Stay in touch with the ever changing world of the forests and the people working with them. We invite you to browse, contribute, suggest, and subscribe.
Do you remember encountering, at some point in your school, a lesson in tipping points? Phenomena the may change at a slow, regular and predictable point but then cross a threshold, or tipping point, when they can change dramatically and rapidly? I do. Images of the concept stick with me; I think of it as I read news of melting ice in the polar regions or the prospect of the Gulf Stream radically shifting. Those of us owned by forests think about these things in the early morning hours. Over the past two year’s the concept has been brought home, literally, and made real as we watch the impacts of recent drought on portions of our forests. In our areas of mid aged Douglas fir, we are accustomed to watching some trees vibrantly thrive while others sputter along with less vigor. We know that these differences may be caused by many things – soils, available moisture, seed source……. But until recently, experience always taught us that change in the condition of the underdog trees would be gradual and predictable. Now that has changed. A tipping point threshold was crossed and in several parts of the forests we have significant areas where, in the period of one or two years, 20 to 60 year old trees have begun dying – not gradually, but in the course of one or two years. As the theory has been brought home in the shape of brown and falling needles, curling, dry bark and falling trees we now must answer the question of “now what?” While we assume that many factors may work together to create the problem, it seems probably that drought pushed these trees across the tipping point threshold. Is the drought a consequence of human caused climate change? Will we ever know for certain? Regardless, these dead trees in their even aged, monoculture plantations reminded us of something we already knew – that a forest that is diverse in age and species is better suited to a changing world than one that is less diverse. Applying this lesson in tipping points, on all scales seems important. Right Donald?!
This blog was born out of a teacher asking “wouldn’t it be great if we had some way to better learn about what other educators and their students are doing in the Hyla Woods forests?”. Of course, those of us on the Hyla Woods team responded with two things: 1) an enthusiastic “yes!”, and 2) a this blog.
Five years and many posts later, the experiment has been a success and the blog provides an ever evolving and growing compendium chronicling the good work done in the forests – by students of all types.
In keeping with that spirit, we encourage you to read this recently published piece by Catlin Gabel School second grade teachers Natanya Biskar and Laura Morton summarizing their students’ explorations and discoveries in the Timber Forest. It is particularly exciting to see how this work fits into both the yearlong work of the second grade as well as the school’s overarching educational philosophy.
Effects of Management Practices on Avian Abundance in Oregon Coast Range Forests
Advisor: Delbert Hutchison
Forestry in Oregon has traditionally used an industrial model aimed to maximize timber production and revenue, with little attention to the potentially negative affects on ecosystem health and biological diversity. However, some landowners have begun experimenting with more sustainable management practices. This study examines the affect of some of these innovative silvicultural techniques on avian abundance and diversity in the Oregon Coast Range. Data on bird number and species were collected across designated stops for three years with each stop characterized by forest type (predominantly Douglas fir, mixed, or predominantly a species other than Douglas fir), understory (woody shrub, fern, or herbaceous), and treatment (control, lightly thinned, thinned, or patch cut). Total number of birds, number of birds in certain foraging guilds, and four indicator songbird species were compared across stops. Because data were collected with no clear analysis in mind, not all combinations of stop characteristics could be considered. Data were analyzed using one and two-way ANOVA, and results were corrected using the Bonferroni correction. While no significant results were found related to forest type or understory, birds clearly preferred the lightly thinned treatment. Studies analyzing all combinations of forest characteristics and comparing sustainably managed forests to industry methods should be implemented to more thoroughly answer the question of what management practices maximize forest ecosystem health.
Commercial forestry has remained a predominant use of forestland in Oregon since the mid-1800s (Oregon Forest Resources Institute 2013). Forests cover about half of Oregon, and roughly 80% of that forestland supports growth of commercial-grade timber. The vast majority of management of working forests in Oregon uses an industrial model aimed to maximize timber production and revenue, with little attention to the potentially negative effects on ecosystem health and biological diversity (Jones et al. 2012, Oregon Forest Resources Institute 2013). Industrial forest management uses a rotational monoculture crop system, heavy application of herbicides, and large clear cuts to maximize production of Douglas fir, the main commercial forestry crop in the Northwest (Oregon wild 2012). A focus on maximizing production and profit has led to a decrease in structurally complex and biologically diverse ecosystems. With most of Oregon’s working forestland managed in this unsustainable way, old growth forest is one of the few ecologically healthy forest types remaining. With old growth in Oregon diminishing from 14.2 million acres in 1935 to only 4.9 million acres in 1992 (Bolsinger 2011), finding new ways to mindfully manage Oregon’s forestlands to maintain and create ecological complexity and vitality is essential.
Some Oregon landowners have begun to shift their focus from maximum wood production and economic gain to a model aimed to enhance ecosystem health while still supporting an economically viable business (Thomas et al. 2006). While these changes have primarily taken place on private lands with owners who feel a responsibility to manage their properties sustainably, in response to public pressure these innovative silvacultural techniques are beginning to be implemented on public lands that have been managed in a more traditional, industrial way in the past (Franklin and Johnson 2013). However, these changes in management on public land are recent and small-scale. For example, recent legislation has mandated that the O&C lands, approximately 2.4 million acres of forestland in western Oregon that was reclaimed from the Oregon & California Railroad by the Federal Government in 1916 and has been heavily logged ever since, will be managed using a variable retention method (Association of O&C Counties 2008, Franklin and Johnson 2013). Variable retention harvesting, a method modeled on natural patterns of disturbance, may help to maintain and rebuild healthy ecosystem functioning (Franklin and Johnson 2013). This recent shift in focus has led to management practices focused on diversifying forests in terms of age and species in order to support ecosystem health and biodiversity (Davis et al. 2007, Davis et al. 2009, Muir et al. 2002). These new management practices often include stand thinning, limited herbicide use, and encouragement of variation in forest species and age composition, all of which are beneficial in that they support ecosystem health and biodiversity (Betts et al. 2013, Cahall et al. 2013, Hagar et al. 2004, Linden et al. 2012, Yegorova et al. 2013).
Birds, and specifically songbirds, function as indicators of ecosystem health due to their close associations with vegetation (Yegorova et al. 2013). These relationships between bird species and density and vegetation may function and be apparent in a variety of different ways. For example, certain species have been identified as especially good indicators due to their reliance on certain understory types for breeding habitat, the destruction of which is associated with declining bird populations (Canterbury et al. 2000, Stephens et al. 2011). Studies in forests of the Oregon Coast Range support the hypothesis that industrial practices including clear cutting, heavy herbicide use, and single age monoculture rotation, negatively affect avian abundance as compared to more varied and ecologically minded management techniques. For example, thinned, as opposed to unthinned, regeneration after clearcut promotes avian diversity (Cahall et al. 2013, Hagar et al. 2004, Hagar et al. 2009): changes in vegetation caused by thinning may mediate post-thinning bird response by affecting food sources such as invertebrate insects as well as nesting habitat for local birds (Hagar et al. 2012, Yegorova et al. 2013). Some have argued that recently clearcut areas may play an important role in initiating forest succession, an ecological process that provides diverse habitat to bird populations (Bosakowski 1997). However large clearcuts are highly destructive and may harm cavity nesting species as well as other birds that depend on trees and thick underbrush (Mahon et al. 2008). Clearcuts also vary in their value as avian habitat based on the amount of woody debris and snags retained (Bosakowski 1997). Herbicides applied in amounts typical of industrial forestry practices also negatively impact avian abundance as compared to sites with light or no herbicide application (Betts et al. 2013); while thinning promotes understory vegetation favorable to many bird species, herbicide use reduces understory vegetation (Betts et al. 2013, Hansen et al. 1995). Additionally, stand complexity in terms of tree age and species promotes avian diversity, while single-age monocultures significantly reduce avian diversity (Felton et al. 2011).
Located in the Oregon Coast Range, the owners of the family-owned and managed forestry business Hyla Woods have managed their forestlands to promote ecosystem health and biological diversity since 1986 (Hayes and Hayes 2013). Hyla Woods owns 825 acres divided between three locations in the Northern Oregon Coast Range: Manning (100 acres), Timber (173 acres), and Mt. Richmond (552 acres) (Fig. 1 – 4). Their management practices include varied thinning and patch cutting with a maximum clearcut size of two acres, limited, point specific herbicide use, and encouragement of multi-age, multi-species tree communities. Since 1986, the managers of Hyla Woods have worked to better understand the ecosystem functioning of their forestland through a variety of monitoring regimes. Through data collection and analysis they hope to answer three central questions: “what is the status of the health of these forests?; how is it changing over time?; and what can we understand about the causes of these changes, particularly the impacts of our actions on these changes?” (Hayes and Hayes 2012). Available data sets include water temperature, aquatic invertebrates, juvenile fish, spawning salmon, birds, owls, terrestrial amphibians, aquatic amphibians, large mammals, trees, and oak habitat. All data collection followed set protocols, but with no specific analysis in mind.
Because birds function as indicators for overall ecosystem health, and given the robust and long time-term nature of the Hyla Woods data set on birds, I used the bird data set to examine the relationship between forest treatment (unthinned, lightly thinned, thinned, or patch cut), understory, and forest health (Yegorova et al. 2013) as defined by the number and diversity of species supported by a given area. Due to the challenging nature of detecting trends in data collected with no clear study design, as was done in this project, one lesson from this analysis is the importance of clearly outlining study objectives and specific statistical analyses before beginning data collection.
Materials and Methods
Data were collected from three non-contiguous pieces of forestland (Timber, Manning, and Mt. Richmond sites), all within the western hemlock zone and between 400’ and 1200’ in elevation (Fig. 1). The three study areas consisted of predominantly Douglas fir ranging in age from recently planted to around 200 years old, and also contained a variety of other tree species including big leaf maple, western red cedar, grand fir, red alder, and Oregon white oak. The owners manage all three areas to promote biodiversity through a variety of harvest techniques
(thinning and patch-cutting), very limited herbicide use (spot treatments only), and encouragement of multi-age as well as multi-species tree communities.
At each forest, trails were created with multiple “stops” where data were collected. Bird and vegetation data were collected from 14 stops at Timber, 10 stops at Manning, and 24 stops at Mt. Richmond (Fig. 2-4). Three factors influenced stop determination. First, the combination of the stops at each separate forest is representative of the variation in that forest in terms of age, species, and understory; the owners tried to create enough stops to sample as many combinations of these variables as possible. Second, the route between stops must be accessible by foot on roads, trails, and skid trails. Lastly, stops were as evenly spaces as possible, while taking into account the first two considerations. Because of the size, shape, and accessibility of Mt Richmond, data collection occurred on two routes with 12 stops each (Fig. 4).
At each forest, observers trained in bird identification by sight and sound collected bird data at all stops for three consecutive years: at Manning from 2007 through 2009, at Timber from 2010 through 2012, and at Mt. Richmond in 2013 only. Data collection at Mt. Richmond will continue in 2014 and 2015. Yearly, observers recorded data at each stop on three days, each approximately a week apart during late May and early June. Observers did not collect data on days with rain or strong wind. Observers began walking the loop at 5:00 am (around first light). Once reaching a stop, they stood silently for approximately one minute before beginning a three minute period in which they recorded the species and abundance of all birds detected by sight or sound. Observers followed this point-count protocol at all stops and finished the route between 7:00 and 7:30 am (Huff et al. 2000).
Habitat data were collected once in 2013 at all stops at Timber, Manning, and Mt. Richmond. At each stop four subplots were sampled, each with a radius of ten meters, and located a randomly determined distance between ten and 50 meters directly north, east, south, and west of the stop center. An ocular estimate of percent vegetation cover within the categories woody shrubs, ferns, and herbaceous species at two height classes (<1.5 m and >1.5 m) for each subplot was also made.
Due to the varied species, understory, and treatment history between stops, each stop was generalized into categories of “forest type”, “understory” and “treatment”. Forest type was determined by summing the numbers of individual trees in distinct species across the four subplots. Based on total number of trees of each species, each stop was classified as predominantly Douglas fir, mixed, predominantly a species other than Douglas fir, or no trees. A stop was considered predominantly a single species if half again more of one species was present than other species. To determine the majority understory present at each stop, ocular estimates for three categories (woody shrub, fern, and herbaceous) were summed across the four subplots. Each stop was then classified within one of these three understory categories based on the most common understory type. Finally, stops were characterized by treatment groups as control (unthinned), lightly thinned, thinned, or patch cut. A number of stops contained variation between the four subplots and therefore received two treatment categories.
Data on bird species and total numbers collected across years on the three observation days within each year for each stop were summed and then standardized assuming nine total stops in order to make all stops comparable. Bird species were then divided into foraging guilds and the total number of birds was calculated in each of seven foraging guilds, taking into consideration the standardized totals. Bird species were divided as classified by Bryce’s guild system (Bryce 2006), and those not included in this guild system were assigned based on their foraging habits (Poole 2005, Sibley 2003, Wilson 1999). Foraging guilds included ground gleaner (GG), foliage gleaner (FG), bark gleaner (BG), hawker (HA), hover feeder (HOV), aerial feeder (AER), and aerial patrol (AP). In addition to grouping species into guilds, four songbird species, Macgillivray’s warbler (MGWA), orange-crowned warbler (OCWA), Swainson’s thrush (SWTH), and Wilson’s warbler (WIWA), known as especially good indicators for forest biodiversity and health (Stephens et al. 2011) were used to analyze songbird association across forest type, understory, and treatment.
Although the three areas were studied at different times, their similarities in region, management, and community composition across the three forests meant they could be combined into one data set for analysis. Thus, when combined across forests the bird and habitat data sets included 48 stops. Because the data were collected without any specific analytical techniques in mind, there are gaps in sampling which limit statistical analyses. However, it was possible to “mine” the data for suitable combinations of variables that did lend themselves to one- and two-way ANOVAs (Rstudio, Minitab).
The unbalanced design of this study limited the number and type of possible statistical analyses. With the data available the effect of forest type, understory, and treatment on total number of birds, numbers of specific indicator species, and prevalence of guild types was analyzed. Data for all combinations of factors (forest type, understory, and treatment) were not available, and therefore results are specific to certain groupings of stand characteristics. Because twenty-two statistical tests were performed, alpha values were corrected using the Bonferroni correction (Rice 1989) to account for the fact that at an alpha level of 0.05, and given twenty-two tests, statistically one test would be expected to yield falsely positive results.
All results were deemed significant by the Bonferroni correction unless otherwise indicated by the appropriate p-value.
Using a one-way ANOVA, total number of birds was compared across three forest types (predominantly mixed, predominantly Douglas fir, and predominantly a species other than Douglas fir) at stops with herbaceous understory. At an alpha level of 0.10, the mean number of birds found in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type with herbaceous understory was significantly higher than the mean number of birds found in mixed species stands with herbaceous understory (F = 49.85, d.f. = 1, p = 0.09, r2 = 6.32, Fig. 5). Total number of birds was also compared across the three forest types (predominantly mixed, predominantly Douglas fir, and predominantly a species other than Douglas fir) at stops with herbaceous understory and a control treatment. Although the results were not significant, a graphical representation shows a trend in which bird number was highest in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type, followed by mixed stands, and lowest in stands with no trees (Fig. 6).
Using a two-way ANOVA, total birds were compared across forest types by treatment at stops with herbaceous understory. Two-way ANOVA was used to compare total number of birds designated as a combination of the foraging groups ground gleaner and foliage gleaner across the three forest types (predominantly Douglas fir, mixed, and predominantly a species other than Douglas fir) at stops with herbaceous understory, but no significant results were found. Finally, total birds were compared across forest types at stops with herbaceous understory with the foraging guilds ground gleaners and foliage gleaners evaluated separately. No significant results were found for any of these tests. Given available data, no other statistical tests were possible using the variable forest type.
Using one-way ANOVA, total number of birds was compared between stops with woody shrub and herbaceous understory in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type. No significant results were found. A series of one-way ANOVAs were used to analyze the distribution of four indicator species (MacGillivray’s warbler, orange-crowned warbler, Swainson’s thrush, and Wilson’s warbler) across understory types. None of these indicator species were significantly more prevalent in one understory type over another.
Sufficient data were available to perform a one-way ANOVA of total birds summed across the four indicator species across all four treatments (control, lightly thinned, thinned, and patch cut). The total number of birds was significantly higher in lightly thinned stands (an intermediate between control and patch cut) than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands (F = 5.96, d.f. = 3, p = 0.001, r2 = 59.97, Fig. 7). Using one-way ANOVA, total number of birds was compared between the treatments thinned and patch cut in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type. No significant results were found. Total number of birds was also compared between control and thinned stands at stops with herbaceous understory and a predominantly Douglas fir or mixed forest type, as well as across treatments at stops with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type and herbaceous understory. Neither test delivered significant results. Two-way ANOVA was used to compare total birds between thinned and patch cut treatments by understory (only including woody shrub and herbaceous) in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type. While no significant results were found, the graphical representation of total birds across treatment and understory in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type revealed a striking interaction effect in which herbaceous understory was most common in patch cut stands and least common in thinned stands (Fig. 9).
Two-way ANOVA was used to compare total birds across treatments by the four indicator bird species. There was an interaction effect in which the summed number of birds across all indicator species (but especially orange-crowned warblers and Swainson’s thrushes) was higher in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands (F = 2.06, d.f. = 9, p = 0.035, r2 = 59.97, Fig. 11). A series of one-way ANOVAs were used to determine the distribution of the four indicator bird species across treatments. Orange-crowned warblers were present in significantly higher numbers in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands (F = 9.09, d.f. = 3, p < 0.0001, r2 = 38.26, Fig. 8), while the other three indicator species did not vary significantly across treatments.
Total number of birds was compared between the foraging guilds ground gleaners and foliage gleaners at stops with herbaceous understory, as well as across the four indicator species, using a series of one-way ANOVAs. There were significantly more birds in the foliage gleaner group than in the ground gleaner group across all stops (F = 195.23, d.f. = 1, p < 0.0001, r2 = 67.50, Fig. 10). The number of birds also varied significantly between indicator species with significantly more MacGillivray’s warblers than orange-crowned warblers, and significantly more orange-crowned warblers than Swainson’s thrushes and Wilson’s warblers (F = 48.13, d.f. = 3, p < 0.0001, r2 = 59.57, Fig. 11).
Overall bird numbers were higher in stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type and herbaceous understory than in mixed stands with an herbaceous understory (not significant under the Bonferroni correction). This result was counter to expectations that more birds would be found in mixed stands due to the wider variety of habitat and availability of associated niches (Molles 2008). This pattern of more birds in Douglas fir stands than mixed stands may have differed in stands with a fern or woody shrub understory type. When comparing total number of birds across forest type at stops with an herbaceous understory and control treatment the results were not significant, however the overall trend suggests that bird density is highest in predominantly Douglas fir stands, followed by mixed, with lowest bird density in stands with no trees. This trend agrees with the results found when comparing total bird number between predominantly Douglas fir and mixed stands with an herbaceous understory.
No significant results were found when using understory as the independent variable. Due to data limitations, a comparison between understory types within all forest types and treatments was not possible. Performing more tests using understory may have produced more significant results.
When the total number of birds was summed across the four indicator species and compared across treatments, more birds were present in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands. Additionally more orange-crowned warblers were found in lightly thinned stands than in control, thinned, or patch cut stands. These differences in bird density between treatments may result from available nesting habitat, prevalence of certain types of understory, or the amount of bare ground or open space (Parrish and Hepinstall-Cymerman 2012). Because birds appear to prefer lightly thinned stands to other treatments, the majority of birds likely forage in vegetation associated with lightly thinned stands and do not require the open space provided by patch cut stands.
A non-significant trend suggests that herbaceous understory is most common in patch cut stands and least common in thinned stands. While data were not available to determine the most common understory type in lightly thinned stands, it may be extrapolated that lightly thinned stands either have more fern or woody shrub understory types or more bare ground. The association between bird number and treatment is clearly visible in the higher density of birds in lightly thinned stands than stands with other treatments, and is likely explainable by the association between understory and treatment. Sufficient data were not available to accurately analyze this connection. These results on bird distribution across treatments do not include an analysis of species distribution beyond looking into foraging guilds and four specific indicator species. Analyzing species distribution would be valuable in determining whether the trends apparent in this study result from many individuals belonging to a small number of species or fewer individuals belonging to many species. While light thinning may be the best harvest method for the greatest number of birds, light thinning may not promote species diversity because certain species may rely on habitat not available in lightly thinned stands.
Comparing total number of birds across the two foraging guilds, ground gleaner and foliage gleaner, significantly more foliage gleaners were present across all stops. This abundance of foliage gleaners is likely explained by overall species composition in the area. However, an analysis of species composition within the stops monitored would determine whether this result is due to many distinct foliage gleaning species or many individuals belonging to a small number of foliage gleaning species. Because foliage gleaners are present at higher densities than ground gleaners across all stops, and the total number of birds summed across the four indicator species is highest in lightly thinned stands, there may be more foliage present in lightly thinned stands than in other treatments. To accurately determine this association, data on total bird density across all species would have to be analyzed. Due to the presence of foliage at all stops analyzed, this abundance of foliage gleaners is expected. An analysis of industrially managed, clearcut land may result in more ground gleaning species.
Significantly more MacGillivray’s warblers than orange-crowned warblers, and significantly more orange-crowned warblers than Swainson’s thrush or Wilson’s warblers were present across all stops. Similar to the distribution of birds across foraging guilds, these differences may simply indicate general abundance in the area. It is also possible that Hyla Woods creates habitat that better provides for the requirements of certain indicator species than for those of other indicator species. These results are not directly associated with foraging guild type because all indicator species used in this study belong to the foliage gleaning guild.
The most significant trends from this data are that birds prefer stands with a predominantly Douglas fir forest type, and birds prefer lightly thinned stands to other treatments. Because the data on forest type only includes stops with an herbaceous understory and is not significant using the Bonferroni correction, additional research should be done before drawing any major conclusions regarding forest type. Because similar results emerged from a variety of tests on treatment, the conclusion that birds prefer lightly thinned stands seems fairly robust. In creating avian habitat, landowners should implement the harvest method of light thinning. However, because different species require a variety of habitat (Parrish and Hepinstall-Cymerman 2012), and total number of birds does not necessarily correlate with total number of species, maintaining a variety of habitat through varied treatment methods remains important.
More significant differences between stops may not have been found due to limitations in data. It is also possible, however, that the amount birds use these different stops does not vary significantly. Because the properties owned by Hyla Woods are relatively small, birds may travel throughout each property, using a variety of habitat types. Because the Hyla Woods properties are primarily adjoined to land managed in an industrial method relying on large clearcuts, heavy herbicide application, and single-age monoculture rotation, birds may pack into Hyla woods properties from these surrounding areas (Hejl 1992). Birds may also gravitate toward the edge habitat between forest and clearcut (Bosakowski 1997).
Future research should be performed to more completely answer the question of how the different forest characteristics present on Hyla Woods property impact avian populations. A study design similar to the one used in this paper should be implemented with specific research questions and analysis methods in mind. The set up should include stops with all combinations of the factors investigated as well as replicates of those combinations. Stops should be located in the center of stands demonstrating the desired characteristics to avoid stops with intermediate characteristics. Stops should also be located away from roads and major trails to avoid the impact of these open spaces on bird behavior as well as habitat characteristics. In addition to analyzing differences between certain characteristics within Hyla Wood’s property, stops should be added on neighboring properties. These additional stops would provide data to test the packing hypothesis, that birds may disproportionately utilize the habitat created by Hyla Woods. Two of the three main factors that differ between Hyla Woods management and that of industrially managed forests were investigated in this study, that of forest type and harvest method. The third factor, herbicide use, could also be investigated with the addition of stops on neighboring property.
While avian abundance may be used as a proxy for forest health, it may also be important to analyze avian diversity. As many factors as possible should be used in determining whether a forest ecosystem is “healthy”. Forest health may be difficult to quantify in a landscape so heavily influenced by human presence. Hyla Woods has the appropriate data on birds as well as many other species to perform a study comparing species abundance and diversity on their properties to that of industrially managed forests. These additional studies may shed more light on the beneficial impacts of alternative silvicultural practices on forest ecosystems. More complete research may in turn influence policy associated with managing state forestland.
Thank you to Pam and Peter Hayes, owners and managers of Hyla Woods, who supplied data and oversaw the research portion of this project. I would also like to acknowledge the birders who helped with bird identification and data collection, Steve Engel, Nate Richardson, and Lars Norgren with a special thanks to Char Corkran and Lori Hennings who donated their time and expertise as lead birders. Thank you to Linda Craig, Ken Chamberlain, Kahler Martinson, and Charlie Graham for helping with count timing, recording of bird counts, and bird identification. Thank you to Joan Hagar who supplied her habitat monitoring protocol for this project. Finally, thank you to Delbert Hutchison, Associate Professor of Biology at Whitman College, for his support and guidance as the advisor to this project.
Association of O&C Counties. 2008. Oregon and California Revested Grantlands. http://www.oandccounties.com. April 7, 2014.
Bosakowski, T. 1997. Breeding bird abundance and habitat relationships on a private industrial forest in the Western Washington Cascades. Northwest Science. 71(3): 244-253.
Betts, M.G., Verschuyl, J., Biovanini, J., Stokely, T., and Kroll, A.J. 2013. Initial experimental effects of intensive forest management on avian abundance. Forest Ecology and Management.
Bolsinger, C. 2011. Analysis of a pre-existing condition: the Northwest’s old-growth forests. The Oregonian. December, 2, 2013.
Bryce, S.A. 2006. Development of a bird integrity index: measuring avian response to disturbance in the blue mountains of Oregon, USA. Environmental Management 38(3): 470-486.
Cahall, E.J., Hayes J.P., and Betts, M.G. 2013. Will they come? Long-term response by forest birds to experimental thinning supports the “field of dreams” hypothesis. Forest Ecology and Management. 304: 137-149.
Canterbury, G.E., Martin, T.E., Petit, D.R., Petit, L.J., and Bradford, D.F. 2000. Bird communities and habitat as ecological indicators of forest condition in regional monitoring. Conservation Biology. 14(2): 544-558.
Davis, L.R. and Puettmann, K.J. 2009. Initial response of understory vegetation to three alternative thinning treatments. Journal of Sustainable Forestry. 28: 904-934.
Davis, L.R., Puettmann, K.J., and Tucker, G.F. 2007. Overstory response to alternative thinning treatments in young douglas-fir forests of western Oregon. Northwest Science. 81: 1-14.
Felton, A., Andersson, E., Ventorp, D., and Lindbladh, M. 2011. A comparison of avian diversity in spruce monocultures and spruce-birch polycultures in Southern Sweden. Silva Fennica. 45(5): 1143-1150.
Franklin, J.F. and Johnson, K.N. 2013. Alternative harvesting method provides foundation for Wyden O&C plan. http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/11/alternative_har vesting_method.html. April 7, 2014.
Hagar, J., and Friesen, C. 2009. Young stand thinning and diversity study: response of songbird community one decade post-treatment. U.S. Geological Survey Open- File, Report 2009-1253.
Hagar, J., Howlin, S., and Ganio, L. 2004. Short-term response of songbirds to experimental thinning of young Douglas-fir forests in the Oregon cascades. Forest Ecology Management. 199: 333-347.
Hagar, J. C., Li, J., Sobota, J., and Jenkins, S. 2012. Arthropod prey for riparian associated birds in headwater forests of the Oregon Coast Range. Forest Ecology and Management. 285: 213-226.
Hansen, A.J., McComb, W.C.,Vega, R., Raphael, M.G., and Hunter, M. 1995. Bird habitat relationships in natural and managed forests in the west Cascades of Oregon. Ecological Applications. 5(3): 555-569.
Hayes, P.S., and Hayes, P.S. 2012. Hyla woods experimental forest – forest assessment. 1-10.
Hayes, P.S., and Hayes, P.S. 2013. Hyla Woods. hylawoods.com. April 7, 2014.
Hejl, S.J. 1992. The importance of landscape patterns to bird diversity: a perspective from the Northern Rocky Mountains. The Northwest Environmental Journal. 8: 119-137.
Huff, M.H., Bettinger, K.A., Ferguson, H.L., Brown, M.J., and Altman, B. 2000. A habitat-based point-count protocol for terrestrial birds, emphasizing Washington and Oregon. General Technical Report: PNW-GTR-501. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 39.
Jones J.E., Kroll, A.J., Giovanini, J., Duke, S.D., Ellis, T.M., and Betts, M.G. 2012. Avian species richness in relation to intensive forest management practices in early seral tree plantations. Plos ONE. 7(8): e43290.
Linden, D.W., Roloff, G.J., and Kroll, A.J. 2012. Conserving avian richness through structure retention in managed forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 284: 174-184.
Mahon, L.C., Steventon, D.J., and Martin, K. 2008. Cavity and bark nesting bird responses to partial cutting in northern conifer forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 256: 2145-2153.
Molles, M.C. 2008. Ecology: Concepts & Applications, Fourth Edition. McGraw-Hill Higher Education. New York, NY.
Muir, P.S., R.L. Mattingly, J.C. Tappeiner, J.D. Bailey, W.E. Elliott, J.C. Hagar, J.C. Miller, E.B. Peterson, and E.E. Starkey. 2002. Managing for biodiversity in young Douglas-fir forests of western Oregon. U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Biological Science Report USGS/BRD/BSR–2002-0006. 76.
Oregon Forest Resources Institute. More to learn. OregonForests.Org. November, 30, 2013.
Oregon Forest Resources Institute. 2013. Oregon forest facts & figures 2013. Oregon: Oregon Forest Resources Institute.
Oregon wild. 2012. BLM practices vs. Oregon forest practices act. Oregon wild. December, 2, 2013.
Parrish, M.C. and Hepinstall-Cymerman, J. 2012. Associations between multiscale landscape characteristics and breeding bird abundance and diversity across urban-rural gradients in Northeastern Georgia, USA. Urban Ecosystems. 15(3): 559-580.
Poole, A. (Editor). 2005. The birds of North America online. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. November, 30, 2013.
Rice, W.R. 1989. Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evolution. 43: 223-225.
Sibley, D. 2003. The Sibley field guide to birds of western North America. New York: Knopf.
Stephens, J. L., K. Kreitinger, C. J. Ralph, and M. T. Green (editors). 2011. Informing ecosystem management: science and process for landbird conservation in the western United States.
U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Technical Publication, FWS/ BTP-R1014- 2011, Washington, D.C.
Wilson, J.B. 1999. Guilds, functional types and ecological groups. Oikos 86: 507-522.
Thomas, J.W., Franklin, J.F., Gordon, J., and Johnson, K.N. 2006. The Northwest forest plan: origins, components, implementation experience, and suggestions for change.
Yegorova, S., Betts, M.G., Hagar, J., and Peuttmann, K.J. 2013. Bird-vegetation associations in thinned and unthinned young Douglas-fir forests 10 years after thinning. Forest Ecology Management. 1-14.
Some like it hot – but the Hyla Woods team does not. Though we are champion “heat wimps”, our work at our mill and kiln teaches us the value of heat. This has been one of our best summers yet for using our solar kiln to dry green (wet!) lumber into high quality products. Using less than a dollar a day of electricity to run the fans that circulate the hot air, the kiln captures the sun’s energy and puts it to work in drying the lumber. As the photo shows, the kiln is running full bore. On the far left is thick, live edged, oak lumber air drying for a local furniture company. Beside it, having just completed the drying cycle, is 3,500 board feet of premium fir. The doors are being slide shut on 3,500 board feet of oak headed toward becoming our next batch of end grained cutting boards in time for the holidays. And on the far right fir planking is being air dried before being used for the rebuilding of a deck. At the mill and kiln it has been a busy summer; as the days grow shorter we’ll work to squeeze as much wood drying power as we can from the life giving sun. Such is life in this land of “will it ever rain?!” and “will it ever stop raining?!”.
More information on this kiln and other solar kilns may be found here.
- In the forests, every year and season brings some new adventure.
- A low point of 2014 was that the largest oak in our Mt. Richmond Forest died. We’re not sure of the cause – perhaps just old age?
- The discovery of this winter was that once the old, dead monster tree was cut and came thundering to the forest floor, we counted the rings and discovered that the tree held 230 years of life.
- This means that the acorn sprouted in roughly 1786, and was a 20 foot sapling at the time when Lewis and Clark came over the hill.
- After much effort, the tree has been felled, bucked, yarded, loaded on the tree taxi and transported up to the hilltop mill – where we are thinking through how to mill the 44″ in diameter butt log into lumber.
The Challenge – If the forest can spend 230 years growing such a magnificent tree, shouldn’t some one of us be able to use its wood to make an equally magnificent piece of furniture that will still be going strong in another 230 years (the year 2,246!)? That is the challenge that the Hyla Woods team is issuing. The sawdust covered glove has been thrown down; who will pick it up? Who will give this tree a second life?
For those interested in this incident and issue, here is a quick update.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture completed their investigation and shared their report. As we expected, they found no evidence of a violation of Oregon law. OPB provided this coverage: http://www.opb.org/news/article/investigators-find-no-evidence-of-chemical-drift/
The Department of Forestry is completing their own investigation of the incident.
We have assembled this response to the ODA report:
Hyla Woods Response to Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Report on Herbicide Spray Incident – July 28, 2016:
We are appreciative that the ODA staff completed the investigation in a timely way and apparently in accordance with current state law and agency protocols. We are also grateful that all of the parties involved were cooperative and ready to assist the investigation, including Dept. of Forestry staff, Stimson Lumber Company staff, other neighboring landowners.
We feel that the report falls short of what is required in the following four ways:
- Right Not to be Exposed – Given that four of us, in separate locations, independently and simultaneously smelled and/or tasted the chemical at the same time as the helicopter was actively spraying, it seems clear that we were exposed. Given that ODA’s analysis did not find residue of the spray on vegetation, it appears that our situation involved two levels of exposure – primary exposure, the area within which the chemical may be detected on the vegetation; and secondary exposure, the area within which the chemical may be sensed by average people. We feel that we have a right, on our own land, not to be exposed at either level. We feel that the investigation should acknowledge both levels of exposure, acknowledge both our rights and the sprayer’s responsibilities, and work to better understand the potential consequences of secondary exposure.
- Right to Know – Responsibility to Know – The investigation was based on an incomplete knowledge of the chemicals that were sprayed. Following current protocols, staff only collected information on the active chemicals involved and did not learn what inert chemicals were sprayed. Given that inert chemicals, such as those used in the surfactant, may be toxic when used alone, and may have synergistic impacts when used in combination with other chemicals, an adequate investigation must identify and consider all of the chemicals involved. In this case, the distinction between active and inert chemicals seems immaterial. The agencies have a responsibility to know what was sprayed and we have a right to know what we were exposed to.
- Responsibility to Adequately Regulate – While there is much that the agencies do that is right in their work to regulate the use of chemicals, this incident highlights one important weakness of the system. With the common practice of spraying a mixture of chemicals, we have a case where the circumstances of use are different from the circumstances under which the chemicals were individually tested, approved, and labeled. Based on the body of science that documents the unintended, synergistic consequences of mixing chemicals, we feel that the agencies have a responsibility to acknowledge and address this problem and align the conditions of testing and labeling with the specific conditions of use. The report fails to acknowledge this problem.
- Cooperation Between Agencies – Because we know that both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Forestry have jurisdiction over aerial spraying of herbicides, we were pleased to learn that staff from both departments would work together to investigate and report on this incident. We were surprised that ODA produced a report that appears to neither acknowledge or reflect work being done by ODF. If we are correct in understanding that both agencies are involved in investigating the incident, it seems that the public would be best served by integrating the work and findings of both agencies into a single report.
Walk in Our Shoes – We care about the need to modernize the state’s approaches to regulating the use of forest herbicides for several reasons. One of the main reasons is reflected in the specific circumstances of this incident. Roughly a week prior to the incident a group of forty second graders and their teachers spent the day doing scientific investigations in the area that was exposed. A week following the incident 300 family members and friends gathered in the same place for a wedding celebration. Mindful that the exposure could easily have happened while one of these groups was there – smelling and tasting the chemicals, we consider how we would have answered their questions: “What is that smell and taste? Might breathing the chemicals be bad for us? Should we stay or leave?” .
The expectation that they and we have a right not to be exposed and that government has a responsibility to protect that right has not yet been acknowledged by the agencies. Based on the report, if the spraying had been done during class visit or the wedding, we’d have to respond “We don’t fully know what was sprayed and the state won’t help us learn. We don’t know what the level of risk is to us, you, and the land, and the state agencies don’t appear to care”.
These do not feel like acceptable answers. We can and should do better.
It’s Not OK –
On the morning of May 17th four of us who were working in our Timber forests were apparently exposed to drift from an herbicide spray operation. We were each working in different parts of the forest and independently sensed the chemical – either through smelling and/or tasting. We soon became aware that we could hear a helicopter and confirmed that is was spraying herbicide on a recent clear cut a little over half a mile to the north. The land is owned by Stimson Lumber Company and Wilbur-Ellis was the contractor doing the spraying. Given that a significant north wind was blowing from the helicopter to us, it appears that we were exposed to drift.
Though we expect to learn more in the coming weeks and months, here is what we know:
1. Stimson, Oregon Department of Forest and Department of Agriculture staff have been responsive and communicative; for that we are appreciative.
2. We’re fortunate to live in a country and state which have laws related to herbicide spraying and systems for responding when there are problems.
3. Though we know that we were exposed, we do not yet fully know what chemicals were used and what the consequences might be, to us and the forest.
4. Oregon Department of Agriculture staff have started an investigation, collected vegetation samples and submitted them for analysis. Results are expected in about a week.
5. We and ODA do not fully know all of the chemicals that were sprayed. They included Sulflometuron, Clopyralid, and In-Place. We have requested information on the ingredients in In-Place from Wilbur-Ellis but they have not yet responded.
6. We have requested complete information from Wilbur-Ellis but they have not yet responded.
7. The ODA’s investigation could take as little as a few months or as long as a year.
8. We have a right not to be exposed to chemical spray drifting into our forest.
9. We have a right to not have either guests we invite to the forest or the forest itself exposed to chemical drift. (note – a week prior to the incident we hosted 40 second grade scientists in the forest and this weekend we’ll welcome 250 guests for a family wedding, so risks to guests are on our mind).
10. Government has a responsibility to acknowledge and protect these rights.
11. It doesn’t make sense to draw any conclusions until we learn from the results of the investigation.
What happened is not OK with us. In the coming weeks and months we will learn whether it is OK with the State of Oregon, Stimson Lumber Co., and Wilbur-Ellis.
Postscript – Oregon Public Broadcasting has provided the following coverage: http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-timber-herbicide-exposure-aerial-spraying/
For the past three years we’ve been fortunate to have the seventh graders from Catlin Gabel School focus their research attention on the health of our Timber Forest. Here is a report on the questions their asked, the data they collected, and the conclusions that they’ve drawn. We thank them, their teachers and the parent helpers for the important work.
When Macroinvertebrates Tell Their Story
By: Thea Traw
Catlin Gabel 7th Grade Class
Weather: Cloudy and rainy, with a 50% chance of macroinvertebrates
On March 1st 2016, my science class from Catlin Gabel School returned to Louisgnont Creek, deep within the shadowy forest of Hyla Woods in the Nehalem Watershed. We did not know what to expect: what had changed and what had stayed the same since we last visited a month ago? As we walked through the steady downpour of rain, however, we were not thinking of ways to attempt to write a blog. Instead, we were studying, observing, and questioning our surrounding and the mysteries within Louisignont Creek. I’ll start my eventful and interesting story at the beginning, though, so don’t worry.
Hyla Woods is an experimental forest, which strives to be self-sufficient, while treating the wildlife and trees with respect and the proper care. Following an ancient Catlin Gabel tradition (we’re the third year), we journeyed out to Hyla Woods to research and answer one question, which always remained in the forefront of our minds as we worked: “Is Hyla Woods a healthy ecosystem?” We ran many tests to find the answer to this question, some plagued with more troubles than others (as you will see…). We took it upon ourselves to investigate this question because, as budding scientists, we need to learn how to conduct tests to find out how successfully an ecosystem is maintained, in our case, or just if an ecosystem is functioning properly in general. It is very important to understand if an ecosystem is healthy because Earth could be described as a GIANT ecosystem, so if we didn’t know how to assess if it is healthy, how can we save our home from threats like climate change? Also, answering this question helps us understand the mysteries and complex connections between all living things, so we can learn how each organism is important to make up healthy ecosystems. Our work also can help the owners of Hyla Woods improve the management of their trees and creek because the results and analysis we conclude from our tests can give them important feedback from the animals and the stream: we can speak for the trees and those without voices, following in the Lorax’s momentous footprints.
We conducted many tests during our time at Hyla Woods. The variables that we were testing and recording were the following: water temperature; air temperature; pH, which is the acidity or basicity of the water; turbidity, which is the measurement of how cloudy or opaque the water is; and dissolved oxygen, which is the level of oxygen dissolved in the water. Each of the twelve research teams from our class, did these five tests two times at their respective field sites–once during our first excursion, and the second time during this more recent trip.
We also were carrying out a more complex and involved test: the leaf pack analysis. During our first trip to Hyla, we had carefully selected a place to put our leaf pack then left hoping that it would still be submerged when we returned, brimming with all sorts of aquatic macro-invertebrates. (If you have some terrestrial invertebrates in your leaf pack, something has gone horribly wrong.) On both trips, my group successfully carried out each of the first five tests, but our leaf pack had a slightly tragic tale, but I’ll talk more about that later. These six tests are important in determining the health of an ecosystem, so I’ll take a moment and explain the point and worth of each test.
Since macroinvertebrates are cold-blooded, the temperature of the water affects them more than it would you or me. Some animals, like salmonids, are especially susceptible to higher water temperatures, but if the population of the salmonids decreases, the whole ecosystem could get thrown off. The range most suitable for most aquatic life is 5°C to 15°C. Our first measurement was 8.5°C, and our recent recording was 8°C, both of which fall into a suitable range for aquatic life. The average temperature, based on the first trip, from my whole class was 7.4°C, so Louisignont Creek is at a healthy temperature.
Air temperature has less of an effect on aquatic life than the other variables do, but it is still important. Our class average temperature from the first time was 7°C, and the following time was 8.7°C.
The next test we did was the pH of the creek. Our results (6 on our first day of research and 6.5 on the second) were very close to the class’s average of 6.3 and 6.6 respectively. The suitable range for most aquatic life is 6.5-8.3, so some of our data does not fall into the category of being most suitable. pH affects the health of ecosystems in a large way. Some invertebrates can’t survive in water that is out of a certain range. These more sensitive animals are called “bioindicators,” and their presence or absence goes a long way in finding out if an ecosystem is healthy. In levels of pH that are too high or too low, bioindicators often disappear, which hurts the health of the ecosystem.
Discovering the turbidity of the water was the next step that we took. Erosion is a useful indicator for the health of an ecosystem because the amount of turbidity indicates the amount of riverbank erosion or sediment in the water. Too much sediment can decrease the levels of dissolved oxygen, which leads to a digression in the health of the ecosystem. Our measurement of turbidity using the turbidity tube method was 120+ cm both times, which is a healthy turbidity level. The class average was 87 cm the first time, and 107 cm the second time. That leads me to think that a heavy rainfall occurred before the first trip, but not the second, or some of the test were not done correctly, because the difference between the two results is pretty large. For turbidity, it is better to be clear, so our results as a group are especially optimal. Our class average is less so, but it still is healthy.
The second to last test we conducted was our dissolved oxygen test. Dissolved oxygen is one of the most important factors in measuring the health of the ecosystem. Aquatic animals need a certain amount of oxygen in the water, because they need oxygen to function, just like we do. My group’s recording of dissolved oxygen was 10 ppm both times. This indicates that our site is healthy because 8-12 ppm is a healthy range for most aquatic life, and our data falls right in the middle of that range. Our class average was 10.1 ppm the first time, and 10.8 ppm the second time. Our class’s data also indicates that the creek is healthy because both measurements fall in the optimal range.
The final and most complex variable that we tested was the macroinvertebrate survey using our leaf pack. On our first excursion to Hyla Woods, we selected a place to put our leaf pack. A leaf pack is made up of three types of leaves: big leaf maple, vine maple, and alder. Leaf packs are designed to become a home for macroinvertebrates, therefore enabling us to collect and research the macroinvertebrates without harming their natural home. Measuring macroinvertebrates is probably the most important test a scientist can do while researching the health of a stream ecosystem. Macroinvertebrates are something called bioindicators. As I mentioned before, bioindicators, as their name suggests, indicate the health of an ecosystem. Their presence, or absence, can tell a lot about the state the ecosystem is in. The more sensitive macroinvertebrates there are, the healthier the ecosystem. But, if your leaf pack overflowed with only tolerant insects or has none at all, the ecosystem is in a sadder condition. The leaf packs are not especially accurate when they are placed in a less-than-satisfactory place, which ours sadly was.
We had left our leaf pack three weeks ago with high hopes, but when we came back, our hopes were crushed by a tiny stone fly and aquatic worm. There were only two macroinvertebrates in our whole leaf pack. However, I consider those two invertebrates to be something of an achievement, taking into account that our leaf pack was practically floating on the top of the creek when we arrived instead of anchored near the gravel where we had intended. Our leaf pack was an unsuccessful test, and it, in and of itself, will not help Pam and Peter Hayes, the owners of Hyla Woods, with finding out if Hyla Woods is healthy, but it still was a good opportunity to practice making a leaf pack. I bet that if we all made another leaf pack, it would turn out much better. With this said, we’re happy that a majority of the other research teams were more successful, and that they collected more useful macroinvertebrate data.
Anyway, our class’s results were somewhat varied, as a few other groups had similar troubles to ours. Still, most groups were able to collect data from their leaf packs. Our collective EPT score was 71.8. An EPT score is the percentage of macroinvertebrates that are either Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), and Trichoptera (caddisflies). These species are very important to the ecosystem’s health, and they are all sensitive macroinvertebrates, though the caddisflies are more tolerant than the other two. The higher the score, the better the health is. Biotic Index is the other way to view the data we collected from our leaf packs. It measures the average tolerance value of an invertebrate in this ecosystem. In this case, the higher the number, the healthier the ecosystem is. Our class’s average Biotic Index score was 4.3, which falls into a reasonably healthy ecosystem. It would have been better if the score had been below 3.75, because that would mean the ecosystem is in excellent shape, but 4.5 falls between 3.76 and 5, which is indicated as good on the Biotic Index scale.
When taken all together, my belief is that Hyla Woods is a reasonably healthy ecosystem. None of the tests, air and water temperature, turbidity, pH, dissolved oxygen, Biotic Index, or EPT score were significantly unhealthy, and a few fell directly into the healthiest range. The temperature, both air and water, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and pH all were healthy, which indicates a healthy ecosystem, even if a few of the tests were less optimal than one might wish. The two tests from the leaf pack, EPT and Biotic Index, were both reasonably good, and while the Biotic Index score fell only into the “good” range, that still indicates a healthy ecosystem. Our EPT score was more satisfactory, and at a 70.8, that test indicates a quite healthy ecosystem. To conclude, Hyla Woods’ health could improve as an ecosystem, but Pam and Peter Hayes have done a tremendous job working on the ecosystem’s health, and they should be proud of how well the ecosystem is doing. No matter what, the ecosystem of Hyla Woods will never act exactly how it would without any human interference, so when you take that into account, Hyla Woods is a healthy ecosystem.
After going to Hyla Woods, I am left with many good memories and a dripping wet backpack. One highlight of my experience was conducting the tests in the field. I had a lot of fun with my friends, exploring the stream’s ecosystem and researching the different variables of an ecosystem. However, I am also left with a burning question in the pocket of my soaking rain jacket. How far would a stream have to be removed from all of human interference to be completely healthy and untouched? And is there even a stream like that somewhere in the world? I also wonder about all the forests and streams that are not treated with such care, and what happens to the streams after the loggers and industries come and remove a part of their ecosystem (the forest), or pollute their waters? I am also left with a bigger picture question. Why do we, as humanity, ruin our resources that allow us to live, and squander away all of nature, which was our first home, way before we built houses or cities? To wrap up,, I would like to leave an overly cliché message for all of humankind: Do unto nature as you would have nature do unto you. I would also like to give you some food for thought. Sometimes we forget that we are animals, too, not unlike a fish or an eagle, but we think we are above the beings on Earth. But remember this, we are animals, and animals are nature, so that must mean that we are nature. So if we destroy nature, by polluting and clear cutting and climate change, we are, in effect, destroying ourselves.
I thought they’d be pleased to see me, but they weren’t. Hands on their hips, they gave me a steely, stern look as I puttered up on my four wheeler “iron pony”. As soon as I shut down the engine, they accusatively asked “you didn’t drive down the road did you?”. The four of them were mid way through completing our annual round of amphibian surveys in Mt. Richmond Forest. After an early morning rendezvous with a logger, I was doing my best to find and catch up with them. The cause of the upset was that I had just driven through puddles in the road that, unknown to me, were home to remarkable copepods, and larval Long toed salamanders and Pacific tree frogs.
Being the human that I am, my first instinct was to be defensive, thinking to myself “since when did driving along a forest road become a crime?”. I kept my thoughts to myself – mostly. Given some time to reflect, I now see that the difference in our perceptions highlights the type of cause and effect consequences that are at the heart of our forest restoration experiment. Consider how these observations link from one to another:
“Our endless and proper work is to pay attention” – Mary Oliver
Working within the structure of our monitoring program, the close attention paid by my companions caused them to discover reproducing organisms that could so easily be overlooked.
“We make places wonderful by giving them attention” – David Haskkell
Their discovery, layered in with thousands of similar, unexpected discoveries, continue to make what could be considered an otherwise unremarkable 750 acre forest into a remarkably interwoven web of life.
“It all turns on affection” – Wendell Berry
Working outward from one copepod in the puddle in the road, attention led to wonder, led to affection which, in turn, serves as the motive force for choosing to know, value, and care for and restore land. Way leads on to way.
“To cherish the remains of the earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.” – Wendell Berry
I may be making too much of it, but the gulf of misunderstanding that stood between my four friends and me that morning – with them the noticers and me the unaware killer – perhaps, in micro form, represents a larger gulf in our species, that we must learn to bridge.
If the current circumstances call on our species to do some rapid evolution if we hope to survive – and I believe they do – there are evolutionary lessons to be learned from this morning encounter. Attention >wonder > affection > restoration. As I carefully puttered my way back across the forest, with tail between legs and avoiding all of the wet spots this time, it occurred to me that, when done right, perhaps the forest is restoring us as much, or more, than we are restoring it.
Our forests produce many things that we find of interest and value. This includes thoughts and ideas. Over time, some have proven useful while others have rightly wandered off into oblivion.
I, Peter, write and share the essays shared in our “Food for Thought” section, not because I feel that I have any wisdom or insight, but because I hope that they might stimulate constructive discussion and reflection.
For those inclined to explore, we want to let you know that three new essays have been added to the collection:
If you read them and feel like offering critique and comment, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and know that it will be appreciated.