Archive for September 23rd, 2011

Residents turn vacant lot into a lovely, welcoming glen


Residents turn vacant lot into a lovely, welcoming glen

Flower garden transforms eye-sore to eye-popping.


At left, Chris Quinn of West Des Moines sits with Terri Mitchell of the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood in the new garden they and a couple dozen other volunteers have created at 19th Street and College Avenue. Residents this summre set to work next to busy 19th Street transforming the vacant, overgrown lot to a lush, colorful garden that attracts appreciative remarks from many who drive by or live in the area. / JANET KLOCKENGA/THE REGISTER


Posted 22 September 2011, by Janet Klockenga, Des Moines Register (Gannett),



A once-vacant lot at 19th Street and College Avenue has blossomed this summer, now offering eye-popping color in three flower beds, thanks to the loving care of neighbors in the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood.

The garden, which residents are terming the Mondamin Glen, sits just to the east of busy 19th Street. In spring, residents started clearing brush and overgrown trees from the 155-by-75-foot lot during a Habitat For Humanity Rock the Block cleanup event.

From there, the garden grew.

Residents living in the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood have set to work next to busy 19th Street transforming a vacant, overgrown lot to a lush, colorful garden that attracts appreciative remarks from many who drive by or live in the area. Here, Master Gardeners Terri Mitchell and Chris Quinn talk about future plans for the garden. / JANET KLOCKENGA/THE REGISTER

Mondamin Presidential Neighborhood Association president Valerie Allen is proud of the way neighbors combined forces to work on the project.

“Hundreds of hands touched the Mondamin Glen over these past several months,” Allen said, adding that the idea came from longtime resident Rhonda Cason. Another resident, Terri Mitchell, a Master Gardener, led the way to map out the garden and plant it.

“There were so many folks involved with that project, I couldn’t begin to thank them for all their donation of time, energy and materials,” Allen said.

Mitchell got some help in plotting and planning the garden from fellow Master Gardener Chris Quinn of West Des Moines. Mitchell’s husband, Stan, also showed up nearly every evening, hauling water for the garden from a nearby fire hydrant on 19th Street.

As the garden grew, so did the attention paid to it.

“It was great for attracting hummingbirds,” Quinn said.

And honks from passing drivers.

“People love it,” said Terri Mitchell. “They drive by and honk all the time while we’re out here working. Sometimes we worry a little bit; some people have to stop and look at it, backing traffic up.”

“It’s in a perfect location because a lot of people see it when they’re getting off work,” said Stan Mitchell. “I can’t believe how many people have stopped and said they like it. Young kids have actually stopped to pick up trash here.”

Terri said one woman told her “it’s the most beautiful garden in Des Moines.”

“Another one called it ‘eye candy,’ ” she said. “It makes me happy to hear that.”

The garden features three round flower beds, one that’s planted to attract butterflies. The main bed holds a large new neighborhood sign the association paid for, along with three cement deer sculptures that Stan repainted. The sculptures had long resided in the yard of James Strode, who died a couple years ago.

Dramatic castor bean plants, each well over 6 feet tall, are planted in the middle of two flower beds, which boast tidy rings of salvia, bee balm, coneflowers and Asiatic lilies. A separate seating area in the corner provides a shady place for reflection.

The resident gardeners got most of their annuals at no charge from the city’s greenhouse on the east side, and the Mondamin Presidential Neighborhood Association kicked in some money to pay for other plants and landscaping materials. Terri Mitchell estimated it cost less than $2,000 to get the garden planted.

She said she hopes next year to plant more roses, and to install a couple trellises. The neighbors plan to lay a path of pavers among the three flower beds.

The constant watering, especially during the August heatwave, was worthwhile, Terri Mitchell said.

“I’m surprised how pretty it turned out,” she said.

Neighborhood association prssident Valerie Allen likes the way the garden has drawn admiring glances from passing motorists.

“When you drive north on 19th Street, it makes you slow down and take notice,” she said. “It’s just one of the many things the residents have helped accomplish this year. We take pride in our neighborhood, and we truly care how it’s perceived.”

The caretakers of Mondamin Glen are hoping to plant tulips and other bulbs in the garden this fall. Mitchell said she hopes eventually the garden will be filled with perennials. The group will welcome donations of bulbs and mulch this fall.

For more information about their needs, call Terri Mitchell at 282-9709.



How to build a solar energy generator for less than $300


How to build a solar energy generator for less than $300

Connection diagram for a solar power generatorThis diagram will show you if you have made the connections in the correct order


Posted23 September 2011, by Aravind Balasubramanya, EcoFriend (Instamedia),



The sun is a great supplier! The solar energy from a single day can meet all the needs of the planet for a few months. The challenge, however, has been in capturing this tremendous energy in a usable form. Like many things great and grand, we can make a humble beginning in this endeavor too. It turns out that with a little patience and effort, we can generate usable solar energy at our own homes. Since this is a DIY, the end result will come at a very economical cost. Let us get to the tutorial right away.

Difficulty level

This can be set to ‘moderate’. Requires some basic knowledge about drilling and making electrical connections, but any adult can easily venture into this project without much worry.

Time Required

About one to two hours must be sufficient once you have the necessary materials ready. This is a lovely DIY project to occupy a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Resources Required

  1. A small solar panel rated 12V or above.
  2. Deep cycle, rechargeable, 12V lead/acid or gel batteries.
  3. A battery box to cover the exposed terminals.
  4. A triple inlet model DC input ( adapter) for 12V to act as charge controller.
  5. An inverter to convert the battery-stored DC power to AC power.
  6. A multimeter to get various readings
  7. Few lengths of insulated wire
  8. A wire stripper
  9. A drill
  10. Bungee cords

Estimated Cost

You would be able to build a generator for under $300 and we are not going to crank up the prices! Maybe we shall enlist probable prices to help you in your purchase. The solar panel would cost about $100. Bought at a bargain, the batteries would cost about $50-60. The battery box is about $25 and the DC input will cost another $10. The inverter will cost about $50-100.


  1. Use the drill to attach the multimeter and the DC input on top of the battery box.
  2. Start connecting the wires by matching the polarities ( + and – ).
  3. Connect the solar panel to the DC input or the adapter.
  4. Connect the DC inlet or adapter to the batteries. The red wires depict the positive terminals while the grey wires depict the negative terminal.

    Initial connections This diagram shows how you connect the solar panel to the batteries via the charge controller or DC inlet

    Initial connectionsThis diagram shows how you connect the solar panel to the batteries via the charge controller or DC inlet.
  5. Connect the batteries to the inverter. Some batteries have separate input and output terminals, some do not. If the battery has separate terminals, connect the output terminals to the inverter and input terminals to the DC inlet or adapter. If there is only one terminal each for the positive and negative on the battery, both the wires ( from the inverter and the DC inlet) go to the same terminals ( positive to positive and negative to negative).
  6. You can use a bungee cord to keep all the parts together.
  7. Your completed connections must be in the order as shown in the diagram at the beginning of the tutorial. Please check it once before finalizing the generator. The solar generator is now ready for use.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) For making the solar energy generator, could I make use of car batteries?

Car batteries are not deep cycle batteries. They are cranking batteries for occasional use, like starting your engine. Since our use is going to be continuous in nature, it is imperative that you use deep cycle, rechargeable batteries.

2) There are so many inverters available. Which is the best one to purchase?

Quality always comes with a price. The better quality of inverter you choose, the more it will cost you. That apart, it would be recommended that you make a rough estimate of the watts you would be using. For instance, to use a television (=60W) and a DVD player (=20W), you would need about 80W. You will have to necessarily get an inverter that gives you the desired wattage.

3) Do I need the DC inlet or adapter? Can I not connect the solar panel directly to the batteries?

If you notice, the DC inlet or adapter has the same specifics as the batteries (viz. 12V). This inlet is necessary as a charge controller. If not for this, surges in current may damage the batteries.

Quick Tips

  1. You could do a little more for the environment by getting ‘green’ rechargeable batteries from companies like or Greenbatteries Store.
  2. If you are installing your generator in a pumpshed, garage or boat, you could save a few more dollars by avoiding the purchase of the battery box which is meant only to keep children safe.
  3. You could look at the DC input of appliances like fans, hair dryers, lights etc. to get a good idea of the DC input to purchase.
  4. The solar panel, the DC inlet, the batteries and the inverter have clear labels for the positive and negative terminals. Just refer to them as you make the connections.
  5. Connect all the negative terminals first and then connect the positive terminals.
  6. It will take about 5-8 hours to recharge a dead battery and about 1-3 hours to recharge a weak one.
  7. If it is your first time and you are a bit diffident, you could check the connections by making a diagram and getting it certified by your local electrician.

Things to watch out for

  1. While making the connections, handle only one wire at a time. This will save you a lot of confusion.
  2. Keep the solar panel covered and in the shade while making the connections. We do not want any shocking experiences along the way.
  3. This construction is scalable and can be made with larger panels, batteries and inverters. It is better to start small and then replicate the success to bigger projects.


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IKPF accuses State Govt on Sadar Hills


IKPF accuses State Govt on Sadar Hills


Posted23 September 2011, by Staff (The Sangai Express), E-PAO,



Imphal, September 21 2011: Indigenous Kuki People’s Forum (IKPF) has accused the State Government of playing divide and rule policy with the issue of Sadar Hills.

Saying that the hill is the body and the valley the heart of Manipur, IKPF said that the geopolitics should give a healing touch with true integrity upholding the sentiments of the tribals and the valley people.

It also urged the valley people to focus on long term politics and vision.

The Central Government had agreed to grant Statehood provided that the hills and the valley united together during the then Chief Minister Moirang Koireng, it added.

IKPF added that a former political leader had claimed Statehood only for the valley area excluding the hill areas, which as a resultant fall out, Manipur was granted only Territorial Council status.

The then Chief Minister, RK Joychandra passed a Bill on MLR & LR Act, 1960 .

In spite of passing the Bill within the whole State of Manipur, the Act was only applicable and passed only in and around the valley area excluding the hill areas, it added .

In 1971, the Parliament passed the Act to confer full fledged districthood of the 6 (six) hill ADCs.

In the larger interest of the people of Sadar Hills, the districthood demand has nearly completed 40 long years, IKPF added.

IKPF further observed that the issue should not be propagated and speculated on ethnic lines.

It should be noted that the present Sadar Hills consists of Kuki, Naga, Vaiphei, Nepali people staying together within the same district boundary since time immemorial.

State Government and social organizations and civilians must not try to instigate communal crisis.

The SPF Government is however seemingly directly or indirectly trying to separate the ethnic groups and applying the formula of divide and rule in the State.

IKPF opined that all Naga villages which are in favour of being carved out from the present Sadar Hills areas may be attached to Naga dominated districts while all the Kuki villages which are in Senapati, Tamenglong, Ukhrul, Imphal East and Imphal West districts must be reorganized and attached to the nearest Kuki dominated district.

IKPF added, that the above settlement for the Kukis should be first addressed before any reorganization of district boundaries.

* This news is as published by respected news daily at Imphal, whose name is duly marked as ‘Source’. E-Pao! is not responsible for it’s sanctity & originality.
RELATED NEWS :Sadar Hills’ Demand for a full-fledged revenue district :: August 2011

Problems in Manipur’s Sadar Hills: Interview with General Secretary of Kuki International Forum


Problems in Manipur’s Sadar Hills: Interview with General Secretary of Kuki International Forum

Nehginpao Kipgen (left) and map of Manipur, India 08 September 2011


Posted 08 September 2011, by Van Biak Thang, Chinland Guardian,



08 September 2011 – [CG Note: The ongoing situation in Sadar Hills District, Manipur, India has attracted attention of not only the ethnic peoples in Northeast India but also the Chins from Burma.

The Chinland Guardian has conducted an interview with Nehginpao Kipgen, a researcher on the rise of political conflicts in modern Burma (1947-2004) and general secretary of the U.S.-based Kuki International Forum (

He has written numerous analytical articles on the politics of Burma and Asia for many leading international newspapers in Asia, Africa, and the United States of America.]

Chinland Guardian: We have read a lot about problems arising in Sadar Hills District in Manipur, India. Tell us briefly about it.

Nehginpao Kipgen: It is a demand for the implementation of the Sadar Hills Autonomous District Council into a full-fledged district. It is an exercise of democratic rights by the people of Sadar Hills. On the eve of Manipur attaining statehood status in 1972, the Indian parliament passed the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971. According to the Act, all the hill areas were to be divided into six autonomous districts, with the ultimate goal of a full-fledged district each. The six autonomous districts were:

1. Manipur South (Churachandpur)
2. Manipur North (Senapati)
3. Manipur East (Ukhrul)
4. Manipur West (Tamenglong)
5. Sardar Hills (Kangpokpi)
6. Tengnoupal (Chandel)

Of the six autonomous districts, only Sadar Hills is left to be accorded a full-fledged district status. Autonomous district council is a sub-administrative unit of a full-fledged district that has to seek the approval of the district administration on all matters concerning executive, legislative, judicial and financial matters.

There is too much interference by the district administration. For example, the deputy commissioner of a full-fledged district can modify or change the budget passed by an autonomous district council administration. All taxes collected by the council are sent to the district administration.

The basic requirements for autonomy and self-government are lacking in autonomous district councils. On the other hand, a full-fledged district is an administrative unit headed by a deputy commissioner, a district magistrate, and a superintendent of police. The Sadar Hills district headquarters will come under the Kuki-majority urban town in Kangpokpi. In addition, Sadar Hills will enjoy all the benefits and privileges of a full-fledged district.

Chinland Guardian: Do you think this is also part of disputes and misunderstanding among tribal or ethnic groups dwelling in the area?

Nehginpao Kipgen: Unfortunately, politics in Manipur is largely driven along ethnic lines. The three major groups of people are the Meiteis, the Kukis, and the Nagas. They are of the same Mongoloid race, speaking Tibeto-Burman languages. The unbiased solution would be the implementation of the district in accordance with Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971. You cannot demarcate a district boundary based on ethnicity in a state like Manipur. For instance, you can find all the three major ethnic groups in all districts of the state. If Sadar Hills district boundary were to be drawn along ethnic line, it can engender a chain of other demands in existing districts.

Chinland Guardian: Chin people expressed their concerns over the hunger strike in India, where more than 40 Kuki women also got involved. What happens now?

Nehginpao Kipgen: The hunger strike continues. Some are hospitalized; some others are arrested and incarcerated because of refusing medical aid. Both Manipur and Indian governments should take serious note of the gravity of this non-violent form of agitation. Mahatma Gandhi, who is regarded as father of the nation and highly revered around the world, successfully led independence movement against the British with his non-violent political weapon. The government has the responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens.

Human rights organizations such as National Human Rights Commission of India and National Commission for Minorities should assess the condition of the hunger strikers and extend any possible help. Human rights campaigners around the world should speak up for these voiceless peaceful hunger strikers. The international community must ensure that the lives of peaceful hunger strikers in India are not jeopardized for a legitimate political demand, and their fundamental rights should be protected. In this regard, pressure must be put on both the state and central governments to take urgent steps.

Leading international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International should use their influence to help the peaceful hunger strikers. In this regard, I have personally spoken to a number of officials.

Chinland Guardian: How have the local and Indian authorities responded and what could be the best solutions to this problem?

Nehginpao Kipgen: As mentioned earlier, the unbiased solution would be the implementation of the demand in accordance with Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971. You cannot demarcate a district boundary based on ethnicity in a state like Manipur. The central government has advised the state government to expedite the process, but lacks concrete step. If the state government is unable to handle on its own, the central government needs to step in to resolve the problem at the earliest possible.

Chinland Guardian: Historically, it is said that Chin-Kuki-Mizo is a group of peoples with the same root being divided into different countries during the colonial times. How can the historical relationship be survived and strengthened in modern days?

Nehginpao Kipgen: We share the same root, and belong to one family. We need to focus on how and where we can work together. We should encourage on socio-cultural exchanges. Our unity can be strengthened by organizing international seminars and conferences, especially for the younger generation. In this regard, our leaders and academics should take the initiatives. We should focus on inclusive activities, and stay away from exclusive and detrimental activities. Every individual should use his or her talent and resources to promote peace and fraternity among us.

Chinland Guardian: Tell us more about a brief history of Kuki people and the Kuki International Forum.

Nehginpao Kipgen: Because of the British colonial administration, the Kuki people have been forced to live across international boundaries, notably in India, Burma, and Bangladesh. Many have also now lived around the world. The Kuki International Forum (KIF) was founded to serve as a common platform for the Kuki people across the globe. The main goals are:
(i) To safeguard and promote the cultural heritages of the Kukis around the world.
(ii) To uphold peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding with other nations.
(iii) To educate and preserve the KUKIS’ national identity.
(iv) To represent the issues of the KUKIS.
Further information on the KIF and the Kuki people, you can visit

Chinland Guardian: Many thanks for your time and answers.
Nehginpao Kipgen: It’s my pleasure as well. Thank you!



Interview by Van Biak Thang



At Sotheby’s, Finally, the 99 Percent Were the Highest Bidder

At Sotheby’s, Finally, the 99 Percent Were the Highest Bidder


The resistance continues at Liberty Plaza, with free pizza 😉


Posted 23 September 2011, by OccupyWallSt, Occupy Wall Street,



At 10 a.m. yesterday morning, activists involved in #OCCUPYWALLSTREET paid a visit to a Sotheby’s art auction. Last year Sotheby’s made record profits, enough so that their CEO Bill Rupprecht awarded himself a 125 percent raise. At the same time the company decided to use union-busting tactics, demanding over 100 concessions to the IBT 814 Art Handlers Union Contract. With their unionized workforce currently on lockout, Sotheby’s continues to operate using scabs and a non-union subcontractor and wants all new hires to have no collective bargaining rights, no health benefits and no job security.

Today’s auction was held on the seventh floor of Sotheby’s Upper East Side auction house—a sterile atmosphere, ripe with the stench of expensive perfume. The activists staggered their entrances and planted themselves in the crowd of businessmen and women, all gathered to witness the sale of artwork, with prices ranging from the average salary of a working American to the average cost of an American home. The first of the activists took the room by surprise, disrupting the auction and announcing that “Sotheby’s made $680 million dollars last year but then they kicked their art handlers out on the street!”

While making a call for security, the auctioneer read a prepared statement kept on her podium for just this sort of demonstration. “Thank you for your patience, ladies and gentlemen,” she said, “I hope that is the last interruption we have today.”

However, nine surprise demonstrations disrupted the two-hour auction. One protestor shouted “This is disgusting! Art is about truth.” Another, in sunglasses and a “Greed Kills” T-shirt attested that the “greed in this building is a direct example of the corporate greed that has ruined our economy.” The #OCCUPYWALLSTREET activists were there to show solidarity with the art handlers in their struggle for worker’s rights and to warn of a coming increase in direct protests against the top 1 percent of New York City’s economic food chain.

“In addition to auctioning off these fine pieces of artwork,” said Mary Clinton, one of the demonstrators, “today Sotheby’s is auctioning off the American dream.”

All nine were escorted from the premise by security, shouting, “End the lockout!” and “Occupy Wall Street!” Sotheby’s auctions epitomize the disconnect between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us. These are the same financial elite who were bailed out in their moment of need and who now refuse to pay their fair share in taxes.




Call for Action/Street Medics for Wall Street Occupation

Call for Action/Street Medics for Wall Street Occupation


Posted 23 September 2011, by Ed Mortimer, Only Ed,


I am passing along this call for medics in my name in order to protect the anonymity of Action/Street Medics everywhere. The original call was posted in an undisclosed medic forum.


Police brutality against the protesters occupying Wall Street is on the rise. There have been numerous arrests, always with force. Hundreds, if not a thousand, more protesters are expected  this weekend. Police reaction to the expected cyber actions by Anonymous and other cyber groups may fall completely upon the protesters this weekend. If you are an Action/Street Medic and can make it out to New York City, they need your medical support and experience. Thank you.

In solidarity, Only Ed.

Where: Liberty Plaza (How to get there)
Donations: NYCGA Donation Page
Help & Directions: +1 (877) 881-3020


A Message From Occupied Wall Street (Day Six)


A Message From Occupied Wall Street (Day Six)


The resistance continues at Liberty Plaza, with free pizza 😉


Posted 23 September 2011, by OccupyWallSt, Occupy Wall Street,

This is the sixth communiqué from the 99 percent. We are occupying Wall Street.

On September 22nd, 2011, sixteen cities from around the country and the world stood in solidarity with us, protesting the disparity of power and wealth that exists in our society. In Liberty Square, no such disparity exists. Everyone’s needs are taken care for, food, medicine, water. The only need, the only right, that we cannot take care of is shelter, though this is not our choice. Mayor Bloomberg said that he would give us a space to protest but at every moment he attempts to erode us. He uses absurd police tactics – arresting protesters for using chalk on sidewalks, for wearing masks on the back of their heads in violation of a law that is a century and a half old, for… what, exactly? He uses the tactics of media suppression only available to a billionaire with a media empire. It has not worked. It will not work. We are growing. Each day more cities join us. Each day our movement grows. We demand real change. We will see it.

As organized by our labor working group and outreach working group, we stood in solidarity with Teamsters local 814 and picketed Sotheby’s. We are joined and will act in solidarity with the Professional Staff Congress, a union of 20,000 employees from the City University of New York.

As always, our General assembly and work groups kept busy maintaining and securing our space and our freedoms.

Tonight we were joined by a protest against the for-profit legal lynching of Troy Davis. We are all Troy Davis. If Troy Davis had been a member of the 1% he would still be alive. Together we numbered nearly a thousand strong and marched on Wall Street. The police arrested six of us and attempted to incite violence by splitting the march and boxing in protesters, in spite of this, we remained true to our principles of nonviolence. After the police arrested our members we marched on their First Precinct as phone calls from supporters flooded in, urging the police to release the jailed peaceful protesters.

We are unions, students, teachers, veterans, first responders, families, the unemployed and underemployed. We are all races, sexes and creeds. We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent.

As members of the 99 percent, we occupy Wall Street as a symbolic gesture of our discontent with the current economic and political climate and as an example of a better world to come. Therefore we invite the public, our fellow 99 percent, to join us in a march on SATURDAY AT NOON, starting from LIBERTY SQUARE (ZUCCOTTI PARK) at LIBERTY & BROADWAY.

This is a call for individuals, families and community and advocacy groups to march in solidarity.

We stand in solidarity with Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Madison, Toronto, London, Athens, Sydney, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Milan, Amsterdam, Algiers, Tel Aviv, Portland and Chicago. Soon we will stand with Phoenix, Montreal, Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, Dallas, Seattle and Orlando. We’re still here. We are growing. We intend to stay until we see movements toward real change in our country and the world.

We speak as one. All of our decisions, from our choice to march on Wall Street to our decision to continue occupying Liberty Square in spite of police brutality, were decided through a consensus based process by the group, for the group.



Hump hypothesis loses ground in biomass research


Hump hypothesis loses ground in biomass research

For decades, scientists have believed that a relationship exists between how much biomass plant species produce and how many species can coexist.


Posted 22 September 2011, by Staff (Iowa State University), Western Farm Press,



For decades, scientists have believed that a relationship exists between how much biomass plant species produce and how many species can coexist.

This idea comes from a 1970s study that showed as plant biomass produced – called plant productivity – in a system increased, so did the number of plant species – referred to as plant richness – to a point. After that point, the number of plant species is thought to decline.

When plotted on a graph, the resulting line forms a hump shape, with maximum species richness occurring at the point of intermediate productivity.

Now it’s time to get over the hump, according to new research in the current issue of the journal Science.

Stanley Harpole, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University, was part of the team researching productivity and richness, and he says the research doesn’t support that relationship.

“This hump pattern that everyone thought was true . . . it just isn’t there,” said Harpole. “This hump was the hypothesis for a long time, but it just isn’t supportable.”

Harpole says that the amount of biomass is one of the more important components of an ecosystem, so there will be worldwide interest in this research.

“Ecologists have long been interested in this relationship between how many plants there are and how much they produce,” said Harpole. “For years they [scientists] have been plotting correlations looking at the relationship of biomass to species richness.”

There was no ‘hump’ shape, according to Harpole. In fact, after plotting the data from all the sites, only one of the 65 sites showed a hump-shaped pattern.

“And that is supposed to be the ‘true’ pattern?” said Harpole.

Harpole believes the original work that led to the predictions for a hump shape was good research, and it showed a correlation between richness and productivity. But it didn’t show cause-and-effect relationships.

“Hundreds of papers have talked about this and it has become fixed in researchers’ heads that this is a true pattern,” said Harpole.

The lead author of the paper is Peter Adler from Utah State University who is part of a Nutrient Network (NutNet) team that he, Harpole and others established.

The study is the first major paper produced by NutNet, a worldwide, ecological research group of more than 70 scientists on five continents that works cooperatively on studies of this kind.

Previous studies with global implications were often limited because disparate groups used different methods to collect data, leading to sometimes different conclusions.

NutNet’s standardized methods eliminate those inconsistencies.

“We use the same experiment, the same design, the same measurements were taken, the species were counted in the same way, and the biomass was clipped in the same way,” said Harpole. “It is important that you do everything in the same way.”

When the results from NutNet’s 65 research sites came in, the results were clear.

Harpole said the NutNet group wasn’t trying to prove anyone wrong, but just hoped for clearer understanding.

“This is exciting science to me,” he said. “We are just trying to figure out what is going on. How the world works. That is what we really wanted to know.”

Other Iowa State University contributors to the research include Lori Biederman, associate scientist; Paul Frater, master’s student; Wei Li, post-doctoral researcher; Brent Mortensen, doctoral student; and Lauren Sullivan, doctoral student. Many members of this group are currently leading their own NutNet projects.



This month in ecological science

This month in ecological science

Evolutionary traps, invasive yellow starthistle’s favorable response to carbon dioxide and plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment


Posted 22 September 2011, by Nadine Lymn (Ecological Society of America) , EurekAlert!



Evolutionary traps in human-dominated landscapes

A study published in the September issue of Ecology looks at how human activities can diminish the usefulness of an ornamental trait, such as colorful feathers, as a signal of fitness. Cardinals, for example, need carotenoids in their diet to produce their red plumage; brilliant red plumage can signal an individual’s health and fitness. Researcher Amanda Rodewald (Ohio State University) and colleagues looked at the socially monogamous Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) in 14 forests in Ohio between 2006-2008, measuring plumage color, reproduction, and quantifying habitat. They found that the non-native Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) altered the selective environments for coloration by creating an evolutionary trap for the cardinals in rural landscapes and possibly relaxing selection in cities. Evolutionary traps occur when behavior that was once beneficial is a drawback in an altered environment.

The non-native honeysuckle is appealing to cardinals because it provides dense vegetation for nesting. Honeysuckle fruits are also a source of carotenoid pigments the birds need for their red plumage. Previous studies suggest that plumage brightness or hue signal a bird that is in good condition, has a good territory, and will put energy into raising its offspring. But the non-native honeysuckle’s appeal to cardinals comes with a price: a nest in this shrub is more vulnerable to predators. Rodewald and colleagues found that in rural areas the mostly brightly colored male cardinals were in best condition, bred earliest in the season, and secured the more preferred territories that included the non-native shrub. But their annual reproductive success was lower than that of duller males. The authors did not see these results in urban forests, where color was not related to any reproductive indicators, likely because the abundant honeysuckle and birdseed reduce the usefulness of color as a signal of quality. This scenario might lead to relaxed selection for bright color in urban forests and selection against bright color in rural forests.

“Our study provides evidence that human –induced changes to ecosystems can both create evolutionary traps that alter relationships between sexual and natural selection (i.e., via exotic shrubs in rural landscapes) and facilitate escape from evolutionary traps (i.e., via anthropogenic resources in urban landscapes),” write the authors. Read more at:

Noxious and invasive yellow starthistle responds favorably to increased carbon dioxide

Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitaialis) is a highly invasive plant species in the grasslands of western North America. Native to the lands northeast of the Mediterranean Sea and highly poisonous to horses, yellow starthistle is considered one of California’s most problematic non-native plants. Jeffrey Dukes (Purdue University) and colleagues conducted field experiments in California and found that Centaurea grew more than six times larger in response to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration and also responded favorably to nitrogen (N) deposition. In contrast, the surrounding grasses and wildflowers responded less strongly or not at all to increased CO2 and nitrogen levels. The researchers report their findings in the September issue of Ecological Applications.

“Given these results, we add Centaurea to a short but growing list of noxious and invasive plants demonstrated to dramatically benefit from CO2 in community settings, and to the longer list of invasives that benefit from increased N availability,” write the authors. “Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are increasing by 2 ppm/yr around the globe. Nitrogen deposition rates vary spatially, but are already higher than our treatment levels at one sampling station in California, and are expected to increase globally. Unless biocontrol agents become more effective at controlling Centaurea, the weed’s response to environmental changes is likely to heighten the challenge facing many North American land managers over the course of this century.” Read more at:

Plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment

Meeting basic human needs while also preserving the natural resources to do so is a major challenge of the coming century. Earth’s human inhabitants need more food, animal feed, fiber, fuel and forest products, all while facing shrinking vital resources such as land, water and nutrients. A new eView review paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment asserts that plant breeding is a critical tool to bring about a more positive relationship between agriculture and the environment on which it depends.

In their review, E. Charles Brummer (Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation) and colleagues note that plant breeders are working to improve crop hardiness to withstand various environmental conditions, such as those associated with climate change. Many breeders are also interested in reducing agriculture’s negative impacts on the environment, such as contributing to oxygen-deprived dead zones in water bodies or soil erosion. Since the 1950s, crop improvements—together with inputs including fertilizers, pesticides and water—have enabled agricultural production to keep up with human demands. Now, say the authors, “partnerships between ecologists, urban planners, and policy makers with public and private plant breeders will be essential for addressing future challenges.” Co-author Seth Murray (Texas A&M University) adds that: “We tend to think that solutions are technological and can be put in place quickly. But new crop cultivars and species take decades or more to develop and there is no shortcut so we really need to start thinking now about what we will need in 10-20 years.” Read more at: