USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
1220 SW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

US Forest Service

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Highlights From 2011

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station conducts research on a wide range of topics to improve the management and use of natural resources. Categorizing this research is often difficult because in many cases the crux of an issue lies in its connection to many natural processes. Climate change, for example, affects all natural processes and thus is an inherent component of much of the stationís research. The following section highlights emerging narratives from research described in more detail throughout the report.


Living With a Changing Climate


Providing information to help land managers and decisionmakers plan for a changing climateTHE EFFECTS of warmer global temperatures are far reaching, yet nuanced: local effects will differ. Station scientists are studying climate change from many angles. Their work is instrumental in providing and managers and policymakers with needed tools and information to manage the Nation’s natural resources under changing conditions.


Managing for Change

Researchers developed seed transfer zonesResearchers developed seed transfer zones
for mountain brome. Photo by Richard C. Johnson

The North Cascadia Adaptation Project—This collaborative effort was developed by the Forest Service and the National Park Service with a goal of incorporating climate change adaptation into current management on federal lands in northern Washington.

Arrow.A vulnerability assessment and climate change adaptation strategy for Olympic
National Forest and Olympic National Park (

Arrow.Education workshops for 330 staff from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National
Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Mount Rainier National Park, and
North Cascades National Park.

American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes—They face disproportionate risks associated with climate change because of their close cultural and economic relationship to the land. A station scientist and university partners develop collaborative tools to help build awareness of the unique problems faced by tribal stakeholders and document tribes’ innovative approaches to adaptation.

Arrow.The Lummi Nation and Swinomish, Coquille, and Nez Perce Tribes used the collaborative model to initiate climate adaptation planning.

Arrow. The collaborative model was replicated in Forest Service Research and Development (R&D) across the agency as part of the All Station Tribal Climate Change Initiative.

Assisted Adaptation

Understanding the role of genetics in the adaptive ability of plants. This is important so that seed sources can be matched with planting locations.

Arrow.Seed transfer zones developed for mountain brome, a grass commonly used in restoration efforts and used by the Malheur, Ochoco, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

Arrow.More than 38,000 genes identified in Douglasfir and 21,000 genes in two subspecies of big sagebrush.

Change in the Far North

Understanding carbon loss—The largest fire ever recorded on the Arctic slope, in 2007, led to new knowledge of carbon levels in Alaskan tundra.

Arrow.Carbon released to the atmosphere by the 600-square-mile fire was 20 times more carbon than what is annually lost from undisturbed tundra, according to estimates by station scientists and collaborators.

Arrow.Techniques were implemented that measure carbon loss in tundra areas. Tundra permafrost stores carbon sequestered for millennia. Frequent wildfires could release this carbon, leading to further global warming.



American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Creating new jobs while promoting healthy ecosystems

THE PNW Research Station directed $14.2 million under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) toward projects addressing fuel treatments, smoke impacts, salmon habitat, and natural systems in urban areas.

Arrow.More than 220 people, with skills ranging from construction to field data collection to high-tech computer modeling, have been employed for varied lengths of time.

Arrow.Students at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications are helping tell the economic recovery story. Multimedia packages developed by the students are at

Completed projects

An Oregon State University employee hired with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds directed through the station explains an ARRA project to University of Oregon journalism students. Photo by Dede Olson. An Oregon State University employee hired with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds directed through the station explains an ARRA project to University of Oregon journalism students. Photo by Dede Olson.

New Solar-Powered Stream Gauge Stations

Arrow.At South Umpqua Experimental Forest, dilapidated, unsafe stream gauge stations were replaced by new solar-powered facilities on Coyote Creek (known for its high-quality salmon habitat).
Jobs: 10

Olympia Lab Windows Replacement

Arrow.Single-pane windows from the 1960s were replaced with modern energy-efficient
windows to retain heat in the winter and keep the building cool in the summer.
Jobs: 10

Road Maintenance

Arrow.Infrastructure and erosion control improvement projects were completed, including bridge replacement, resurfacing roads, and correcting drainage issues.
Jobs: 20

Impact of Economic Recovery Funding in Rural Communities

Arrow. Social and economic impacts of ARRA-funded projects were evaluated in eight economically distressed rural areas across the United States. Forest Service investments in projects helped meet the goals of the Recovery Act, with investments having far-reaching social and economic benefits for rural communities.
Jobs: 12

Projects in progress

Smoke Forecasting

Arrow.Reduce human health hazards by providing timely smoke forecasting.

Arrow.Deliver accurate smoke forecasts from both wild and prescribed fires.

Arrow.Accelerate development of improved tools for smoke and fire management.

Jobs: 20. To continue through 2012.

Restoring Critical Habitat for Listed Pacific Salmon

Arrow. Assess watersheds in southeast Alaska and the interior Columbia Basin vulnerable to climate change

Arrow. Identify key places for habitat restoration.

Arrow.Examine climate change and fire effects on watershed and fish habitat.

Arrow.Map fish habitat in southwest Oregon and northwest California.

Arrow. Develop a stream chemistry tool for establishing water-quality regulations for timber harvest.

Jobs: 20. To continue through 2012.

Contractors receive training from station specialists about how to inventory urban forests in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Cynthia Orlando Contractors receive training from station specialists about how to inventory urban forests in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Cynthia Orlando

Adapting Forests to Climate Change Effects

Arrow.Assess contribution of urban trees to carbon sequestration, energy savings, water management, and quality of life for residents.

Arrow.Provide baseline data on forest conditions in populated areas in five western states. Jobs: 15 to date. To continue through 2013.

Youth Summer Employment and Education

Arrow. Provide leadership and learning opportunities in natural resources for students in middle school to graduate school.

Arrow. Hire college interns to collect data on the timing of bud burst, bud set, and growth periods of Douglas-fir, toward developing seed transfer zones.

Arrow.Hire and train high-school and college students to collect data on riparian vegetation, soil, and habitat quality at sites in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area in a study of the response of riparian areas to urbanization.

Jobs: 13 to date. To continue through 2012.

Integrated Landscape Assessment

Arrow.Help prioritize land management at the watershed scale in Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

Arrow.Assess wildlife habitat, community economics, fire risk, vegetation development, and likely effects of climate change.

Arrow.Provide webinars on fuels characteristics, decision support, climate change, and vegetation. Presentations are available at

Jobs: 60. To continue through 2013.

Ecosystem Restoration in the Puget Sound Area

Arrow.Provide municipalities with information to plan for green spaces and development in urbanizing areas through ecosystem restoration.

Jobs: 30. To continue through 2013.

Fuel Loads and Tree Mortality


Arrow.Field-test new technology to reduce tree mortality from bark beetles and sudden oak death, toward lessening risk of uncontrollable wildfire and impacts on nearby communities.

Jobs: 2. To continue through 2013.



Assessing Threats to Shrub-Steppe Ecosystems


Station scientists are working with partners to conserve the wildlife and plants in this unique landscape

DUSKY SAGEBRUSH spreading across an expansive landscape: an iconic scene of the American West. Itís also one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country. Invasive cheatgrass, changing fire regimes, encroaching juniper trees, and human development are taking a toll on shrub-steppe ecosystems.


Shrub-steppe ecosystems are threatened by invasive species, changing fire regimes, and human development. Photo by Mary Rowland. Shrub-steppe ecosystems are threatened by invasive species, changing fire regimes, and human development. Photo by Mary Rowland.

Cheatgrass and juniper invasions

Cheatgrass, a nonnative, highly flammable grass, is altering historical fire cycles in sagebrush shrublands. Intense fires favor the invasive grass and threaten the survival of sagebrush and other native vegetation. Encroaching juniper can exacerbate soil erosion, reduce forage, and highten risk of crown fires.

Arrow. Expected spread of cheatgrass and juniper was mapped in the Columbia Basin.

Arrow.Models were developed to predict the risk of cheatgrass and juniper spreading across watersheds of the Great Basin. The USDI Bureau of Land Management is using these projections to prioritize watersheds for restoration.

Sage grouse habitat needs

Sage grouse populations and habitat are declining across North America; legal actions seek protection for this species.

Arrow.Changes in land use and habitat in the Great Basin were assessed for contribution to sage grouse declines in the Great Basin.

Arrow.Threshold values were identified for sagebrush cover needed by the bird at particular elevations.

Arrow.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is using this information to negotiate with other federal agencies about changes in landscape management to improve conditions for sage grouse and prevent the need for future Endangered Species Act listings.

New models compared historical habitat conditions with current recommendations for sage grouse on the Malheur High Plateau. Findings suggest sage grouse either do not need as much winter habitat as currently recommended or the amount of historical winter habitat has constrained their populations.


Sharing What We’ve Learned


Station scientists are active in research networks, professional societies, and other forms of collaboration

SCIENCE is meant to be used. Examples below highlight station efforts to share data, conclusions, and tools.



Timely smoke forecasts

The 2011 Wallow Fire was Arizona’s largest in history, and its effects combined with other fires in the Southwest to produce large regions of unhealthy air.

Arrow.The National Interagency Fire Coordination Center used station-modeled smoke projections to issue daily smoke forecasts that TV stations relayed to the public.

PNW-FIA database

New database allows users to customize their analyses.

Arrow.The California Climate Action Registry developed baseline levels of carbon stocks in private forests.

Arrow.Quick answers were provided for Congressional queries about biomass size
distribution and availability of wood supplies from western national forests.

Tracking water contaminants

After severe damage to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the
March 2011 earthquake, radioactive contaminants in rivers were tracked by the
U.S. Department of Defense.

Arrow.The tool used to track contaminants, the Incident Command Tool for Protecting Drinking Water (ICWater), was developed by a station scientist and others.

Arrow.Analyses were shared with emergency managers in Japan to assess public risks of waterborne radioactivity.


Sharing Knowledge and Tools

From research networks and professional societies to local watershed councils—station scientists are active in many different communities. Sharing knowledge and building relationships in these communities helps foster collaboration, knowledge transfer, and education. In 2011,
Arrow. ~6,920 people participated in symposia, workshops, and
webinars sponsored by the station.
Arrow. ~1,300 people went on field trips led by station researchers.
Arrow. ~1,770 people participated in conservation education activities sponsored by the station.

Download the Report

Click here to download the PDF of the 2011 Science Accomplishments.

2011 Science Accomplishments Report.
(PDF - 9.82 MB)

Most of our electronic publications require a PDF compatible reader.

You can download the Acrobat Reader.


US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Tuesday,18November2014 at14:53:07CST

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