Environment: Nitrogen pollution reduces plant diversity

Swiss study shows widespread effect of air pollution

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Alpine wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. @bobberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Scientists in Switzerland say they’ve measured a startling decline in plant diversity linked with high human atmospheric nitrogen emissions. Their study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, shows the loss in traditionally measured plant species richness at 5 percent, while the loss in phylogenetic plant diversity due to human-induced nitrogen deposition is 19 percent. Continue reading

Morning photo: Anticipation

Seasonal changes


FRISCO — After a few weeks of unseasonable warmth, winter made a bit of a comeback here in the Colorado high country, with two days in a row of snow and wind. We need the moisture — we ALWAYS need the moisture, so I’m not complaining, and I know that, this late in the season, the new snow won’t last long on the ground. After a couple of hours of sunshine, we’ll be back to green patches of grass starting to emerge in the warmer spots along the south side of buildings. But it’s still fun to dream about the warm and sunny days ahead — anyone else ready for the wildflower season? For daily photography updates, follow our Instagram feed, and visit our online gallery for an amazing selection of prints and greeting cards.

Conservation groups to sue feds over rare plants

Legal challenge says rare wildflowers in northwestern Colorado face threat from fossil fuel development despite voluntary conservation deal

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A patchwork of conservation areas may not be enough to protect rare Colorado wildflowers from extinction as fossil fuel exploitation broadens in the Green River Basin.

The rare Graham's penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

The rare Graham’s penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The fate of two rare plants in western Colorado and eastern Utah will likely once again rest in the hands of a federal judge, as a coalition of conservation groups said they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to deny Endangered Species Act protection to the White River and Graham’s beardtongue.

The plants grow only across a few thousand acres, scattered across the same badlands where fossil fuel drillers are expanding their footprint. A voluntary conservation deal between the USFWS and the Bureau of Land Management, adopted last summer, doesn’t go far enough to protect the plants, conservation advocates said in their formal notice of intent to sue. Continue reading

Morning Photo: San Juan wildflowers

The alpine tundra comes alive!

Colorado wildflowers

Wildflowers flourishing in the alpine tundra near Red Mountain Pass.

FRISCO — A short midweek roadtrip to the San Juans as part of the Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger reporting project yielded some fine images from Colorado’s rugged southwestern mountains — along with in-depth information about how global warming is affecting the Rocky Mountains. Shooting with three different cameras (the top image is an iPhone shot) may seem like a hassle (and it can be at times), but it enabled me to get a good variety of perspectives. The next couple of images were taken with an older Canon and a zoom lens that helped compress the vast fields of flowers, intensifying the color and adding some interesting depth-of-field effects. Continue reading

Morning photo: Flower power!

Fresh blooms …

Tundra wildflowers, Loveland Pass, Colorado.

Tundra wildflowers, Loveland Pass, Colorado.

FRISCO — It’s that sweet time of year when high country wildflower start to go nuts, I’ve never seen as many tall blue penstemon as in the past few days, which makes me realize that the flowers have their own cycles and rhythms that we can’t begin to understand yet. So on Tuesday morning, I ventured up to the Shrine Pass area to have a look, but the bulk of the blooming is still ahead. Still, using back-lighting, careful composition and the iPone camera’s HDR option, I was able to scare up a couple of decent shots. Continue reading

Morning photo: Saturday set

More iPhoneography

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Wood arch.

FRISCO — I’ve been to this little cove (photo above) at Dillon Reservoir more than 100 times in the past five years, but a few weeks ago found a new perspective by crawling on my belly. It’s one of the things I love about photography — it helps me look at things in a new light. In this case, I was shooting social media shots for a wildflower Twitter Series by @CopperCondos and really wanted something fresh. I took about 10 shots, tilting the iPhone vertically into different positions, knowing that the smartphone’s incredibly smart sensor would give me at least a couple of images with good light balance, and using the HDR setting also helped get some of the wood detail and good lighting on the mid-ground flowers. It lost sharpness from cropping and Instagram filters. At some point I’ll edit the original file with out the filters to see if I can get the same vibrancy but more crispness. Continue reading

Morning photo: Lupine love!

Wildflower magic

Lupines against the backdrop of shimmering DIllon Reservoir in Frisco, Colorado.

Lupines against the backdrop of shimmering DIllon Reservoir in Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — As the Colorado wildflower season gets under way, I thought I would feature a set focusing on lupines, one of the most ubiquitous species. Lupines grow around the world, from sea level up into the high alpine zone — not to mention our beloved garden varieties. Each variety showing adaptations to their local environment. For example, lupines that grow in the craggy high country have tiny flowers that remain hidden low down in clumps of leaves that offer some shelter from the wind and extreme temperatures. What I haven’t been able to figure out is why the genus got a name that apparently has something to do with the Latin root word for wolves (Lupus). Perhaps in the early days, when people were naming plants, lupine habitat was associated with areas were wolves live, but that’s pure speculation on my part. Continue reading

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