By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties

Insects – they can get a bad rap.  Many of our humankind categorically view them as pests – agents of uncleanliness, nuisance, or destruction. Sure, it’s hard to appreciate houseflies, ticks, mosquitos and yellow jackets, but the vast majority of them – nearly 100,000 known insect species in the U.S. alone –are simply going about their business and doing no harm to us. Many are even providing services that we take for granted such as disposing of detritus and cycling nutrients.

Larval galleries of wood boring insects in a dead ponderosa pine tree

The same goes for insects in the forest. We in Extension receive many photos and samples brought to us from people who suspect that insects are killing their trees. However, I’m here to tell you that if you have a dead or dying tree, then chances are that even though it is full of insects and their tunnels, it’s usually a case of correlation, not causation. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties. 

 

We have written about forest diversity, its importance in providing habitat for different species, or a species at different seasons or at different stages of its development.  We have addressed the forest, trees and shrubs in particular, but the importance of habitat diversity applies to other parts of the forest environment too.  Like streams.

Guillermo Giannico discusses aquatic habitats along Griffith Creek, Benton Count.

We learned about the importance of having different stream habitats to support fish, insects and other aquatic life while on a recent Extension tour.    A stream can have many types of habitat.  The anatomy of a stream (the stream’s morphology) can be described in terms that are familiar to anglers: pools, riffles, glides, bars and tail outs.  Each term describes a different combination of water depth and flow that together provide a type of habitat.  You can see and often hear this:  Some parts are quiet (pool and glide), some gurgle their presence to those nearby (a riffle), while falls and a plunge pools announce themselves at a distance.  Aquatic biologists get excited about streams with a good mix of these habitats in a stream reach, just as wildlife biologists get excited by forest structure and snags.  Hmm.  Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties. 

I was recently on a tour where we looked at how growing conditions, productivity and plant communities all change across the landscape according to elevation, soils, rainfall, aspect and other factors.  These are often included in the term “site productivity”.  These factors give important insights to the ability of a site to support different types of plants, and also how well they will grow there.  This capacity to produce biomass, or support tree growth is often expressed in the important forestry concept of site class as described in this article.

There is something odd about this rock….

We traveled from near the crest of the Coast Range back to the Valley floor to watch changes in site class and vegetation.  Our final stop was a rock sitting on a small hill beside a vineyard in Yamhill County, looking out across the Willamette Valley.

It is a large rock (about 90 tons), unrelated to any of the bedrock of the hill.  This rock helps tell a story of events during the last ice age that shaped the Willamette valley and its historic vegetation.  It influences the present, largely agricultural, vegetation as well. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties

If you’ve ever been out on a field tour with a bunch of foresters, you probably heard one of them use the term “site productivity” in describing a particular forest, or comparing two different forests. But to the person without a lot of formal forestry background, site productivity may be a vague concept at best. However, it is an underlying attribute that turns out to explain a lot of what we observe in our forests: what types of trees thrive, which seem to have problems, what amount of competition our seedlings face, and more. So let’s take a closer look at site productivity. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

The woods are full of living things, all contributing to the forest’s diversity: Trees; check. Shrubs; check. Woodland flowers; check. Birds; check. Obvious enough, right?
But there are all sorts of less-obvious things which are seen only occasionally, such as mushrooms (fungus), many often-tiny things like insects, or secretive things such as amphibians. All add to the diversity, and many play important roles in how a forest functions
Let’s take a look at some more obscure but fascinating members of the forest community: lichens. We’ve all seen them. They are everywhere, including your woods. But what is a lichen? Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

A bumblebee on a lavender flower. Photo credit: David Cappaert, bugwood.org.

The health of insect pollinators is an issue of increasing concern and attention.  Both managed bees (honeybees) and native bees face various threats, including diseases, chemical use, and loss of suitable habitat. While pollinators can include other insects (flies, butterflies, etc.), bees are considered some of the most important. Without healthy bee populations, many flowering crops we humans depend on would not flourish; and native ecosystems that other animals depend on would be impaired.

Because many individuals and organizations are interested in protecting and conserving bees in Oregon, the Oregon Bee Project came into being in order to be a clearinghouse of information, a facilitator of bee conservation and education initiatives. Last week the Oregon Bee Project hosted the PNW Pollinator Summit in Corvallis, a two-day conference designed to bring together researchers, Extension, non-profits, and other groups that are involved in pollinator conservation. I got to attend and was especially interested in the presentations and field trip focused on forests and forestry. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension  agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In a previous post , I wrote about the value of roads for a woodland owner, as well as the responsibly to maintain roads to protect their value as well as our water resources.  Many family forest landowners have older, “legacy” roads.  These older roads were likely not built to today’s engineering standards, have lost some of their function over time, so are deserving of some attention and stewardship.

So what does that involve?

It likely begins with observation.  Make it a habit to get out and inspect your road system regularly.  Since water is a key element and force causing damage to roads, get out in the wet season.  Bring paper, make notes and keep them as a reminder of what you saw and did.

When on your walk, you should be looking for signs of drainage issues:  Water standing on the road, trapped water running down the road forming ruts, and water pooling in the uphill road ditch all indicate drainage issues that may leader to bigger more damaging (more expensive) problems. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension  agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Roads are an important asset for a woodland owner.  Roads give access to the woods by foot and or vehicle, for some or all of the year.  This allows for recreation, management activities such as planting, weed control or harvest, and also fire protection.  Roads are an important piece of a property’s infrastructure along with buildings or ponds, and represent a significant financial investment.

Like other assets such as your house, car, pond or barn, roads need to be maintained to keep their practical values noted above, as well as value of investment.  But in contrast to the buildings or other infrastructure on your property,  with a road, a woodland owner takes on some legal responsibilities to maintain them.  That is because, for all their benefits to a landowner, road systems also have the potential to do significant harm to the environment by creating barriers to fish passage or allowing erosion and delivery of sediment to streams. A forest landowner is expected to keep roads in good repair to prevent such harm to the environment.  The type, timing and intensity of maintenance will depend on the type of road, location, construction and its use:  A rock road used to haul logs down a valley in the winter is very different from a dirt road along a ridge with light seasonal use. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington, & Yamhill Counties

We’ve discussed ongoing drought stress a number of times on this blog.  But when do we consider it dry enough to be called a drought?  There’s actually a system for that. The United States Drought Monitor updates and releases a national map each week, showing which areas of the country are experiencing drought, and how extreme the conditions are.  A variety of data sources go into their models, which I won’t begin to explain here, but their website has a lot of good information on how they determine drought conditions. In fact, all the data and visual tools on the Drought Monitor website feed the data geek in me; so if you like this sort of thing I encourage you to check it out.

If it seems like this blog has been a broken record stuck on the drought track the last few years, you’re not imagining things. But today, I want to highlight that in northwest Oregon we begin 2019 in a state of Moderate Drought, according to the Drought Monitor (see figure below; click to enlarge), even though we are in the midst of the rainy season. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Foresty & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Holly foliage usually (but not always) has sharp, prickly lobes.

Rid your land of English holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Tis the season to spot holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

When all the other leaves are gone

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Holly’s deep green stands out strong

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Ok, there’s a good reason I didn’t become a songwriter. The point I want to make, though, is that this is a great time of year to scout your woodland for a common and nefarious invasive plant: English holly. It stays green all year long, so now that herbaceous plants have died back and other shrubs have lost their leaves, it’s easier to spot. Continue reading