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  Andrews Highlights

Highlights from the Andrews Forest Program are listed below. Also see "LTER Transformative Science" for a list of important contributions to ecological science from the Andrews Forest program, compiled at the request of the National Science Foundation.

Bob Keefer artwork, cropped. Andrews Forest inspired artwork on exhibit

The Long-Term Ecological Reflections program of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is the subject of a growing body of arts and humanities works closely linked with the long-term ecological research program based in the forest.  This work is in part the result of a collaboration among the Spring Creek Project, the Andrews Forest science community, the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the National Science Foundation, which has helped fund both the Long-Term Ecological Research and humanities programs at the Andrews Forest.

Artist Bob Keefer recently showed about 50 of his painted photographs in an exhibit called “Forest Investigations” at the Jacobs Gallery in Eugene; these works are based on a rainy Andrews Forest residency. And now several of Leah Wilson’s paintings in her “Ambient” series are displayed in the lobby of the Greenhouse—check them out and note the caption describing her science-like rigor in creating her art.  Upcoming is the exibit, "Rot: The Afterlife of Trees," a multi-media exhibition that will be shown at The Arts Center in Corvallis in January 2016 (http://theartscenter.net/rot-the-afterlife-of-trees-blog/), and at Portland's World Forestry center in February.

stream researchers at the Andrews Forest. photo by Lina DiGregorio. Using the 2015 Summer Drought to Understand Effects of Climate Change

Minimal winter snowpack, absent spring snowmelt, and contraction of the summer stream network: these are some expected impacts of climate change in the western Cascades. In this way, summer 2015 may be a preview of things to come. Lookout Creek of the Andrew Forest set a new low streamflow in our 60-year record; August flows were less than half the long-term mean. Small, gaged streams slowed to a trickle or, as in the case of Watershed 9, stopped running entirely. 

What do these extreme conditions mean for distributions and health of fish and salamanders, in-stream productivity, and trophic interactions? Fortuitously, this record-year coincides with one of the most ambitious stream ecology field seasons in recent memory, so preliminary answers to questions about effects of climate variability on stream ecosystems are already emerging.   

Long-term monitoring of stream flow and temperature, and of Mack Creek populations of cutthroat trout and coastal giant salamanders, continued on familiar schedules, led by Sherri Johnson and Stan Gregory, respectively. These long-term studies provide context for this year’s observations. 

A new cohort of stream ecology studies took advantage of learning opportunities afforded by this special year.  A new LTER7 study examines the up-stream distribution of fish and salamanders, two key predator taxa, in response to constraints imposed by landforms, summer low flows, and species interactions. Mapping of these populations in future years will provide a glimpse into changes over space and time. 

Anticipating the low summer flow of 2015, Dana Warren and Matt Kaylor secured a National Science Foundation grant to study spatial variability in nutrient availability across the stream network, and how this interacts with light level to influence primary productivity. This project complements their multiple-year study of fish and salamander movement and condition, and stream productivity, in relation to light conditions and streamflow.   

Two manipulative stream experiments were also in place to take advantage of the 2015 drought. The SCALER project, led by Brooke Penaluna and Alba Argerich, used stream exclosures, enclosures, and density manipulations to study the influence of fish and salamander populations on stream ecosystem processes. The researchers used four experimental reaches on typically-perennial streams (although several were partially dry this summer), providing the opportunity to examine treatment effects under extremely low flows.

In the related salamander movement experimental study, Ivan Arismendi and Stan Gregory investigated the effects of crowding on stress, movement, and rates of transformation from aquatic to terrestrial form of the coastal giant salamander. Initial findings suggest strong competitive interactions in prime habitat space, leading to displacement of subordinate individuals to poorer habitat. 

Like the drought-impacted streams themselves, the results of this work will continue to trickle in. And if next winter plays out the same way, as predicted, we will see even more cascading impacts on our drought-stressed system.

Thermal image of forest canopy at the Andrews Forest. created by Still Lab. Taking the Temperature of Forest Canopies

Christopher Still, Associate Professor in the department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at OSU, studies the temperature of forest canopies. As part of a renewed focus on canopy ecology and physiology at the Andrews Forest, and in collaboration with postdoctoral scholar, Youngil Kim, and Forest Director, Mark Schulze, Chris is examining the fundamental role of temperature in forest function, ranging from controls on enzymatic reactions, to ecosystem biogeochemistry, to tree distributions. While scientists often focus on air temperature, the radiative temperature of a plant is more relevant to ecosystem function. Until recently, radiative measurements of plant temperature have been challenging.

Now, scientists can measure plant temperature using thermal cameras with technology similar to that found in night-vision goggles. The image (left), from summer 2015, was collected by a thermal camera deployed in an very tall, old-growth Doug-fir tree at the Andrews Forest. The left hand side of the image shows a second-growth Doug-fir plantation canopy, while the right side shows an old-growth Doug-fir and western hemlock canopy. There are many interesting patterns in this image, such as the hotter (yellow) trunks and branches and the cooler leaves (blue). The patterns change over the day; trunks and woody parts can become colder than the foliage. We are also seeing that second-growth and old-growth canopies differ in rates of heating and cooling.

The team hopes to collect an entire year’s worth of thermal imagery, which would be unprecedented. These data will help us better understand the forest canopy, and enhance our understanding of connections among canopy temperature and photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration. The project supports numerous applied research objectives, such as understanding the thermal response of forests to drought and heat waves.

Spotted Owl.  Photo by Alan Dyck Using Maps to Study Birds

A publication co-authored by a team of Oregon State University, US Forest Service, and US Geological Survey investigators compares quality of interpretation of northern spotted owl habitat based on traditional aerial photographs, Landsat satellite imagery, and recently-available, high-resolution LiDAR data. This team, led by Steve Ackers, head of the Andrews Forest-based spotted owl crew, uses the well-studied Blue River-Andrews Forest area as a test case. Information from these data sources is used in sophisticated species distribution models for the spotted owl, and many other species as well. As one might expect, each information source has its pluses and minuses. Air photo interpretation is rather subjective, hard to reproduce, and time consuming. Landsat has proven an adequate tool for extensive assessment of habitat quality, although it lacks the high precision possible with LiDAR. It is interesting to note that the first Landsat Thematic Mapper satellite was launched in 1972, just as Eric Forsman began studies of the spotted owl in the Andrews Forest and vicinity, and the first report using that imagery in habitat assessment appeared just two years later. The meter-scale LiDAR data describing topography and vegetation structure makes possible a very refined depiction of habitat, but LiDAR data are not available for the whole region, and the high precision is not necessary for many conservation purposes.  See the paper: The evolution of mapping habitat for northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina): A comparison of photo-interpreted, Landsat-based, and lidar-based habitat maps

Cascade Head. photo by Lina DiGregorio A Century of Forest Change

In ecological research, it’s rare to have a century-long record. But the Andrews Forest team has just that from three plots, established in April 1910 in the Willamette National Forest, by pioneer Pacific Northwest forester, T.T. Munger (see Fall 2010 Andrews Forest newsletter). Mark Harmon and Rob Pabst published a new paper analyzing records of tree establishment, growth, and death observed at 5–10 year intervals as the stands aged from 54 to 154 years. Predictions about population, community, and ecosystem change over this time period have been primarily based on “chronosequence” studies—trading space for time—by examining variation among stands of different ages but in similar environments. Comparing these predictions with plot records, Mark and Rob find the predictions hold up for change over time of plant populations (e.g., Douglas-fir stem density decreases over time) and community structure (e.g., shade-intolerant Douglas-fir gives way to shade-tolerant tree species), but surprisingly, at the ecosystem level, live stand biomass constantly increased over the century of record—much longer than predicted from ecosystem theory, which suggests that increasing mortality would slow the rate of biomass accumulation. Andrews Forest ecologists are tracking 79 additional old plots (75–100 years old) on five other national forests in the region, which will yield tests of these findings. See the full article, Testing predictions of forest succession using long-term measurements: 100 yrs of observations in the Oregon Cascades

Teacher workshop on phenology at the Andrews Forest 2013. Photo by Jody Einerson. Season Trackers

The Andrews Forest program and OSU Extension are collaborating in a Citizen Science project on climate and ecology. The project, Season Trackers, enlists citizen scientists to make weather and phenology observations in their communities around the state by recruiting from the ranks of people already involved with Extension’s many programs statewide, including many in rural areas. The data will help Andrews scientists expand the scale and inference of their research activities beyond the boundaries of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest.  Learn more about the program through the Oregon Season Tracker website. The website has information about how to become involved, upcoming trainings, and resources to help volunteers with observations.

Varied Thrush. Photo by Adam Hadley. Monitoring birds across the landscape with new tools

Andrews Forest scientists recently recieved a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop computer software that will identify birds by song, a tool that will allow researchers to more easily monitor birds across a landscape. Raviv Raich and Xiaoli Fern (OSU Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and avian ecologist Matthew Betts (OSU Forest Ecosystems and Society) lead the project titled “Computational Methods for Bioacoustic Avian Species Monitoring”. The main thrust of the project is further development of machine learning techniques for automated interpretation of recordings of bird song to identify species and their movement across the landscape during the summer season. Several years of recordings of bird songs at many locations across the Andrews Forest landscape (currently >12 TB of data) will be used to test the techniques and address ecological questions relating to phenological shifts in bird arrival in relation to food availability. The tool will be adaptable to many ecosystems, but will be tested first by addressing bird response to environmental change, including climate variability in the Andrews Forest and land use in Costa Rica.  See http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/bioacoustics-birdland and http://oregonstate.edu/terra/2010/07/birding-by-ear-online/ for more detail.

understory at the Andrews Forest. photo by Gabriel Shea Andrews Forest LTER Receives $6.7M Grant from NSF

The HJ Andrews Experimental Forest Long Term Ecological Research program has received a six-year, $6.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how forested mountain ecosystems respond to changes in climate and land-use and how people interact with the forest through ethical decision-making. Research will be focused on a central question: How do climate, natural disturbance and land use as controlled by forest governance interact with biodiversity, hydrology and carbon and nutrient dynamics? Researchers will continue to address issues such as the transport of carbon and other nutrients through air and water flows. They will study the decomposition of organic matter and changes in the timing of events such as the blossoming of plants and insect emergence from streams.

Full press release on LTER7 at http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2014/oct/hj-andrews-research-forest-federal-funding-renewed

SCALER research team at the Andrews Forest. Photo by Lina DiGregorio Andrews LTER joins the SCALER cross-site stream experiment

In summer 2014 the Andrews Forest Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site joined other LTER sites in the “Scale, Consumers and Lotic Ecosystem Rates” (SCALER) project, led by Walter Dodds (Konza LTER). Funded by the National Science Foundation, SCALER is a cross-site project designed to understand structure and function of aquatic systems.

At the Andrews  LTER site, scientists Alba Argerich (OSU) and Brooke Penaluna (US Forest Service Pacific Northwest station) led a team of researchers to assess the effects of consumers—including the Cutthroat Trout and the Pacific Giant Salamander (the largest salamander in North America)—on primary production, ecosystem respiration and nutrient cycling.

Read more and see photos in the LTER Network Newsletter, Fall 2014, Vol. 27 No. 3

Proposal figure. Haggerty and Wondzell. Hydrologic and biogeochemical controls of carbon flux

Researchers will be studying how carbon is processed, exported, and stored within headwater streams of the westetn Oregon Cascasde mountains, using the Andrews Forest as a primary field site. Roy Haggerty and Steve Wondzell will lead the project, funded by a grant from the National Foundation.  Their work on how hydrology and biogeochemistry interact to control carbon in headwater streams will help scientists understand the role of streams in the global carbon budget.  [Read More...]

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