USDA Forest Service
 

Pacific Southwest Research Station

 

Pacific Southwest Research Station
800 Buchanan Street
West Annex Building
Albany, CA 94710-0011

(510) 559-6300

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About Us: Research Accomplishments 2012

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Conservation of Biodiversity Program

Pacific marten (Martes caurina) in a red fir (Abies magnifica) snag, located in Lassen National Forest, California. [Photo by Mark Linnell] On-click enlarges photo. Pacific marten (Martes caurina) in a red fir (Abies magnifica) snag, located in Lassen National Forest, California. [Photo by Mark Linnell] A shaded portion of Hawaiian wet forest showing a variety of different plants. [Photo by Laura Warman] On-click enlarges photo.A shaded portion of Hawaiian wet forest showing a variety of different plants. [Photo by Laura Warman]

Our geographic area includes oceanic islands, elevational clines from coastal to alpine ecosystems in temperate and tropical ecosystems, and species and communities that occur nowhere else in the world. The area faces significant species extirpations and extinctions, with remaining natural areas continuing to be threatened.

The Conservation of Biodiversity Program provides high-quality, relevant information across the conservation continuum: status, threats, vulnerable components, response of organisms and ecosystems to threats, tradeoffs in desired management outcomes, efficacy of management approaches through adaptive management, restoration and recovery techniques and tools, and effectiveness monitoring and evaluation techniques.

Research focuses on the following areas:

  • Determine environmental conditions needed for terrestrial species persistence;
  • Identify conditions that can support aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem services;
  • Determine the genetic origins of traits that can enhance tree adaptability and utility; and
  • Develop innovative approaches to reduce ecological impacts of non-native species.

2012 Research Highlights

Model gauges effects of passage barriers on trout populations

Loss of habitat connectivity in stream networks can create problems for the persistence of valuable populations of aquatic animals. Resource managers need tools to identify and prioritize actions. Station researchers and cooperators used a spatially-explicit model of a northwestern California watershed to establish a framework to better understand the effects of barriers on fish populations and identify those of greatest significance to population size and persistence. The approach has been used to address a variety of key management issues, including cumulative effects analysis, the effects of streamflow diversions on fish populations, prediction of habitat restoration outcomes, and the effects of water quality on fish populations.

Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) data helps estimate habitat value

Wildlife species use habitat at various scales. Resting locations are often the most difficult to assess and monitor over large areas. Because these habitats are critical to the conservation of the fisher (Martes pennanti), a rare forest carnivore, forest managers require quantitative tools to monitor resting conditions over time. Station scientists developed a predictive model using Forest Inventory Analysis plot data to characterize the value of resting habitat across northwestern California and quantitatively evaluate the effect of forest management on these habitats.

Landbird monitoring network gathers, archives and shares bird population data

Landbirds play a vital role in the environment. With an increasing focus on global-scale environmental issues, there is an urgent need to address large-scale issues for landbird populations. A wealth of data from projects is lost yearly that can inform these analyses, especially long-term trends in bird populations. Station researchers partnered with other governmental agencies, organizations and individuals to create the Landbird Monitoring Network of the Americas (LaMNA) to help fill this gap by actively searching, archiving, and making datasets available for future generations. LaMNA currently has archived almost 4 million records of capture and census data from 60 cooperators in North and South America, and works to increase communication between researchers through its web site (www.klamathbird.org/lamna) and regular newsletters, as well as facilitating large-scale studies between multiple researchers.

Close up of a bird called a brown creeper, or Certhia americana, perched on a person's hand. [North Central Research Station Archive, U.S. Forest Service, Bugwood.org] On-click enlarges photo.Close up of a bird called a brown creeper, or Certhia american, perched on a person's hand. [North Central Research Station Archive, U.S. Forest Service, Bugwood.org]

Brown Creepers respond negatively to forest edges

Station researchers studied the response of Brown Creepers (Certhia americana) to forest edges in the Sierra Nevada. They found that Creepers were more abundant in plots with less high-contrast edge, nested farther from soft and moderate edges, and reproduced more successfully farther from moderate or hard edges. Results suggest that Creepers responded, in part, to edges with greater contrast between adjacent patches that primarily resulted from natural discontinuities. These findings were surprising as previous work suggested that edge effects and the processes underlying them may differ in western coniferous forests due to their intrinsic natural heterogeneity. These results highlight the importance of retaining fairly large patches of continuous mature and late-seral forest.

Using a "fantasy football" model to build hybrid ecosystems in Hawaiian lowland wet forests

As novel assemblages of native and non-native species become increasingly common globally, many conservation and restoration efforts have concentrated on the removal of exotic–and often invasive–species. In some cases, removing non-native species is no longer economically or ecologically feasible. Station scientists developed an approach similar to fantasy football, where "teams" of species are picked to work together to form self-sustaining units in Hawai'i. Scientists presented an approach for species choice ("players") based on characteristics of native and non-invasive species, and on diversity indices from existing forests. New hybrid communities can be experimentally assembled based on principles of complementarity and redundancy.

Visit the Conservation of Biodiversity Program pages on our website.

Last Modified: May 3, 2013 10:50:00 AM