Tracking Forest Health – A Voluntary Monitoring Program:
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.
We believe that a successful approach must include and integrate the following four sequential elements:
- Questions – What are the questions that our monitoring aims to answer?
- The Strategy – What is our plan for answering the question(s)?
- Data Collection and Storage – What data will we collect and how, when, and by whom? How will the data be stored?
- Analysis – What conclusions can be drawn from the data to answer the question(s)?
We aim to develop a program which has the following characteristics:
- Ongoing – Focusing on tracking long term trends by engaging infinite generations of forest keepers
- 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.
- Engaging – Interesting and engaging enough to make the trackers and essential volunteer partners want to continue the work indefinitely
- Scientifically Sound – Using the best possible science to honestly answer questions for which we do not yet know the answers
- Adaptable – Can be modified to match the unique circumstances of each forest and forest keeper
- 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
- Voluntary – Never linked to required or regulatory activities
The three central questions that we are working to answer in relation to Hyla Woods are:
- What is the status of the health of these forests?
- How is it changing over time?
- 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.
We find it helpful to categorize our growing set of indicators into four types: organism, physical property, habitat, and growth.
- What bird species live in and use the forest?
- How is their use distributed across the forest?
- How does this distribution correlate with stand characteristics
- 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:
- How many different species were identified?
- What percentage of the species were species that we have identified as being indicators of more complex forest stands (“primos”)?
- What percentage of the species were “in trouble” species?
- 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.
- What benthic macroinvertibrates live in the creek
- What does their presence or absence tell us about the health of the creek and surrounding lands?
- 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.
- What amphibians live in the forest?
- What does their presence, absence, and distribution tell us about the health of forest?
- 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 –
- How does the temperature in the major streams in the forest change throughout the year?
- 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.
Hyla Woods Indicator Summary and Implementation Plan – March 2010 – Updated Feb. 2012:
History and Status
|Birds – annual counts||Start – 2000, set protocol starting 2005.
’04-06 – baselines all 3
’07-‘09 – Manning
’10 + ’11 – Timber
|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|
|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|