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.
Studying 50 Years of Vegetation Change
The abundant herb and shrub communities that develop after disturbances, such as logging or burning, are drawing increasing attention as critical habitats for many invertebrates, birds, and other animals. Permanent vegetation plots established by Ted Dyrness in 1962, in two clearcut and burned watersheds of the Andrews Forest, provide the longest, most detailed records of changes in understory vegetation as these systems revert to closed-canopy forests. In a recent publication, Charlie Halpern (University of Washington) and Jim Lutz (Utah State) observed that over three decades of measurement in Watersheds 1 and 3, tree cover increased fourfold, and biomass more than two orders of magnitude. Surprisingly, during the same period, understory species richness and cover declined an average of only 30-40% and, in many plots, there was no evidence of a decline. For plots that declined in richness or cover, the decrease was largely attributable to loss of early-seral species, such as fireweed and ceanothus, that established soon after disturbance. In contrast, forest understory species that survived disturbance, persisted despite closure of the tree canopy. These findings run counter to a common perception that trees exert strong controls on understory vegetation during canopy closure. They also highlight the importance of long-term studies for elucidating patterns and processes that cannot be understood from short-term experiments or space-for-time substitutions.
The paper, "Canopy closure exerts weak controls on understory dynamics: a 30-year study of overstory-understory interactions" was published in Ecological Monographs, 83(2), 2013, pp 221-237.
As data flow, scientists advocate for quality control
As sensor networks revolutionize ecological data collection by making it possible to collect high frequency information from remote areas in real time, scientists with the U.S. Forest Service are advocating for automated quality control and quality assurance standards that will make that data reliable.
In an article published recently in the journal Bioscience, research ecologists John Campbell and Lindsey Rustad of the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station and colleagues make a case for incorporating automated quality control and quality assurance procedures in sensor networks. The article, "Quantity is Nothing without Quality: Automated QA/QC for Streaming Environmental Sensor Data," is available at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/43678
Note that Don Henshaw from the Andrews LTER is a co-author on the publication.
Researchers Track Arrival of Spring
Researchers at the Andrews Forest are tracking the arrival of spring by watching bud break in native plants. Phenocams, weather-proof cameras positioned in the field, help researchers track bud break over a wide area at a daily interval. They also can help scale up from ground observations to monitoring through satellite imagery. Comparisons of the timing of bud break from site to site and year to year can tell scientists about microclimate drivers and trends over time. Phenology observations across trophic levels may help us understand more about the effects of climate change on ecosystems. More information on this project at the Andrews Forest can be found on our Phenology pages (http://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/research/lter6/current.cfm?pid=55&topnav=244)
Nitrogen Trends in Reference Watersheds
A cross-site collaborative study from the Andrews Forest and seven other Experimental Forests (4 of which are LTER sites) compared water quality trends in forested streams across the country that are largely undisturbed by land use or land cover changes.
The researchers analyzed 559 years of stream nitrate and 523 years of stream ammonium data from 22 streams in 7 experimental forests across the country. They found that even these near-pristine forested streams are subject to change, as stream nitrate has declined in the Pacific Northwest, in the Northeast, and in Puerto Rico, but has increased in the Mountain West and the South. They also observed that, within a forest, trends were not always in sync—at some sites, two streams within an experimental forest had opposing trends for the same type of nitrogen for the same period of time, suggesting that the controls on stream nitrogen concentrations may vary among and within sites.
The study's findings are summarized in an online video available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/1/014039
The work was also recently featured in Phys.Org: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-explores-long-term-quality-trends-near-pristine.html
Andrews Forest Children's Book, Ellie's Log
"Ellie's Log, Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell" by Judith L. Li. Illustrations by M. L. Herring.
Ages 9-12 (Grades 4-6). Companion Teacher's Guide. Color Illustrations. 112 pages.
Publication date April 1, 2013
After a huge tree crashes to the ground during a winter storm, ten-year-old Ellie and her new friend, Ricky, explore the forest where Ellie lives. Together, they learn how trees provide habitat for plants and animals high in the forest canopy, down among mossy old logs, and deep in the pools of a stream. The plants, insects, birds, and mammals they discover come to life in colored pen-and-ink drawings.
The forest and animals described in Ellie's Log are based on those found at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest.
An engaging blend of science and storytelling, Ellie’s Log also features:
• Pages from Ellie’s own field notebook, which provide a model for recording observations in nature
• Ellie’s advice to readers for keeping a field notebook
• Ellie's book recommendations
• Online resources for readers and teachers—including a Teacher’s Guide—are available at www.ellieslog.org.
See the Ellie's Log Trailer
Art and writing from the Ecological Reflections program will be displayed in Washington, D.C., at the National Science Foundation Offices with an opening associated with the annual Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Mini Symposium. Works created by 39 artists and writers depict the world of 11 of the 26 Long-Term Ecological Research sites, including the Andrews Forest. The items on display include paintings, fiber art, poetry, prose, and sculpture; the creators’ intents range from simple, personal expression to public outreach. The LTER Mini Symposium is hosted by the National Science Foundation and includes attendees from other agencies and entities in the DC area, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the US Forest Service, and the National Park Service. The exhibit opens February 28, 2013, and runs through mid-June. For more about the Arts and Humanities programs at the Andrews Forest LTER, see http://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/lter/research/related/writers.cfm?topnav=167 . The Ecological Reflections network of 20 sites is described at: www.ecologicalreflections.com.
Bark beetle galleries on the side of a log in Lookout Creek at the Andrews Forest inspired this painting by Eugene artist Leah Wilson during her 2012 Artist-in-Residence visit. Gouache on paper. For more of Leah’s work see: http://leahwilson.com
GREENHouse at the Andrews Forest. Seeking Support.
The GREEN House is a 2200-sq-ft residence building which will house visiting scientists, scholars, writers, and artists, and the Forest Director. The building design incorporates careful attention to energy efficiency, including monitoring to assess energy use and loss. Thus, the building will be valued for its utility and as a learning opportunity.
Throughout the winter we will be focusing on interior finishing and installation of systems to monitor the building environment and energy use. Soon we will be streaming monitoring data and posting other performance and educational materials on our website. To attain our ultimate goal of net zero energy, we continue to explore photovoltaic and solar water heating options.
The Andrews Forest needs your support for finish work and to suitably outfit the building with furniture, appliances, and alternative energy systems. Please consider being part of this exciting project by making a donation to the Andrews Forest Fund at the OSU Foundation. Call 541-737-8480 or make a donation online. Thank you!
Michael Nelson wins gold at 2012 All-Scientist Meeting
Andrews Forest new PI, Michael Nelson, brings down the house with his 2-Minute Lightning Round about the Andrews Forest and brings home the grand trophy from the 2012 LTER All-Scientist Meeting. The trophy will be engraved with "Andrews Forest" and will remain at the Andrews until the next ASM 2015. The Andrews wins the inaugural competition and sets the bar high for 2015. The 2-Minute Lightning Round was a chance for site PI's to describe their sites and site research in 2-minutes or less. Michael donned a Lorax hat and described the Andrews Forest with the following poetic rendition of "We are the Andrews" - (View video)
Automated Monitoring of Bird Songs
Researchers at Oregon State University have created a new computer technology to listen to multiple bird sounds at one time, to identify which species are present and how they may be changing as a result of habitat loss or climate change. The system, one of the first of its type, should provide an automated approach to ecological monitoring of bird species that is much more practical than a human sitting in the field, hours on end.
Much of the initial bird song recording and analysis for this project was performed by researchers at the Andrews Forest, including graduate students Forrest Briggs and Sarah Hadley, and Assistant Professor Matthew Betts.
Maddy Case on Bunchgrass Ridge
In May 2011, Maddy Case ’12, an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major earning a certificate in environmental studies, received the Becky Colvin Memorial Award from PEI. The award was established in 1995 by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Colvin in memory of their daughter, Becky Colvin ’95. Becky was an ecology and evolutionary biology major who was very interested in field research. The annual fund supports summer environmental field research projects following the junior year, in support of the senior thesis. Last summer Maddy conducted research for her senior thesis in Oregon under the mentorship of Charlie Halpern at Bunchgrass Ridge.