USDA Forest Service

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Pacific Northwest Research Station
333 SW First Ave.
Portland, OR 97204

(503) 808-2100

US Forest Service

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» Watershed Health

Understanding the Links Between Aquatic and Terrestrial Processes

A watershed approach to management requires understanding the connections between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the upper and lower reaches of a drainage. In 2010, station researchers conducted studies yielding information that can be used to maintain the many processes that comprise a healthy watershed.


Restoring Salmon Habitat

Salmon.Considerable resources have been directed to salmon resto-ration efforts. Are they making a difference? Scientists found that in-stream habitat restoration structures in Columbia Basin watersheds do make detectable short-term, small-scale improvements in fish populations. The effectiveness of built habitat structures, however, may differ for various salmon species and can be difficult to discern owing to variation over time in the abundance of fishes or the quality of other habitat attributes.


Use: This information was shared with stakeholders interested in salmon recovery and effective intervention treatments.


Maintaining Integrity of Riparian Areas

Riparian ecosystems are particularly sensitive to the threat of invasive plants and the herbicides commonly used in uplands to control such invaders. As an alternative to herbicides, researchers tested the effectiveness of using flea beetles to control leafy spurge, an invasive weed that has appeared along streams throughout much of the country. They found that releasing large numbers of the beetle (50 per stem) effectively reduced the weed.

Use: This technique is now being used in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, including the Yellowstone and Teton ecosystems.


Coordinating Management

Scientists and natural resource managers identified key threats to Northwest amphibians and reptiles. They found that these species of concern would likely benefit from standardized regulations for managing native and nonnative species, increased use of data management programs, and jurisdictional stewards for these species to serve as liaisons among fisheries, wildlife, and forestry departments.

Use: In Oregon, three federal agencies are implementing a conservation strategy for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander on federal lands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is using this strategy for another salamander species in New Mexico.


Working With Watershed Councils

Middle Fork John Day River, Oregon, by Agnes Przeszlowska.Locally organized watershed councils can be effective forums leading to improved water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. Researchers working with the Long Tom Watershed Council in western Oregon found that restoration projects were possible in watersheds under diverse ownership if local landowners were included in initial development of goals and guidelines for restoration work and in ecological monitoring. They also found that by integrating local knowledge, responding to the fears and concerns of local residents, and explaining the reasons for the work undertaken, successful, coordinated watershed-wide restoration planning can occur.

Use: This information can be used by other watershed councils interested in developing coordinated watershed management that is responsive to ongoing scientific learning.


New Tools: NetMap and ICWater v. 3

NetMap.NetMap is a Web-based platform used for cost-effective, timely watershed and landscape analyses. It now hosts a climate change component that includes projected changes in seasonal hydrographs, changes in the likely location of the snow-to-rain transition zones, and thermal loading.



Use: The Olympic and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests are using NetMap to consider the impact of climate change on watersheds. Training will be conducted at other forests in the Pacific Northwest Region in 2011. The Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies are interested in expanding this tool to non-Forest Service lands.


ICWater: Incident Command Tool For Protecting Drinking Water.Incident Command Tool for Protecting Drinking Water (ICWater) v. 3: This software informs incident commanders and other first responders about risks to drinking water as they mount an effective emergency response. It now includes effects from deposition of toxic materials from airborne plumes and tidal influence on riverflows in coastal areas.



Users: First responders use ICWater in toxic spill emergencies. The U.S. Forest Service Missoula Fire Laboratory uses it to assess which assets are at risk from active wildfires, and the agency’s Forest Health Protection program is using ICWater to plan a nationwide aquatic monitoring program for early detection of waterborne propagules of sudden oak death.





US Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station
Last Modified: Tuesday,05August2014 at09:42:21CDT

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