Background: The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (which includes Oregon and Washington) and Pacific Southwest (which includes California) Research Stations are developing a science synthesis to inform the revision of land management plans (forest plans) for 19 national forests within the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) area. The NWFP amended land management plans in 1994 in order to protect threatened and endangered species associated with late successional and old-growth forest habitats while still contributing to social and economic sustainability. U.S. Forest Service Region 5 (California) and Region 6 (Oregon and Washington) have requested the synthesis to provide a thorough, up-to-date review of the relevant scientific literature pertaining to key resource management topics within the NWFP area. In preparation for forest plan revision, the Regions would like a general technical report (GTR) ready for peer review by the end of calendar year 2016 so it can be used at the beginning of the forest plan revision process to inform the forest assessments.
Purpose: Synthesis of existing science to provide managers with a science foundation for revision of forest plans within the NWFP area.
Approach: Science provides the foundation for credible decision-making. Forest Service Research and Development works at the forefront of science to improve the health and use of our nation's forests and grasslands. The 2012 Planning Rule requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions. The NWFP-wide science synthesis will inform the assessment phase of forest plan revision under the 2012 Planning Rule. It is essentially information gathering that brings together the relevant scientific information focused on key topics and management questions.
Figure 1. The NWFP science synthesis is part of the pre-assessment phase of forest plan revisions for R5 and R6.
The synthesis will be based on the 20-year Northwest Forest Plan monitoring reports, other published peer-reviewed science and agency data bases.
The synthesis will be published as a GTR and subject to peer review following the Office of Management and Budget and US Department of Agriculture guidelines. The science synthesis will consider currently available peer-reviewed science that is published by a reputable scientific or professional journal or through an agency-sponsored peer-review process that meets the general criteria for competent and credible peer review. University theses, government reports, symposium proceedings etc. may be considered if certain topics are not adequately covered in peer reviewed literature. In some cases analyses may be conducted using existing data to illustrate points raised in the literature. In such cases methods will be described.
Project Leads: Dr. Thomas Spies, Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Dr. Peter Stine, recently retired from Pacific Southwest Research Station, are the co-leads and editors of the synthesis. Scientists from the PNW and PSW Research Stations will be lead authors for synthesis chapters and sections. Coauthors will include other research station scientists and scientists from other agencies or universities as needed.
Examples of synthesis topics covered: The synthesis will be organized around the conservation, restoration and socio-economic goals and themes of the NWFP. The synthesis will address topical areas relevant to plan revision such as:
- Old growth forest ecosystems
- Listed species including the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet
- Other species associated with older forests
- Aquatic and riparian species and ecosystems
- Socio-economic well-being, community stability, timber harvest
- Stakeholder attitudes
- Tribal values and resources
- Role and effects of disturbance agents
- Early successional and other developmental vegetation stages
- Climate change
- Conservation strategies and effectiveness
- Restoration strategies and effects
- Uncertainties and scientific disagreement
- Geographic variation within the NWFP area
- Integration and tradeoffs
- Considerations for management
Key Anticipated Products: The NWFP science synthesis will result in the following key products:
- PNW Research Station General Technical Report
- 1-2 journal articles for peer reviewed journals
- Science Synthesis Reference Database for public and federal agency use
Science Synthesis Transparency: The Forest Service is committed to working across agency boundaries with other federal agencies and the public to provide a sound science foundation for consideration by land managers for the plan revision process. The Forest Service would like to make the process of development of the synthesis as transparent as possible and feasible. The Forest Service is interested in providing opportunities for input to the process from members of nongovernment organizations (NGOs), other interested parties, and the general public.
We intend to share the following information on this website when available:
One of the key opportunities for public input is through suggesting peer-reviewed papers for the science team to consider in the science synthesis. At the request of the public, we have developed an on-line Science Synthesis Reference Literature Database that contains peer-reviewed literature being considered for inclusion in the synthesis. This interactive database allows interested parties to submit for consideration literature that is peer reviewed. The reference database is now available for submission of additional references. New publications that are published or accepted during 2016 will be fully considered up to the point of the draft in late summer 2016.
Peer Reviewed Literature for Consideration in Synthesis: Peer review is the standard procedure within the scientific community for determining which findings meet thresholds of scientific scrutiny. The authors of the science synthesis for the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) will apply a standard of using material that has been peer-reviewed and published by a reputable scientific or professional journal or through an agency-sponsored peer review process that meets the general criteria for competent and credible peer review.
In general, the authors will, wherever possible, focus on peer-reviewed research conducted in the NWFP area for forest ecosystems with relevant ecological or socioeconomic conditions. Ecological and social research are always context specific, and few, if any, universal principles apply in either of these disciplines because place, time, and research scope all affect the data collected. Scientific studies are often published with caveats about their implications to other spatial and temporal scales. These caveats make it difficult for managers and even other scientists to integrate and distill the information for particular management situations. To address this challenge, the science synthesis will clarify the extent and limitations of available information, especially by highlighting various research gaps.
Certain subjects may lack available peer-reviewed literature, however, especially regarding social, economic, health, cultural, or highly specialized ecological topics. To address such gaps, authors may incorporate relevant scientific information from master’s theses and dissertations and potentially other research that has been subject to review. Any references to such literature will clearly indicate the different nature of the source to the readers. While the science synthesis will focus on summarizing existing peer-reviewed literature, the national forests will consider a host of other sources of information and available data when they begin their plan revision assessments.