USDA Forest Service
 

Pacific Northwest Research Station

 
 
 
Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

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» Research Natural Areas and Experimental Forests

Survival of shrubs at Starkey

Cows grazing at the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in Oregon. Photo by Frank Vanni
Cows grazing at the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in Oregon. Photo by Frank Vanni

Grazing by ungulates—such as cattle, mule deer, and elk—has the potential to dramatically affect vegetation dynamics. In Western forests, these effects are of particular concern because intense grazing can substantially reduce or eliminate highly palatable shrub species and set the stage for the establishment of unpalatable conifers that can, ultimately, serve as ladder fuels for severe wildfires. Scientists at the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range, in eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains, studied the response of shrub and conifer species to various management treatments and grazing by free-ranging cattle, elk, and mule deer. The researchers found that densities of aspen, cottonwood, and willow shrubs were more than four times higher following fuel reduction treatments that excluded ungulate grazing—demonstrating that grazing by cattle, mule deer, and elk reduces shrub presence in Starkey’s dry forest understories. The study suggests that the survival of shrubs in coniferous forests requires a combination of episodic disturbances, such as thinning or fire, followed by reductions in grazing.


Contact:
Michael Wisdom, mwisdom@fs.fed.us

For more information:

Effects of ungulate herbivory on aspen, cottonwood, and willow development under forest fuels treatment regimes

 


Climate change at Natural Areas

Metolius Research Natural Area in Oregon. Photo by Todd Wilson
Metolius Research Natural Area in Oregon. Photo by Todd Wilson

Through an ongoing agreement, the station is partnering with The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop a climate change program and monitoring protocols for natural areas in Oregon and Washington. The focus of the joint work is on the 580 interagency natural areas identified in both states (about 1.4 million acres), but it may also, ultimately, serve as a template for developing a national monitoring program for the Forest Service and BLM. Two Oregon State University graduate students are currently working on the project, conducting a geographic information systems analysis of the current network and evaluating ways to prioritize and use natural areas as a framework for studying long-term climate change over the next century.


Contact:
Todd Wilson, twilson@fs.fed.us

More information: Interagency strategy for the Pacific Northwest Natural Areas Network

 


Cascade Head tree census

Cascade Head Experimental Forest, Spruce-Hemlock Growth and Yield Plot 3. Photo by Al Levno
Cascade Head Experimental Forest, Spruce-Hemlock Growth and Yield Plot 3. Photo by Al Levno

This year, field crews and volunteers from Oregon State University and the station completed a census of trees in ten growth-and-yield plots at Cascade Head Experimental Forest, along the central Oregon Coast. The research plots were established in spruce-hemlock forests in 1935, thus this year’s measurement extends the data record to 78 years. Data collected from these plots are used to characterize forest productivity and long-term rates of tree growth, mortality, and recruitment. A recent analysis of live-tree biomass through 2008 shows three of the plots continue to accumulate biomass, whereas the other seven plots have experienced sizable declines in live biomass owing to mortality associated with major wind events.


Contact: Todd Wilson, twilson@fs.fed.us

 


Forest dynamics at Thornton T. Munger RNA

Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area in Washington. Photo by U.S. Forest Service
Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area in Washington. Photo by U.S. Forest Service

The Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area (RNA), located on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in south-central Washington, is home to the Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot (WFDP)—a 63-acre plot where every woody stem larger than 0.4 inches in diameter is identified, mapped, and tagged. Currently, more than 30,000 stems have been recorded. The plot is helping researchers to understand forest change, particularly tree mortality. The WFDP research is affiliated with the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science (http://ctfs.si.edu), a global network of over 40 forest plots established with the same field and data protocols that contributes to knowledge of global forest change.

Learn more:
Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot, http://www.wfdp.org





Featured Scientist

Todd WilsonTodd Wilson is a wildlife biologist at the station’s Corvallis Forestry Sciences Laboratory. He also is the station’s Research Natural Areas (RNAs) coordinator, and so oversees the work at the 151 Forest Service RNAs in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. His research develops and tests ecoforestry strategies that could help accelerate the development of biological and structural complexity in young, second-growth forests and examines the biology and ecology of spotted owl prey—like flying squirrels, woodrats, and other rodents. He has a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in forest ecology and management from the Union Institute and University.

 

US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Monday,02December2013 at17:12:53CST


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