Posted by on Oct 12, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Tracking Forest Health – A Voluntary Monitoring Program:

 

Introduction:

The Tracking Forest Health program provides a framework to support the monitoring of the changing health of forests.  Since 1998 the program’s development has been focused on the three forests making up Hyla Woods. At the same time, it has been designed with the goal of providing a framework which others could adapt and apply to their own forests.  We believe that we have a responsibility to track the changing health of the forest and study whether the actions we take lead to the intended results.  This document aims to summarize all main aspects of the program.

 

The Components:

We believe that a successful approach must include and integrate the following four sequential elements:

  1. Questions      – What are the questions that our monitoring aims to answer?
  2. The      Strategy – What is our plan for answering the question(s)?
  3. Data      Collection and Storage – What data will we collect and how, when, and      by whom?  How will the data be      stored?
  4. Analysis      – What conclusions can be drawn from the data to answer the question(s)?

 

Characteristics:

We aim to develop a program which has the following characteristics:

  1. Ongoing      – Focusing on tracking long term trends by engaging infinite generations      of forest keepers
  2. Balanced      – Investing enough time and energy to produce valuable results while      not requiring so much investment that forest keepers will not be able to      continue the work.
  3. Engaging      – Interesting and engaging enough to make the trackers and essential      volunteer partners want to continue the work indefinitely
  4. Scientifically      Sound – Using the best possible science to honestly answer questions      for which we do not yet know the answers
  5. Adaptable      – Can be modified to match the unique circumstances of each forest and forest      keeper
  6. Cooperative      – Wherever appropriate work in cooperation with others, including      using existing protocols, building and using partnerships with other      organizations, and openly sharing our work with others
  7. Voluntary      – Never linked to required or regulatory activities

 

The Questions:

The three central questions that we are working to answer in relation to Hyla Woods are:

  1. What      is the status of the health of these forests?
  2. How is      it changing over time?
  3. What      can we understand about the causes of these changes, particularly the      impacts of our actions on these changes?

 

As subsets of these central questions, sub questions are used to guide our work with each specific indicator.  These are provided below.  While we know of specific questions that we currently want to answer, we believe that, over time, additional important questions will surface which our data may help to answer.  Accordingly, our data collection is designed to help answer both known and yet to be known questions.

 

The Indicators:

We find it helpful to categorize our growing set of indicators into four types: organism, physical property, habitat, and growth.

 

Organism Indicators:

Birds –

Questions:

  1. What bird species live in and use the forest?
  2. How is their use distributed across the forest?
  3. How does this distribution correlate with stand characteristics
  4. How do all of the above change over time?

Strategy:  Since 1998 we have completed annual bird counts.  Simple analysis is completed as described below

Data Collection:  In a way that is as annually replicable as possible, teams of skilled volunteers walk predetermined routes.  Data are collected for both the general walk and for preset point counts.

Analysis:  As a first step toward analyzing the data that we have collected we are asking the following questions of the data:

  1. How many different species were identified?
  2. What percentage of the species were species that we have identified as being indicators of more complex forest stands (“primos”)?
  3. What percentage of the species were “in trouble” species?
  4. What conclusions can we make about the correlation between distribution of “primo” species and stand types?

The questions of change over time will be answered by analyzing changes in the answers to the above questions over time.

 

Benthic Macroinvertebrates:

Questions:

  1. What benthic macroinvertibrates live in the creek
  2. What does their presence or absence tell us about the health of the creek and surrounding lands?
  3. How are these results changing over time

Strategy:  Annual sampling following the timing recommended by the Oregon DEQ and using the protocol for data collection and analysis provided in the Stream Keeper’s Fieldguide.  Data collection began Fall 2005.

 

 

 

 

Amphibians:

Questions:

  1. What amphibians live in the forest?
  2. What does their presence, absence, and distribution tell us about the health of forest?
  3. How are these results changing over time?

 

Strategy:  As of spring 2006 we are developing two approaches.  The first is to complete an annual “quick check” survey of all major “amphibian likely” areas in all three forests on the first Saturday of April.  A trial of the “quick check” was done in spring 2005.  The second is to set up a series of permanent coverboard transects in representative stands in each of the forests.

Data Collection:  To be determined

Analysis: To be determined

 

Physical Property Indicators:

Stream Temperatures –

Questions:

  1. How does the temperature in the major streams in the forest change throughout the year?
  2. Do we observe trends, events, or patterns both throughout the year and over multiple years?

Strategy:  Temperature data logger sensors have been placed in main locations.

Data Collection: The data loggers collect daily data that is periodically downloaded to a computer.  Data collection began summer 2004.

Analysis:  To date, our analysis has been rudimentary.  Data are graphed and compared year to year.  Because high temperatures are a particular concern, we analyze number of days where the stream’s temperature exceeded the upper temperature threshold set by the state 303D listing.

 

Habitat Indicators and Growth Indicators:

The next indicators to be developed and tested are snags, downed wood, disease, invasive plants, and tree growth.  We believe that it is feasible to combine these indicators into a single system of transects and plots.  We hope to have a trial system in place by fall 2006.

 

Coordination and Guidance:

There are a number of reasons why it is important that this program be well thought out and effectively organized.  They include the need to consistently attract and responsibly work with the network of volunteers on which it depends, the need to make efficient use of the time invested, and the need to responsibly communicate with others who are interested in the program.  General guidance is provided by a core group of participants which meets each January to review the work of the past year and set plans for the coming year and years.  Char Corkran, Pam Hayes, and Peter Hayes provide month to month coordination.

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Hyla Woods Indicator Summary and Implementation Plan  – March 2010 – Updated Feb. 2012:

Indicator

History and Status

Next Steps

Birds – annual counts Start – 2000, set protocol starting   2005.

’04-06 – baselines all 3

’07-‘09 – Manning

’10 + ’11 – Timber

Minimal analysis

Monitor at Timber in 2012.  Complete vegetation survey at Timber summer   2012.  Hold off on investing resources   into analysis until after we have completed a full round of three year   monitoring in each of the three forests (2015), unless some interested   analyzer volunteers earlier.  In   anticipation of shift to Mt. R next year, cultivate more lead birders – EG   Dan Cogswell, Larry Johnson, John Hayes……?
Amphibs – Aquatic Set protocol since ’04 – lead = Char Continue annual monitoring.  Begin analysis, as able.  Work on timing issues re not missing RL   frogs and adjust if necessary.  Look   for Pacific connection
Amphibs – Terrestrial Set protocol since ’07 – led = Pam   Lopez.  Transects added at Timber   spring ‘11 Continue monitoring and analysis.  Check with Pam L. re her plans.  Check with FGCS re plans for checking   Timber transect.  Aim to check in Fall   and Spring.
Benthic   Inverts – School Since ’08 – Leads = Charlie and Gretchen Continue regular monitoring and   analysis by school groups.
Benthic   Inverts – Pro Since ’98 – w/ watershed council Communicate with watershed council   and/or others re more details sampling
Water   Temps. Since ’04.  W/ DEQ since ‘07 Continue monitoring, with data loggers   placed in spring and removed in Fall.    Keep on look out for analysis help.
Integrated   Creek Plan set in Fall ‘08 Complete annual photo point monitoring
Integrated   Cruise – (vol., growth, snags,   dwned wd., insects, disease, invasives..) System researched and developed   ’08-’09.  Waiting to start until need   for volume data Continue to prepare.  Cruise sub merch stands and update most   recent cruise.  On hold until right   path becomes clearer.
Owls Invest. approach ’09 – ‘11 rough   sample spr. ‘11 Continue.  Decide whether this will become an ongoing   component of the monitoring, and if so, how to best do it.  Learn more about specific habitat needs of   individual species.
Bats Invest. approach ’09 – nothing yet Continue to research options
Other   Birding Discussion of other season monitoring   – no action to date Encourage Steve Engel and others to   use as part of training programs
Juvenile   Fish

 

Completed by   ODFW contractors summer ‘09 Plans to resample summer ’10 ??   whether it was done
Large   Mammals Initiated in   ’10-’11 with wildlife cameras Communicate with hunters to clarify   goals and plans