can Survive in the Midst of Human Enterprise. The author, Michael L. Rosenzweig, a University of Arizona ecologist, argues that humans have so thoroughly transformed the earth’s surface that environmental restoration is impossible on virtually all of it, and the few areas set aside as natural reserves aren’t big enough to sustain many species. Instead, he says, the only way to ward off mass extinctions is to convert working landscapes to support other species while continuing to fulfill human needs.

Reconciliation ecology represents a shift among environmentalists from focusing on a particular place, such as a nature reserve, to a natural process. “We invest a lot of money in postage-stamp, high-profile conservation efforts that really are just a blip on the larger landscape,” Jacob Katz, the Nigiri Project’s lead scientist, said. “Instead, we should be thinking about how water flows across the entire landscape and managing those natural processes so that basically the habitat takes care of itself.”

I’ve seen the occasional reference to “reconciliation ecology” before, but this is one of the first examples that’s crossed my screen in quite a while.

The notions of looking at “how water flows across the entire landscape and managing those natural processes so that basically the habitat takes care of itself” is, I think, extremely important, whether we are looking at a specific marshy landscape, or any other. Though it may not be the water flows that are the primary factor in other areas, looking at an area not as a discrete, isolated place, but as part of a larger watershed (or nested series of watersheds) is of major importance, since the watershed very strongly defines a bioregion, and if you want part of that bioregion to be healthy, you need whatever is going on upstream to be in good health. If you ignore the impact on the downstream area, it’s arguable whether the specific place is in good health: all the pieces should feed and support each other.


A River Ran Through It:

Water connects us—from fields and streams to mountains and beaches, and back again. Water molecules never lose their life-sustaining importance, but during their journey, they meander in and out of various levels of federal, state, tribal, and local protection.

That is why a team of scientists wants to create the first-ever riparian conservation network—a nationwide system of protected creeks, streams, and rivers the likes of which the world has never seen.

And Seeing the Forest:

Seeing the Forest tells the story of the Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon — how it made a successful transition from timber extraction to ecosystem restoration.

Once the epicenter of conflict, the Siuslaw today is an exemplar of cooperation and collaboration.

. . .

The Siuslaw Watershed Council invited anyone with an interest in the forest to attend its open, roundtable meetings, to discuss how to manage the forest and resolve or mitigate the competing interests of timber companies, environmentalists, recreational fishers, local communities, hikers, and others. Outcomes were based on consensus agreement.

. . .

One advantage to this process has been using informal agreement to bypass bureaucratic and legal limitation for doing things. The life-cycle of the salmon spans an entire watershed, from the headwaters of the streams to the ocean – a geographic expanse that goes well beyond the Forest Service lands to include many private lands and community lands. The watershed council helped surmount some of these jurisdictional issues and allow people to develop more flexible, far-ranging plans than a bureaucratically driven process would allow. The outcomes had a built-in consensus and legitimacy, which cannot often be said about regulatory processes, where legal strong-arming, big money and cultural polarization often prevail.


About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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