2009 Science Accomplishments Report > Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program Accomplishments >
Key Accomplishments of the Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program in 2009
The mission of the Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program is to improve forest and range ecosystems by developing and applying inventory and monitoring methodology to maintain current comprehensive inventories and conduct multiscale assessments of the status, trends, and prospective futures of the region's ecosystems.
Research Problem Statements
Problem 1: How can we provide essential information on the status, extent, and characteristics of forest and rangeland in the Pacific region and their change over time to decisionmakers?
Problem 2: How can we increase the efficiency and add value to inventory and monitoring efforts through the development of new tools, techniques, and methodology?
Problem 3: How can inventory and monitoring data be used to understand the effects of human use, climate, and natural disturbances on the forest and rangeland condition?
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Improved methods yield better estimates of forest carbon stocks
Interest in woody debris—the downed logs and other smaller wood on the forest floor—used to center around wildlife habitat. It now focuses on carbon stocks and fuel levels. In Oregon, for example, it is estimated that the volume of down logs is about 45 percent of the volume of live forest trees. Scientifically defensible estimates of these quantities are essential for estimating stocks of biomass and stored carbon. This information is also important to those describing forest structure and wildlife habitat and to the fire community because fire behavior is largely determined by the amount and type of fuel present.
Current sampling protocols and statistical methods for estimating the volume of woody debris involve several assumptions. Given the increasing interest nationwide for accurate estimates of forest biomass, researchers evaluated and quantified the bias that results from two of the key assumptions. Based on their findings, they suggested changes in protocol and other improvements that may result in more accurate estimates of volume, biomass, and carbon stocks.
Contact: Vicente Monleon, email@example.com, Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program
Partners: USDA Forest Service Northern and Rocky Mountain Research Stations
Maps illustrate 23 years of change on Northwest forests
By using historical remote-sensing data, researchers developed maps of annual forest change between 1984 and 2007. These maps, with a resolution of 98 feet (30 meters), of western Oregon, western Washington, and northern California show changes from timber harvests (thinnings to clearcuts), fires (low to high severity), insects and pathogens, and forest increase associated with recovery after disturbance. As a series, the maps contain an unprecedented level of spatial and temporal detail. The ability to illustrate forest change over time was made possible by publicly available satellite data and new algorithms developed by the station and its partners. Land managers and regulatory agencies are using these maps to assess current land management, the status and trends of populations of threatened and endangered species, and develop innovative approaches. For example, the Northwest Forest Plan Effectiveness Monitoring Program is using them to assess the effects of forest management and natural disturbance on wildlife habitat for the spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and other old-growth-related species; watershed condition; and socioeconomic factors of forest-product-dependent communities. The National Marine Fisheries Service is using these data to assess effects of forest change on the threatened and endangered runs of the coho salmon in Oregon.
Contact: Warren B. Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org, Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program
Partners: Oregon State University, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region
Scientist quantifies incidence and effects of insects and diseases in Oregon forests
The native insects, diseases, parasites, and animals that damage and kill trees in Oregon's forests are natural parts of their ecosystems. They are as responsible for creating current forests as they are for destroying them. By weakening and killing trees, these damaging agents promote the natural succession that allows new trees and forests to establish and grow. When forest conditions are outside their normal range of variation, however, the behavior of damaging agents may also depart from normal ranges.
To provide a baseline that can be used to assess future changes, a station scientist quantified the incidence and effects of insects, diseases, and other damaging agents in Oregon forests between the mid- 1980s and the late 1990s. He found that 36 percent of live trees had some damage, with more trees damaged on the east side of the Cascades than on the west side. The most common damages were physical injuries or defects such as dead tops, basal scars, and forks. Average annual mortality was just under 1 percent. Of that, bark beetles were the most common cause of mortality, followed by root disease. Conifers were found to have higher mortality rates from bark beetles when root disease was present than when it was not.
Contact: Sally Campbell, email@example.com, Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program
Partner: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region
For more information: Dunham, Paul A. 2008. Incidence of insects, diseases, and other damaging agents in Oregon forests. Resour. Bull. PNW-RB-257. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 89 p.
Focusing only on small trees is not an economical or effective way to reduce fire hazard
Increasingly large and severe wildfires threaten millions of forested acres throughout the West. Under certain conditions, mechanical thinning can address these hazardous conditions while providing opportunities to both obtain wood products and create renewable energy from the removed biomass.
Station scientists created an analysis framework called FIA BioSum that uses the nationwide Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) database and allows forest managers to simultaneously assess the effectiveness of fuel treatments, the location and capacity of processing facilities, and project returns on investments. Using FIA BioSum to analyze the Klamath region in southern Oregon, scientists determined that under current harvest systems, product prices, and harvest and haul costs, only a tiny fraction of the region could be treated via operations that generate positive net revenue under prescriptions that focus on removing trees smaller than 10 inches in diameter. To expand the economically treatable area, logging or hauling costs would need to be substantially subsidized, or more merchantable timber (larger trees) would need to be removed.
Another analysis simulated the outcomes of implementing three alternative policies with different overarching objectives in northern California, southwestern Oregon, and the east slopes of the Cascade Range in Oregon. This analysis suggests that a considerable number of commercial-size trees need to be removed to accomplish fire-hazard-reduction goals when objectives center on either maximizing net revenue or maximizing treatment effectiveness. Most of the softwood biomass that would be chipped and used to generate electricity came from the tops and limbs of the larger trees. Trees smaller than 7 inches in diameter were a relatively minor component of the chipped material.
Contact: Jeremy Fried, firstname.lastname@example.org, Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program
Published LIDAR specifications make technology more usable
Published LIDAR specifications make technology more usable Airborne laser scanning (LIDAR) is a relatively new remote-sensing technology that has become widely used by federal, state, and local agencies for generating bare-earth surface models. It can also be used to measure forests, but agencies generally have lacked information on how to use it for this purpose. To fill this need, station scientists and the Remote Sensing Applications Center developed specifications for LIDAR missions where generation of high-resolution, bare-earth terrain models and forest structure measurement are the main project objectives. These sensor and flight specifications are based on a decade's worth of knowledge from 15 LIDAR projects. They provide land managers with an up-to-date reference for planning LIDAR missions. The specifications ensure that resulting data will be of sufficient quality to produce high-resolution bare-earth surface models and forest canopy characteristics. The publication also includes specifications for typical LIDAR-derived products such as ground and canopy surface models, images, and data formats.
The Colville, Coronado, and Rogue- Siskiyou National Forests, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Department of Energy are using the LIDAR mission specifications. The resulting LIDAR data are facilitating more accurate, timely, and cost-effective planning and design of forest management activities such as watershed analysis, fuel reduction and forest health treatments, and road system inventory.
Contact: Steve Reutebuch, email@example.com, Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program
Partners: USDA Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Center and Coronado National Forest
For more information: Laes, D.; Reutebuch, S.; McGaughey, B. [et al.]. 2008. Practical LIDAR acquisition considerations for forestry applications. RSAC-0111-BRIEF1. Salt Lake City, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center. 7 p.
Harvest pattern influences survival of forest-dependent species
The Demonstration of Ecosystem Management Options (DEMO) study was established in 1994 to evaluate the benefits of leaving some live trees standing as part of harvest treatments. The percentage of trees retained ranged from 15 to 100, and the retention pattern also differed among study sites in mature Douglas-fir forests.
Short-term results suggest that both dispersed and aggregated retention are needed to retain sensitive plants and animals, ameliorate harsh microclimatic conditions, and gain public acceptance of retention harvests. Although retention level had a greater influence on most ecological responses than did its pattern, retaining trees in aggregates of 2.5 acres provided several benefits over dispersed retention. Aggregates greatly reduced damage to and mortality of residual trees (particularly at lower retention levels) and provided shortterm refugia for forest species sensitive to disturbance or environmental stress.
Based on these findings, a combination of aggregates larger than 2.5 acres and dispersed retention at levels considerably greater than current minimum standard of 15 percent appears a general strategy for ensuring the short-term persistence (and, presumably, the long-term recovery) of most forest-dependent species. It also appears to be an effective treatment for gaining public acceptance of green-tree retention that sustains the ecological and commodity values of managed forests. These studies have garnered international interest—both in the findings and in the safety and operational aspects of green-tree-retention harvests.
Contact: Charley Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org, Resource Monitoring and Assessment Program
Partners: Oregon State University, University of Oregon, University of Washington, USDA Forest Service Umpqua and Gifford Pinchot National Forests, Washington State Department of Natural Resources