This presentation is about how I rationalize and implement the integration of early seral habitats with restoration of old growth forest. I will explain with more detail later, but, early seral habitat management is entwined with old growth because… About 97% of my district is managed for older forest, and I think early seral habitats are important elements of old growth forest I will begin with goals and laws that guide wildlife management on FS administered lands, then talk about desired conditions and treatment prescriptions that attempt to meet these goals and laws.
When I say “early seral” in this presentation, I mean grasses, forbs, shrubs, or hardwood trees. I do not mean conifer trees.
I think my job as a district wildlife biologist is more than “keeping the decision maker out of trouble,” it’s about finding ways to meet FS goals for wildlife while helping the district meet all of it’s other goals.
Forest Service Mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations
Laws require the FS to maintain ecosystem health, diversity, and productivity by supporting recovery of threatened or endangered species and… supporting at least viable populations of all native and desired non-native species
These are the same laws that led to the Northwest Forest Plan, and they are the same laws that the FS needs to continue embracing, and adapting its management as time and science reveal the need for change.
Attaining FS wildlife goals requires a variety of habitats, which support a variety of species. The FS cannot meet its legal obligations to the American people if it does not maintain a variety of habitats across it’s landscapes
Improvement of ecosystem diversity and productivity relates to restoring and maintaining biological and physical processes within their natural range of variability
Many ecologists agree that the most important measure of ecosystem health is the abundance and distribution of seral stages. This table compares natural range of variability for seral stages with existing seral stages. Focus on Early seral and Old growth. Early seral’s nrv was 12-29%, existing condition is 4%, thus - compared to nrv, existing condition is 8-25% less. Old growth is 25-48% less than historic levels.
Ecosystem health on my district is not what it should be; there is hardly any old growth forest, Early seral habitats are disappearing, mature forest is extremely fragmented, there are too many dense monoculture conifer stands, and streams lack complexity. My district has four species threatened with extinction because of these conditions
The Siuslaw National Forest has three threatened wildlife species affected by low amounts of old growth and early seral habitats; two are associated with old growth forest and one is associated with meadows
A number of other species associated with early seral habitats are also declining: Populations of western bluebird, Rufus hummingbird, Pacific slope flycatcher, and Orange crowned warbler have seen better days due to declining abundance of nectar plants, deciduous shrubs, and deciduous hardwoods.
Clearly, there is a need for more old growth and early seral forest, but what can I do about this? I can propose projects, but I need more than general goals. I need measurable stand-scale goals that can be used for treatment prescriptions
In the temperate rain forest of the Oregon Coast Range, stand-scale habitat condition is very much about which plants get the light. For prescriptions, I need measureable goals that can be implemented, such as how many trees per acre and which species get the light, and how much light gets through the canopy. These stand-scale goals also need to be consistent with current land allocations.
This map shows land allocations for my District. Land allocations have specific goals. Basically, the areas where forest management occurs on my district are Late Successional Reserve, Riparian Reserve, or Matrix. The goal of Late Successional Reserve – purple on this map - is to provide habitat for species associated with mature or old growth forest habitats. Matrix - in green - is the only allocation where programmed timber management is a goal. The goal of Riparian Reserve – shown on the next map – is conservation of aquatic resources; such as water quality and fish. Currently RR are managed primarily for older forest. 97% of areas where forest management occurs on my district is allocated to older forest management
This map shows Riparian Reserve with blue, LSR is purple, and Matrix is green. Since most of the Siuslaw National Forest is now managed for older forest, my principal option for trying to attain FS wildlife goals is through restoration of old growth forest.
What are the measureable stand scale goals for restoring old growth forest? Old growth has really big live and dead trees, but how many? What else is important in old growth forest habitat? Can I do anything about early seral habitats while restoring old growth forest habitat?
Giant old trees is the most diagnostic feature of old growth, but it’s not the only desired characteristic
Old growth also has large cavities and large limbs. These trees are ~ 8 ft dbh and receive light throughout the day.
Another desired characteristic of old growth forest is large cavities with spotted owls Large cavity in side of Df. Juvenile in the cavity and female on guard.
And large limbs with marbled murrelets
Old growth forest also has large hardwood trees, grasses, forbs, shrubs, and smaller trees. These are all elements of early seral forest habitat. I think early seral habitat is an essential element of old growth forest stands.
This stand is more than 300 years old and contains many trees that are over 8 feet in diameter. It also contains patches of early seral habitats – pale green on the slide Point out the OG stand and the early seral patches
Outline the old growth stand and point out plantations and mature forest Notice the gaps between large trees and the early seral vegetation – palest green color on photo
point out old growth, mature forest, and plantations Notice the gaps between large trees and the amount of early seral vegetation – palest green color on photo Orange polygon is one acre. This old growth stand has about 8 tpa and a lot of gaps with early seral forest
This slide compares trees per acre of different forest conditions. Notice the different crown diameters Also notice the lack of gaps in the mature forest except along the streams. Mature forest is not old growth. Mature forest on my district has trees up to 40-45” dbh, but not many have large limbs or cavities and there are very few gaps with large hardwoods in these stands.
This is a study area that taught me a lot about what happens with different thinning densities. Notice the hardwoods between the conifers in the area thinned to 30 tpa. The 30 tpa area looks a bit like old growth from the air because of the hardwoods and the large crown diameters.
Another old-growth-like pattern of overstory conifers with middle-story hardwoods. Note the bright green alder and low density of overstory conifers where the burn reduced tpa below 40 tpa.
Long-term, the desired condition for old growth forest is about 10 overstory conifer trees per acre (tpa), 5-10 large dead trees, about 4-19 large hardwood tpa, with a diverse understory containing grasses, forbs, shrubs, and young trees
Short -term desired stand conditions for restoring old growth forest are Retain enough overstory conifers and hardwoods trees to make it to old growth condition Develop large limbs and cavities, and… Some other considerations
Minimize adverse effects and maximize beneficial effects to animals of concern
Other Rx considerations: Avoid removal or degradation of northern spotted owl or marbled murrelet habitat Stands less than 80 years old are generally NOT suitable habitat for the northern spotted owl, and retaining at least 40% cc should retain dispersal habitat for northern spotted owls.
Hasten development of nesting structure for northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet: Give a few trees a lot of room to grow fat and have large limbs
Other Rx considerations: Increase amount of food available to northern spotted owls Two important prey animals for northern spotted owls are flying squirrels and woodrats, and both need elements of early seral habitats.
Other Rx considerations: Provide for the needs of species associated with dead wood Jackson and Jackson (2004) Jackson, J.A.; Jackson B.J.S. 2004. Ecological relationships between fungi and woodpecker cavity sites. Condor 106:37-49.
Maintain viability of species associated with grass, forb, shrub, and hardwood habitats
When overstory canopies close, Diameter growth slows, and large limbs and early seral habitats fade away It’s useful to understand what the effects of different retention levels will have on desired conditions. Canopies close when… 60 Douglas-fir per acre are about 20-25” dbh 40 Douglas-fir are 30-35” dbh 13 Douglas-fir are about 90” dbh Evenly spaced conifers will eliminate nearly all large limbs and hardwood trees when canopies close. I’ve reviewed a number of stands where large limbs capable of supporting nesting marbled murrelets were reported. In nearly all cases, the limbs large enough for murrelet nesting were dead, and they were dead because surrounding trees took light away from the needles keeping the large limbs alive.
These are the other major FS goals that are integrated into projects.
Rx: Short-term desired conditions Treat stands less than 80 years old Keep at least 40% canopy cover in the majority of stands Promote development of Large conifer and hardwood trees Large tree cavities, snags, and down wood Grasses, forbs, and shrubs Create down wood and snags Produce economically viable timber sales Use some funds from sale of timber to create dead wood, maintain meadows, improve water quality, and implement other restoration projects
The following few slides list Rx elements that are combined to create specific prescriptions for each unit We retain hardwoods and use three basic ranges of conifer retention. Prescribed retention levels are based mostly on stand age and whether road access will remain after this thinning entry. Heavier thinning retains 40-50 tpa and happens in older stands or stands where road access will be eliminated for water quality or other reasons. Moderate thinning retains 50-60 tpa and happens in 30-40 year old stands where road access will remain. Light thinning happens in the youngest stands where road access will remain. We also use light thinning where we are concerned about windthrow risk.
These “release” Rxs kill competing trees around the trees identified for release. Intent is to grow large diameter trees with large limbs. Limb size is a function of trunk size; big limbs can only grow from big trunks. This huge limb would die if tall conifers were close enough to take the light away from it.
Conifers will grow to about twice the height of big-leaf maple, so big-leaf maple require a lot of room to prosper. This tree is losing a lot of light to the conifers around it; notice the large dead limb on the lower left. It may not be possible to release this particular tree because the culprits taking the light are adjacent to a stream that has threatened Coho salmon.
Prescription 7—Create canopy gaps that are ¼ - 1 acre in size. Create about half of the gaps during harvest Half with post-harvest dead wood creation. Plant gaps to increase species diversity with western hemlock, western red cedar, and native hardwoods. This example stand was thinned and a small gap created about 4 years before photo was taken, and the gap-size was increased with dead wood creation about 1 year before photo Notice the amount of shrub development
This is an example of a five acre meadow created about 1995 with clear-cutting, hot burning, and seeding. The alder did well with the seed bed created by burning. Meadows require frequent disturbances that control encroaching plants. Other aspects of meadow Rxs are: Create all meadow openings during harvest operations Preferred shape is linear and up and down the hill on ridges (to get more light); generally on less than 40 percent slope Locate meadows at least 100 feet away from stream channels, floodplains, and headwalls Locate 200 feet from other meadows or gaps in the stand to limit effective opening size in LSR. Limit meadow presence in stands to less than 15 percent of the total area thinned
Aerial view of created opening. Thinned, burned, and seeded with native grass in about 2007 or 2008
Example is a temporary road seeded with native grass about 4 years before photo. No underburning
down wood, snags, and cavity development trees are clumped together with 10-40 trees per clump, and clumps are distributed across each thinning unit. About ¼ of the trees treated should remain alive. Dead wood Rxs are quite complicated in order to maximize benefits for wildlife and to avoid impacts to water quality and human safety on roads, but the main objective is to create dead wood in concentrations that minimize energy expenditures for dependant species, and to open the canopy more to promote early seral habitat elements with dead wood.
High quality old growth contains early seral habitat elements, and its easy to justify and create small patches of early seral habitat in young stands if desired condition is old growth forest. But it will not be easy to maintain early seral habitats in these stands over time as overstory conifers continue to grow and expand their crowns. This will be especially difficult after stands are over 80 years old in LSR. Periodic disturbances are necessary to maintain early seral habitats and other elements of biological complexity that are needed to restore old growth forest habitat.
A variety of habitats need maintained in order to reach FS goals for species viability. FS species viability goals need reached in order to accomplish the FS mission of maintaining healthy ecosystems that meet the needs of people. Healthy ecosystems = species viability = habitat diversity = disturbance
Healthy ecosystems require disturbances to maintain the variety of habitats that species need. Fire was the primary disturbance historically, but this is not a reasonable large-scale option today. So, we’re left with artificial disturbances that are very controlled compared to natural disturbances.
If we are serious about restoring old growth forest and healthy ecosystems, Then we need to be serious about maintaining early seral habitats on our landscapes and within our stands. We need to be serious about retaining hardwood trees, not just a few little token trees, but many large dominant big leaf maple, alder, Oregon ash, etc. We need to recognize that periodic disturbances that kill some overstory trees are absolutely necessary to maintain healthy ecosystems
If we are serious about managing healthy ecosystems for people… Then we need to remember people, especially local communities, when managing for healthy ecosystems. The FS helps restore ecosystem health and helps meet the needs of current and future generations by adding early seral and other habitat elements to young stands by speeding restoration of old growth forest and by providing jobs in the timber and restoration industries.
Existing amount of
FS land in a typical
Early – grass, forb,
pole (<30 years
8 – 25% less
Young (30-80 years
25-41% more than
8-24% more than
Old Growth (>200
•We have four species threatened withWe have four species threatened with
extinction because of these conditionsextinction because of these conditions
The Siuslaw National Forest has three
threatened wildlife species affected by low
amounts of these habitats; two are associated
with old growth forest and one is associated
with native coastal meadows
Northern spotted owl
forb and shrub nectar plants
Pacific slope flycatcher: deciduous hardwoods
shrubs & trees
early seral with
I can propose projects, but I need more than
I need measurable stand-scale goals that can be
used for treatment prescriptions.
97% of areas where
occurs on Central
Coast RD –
allocated to older
97% of areas where
occurs on Central
Coast RD –
allocated to older
Old growth has really big live and dead trees,
but how many?
What else is important in old growth forest
Can I do anything about early seral habitats
while restoring old growth forest habitat?
Planted 1963. Commercially thinned about 1995 to
about 40 tpa, meadow created, and underburned.
Desired condition for old
growth forest is about 10
overstory conifer trees per acre
(tpa), large dead wood, about 4-
19 large hardwood tpa, and
diverse understory (grasses,
forbs, shrubs, young trees)
Enough overstory conifers and hardwoods
trees to make it to old growth condition
Large limb and cavity development
Protect nesting northern spotted owls, marbled
murrelets, and bald eagles.
Thin stands less than 80
years old, and retain at
least 40% canopy cover.
trees greater than 50” dbh
with large cavities or
Flying squirrel: big leaf maple, mycorrhizal fungi,
and tree cavities
Woodrat: shrubs and hardwood trees
Other species eaten by northern spotted owls that
are associated with early seral habitat: cottontail
rabbit, chipmunk, certain voles
Canopies close when…
• 60 Douglas-fir per acre are about 20-25” dbh
• 40 Douglas-fir are 30-35” dbh
• 13 Douglas-fir are about 90” dbh
Maintain viability of fish and plant species
Provide diverse opportunities for esthetic,
consumptive, and scientific uses of fish, wildlife,
and plants (FSM 2602).
Protect water quality…(FSM 2522.02).
Protect cultural and heritage resources (FSM 2361).
Develop safe, cost-effective fire management
activities …(FSM 5102).
Provide economic, especially timber, as well as
recreation opportunities for people (FSM 2411.02,
2302, and 2602).
Treat stands less than 80 years old
Keep at least 40% canopy cover in majority of
Promote development of
Large conifer and hardwood trees
Large tree cavities, snags, and down wood
Grasses, forbs, and shrubs
Create down wood and snags
Produce economically viable timber sales
Use some funds from sale of timber to create dead
wood, maintain meadows, improve water quality,
and implement other restoration projects