The following article appeared in the April 1998 issue of Forestry Research West

Research Brings Natural Resource Science to Life

by Connie Gill and Joanne Hildreth
Pacific Southwest Station

Contents

Research Brings Natural Resources to Life
Institute of Forest Genetics
Western Center for Chemical Ecology and Management of Forest Insects
Pacific Northwest Forest Plan
Redwood Sciences Laboratory for Wildlife, Forest Management, and Watersheds
Western Center for Urban and Community Forest Research and Applications
Sierra Nevada Forest Sciences Laboratory for Wildlife, Aquatics, and Ecosystem Sustainability
Forest Sciences Laboratory for Western
Forest Sciences Laboratory for Fire, Global Change, and Recreation
Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry

Nowhere is the competition for land use higher or more controversial than in the Pacific Southwest region. Public awareness of environmental issues is higher here than anywhere else in any other region of the United States and per capita consumption of forest products is the highest in the world. Natural ecosystems and human populations are more diverse here than in the world.
    The specific goal of the Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) is to understand the relationships of the many components of forest ecosystems and to further understand the influences of current or proposed land production, long-term productivity, and ecosystem sustainability.
    “We simply must have science informing our choices, which are ultimately driven by our needs, values, financial capabilities, and aspirations,” says Hal Salwasser, Director of the Pacific Southwest Research Station. “Science has responded to this demand by providing basic data, knowledge of how things work and are related to one another, information syntheses, decision support systems, analyses of the potential consequences of options, and new technologies. The future will see more demand for these science products. And we are among the people who will supply that need.”
    For more than 70 years, the Pacific Southwest Research Station has been developing and delivering science-based information and technologies to help people make informed decisions about natural resources conservation and management. The Station's research results are used by National Forest managers, the Forest Service's State and Private Forestry staff, State Foresters, extension agents, other domestic and international resource managers, academia, and private landowners and partners.
    PSW's long-term, interdisciplinary research centers on problems in natural resources stewardship, focusing on field application to sustain healthy conditions of wildland ecosystems for multiple benefits to current and future generations of people.
    The Station's research is conducted in the conifer forests, arid chaparral and woodlands of California, and in the tropical forests of the Pacific Islands. Some of the most desirable living conditions in the world are within these zones, which has resulted in rapid population growth of this region and great demands on its resources. Society is struggling to meet these demands through the integration of ecological, social and economic values in its natural resource management decisions. The unprecedented complexity in resolving these issues emphasizes the need for the Station's research.
    The Pacific Southwest Research Station, headquartered in Albany, California, is responsible for Forest Service research in California and the western Pacific. Research is conducted through 14 Research Work Units: 13 in California, located at forest science laboratories in Albany, Arcata, Davis, Fresno, Placerville, Redding, and Riverside; and one in Hawaii.


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Institute of Forest Genetics

This unit is headquartered at Albany, California, with scientists located at the University of California, Davis and with a principal field and laboratory facility near Placerville, California. Its mission is to identify, describe, and understand genetic functions of forest plants, and to use this knowledge to increase the yield of western forest trees, and to conserve biodiversity and genetic resources. The unit's molecular-level research component identifies and maps the specific genes of forest plants and seeks information to describe the roles these genes play in regulating plant growth, regeneration, defense mechanisms, and other functions. Understanding these functions and their genetic controls is considered of grave importance to forest production efforts. The results of this research are applicable to private and public lands throughout the United States.
    The Institute also serves as a home for research to support the ecological conservation of genetic plant and animal species. Scientists working through the Institute develop methods to inventory, monitor, and apply understanding of plant and animal genetics to conserve and restore critical diversity to these populations.

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Western Center for Chemical Ecology and Management of Forest Insects

Located in Albany, Calif., scientists in this unit investigate the ecological roles of insects in Western forests. They apply their understanding of insect behavior to develop strategies to reduce negative effects, or enhance beneficial influences, through insect- or forest-management treatments. Primary emphasis is on use of natural, insect-produced compounds to manipulate pine bark beetles, and on understanding the roles and mechanisms of insects in decomposing and recycling organic material in the forest—a critical component of long-term site productive capacity.

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Pacific Northwest Forest Plan

This unit provides scientific input to planning, coordinating, and supporting the President's “Plan for Ecosystem Management in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.” Station scientists provide technical assistance and support to land managers; develop new techniques and methods needed for scientifically sound implementation of the Plan and monitoring of components by resource managers; and expand scientific understanding that is needed to implement a longer-term vision of ecosystem management within the Pacific Northwest.

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Redwood Sciences Laboratory for Wildlife, Forest Management and Watersheds

Located in Arcata, California, this unit is investigating timber management/wildlife interactions and management effects on hillslope processes, fisheries, and stream environments.

Timber Management/Wildlife Interactions unit addresses questions of habitat, monitoring strategies, and forest management interactions for critical wildlife species in the Pacific Northwest. Current examples include the Northern and California Spotted owls, Marbled Murrelets, Pine Marten, Pacific Fisher, Pacific salmon, and other upland and riparian species associated with mature and old-growth forests. Close partnerships exist with a broad range of state and federal resource agencies, private land managers, and academic scientists. This has resulted in substantial savings in costs of doing research and producing results available to the public. In addition, the unit plays a key role in implementation of the President's Plan for the Pacific Northwest.

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Management Effects on Hillslope Processes, Fisheries, and Stream Environments unit scientists are working to understand the influences of land management on aquatic ecosystems at the scale of river basins, watersheds, and individual sites. Studies of the physical and biological factors influencing land stability, sediment routing, channel morphology, aquatic habitat usage, and genetics provide information critical for managing aquatic ecosystems, and, in particular, for restoring habitats used by Pacific salmon. Research results are critical to restoration activities currently underway in California and the Pacific Northwest. Close working relationships have been developed with federal, state, private resource, regulatory agencies, and academic institutions. This unit also manages the Interagency Watershed Analysis Center located in McKinleyville, California. Scientists at the lab are developing and refining new approaches for identifying the effects of forest land management activities on aquatic habitat and for designing management actions that can best contribute to sustaining or restoring fish populations.

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Western Center for Urban and Community Forest Research and Applications

Located at the University of California at Davis, this lab's scientists conduct research that protects and improves the ecological functioning and human benefits of forests in urban and urbanizing regions, including ways to use trees to reduce energy costs for urban dwellers. Recent redirection has been to decrease emphasis on urban forestry research and increase emphasis on the effects of urbanization on forest ecosystems.

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Sierra Nevada Forest Sciences Laboratory for Wildlife, Aquatics and Ecosystem Sustainability

Scientists located at Fresno, Calif. are researching montane ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to identify and describe linkages between various biological, physical, and human components of forest ecosystems and evaluate forest management strategies aimed at sustaining plant, animal and fish communities in the Sierra Nevada. They work closely with land managers on specific issues: the California spotted owl; neotropical-migratory and resident birds; diurnal and nocturnal small mammals which are essential food to many species of concern such as spotted owls, pine martens, fishers, and other small forest carnivores; freshwater fish and amphibians associated with riparian and meadow habitats, and how management actions affect them. Scientists are also working on questions about forest processes including forest stand and standing dead tree dynamics. They are also working on several questions with other disciplines including the relations between fire and insects and standing dead tree processes.

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Forest Sciences Laboratory for Western Forest Ecology and Management

Four science teams located in Redding, Calif., are developing concepts, information and predictive models of the dynamic nature of Western forests. They are also working to determine effects of management strategies on forest productivity, health, and sustainability. This research, development, and application program is developing innovative research projects to improve understanding of how site characteristics, soil factors, and soil processes interact to control forest productivity. Researchers are dedicated to improving the scientific basis and understanding of how forest management practices affect composition, growth, and development of forest vegetation. A key linkage to improved forest management strategies is to investigate the effects of fires, insects, pathogens, and other disturbance factors on sustainability of forest ecosystems of northern California and the Sierra Nevada range. Finally, the Redding unit is developing analytical tools to integrate knowledge of forest ecosystems into effective forest management decisions.

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Soil and Site Productivity Science Team:

Forest Growth and Development Science Team:

Disturbance Factors Science Team:

Information on the spatial relationships and changes in landscape patterns (patches, species composition, age classes, stand structure) as influenced by fire over the last 300 to 500 years.

Decision Support Systems Science Team:


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Forest Sciences Laboratory for Fire, Global Change and Recreation

Scientists at this PSW laboratory, located in Riverside, Calif., designed the “Fire Incident Command” strategy. This lab has five research units:

The Fire Meteorology Research group develops knowledge and tools for 1—10 day, monthly, and seasonal weather forecasts for fire management and climate change applications on national, regional, and local scales. These forecasts are essential for conducting prescribed burning, prepositioning of fire suppression resources, and providing efficient levels of suppression activity. The unit is leading the development of a prototype weather/wildfire modeling system for emergency management in partnership with universities, state and federal agencies, and the private sector.

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Fire Management Research, Development, and Application devises methods to reduce the costs of fighting wildfires through the development of methods for escaped-fire situation analyses, severity funding analyses, and national fire management funding assessments. With fire suppression costs rapidly approaching one billion dollars a year, this research will provide fire managers with the tools they need to more efficiently use their funds and thus reduce overall costs.

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Prescribed Fire and Fire Effects Research scientists develop and provide scientific and technological knowledge that will improve land managers' capability to measure, model, predict, and mitigate the behavior and effects of prescribed fire, wildfire, and other disturbances on southwestern ecosystems. They produce management guides for fire prescriptions that meet resource objectives while utilizing weather and fuels information. These guides are necessary to combat the widespread buildup of forest fuels, and the associated increase in severe wildfires and decline in forest health that are pervasive throughout the West. They investigate the impacts of fire and other disturbances on erosion and vegetation recovery in chaparral steeplands and associated woodland ecosystems, helping land managers make cost-effective decisions about postfire mitigation.

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Air Pollution and Global Change Impacts on Western Forest Ecosystems unit studies the effects of air pollution and climate change on both forest ecosystems and individual tree species in the western United States and proposes strategies for their mitigation. This research is essential in identifying forest communities that are impacted by air pollution, and characterizing its impact on overall ecosystem health. Furthermore, the identification of mitigation measures is necessary if we are to maintain forests in these areas.

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Wildland Recreation and Urban Cultures unit conducts research that assists the development of effective visitor management strategies for high-use wildland recreation areas so that resources are protected while meeting recreationists’ needs. Results from this research focus on recreation patterns, including those derived from ethnicity and technological advances. Factors underlying conflicts and their resolution; values, attitudes, and behaviors related to natural resources; and visitor communication strategies are also studied,

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Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry

Lab headquarters is Honolulu, with small field offices in Hilo and Volcano (Hawaii), Guam, and Yap (Federated States of Micronesia). The Institute's work is conducted by a unique structure of teams that include both scientists funded by Research and professionals funded through State & Private Forestry and International Forestry. The Institute has three multidisciplinary science teams.

The Restoration Team is determining how to put tropical forests back on lands that were cleared for agricultural use and, as a result, are unsustainable. Such forests have immense conservation and economic value. They serve as habitat for Hawaii's record-high numbers of threatened and endangered species as well as offering a mix of harvestable (e.g., wood, water, game animals) and non-consumable (e.g., ecotourism, recreation, aesthetic) products of great economic importance to the State.

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The Forested Wetlands Team works on both mangrove forests and freshwater-forested wetlands on tropical islands throughout the Pacific. Its scientists are determining how soil environmental conditions and tree species composition are affected by harvesting, and how different management practices in these wetlands affect coastal lagoons and reefs. This research also explores impacts of invading mangrove trees on coastal resources in Hawaii.

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The Alien Species Team is the core of the Institute's recent investments in new science, in response to national and statewide concern regarding the impact on non-indigenous species on native forests. Despite the tremendous attention devoted to alien species in Hawaii in the past few years, this is the only group dedicated explicitly to research on those invading plants, their impacts on native forests, and their control.

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Science-based products the Pacific Southwest Research Station develops and delivers help people make better-informed decisions, leading to more efficient and effective use and stewardship of natural resources.

For more information:

Connie Gill, Public Affairs   ( publicaffairs@snowcrest.net )  530 246-5198

USDA Forest Service
Pacific Southwest Research Station


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