Category Archives: Pacific Northwest Research Station

Animation tells story of fish and fire

Fire and Fish: Habitat and History in the Northwest is a 5-minute animated video featuring two Forest Service research biologists that illustrates the complex relationship between fire and fish in Pacific Northwest rivers and streams. This screen capture from the video depicts juvenile fish finding shelter within a fallen log that has become submerged in a stream channel, providing refuge from both predators and strong currents.

An animated video recently released by the Pacific Fire Science Consortium explores and illustrates the complex relationship between fish and fire in the Pacific northwest United States.

The video, “Fish and Fire: History and Habitat in the Pacific Northwest,” was produced by the University of Oregon School of Journalism.

It features interviews two Forest Service research fish biologists, Rebecca Flitcroft and Gordon Reeves, both assigned to the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.

The scientists explain how some fish species in the Pacific Northwest have adapted to benefit from the impact of intermittent forest fires:

  • Fire adds silt and small rocks or gravel, which replenish materials needed to for some fish to create spawning beds.
  • Dead trees may fall into streams, creating complexity in the stream’s flow, which can reduce stress on fish by providing refuge from strong currents.
  • Log jams especially benefit juvenile species by creating broad flood plains, further diffusing rapid currents and offering many nooks and crannies in which to evade predators while nourishing the insect larvae, worms, beetles, and other organisms they may feed on.

The University of Oregon, the university’s Ecosystem Workforce Program, the Oregon State University and its Extension Service, The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Northwest, the Center for Natural Lands Management, and the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station are members of the Northwest Fire Science Consortium, one of fifteen regional science information exchanges funded by the Joint Fire Science Program.

From FireScience.gov:

In the Pacific Northwest, native salmon and trout (family Salmonidae) are some of the toughest survivors on the block. Over time, these fish have evolved behavioral adaptations to natural disturbances, and they rely on these disturbances to deliver coarse sediment and wood that become complex stream habitat. Powerful disturbances such as wildfire, post fire landslides, and debris flows may be detrimental to fish populations in the short term, but over time they enrich in-stream habitats, enhancing long-term fish survival and productivity.

LAND MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS

Forest management activities, such as enhancing river network connectivity through fish passage barrier removal and reducing predicted fire intensity and sizes, may increase the resilience of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the face of disturbances such as climate change and wildfire.

Natural disturbances, along with sound riparian management and road management practices that allow natural flood plain functioning, are important in maintaining healthy change in aquatic habitats. Connected, complex aquatic habitats benefit from ecosystem management practices that are analogous to the spatial extent of wildfires and bridge human-imposed divides such as land ownership boundaries.

Fire planning that includes aquatic issues such as habitat quality, stream network connectivity, and fish population resilience offers resource managers the opportunity to broaden fire management goals and activities to include potential positive effects on aquatic habitats.

WATCH the video here (or find it on YouTube):

More information:

Science Findings #198 (July, 2017): https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/publications/adaptation-wildfire-fish-story

“Wildfire may increase habitat quality for spring Chinook salmon in the Wenatchee River subbasin, WA, USA” (submitted 2015, published 2016): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/journals/pnw_2015_flitcroft001.pdf


Source information: The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station is a leader in the scientific study of natural resources. We generate and communicate impartial knowledge to help people understand and make informed choices about natural resource management and sustainability. The station has 11 laboratories and research centers in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, and manages 12 active experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds.

Tracking the elusive Humboldt marten in coastal Oregon

marten with miniature radio collar

It’s the size of a 10-week-old kitten, constantly on the move, eats up to 25 percent of its body weight each day, and patrols up to 5 miles daily while hunting for songbirds and other food to fuel this active lifestyle.

The Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis), is a subspecies of Pacific marten (M. caurina). It roams the Pacific Northwest’s coastal forests, usually so well hidden by the forest understory that it was believed to be extinct for more than fifty years.

In 1996, that changed when a small population of Pacific martens was discovered in California. The species is threatened by habitat loss as human development leads forests to become more fragmented, various diseases, trapping and vehicle-related mortality.

Yet, efforts to develop strategies for protecting the Pacific marten has struggled in the face of the tiny mustelids’ ability to stay to stay hidden, resulting in a lack of information about the existing population’s size, habits, and habitat needs.

Katie Moriarty, then a postdoctoral research wildlife biologist with the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, established a new baseline for monitoring and managing Humboldt marten populations in the Pacific Northwest. (Moriarty now works as a senior research scientist with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement).

She worked with researchers and field crews representing more than half a dozen organizations and agencies to collect information about Pacific marten distributions Oregon and California, conducting what became the largest carnivore survey in Oregon.

Findings from that research confirm that small populations of Humboldt martens persist, but not only in late-sucessional forests as previously thought – but in fewer areas than researchers had hoped.

On Oregon’s central coast, scientists projected that just two to three deaths a year could lead to extinction of small, local populations of Humboldt martens within 30 years.

Find out more about this research in Science Findings #215
(a publication of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi215.pdf.

A marten captured by remote camera along the central coast of Oregon.
A marten captured by remote camera along the central coast of Oregon. With about 30 members in an isolated subpopulation, each marten counts when it comes to keeping the subpopulation from extinction. Courtesy photo by Mark A. Linnell, all rights reserved.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station

Marbled murrelet mysteries revealed by radio telemetry data

A researcher holds a marbled murrelet. The birds were tagged with radio transmitters to record location data as part of a study of their movement patterns. USDA Forest Service photo

In the latest edition of Science Findings, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station explores the “hidden world” of the marbled murrelet.

The marbled murrelet, Brachyramphus marmoratus, is a Pacific coast -dwelling shore bird that is federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Ace, in part due to habitat loss.

A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.
A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.

Their eggs, which are laid on naturally occurring platforms, or shelves, are especially vulnerable to damage as a result of exposure to human-driven activities or development. Their lack of traditional nests also makes it difficult for scientists to study their breeding patterns, even as their total population continues to decline.

A five-year PNW Research Station study used radio transmitters to tag and track a cohort of nearly 150 birds in northwest Washington, producing valuable data about their feeding, breeding and flight habits.

The research illuminated how the birds interact with both marine and coastal forest habitats, and may offer some insight into why this population of birds continues to struggle, despite protections afforded to it by the ESA and in the Northwest Forest Plan amendments.

To learn more, check out Science Findings #213 at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/57633.

Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.
Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station staff report.

QUIZ: What Pacific NW National Forest should you visit next?

Choose your next adventure!

Are you a hiker or a biker? A “bird nerd” or a history buff? Do you prefer to wade at ocean beaches, or in lakes?

Take our quiz and we’ll suggest what Pacific Northwest National Forest you should visit next based on your responses, and provide links to learn more about recreation opportunities on that forest, passes and permits, and all the other info you’ll need to plan your trip!

Link:
https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/what-tree-are-you-quiz.shtml

Images of a forested ridge along the ocean, a wildflower in a meadow, and a waterfall, with text: Choose your next adventure! Discover what National Forest you should visit next in the Pacific NW with the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station's online quiz, at https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/visit-pnw-national-forest-quiz.shtml.

Choose your next adventure! Discover what National Forest you should visit next in the Pacific NW with the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station’s online quiz, at https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/visit-pnw-national-forest-quiz.shtml.



Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region & Pacific Northwest Research Station staff

Northwest Forest Plan 2018 science synthesis released

A woman wearing a backpack hikes a trail past tall evergreen trees of varying sizes and heavy undergrowth.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — June 11, 2018 —The USDA Forest Service today released a report that will serve as the scientific foundation for land management planning in western Washington, western Oregon, and northern California.

One of the most significant findings of the Northwest Forest Plan science synthesis is that the plan has protected old-growth forests as habitat for important species. At the same time, the report found that restoration of fire and other active forest management activities at the landscape scales can promote ecological integrity and rebuild forest resilience to disturbance and stressors.

The report, Synthesis of Science to Inform Land Management Within the Northwest Forest Plan Area, summarizes science published since 1994, when the Northwest Forest Plan was implemented. Based on the best available scientific data at the time, the plan was designed to resolve debates about old-growth forests and endangered species while providing timber outputs from 17 Northwest national forests totaling 24 million acres.

The science synthesis was authored by 50 scientists from Forest Service Research and Development, other federal agencies, universities, and tribes. It also was informed by extensive public input with stakeholders who provided comments to peer reviewers for their consideration, as well as suggestions of scientific literature to the authors. The Ecological Society of America, a science organization, independently managed scientific review of synthesis content, which covers topics ranging from old-growth forest ecosystems and tribal values to timber harvest and socioeconomic well-being.

Published by the Pacific Northwest Research Station, in partnership with the Pacific Southwest Research Station, the science synthesis will inform the assessment stage of the land management planning process across the Northwest Forest Plan area. Using the synthesis as its scientific foundation, assessments will evaluate existing and possible future conditions and trends in social, economic, and ecological systems. As such, the synthesis is not a decision document.

To view the three-volume Northwest Forest Plan science synthesis online, visit https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/research/science-synthesis/index.shtml.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station will host a science forum in Portland, Oregon, on June 26 to share key findings of the report. The forum also will be simultaneously Webcast to allow for remote viewing and participation. To learn more, visit https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/research/science-synthesis/index.shtml.

The mission of the Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station—headquartered in Portland, Ore.—generates and communicates scientific knowledge that helps people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more online at https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw.

USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station staff

USDA Forest Service logo

USDA Forest Service logo

In the News: Wolverines make way to south Cascades

Two men hold a captive, sedated wolverine, which has been outfitted with a radio collar

A North American wolverine tracked to Washington State’s Mount Rainier has raised hopes the endangered mammal could return to the southern reaches of its historical range. These highly endangered animals (our February Forest Feature) thrive in alpine climates, and once roamed as far south as Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains, but have only returned to Washington State’s north Cascades in the past few decades.

From the Seattle Times:

“Wildlife advocates are thrilled to document a breeding female wolverine south of I-90 for the first time in modern times. The carnivore is a cherished commando of the forest realm, and a master of its landscape… Renowned for their agility, power and all-terrain finesse, wolverines are among the most rare mammals in North America.”

To read more, visit: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/breeding-wolverine-heralds-comeback-in-washingtons-cascades/

 

Quiz: What Pacific NW tree are you?

A tree stands in the foreground along a river bank on a clear day, with blue sky and white clouds visible above and steep hills visible beyond the water.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Maybe you’re an old soul who stands out from the crowd, like the western red cedar? Or perhaps you’re vibrant, fun, and always surrounded by friends – much like the bright yellow aspen leaf, and the interconnected colonies in which it grows?

Take the quiz, review recent USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station research related to your results, and share your new forest alter-ego on social media!

Link:
https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/what-tree-are-you-quiz.shtml

Text: "What Tree Are You? Pacific Northwest Edition" superimposed over a photo of tall trees in a forest, with sunlight glinting through the branches. The USDA and Forest Service logos are in the lower right corner

“What Tree Are You?” If you could be a Pacific Northwest tree, what tree would you be? Take the quiz and find out, at: https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/what-tree-are-you-quiz.shtml


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region & Pacific Northwest Research Station staff

“Era of Megafires” at World Forestry Center, April 11

Paul Hessburg speaking from a stage in front of projectors displaying images of a pine cone in a forest

PORTLAND, Ore. — March 15, 2018. — The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station will bring a 60-minute, live multimedia presentation, “Era of Megafires,” to the World Forestry Center, in Portland, Ore. April 11, at 6 p.m.

The presentation is designed to educate and inform audiences across the West so they may better discuss how to find solutions to the risks that wildfires pose to their communities.

The number of large, severe wildfires has been increasing in the last decade. Megafires are wildfires that burn more than 100,000 acres and may be destructive to human communities, wildlife habitat, and natural resources. To convey the conditions that lead to megafires and how they might be managed or mitigated, Paul Hessburg, a research landscape ecologist with PNW Research Station, partnered with North 40 Productions and the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center to produce this presentation.

The presentation is intended to stimulate discussions of how current science relates to community experiences with wildfire. “Era of Megafires” explains how current fire conditions were inadvertently created, and it describes megafires as a core social issue with ecological explanations. Throughout the presentation, tools are identified for land managers and homeowners, which if applied strategically, can reduce the future severity and impacts of wildfires.

“A future without wildfire isn’t an option,” Hessburg says. “The good news is that we have tools that give us choices about how to better co-exist with fire and smoke. Do we want fire in large indiscriminate doses, or in small doses that benefit the forest and reduce risks to communities?”

To register for the event:

Registration is required. To RSVP, visit https://www.pdxcityclub.org/calendar/?eid=8572.

The presentation is co-hosted by City Club of Portland, The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, North 40 Productions, and the World Forestry Center.

Presenter:

Paul Hessburg, a research landscape ecologist based at the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Wenatchee, Wash.

Panelists:

Kirsten Aird, Cross Agency Systems Manager for the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section in the Oregon Public Health Division

John Stromberg, mayor of Ashland, Ore.

Ryan Huago, senior forest ecologist for The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon chapter.

Moderator:

Lisa Gaines, director of the Institute for Natural Resources (INR), headquartered at Oregon State University.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station—headquartered in Portland, Ore.—generates and communicates scientific knowledge that helps people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more online at http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw.

Text reads

The “Era of Megafires” presentation April 11, 6 p.m. at World Forestry Center in Portland, Ore. will feature a panel led by Dr. Paul Hessburg, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.