: of, relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature

Chinampas in the news…

Here is an interesting article about the current state of Mexico’s chinampas. For more articles on Chinampas and related agriculture / land management systems from this site search “chinampa” in the right-hand side bar (or click link). Here is a link to the original article quoted below.

Mexico’s Chinampas – Wetlands Turned into Gardens – Fight Extinction

A farmer transports his freshly harvested crops from his chinampa - a rectangular garden on land reclaimed from the wetlands of Mexico City - along a canal in Xochimilco. But this age-old Aztec technique used to feed the local population is threatened by the encroaching city and by pollution. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A farmer transports his freshly harvested crops from his chinampa – a rectangular garden on land reclaimed from the wetlands of Mexico City – along a canal in Xochimilco. But this age-old Aztec technique used to feed the local population is threatened by the encroaching city and by pollution. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

XOCHIMILCO, Mexico , Feb 27 2016 (IPS) – David Jiménez grows two kinds of lettuce and other fresh produce on his “chinampa” or artificial island just under one hectare in size in San Gregorio Atlapulco, on the south side of Mexico City.

“We can get five or six harvests a year. Lettuce can grow in 30 days,” Jiménez, the president of the six-member La Casa de la Chinampa cooperative, told IPS with evident enthusiasm. The cooperative operates in Xochimilco, one of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs.

The ejido – land held in common by the inhabitants of a village and farmed cooperatively or individually – where Jiménez has his farm covers 800 hectares, and is home to 800 farmers who mainly grow vegetables. Half of the ejido is made up of chinampas.

The system of chinampas dates back to the Aztecs, long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century. The technique creates small, rectangular gardens reclaimed from Mexico City’s marshy lakebed by piling up soil on a mat of sticks, using wattle as fencing and willow trees at the corners to secure the bed.

The chinampas are rich in muck and decaying vegetation, which provide nutrients for the crops, while the ditches between them give the plants continuous access to water. As a result, the vegetables grown there are especially rich in nutrients.

The chinampas, which help feed the 21 million people who live in Greater Mexico City, are in the boroughs of Milpa Alta, Tláhuac and Xochimilco.

Worked by some 5,000 farmers, the chinampas cover a total of 750 hectares. The system is profitable, because they produce a combined total of around 80 tons a day of vegetables.

Each head of lettuce fetches 10 cents of a dollar, Jiménez said, as he tended to a row of lettuce.

The chinampas or “floating gardens” produce spinach, chard, radishes, parsley, coriander, cauliflower, celery, mint, chives, rosemary, lettuce and purslane or pigweed. Visitors to the area walk along paths that take them across a green carpet segmented into rectangles of crops and divided by the ditches of water they depend on to grow.

The drought-resistant system uses less water than traditional irrigation and produces fish, vegetables, flowers and medicinal herbs.

Studies also show that the chinampas repel pests, are more productive than conventional agricultural systems, and produce biomass. The technique is completely sustainable, retaining moisture and regulating the microclimate in the area.

David Jiménez, a local farmer, next to medicinal herbs grown on his land in San Gregorio de Atlapulco in the Mexico City borough of Xochimilco, where chinampas continue to survive - an age-old Aztec technique that creates farmland out of the local wetlands. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

David Jiménez, a local farmer, next to medicinal herbs grown on his land in San Gregorio de Atlapulco in the Mexico City borough of Xochimilco, where chinampas continue to survive – an age-old Aztec technique that creates farmland out of the local wetlands. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Ricardo Rodríguez, founder and director of the company De la Chinampa a tu Mesa (“from the chinampa to your table”), came up with a way to link traditional production techniques with new technologies, by marketing the vegetables grown on the chinampas over social networks.

He picks up fresh produce in the Cuemanco natural area in Xochimilco, signs up customers on his web page, processes the purchases, and distributes the orders to the customers’ homes.

“We help generate demand, which motivates them to keep farming. And this helps restore the chinampas. The market is starting to recognise the value of the chinampas,” Rodríguez told IPS.

The entrepreneur works with 22 “chinamperos” or chinampa farmers who grow broccoli, spinach, beets, radishes and other crops on approximately 15 hectares. He delivers some eight orders a day, weighing eight kg on average. His 450 registered customers include stores and restaurants that sell organic food.

Xochimilco, which is home to more than 415,000 people on some 125 sq km, was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1987.

In addition, the Ejidos de Xochimilco and San Gregorio Atlapulco Lake System have been on the Ramsar ConventionList of Wetlands of International Importance since 2004.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) selected the chinampas as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), because they preserve agricultural biodiversity, help farmers adapt to climate change, bolster food security and reduce poverty.

Marco Covarrubias, the head of the Gastronomy Centre at the private Claustro de Sor Juana University based in Mexico City, stresses the importance of the chinampas in terms of food production.

“The advantage is that they are in permanent contact with water, which unlike in other systems is not used to irrigate but is absorbed by the plants,” he told IPS. “And they have added nutritional value because a large part of the chinampas is free of pesticides and other agrochemicals.”

Urban sprawl and expanding slums, the use of pesticides, climate change, excessive use of groundwater, and neglect have all contributed to the destruction of the chinampas, says a study by the Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity Zone Authority (AZP) in Xochimilco, Tláhuac and Milpa Alta.

The AZP, created in 2014, is in charge of managing the preservation of this special ecosystem, in order to maintain the UNESCO and Ramsar Convention designations.

“Any effort to protect the area must take into account the local farmers and the cultural environment surrounding the chinampas. This is a culture that is not really appreciated, the restoration plans haven’t been carried out,” said Jiménez.

His cooperative decided to create a model farm on two hectares of their land, to show visitors the benefits of the chinampas.

And on Feb. 22, it launched a programme in local schools, which includes a virtual tour of the chinampas. With some 6,400 dollars in public funds, the idea is to raise awareness among 6,000 students in primary and secondary schools in Xochimilco.

The environmental authority is facing cuts, which have hurt its efforts to protect the region. Its budget shrank from 700,000 dollars in 2015 to 400,000 dollars this year. Since 2013, the AZP has supported 174 environmental and cultural improvement projects, but there is no clear information about the specific impact on the chinampas.

In March 2014, the French Global Environment Facility donated 1.65 million dollars for the conservation of the area.

In an October 2014 report, “Rehabilitation of the chinampera network and the Xochimilco native species habitat,” the Biology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico said restoration of the chinampas should be a priority, because of their ecological, economic and social importance.

It recommended promoting the concept of chinampa-nature reserve, “because this represents multiple benefits for improving water conditions while giving a boost to sustainable productive activities as a strategy to prevent encroachment by urban sprawl.”

Covarrubias, meanwhile, said “Greater attention should be paid to the chinampera zone; it should be studied as an area of extremely high production potential, and a public policy should be created to link people who live in, and make a living from, the chinampas, with direct buyers.”

Since 2014, his university has organised the La Chinampería programme, to hook up local farmers and buyers. And this year it is carrying out another applied research plan to foment value chains, with the participation of 15 chinampa farmers.

“Awareness-raising programmes are needed for their descendants to start to recuperate the chinampas, improve the cleaning system, and acknowledge the farmers,” said Rodríguez, the entrepreneur, who organises “consciousness-raising tours” on the role of the chinampas in food security and the importance of small-scale local agriculture.

He wants to create a market of producers in Cuemanco, generate a label for goods produced in Xochimilco, to boost the prices of local products, and set up a collection centre for the products.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

Myristicaceae, Virola surinamensis, chalviande, baboon wood – Panama

Virola surinamensis, a nutmeg relative, is native to  the subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and swamps of Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

The tree is harvested for its wood. It is also a source of traditional medicinal remedies for intestinal worms. The Amazon Indians Waiãpi living in the West of Amapá State of Brazil, treat malaria with an inhalation of vapor obtained from leaves of Viola surinamensis.

The seed oil is the oil extracted from the seed. It contains 13% lauric acid, 69% myristic acid, 7% palmitic acid, and traces of oleic acid and linoleic acid.[5] Myristic and lauric acids comprised 91.3 mole % of the total fatty acids. Additional saturated fatty acids such as decanoic acid and stearic acidare minor components.

The butter of ucuhuba has a high-melting point (53 °C) and saponification value (220 mg KOH / g oil). These values exceed those of beef tallow, making the oil a valuable raw material which could replace oils of animal origin in products such as fine soaps. The oil also gives soap a better consistency and durability. The seeds are rich in fat (60%–70%), and 70% of the fat is composed of trimyristin, a triglyceride of myristic acid which is an aromatic essential oil used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Currently, this essential oil is extracted from nutmeg, which has a concentration of about 80%.

Myristicaceae, Virola surinamensis, seed Myristicaceae, Virola surinamensis, seed





‘Tree of life’ for 2.3 million species released

September 18, 2015

Duke University

A first draft of the tree of life for all 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes has been released. Thousands of smaller trees have been published over the years for select branches, but this is the first time those results have been combined into a single tree. The end result is a digital resource that is available online for anyone to use or edit, much like a ‘Wikipedia’ for evolutionary relationships.

A collaborative effort among eleven institutions, the tree depicts the relationships among living things as they diverged from one another over time, tracing back to the beginning of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago.

Tens of thousands of smaller trees have been published over the years for select branches of the tree of life — some containing upwards of 100,000 species — but this is the first time those results have been combined into a single tree that encompasses all of life. The end result is a digital resource that available free online for anyone to use or edit, much like a “Wikipedia” for evolutionary trees.

“This is the first real attempt to connect the dots and put it all together,” said principal investigator Karen Cranston of Duke University. “Think of it as Version 1.0.”

Read full article at

Tree of life diagram

Fabaceae, Lupinus pilosus, seed available

I have a huge number of Lupinus pilosus seeds, please feel free to contact me if you’re interested. Some brief info below and here’s a link to a previous post with additional info:

Lupinus pilosus, commonly called Blue Lupine, or in Arabic: ترمس برّي‎ , in Hebrew: תורמוס ההרים‎. Fantastic plant, nitrogen fixing, drought tolerant. After blooming the plant develop giant pods full of large seeds. Germinates in early spring / late winter growing into early / mid summer when they bloom and g

Of ethnobotanical interest: In the areas around  the South Tyrolean village of Altrei (Anterivo), Italy, L. pilosus was historically grown. The seeds were roasted and mixed with malt grains and infused in boiling water to produce a coffee-like but caffeine-free hot beverage, Altreier Kaffee (“Altrei coffee”). Interesting not only from a cultural and historical but also from a botanical standpoint, since 2006 a local initiative is re-establishing L. pilosus cultivation in the Altrei region to revive this culinary specialty.

Lupinus pilosus flower, leaf Lupinus pilosus, flower close Lupinus pilosus, leafLupinus pilosus seeds, seedpod


Mutated Arabidopsis detoxifies TNT

From Scientific American:

UK researchers have identified a mutant plant that is able to thrive on soil contaminated with high concentrations of the explosive TNT. The finding opens the way to cleaning up the vast swathes of land throughout the world – principally military firing ranges—polluted with the highly toxic and persistent compound. In addition the team has pinpointed the mechanism by which TNT exerts its toxicity in plants, and say this could lead to the development of new herbicides.

Read full article at Scientific American: Mutant Plants Mop up Explosives

Solanaceae, Nicotiana rustica, mapacho, махорка, thuốc lào, tobacco

Here are some photos of a variety of Nicotiana rustica I am growing in my garden this summer. This is an enthogenic species of Nicotiana (tobacco) native to South America containing up to nine times more nicotine then commercial Nicotiana tabaccum. N. rustica leaves also contain high levels of β-carbolines including harmala alkaloids. In South American ethnobotanical preparations, Mapacho (Nicotiana rustica) leaves are soaked or infused in water, and the water is then insufflated into the stomach in a preparation known as singado or singa; the leaves can also smoked in cigars , used as an enema, made into a lickable product known as ambil, and made into a snuff with the bark of a species of Theobroma, creating nu-nu. In the southeast part of Turkey, people use this herb and ashes of some tree bodies to make a moist snuff called maraş otu. They use this by putting the mixture under their lips like Swedish snus or Afghan naswar. It is also a common admixture of Ayahuasca in some parts of the Amazon. The leaves of N. rustica can be used to make a powerful organic insecticide.

Here are some past posts from this site related to Nicotiana. And you can click here for more on the Solanaceae botanical family.

Nicotiana rustica leaf flower

Nicotiana rustica flower

Nicotiana rustica leaf flower

Nicotiana rustica leaf flower

Article: Glimpsing prehistory in today’s Amazon rainforest

Here’s a snippet from a recent article in Popular Archaeology exploring the contemporary plight of Amazonian peoples and going further to pose the question: “how does the knowledge of the legacy of Late pre-Columbian groups inform modern conservation and sustainable agricultural practices for the future of the Amazon and other tropical regions of the world?” :

In a newly published article in Science Magazine, contributing correspondent Andrew Lawler reports in detail the evolving crisis of events and issues surrounding the recent activities of isolated forest tribes inhabiting the deepest regions of the Peruvian rainforest. What could be described as “throwbacks” to a largely bygone prehistoric era, these people have maintained a traditional “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle, separate from the modern economies that surround them in both Peru and Brazil.

Villagers living along the banks of the Curanja River in the rainforest of eastern Peru are reporting frequent sightings and “raids” from these mysterious forest people, says Lawler in the article. “A surge in sightings and raids in both Peru and Brazil may be a sign that some of the world’s last peoples living outside the global economy are emerging,” he writes.* He reports villagers complaining of stolen goods and destroyed homes, attributing the acts to these “naked ones” from deep within the forest.

To be sure, anthropologists and others have known of the forest peoples’ existence for years. But ethical questions have energized the issue of how and even if contemporary modern villagers and other representatives of ‘developed’ society should contact them. Scientists and health officials often mention, for example, their likely vulnerability to the transmission of disease that, because of their lack of immunity to common pathogens, could mean decimation of their groups to the point of extinction.

It’s easy to imagine—South America, before Columbus, was thought to have teemed with an indigenous population of anywhere between 30 and 100 million people. But in the decades following Columbus’ arrival in 1492, most of these people, along with much of their culture, vanished, due at least in part to disease from pathogens introduced by the incoming Europeans. As historical records and archaeology note, that was only part of a far more complex story of tragic interaction.

Read the complete article here, at Popular Archaeology.

More from this blog on pre-Colombian land management in the Americas:

Chinampa raised-bed hydrological agriculture

Other Chinampa-related articles

Agroforestry and the built environment

Other agroforestry-related articles


Cross-species food transfer via mycorrhizal network, or Wood-Wide Web…

Here are some further findings demonstrating how a dying tree of one species can transfer nutrients to a tree of an entirely different species through complex Rhizopogon mycorrhizal networks acting as conduits between trees… Heres an excerpt from a Scientific American article by Jennifer Frazer discussing this fascinating interaction, along with a link to the complete article.

No tree is an island, and no place is this truer than the forest. Hidden beneath the soil of the forest understory is a labyrinth of fungal connections between tree roots that scientists call the mycorrhizal network. Others have called it thewood-wide web.

The connections are made by the filaments of fungi that grow in and around plant roots and produce many of the forest mushrooms we know and love. They bond trees so intimately that the more you learn about them, the more it is a struggle to view any tree as an individual. Forest trees and their root fungi are more or less a commune in which they share resources in a fashion so unabashedly socialist that I hesitate to describe it in detail lest conservatives reading this go out and immediately set light to the nearest copse.

This story stars two trees. They are the interior douglas-fir and the ponderosa pine — hearty and prolific trees that grow over large spans of the American west. The ponderosa pine is my favorite conifer and maybe also my favorite tree. Its forests are full of air and light; its bark smells like butterscotch or vanilla when warmed by the sun.

Unlike many mycorrhizal fungi, which produce colorful and beautiful gilled or pored mushrooms at the surface, Rhizopogon makes what is called a “false truffle” — an underground spore-making body. Rhizopogon does start to peep through the surface litter, however, as it nears ripeness, as you can see above.

Like all truffles they make their living by enticing mammals with an irresistible smell to dig them up and eat them. The mammals’ digestive systems, fidgety personalities (in the American west, squirrels are often the mammals in question), and the call of nature do the rest. Many, many distantly related fungi have evolved to do this separately; it seems to be an adaptation favored in dry climates where low-humidities make traditional moist breeze-based spore dispersal methods less effective.Rhizopogon seems to have evolved from above-ground pore-bearing mushrooms called boletes.

The spores are produced in the many contortions inside the “fruiting body”, as you can see below. Click through to the original to magnify and appreciate the intricacy of this biological lace.

Mycorrhizal fungi like Rhizopogon partner with plant roots because each gets something out of it. The fungus infiltrates the plants’ roots. But it does not attack — far from it. The plant makes and delivers food to the fungus; the fungus, in turn, dramatically increases the plant’s water and mineral absorptive powers via its vast network of filaments. They provide far more surface area for absorption than the meager supply of short root hairs the tree could grow alone. What has not been appreciated until relatively recently is both how complex mycorrhizal fungal networks can be and that they can also act as conduits between trees. Much of the work I’m about to describe to you has come out of the laboratory of Professor Suzanne Simard at the University of British Columbia.

Read more here: Dying Trees Can Send Food to Neighbors of Different Species via ‘Wood-Wide Web’, By Jennifer Frazer


Scientists laser-scan Amazon for evidence of ancient civilizations…

This recent article from the BBC discusses a project that uses drones to laser-scan the amazon to detect anthropogenic landforms / earthworks, evidence of ancient civilizations in the Amazon – the most expansive wilderness area on earth was most likely once  home to much larger populations then previously thought. Here are some excerpts from the original article, below:

Scientists are to scan the Amazon forest in Brazil to look for evidence of occupation by ancient civilizations.

A drone will be sent up with a laser instrument to peer through the canopy for earthworks that were constructed thousands of years ago.

The UK-led project is trying to determine how big these communities were, and to what degree they altered the landscape.

The data is likely to inform policies on sustainable forest use today.

The key quest is to try to understand the scale and activities of populations living in the late pre-Columbian period (the last 3,000 years before the Europeans arrived in the 1490s).

“While some researchers think that Amazonia was inhabited by small bands of hunter-gatherers and shifting cultivators who had a minimal impact on the environment, and that the forest we see today is pristine and untouched for thousands of years – mounting evidence is showing this may not be the case.

“This evidence suggests that Amazonia may have been inhabited by large, numerous, complex and hierarchical societies that had a major impact on the environment; what we call the ‘cultural parkland hypothesis’,” he told BBC News.

Read the full article here on BBC

Here is a link to additional, related news and articles posted on this website… You might also be interested in chinampas  or the domesticated landscapes of los llanos de Moxos, or Agroforestry.

Bad weather exposes 300 million year tree fossils in Spain…

High wind and heavy rain in Spain recently washed away sand on a beach, exposing “perfectly preserved” fossils of 300 million year old trees. See article and a link below:

Rain in Spain unearths fossilised trees that predate dinosaurs

A recent spate of appalling weather in northern Spain has led to the discovery of perfectly preserved fossilized trees, which scientists believe could be 300 million years old – a period well before dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

While the unusually intemperate climate has caused chaos for locals and holidaymakers, the high winds and heavy rain that struck the Cantabrian coast last week have washed away huge amounts of sand, unearthing the remains of the trees, which scientists have hailed as a significant find.

Describing the trees as being “perfectly preserved”, Miguel Arbizu, a professor of paleontology at the nearby University of Oviedo, told Spain’s 20 Minutos newspaper that they date back to the Stephanian stage, a period that predates most of the dinosaurs we know about today.

“You can see the trunk and roots in the subsoil that date back 300 million years,” said Professor Arbizu. By contrast, the famed Tyrannosaurus rex is known to have lived during the Cretaceous period, between 66 million and 68 million years ago.

Read full article at The Independent.

Agroecology in France

Here is some recent news about Agro-ecological principals / foundations being adopted into French law under the European Union’s reformed Common Agricultural Policy .

From Agro-Ecology has officially made its way into French law, seeking to combine economic, environmental and social performance, reduce the consumption of energy, water, fertilizer, pesticides and veterinary medicine, and to work with natural mechanisms instead of against them.

The incorporation of Agro-Ecology into law took over two years and required the laying of a solid foundation in the form of ambitious agricultural reform projects. The campaign entitled “Year One of Agro-Ecology” celebrates the assembly of Agro-Ecology’s legal foundation and marks the beginning of what promises to be a proliferation of new and improved agricultural practices. The European Union’s reformed Common Agricultural Policy and the announcement of the Loi d’Avenir (The “Future Law”) reaffirm that the desired objectives of Agro-Ecology are and will continue to be reflected in the French legal system.

Read the rest of this article at

Brassica oleraceae var. botrytis, cauliflower, purple of Sicily – California

I’m growing a purple variety of cauliflower this year. Although the true wild origin is not quite known, this heirloom variety comes from Sicily, another purple variety exists from S. Africa. The purple color is naturally occurring, caused by the presence of anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine.

Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C. A half cup of florets provides nearly half of ones daily requirement. Cauliflower is also a good source of fiber, vitamin A, folate, calcium and potassium as well as selenium, which works with Vitamin C to boost the immune system. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower are known for their high levels of cancer-fighting phytochemicals know as glucosinolates. Purple cauliflower, purple of sicily