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
to help land managers
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 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.
vulnerability assessment and climate change adaptation strategy for Olympic
National Forest and Olympic National Park (http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/
workshops for 330 staff from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie
Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Mount Rainier National
North Cascades National Park.
American Indian and Alaska Native
Tribes—They face disproportionate
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.
Lummi Nation and Swinomish, Coquille, and Nez Perce Tribes used
collaborative model to initiate climate adaptation planning.
collaborative model was replicated in Forest Service Research and
(R&D) across the agency as part of the All Station Tribal Climate
Understanding the role of genetics in the
adaptive ability of plants. This is important so that seed sources can be
matched with planting locations.
transfer zones developed for mountain
brome, a grass commonly used in restoration
efforts and used by the Malheur, Ochoco, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman
than 38,000 genes identified in Douglasfir and 21,000 genes in
two subspecies of big
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
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
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
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Creating new jobs
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.
More than 220 people, with skills ranging
from construction to field data collection to
high-tech computer modeling, have been employed for varied lengths
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
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
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).
Olympia Lab Windows Replacement
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.
and erosion control improvement
projects were completed, including bridge
replacement, resurfacing roads, and correcting drainage issues.
Impact of Economic Recovery Funding in
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.
Projects in progress
Reduce human health hazards by providing timely
accurate smoke forecasts from both wild and prescribed fires.
development of improved tools for smoke
and fire management.
Jobs: 20. To continue
Restoring Critical Habitat for Listed
watersheds in southeast Alaska and the interior Columbia Basin
vulnerable to climate change
key places for habitat restoration.
climate change and fire effects on watershed and fish habitat.
fish habitat in southwest Oregon and
a stream chemistry tool for establishing
for timber harvest.
Jobs: 20. To continue through 2012.
receive training from station specialists about how to inventory
urban forests in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Cynthia Orlando
Adapting Forests to Climate Change Effects
contribution of urban trees to carbon sequestration,
energy savings, water management,
and quality of life for
Provide baseline data on forest
conditions in populated areas
in five western states.
Jobs: 15 to date. To continue
Youth Summer Employment and Education
leadership and learning opportunities in natural resources for students
in middle school to graduate school.
college interns to collect data on the timing of bud burst, bud set, and
growth periods of Douglas-fir, toward developing seed transfer
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
prioritize land management at the watershed scale in Arizona, New Mexico,
Oregon, and Washington.
wildlife habitat, community economics, fire risk, vegetation development,
and likely effects of climate change.
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
municipalities with information to plan for green spaces and development
in urbanizing areas through
Jobs: 30. To continue through 2013.
Fuel Loads and Tree Mortality
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.
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,
forage, and highten risk of crown fires.
spread of cheatgrass and juniper was mapped in the Columbia Basin.
were developed to predict the risk of cheatgrass and juniper
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.
in land use and habitat in the Great Basin were assessed for contribution
to sage grouse
declines in the Great Basin.
Threshold values were identified for sagebrush cover needed by the
bird at particular elevations.
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
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.
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
with other fires in the Southwest to produce large regions of unhealthy
National Interagency Fire Coordination Center used station-modeled smoke
projections to issue daily smoke forecasts that TV stations relayed
to the public.
New database allows users to customize their analyses.
California Climate Action Registry developed baseline levels of carbon
stocks in private forests.
Quick answers were provided for Congressional
queries about biomass size
distribution and availability of wood supplies from western national
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.
The tool used to track contaminants,
the Incident Command Tool for Protecting Drinking Water (ICWater),
was developed by a station scientist and others.
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,
~6,920 people participated in symposia, workshops, and
webinars sponsored by the station.
~1,300 people went on field trips led by station researchers.
people participated in conservation education activities sponsored by the