Get the Real Dirt on Soil at Wednesday's Watershed Talk | Beneath Our Feet: State of the Soils
Jul 27, 2006 | 314 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From the delicate dust atop the surrounding peaks to the ruddy-colored earth along the river to the peat covering the area's wetlands, the soils of the San Miguel Watershed are incredibly varied and vibrant. Yet, they are in a bit of trouble according to an ecological health assessment conducted this past spring. To better understand why the soils received a second-rate C+ on the recent ecological report card, join the Telluride Institute this Wednesday, Aug. 2, 6-7:30 p.m. at the Telluride Historical Museum for Part 3 of the Watershed Report Card Series Talk. This week's talk, Beneath Our Feet: State of the Soils, will address the health of soils in the San Miguel watershed, highlighting the areas of concern and possible solutions.

Wednesday's presentation will be co-led by Jim Boyd, a resource conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local resident Ben Williams, who has extensive background in soil science. Boyd and Williams will discuss the current state of the soils, from the higher elevation areas where recreation and logging pose certain threats to the lower elevation areas that face increased erosion rates and lack adequate soil cover.

The C+ given to the soils was calculated from three interrelated physical attributes: erosion rates, total soil cover and biological crusts. Wednesday's speakers will explain this relationship in depth, and how stressing one factor only creates a ripple effect within the watershed.

Erosion has accelerated beyond natural rates due to changes in vegetation, land use practices and stream flow within the watershed. The processes that create soil cannot keep with this pace, and the result is a loss in ecosystem productivity. Soil cover, defined as the rocks and plants protecting the soil surface, has also diminished in areas causing an increased vulnerability to erosion. Finally, the biological cover, or the surface-dwelling bacterial communities that facilitate nutrient cycling, has been reduced. These changes all compound each other to contribute to the deteriorating health of the soils.

Luckily, this deterioration does not have to be permanent. After their presentations, Boyd and Williams will lead a question and answer session to collectively brainstorm short and long term solutions to improving the health of the soils in the watershed.

The following week's talk will focus on the role of climate in the overall health of the San Miguel watershed. Dan Richardson, the Global Warming Project Manager for the city of Aspen, and Dr. Koren Nydick, an ecologist and Director of Research and Education at the Mountain Studies Institute, will co-lead the talk Drought and Dust? Everyone's Talking About the Weather. Please mark your calendars for this upcoming event to be held Wednesday evening Aug. 9, 6-7:30 p.m. at the Telluride Historical Museum.

This summer's Watershed Report Card Series is generously sponsored by the Telluride Institute, the San Miguel Watershed Coalition and The Nature Conservancy. Call the Telluride Institute at 728-8312 with any questions or to reserve seating. Admission is free.
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