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

Often around this time of year, I’ll get a question from a small woodland owner asking whether it’s worth the trouble to try to water their newly planted tree seedlings. My standard reply has always been “No”.  Of course, in most cases, it’s not even a practical consideration, because the logistical challenges of delivering water to hundreds, if not thousands of seedlings on steep or rough terrain far from any water source far outweigh any potential benefits.  I also point out that our Douglas-fir trees are adapted to withstand dry summers. After all, millions of Douglas-fir trees are planted each year in Oregon, and most of them make it without any supplemental water. And, I know one or two woodland owners who have watered trees that they were concerned about, only to have them die anyway.

But this year, after fielding the question of watering young trees again, I started to think a little more about my standard answer. After all, all signs are pointing another drought year. Scientists predict that summers in the Pacific Northwest are only going to get hotter and drier in the future.  In light of these factors it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question. Continue reading

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

Last week I attended Forest Health: State of the State, a biannual conference put on by OSU College of Forestry. A packed agenda covered insects, diseases, fire, drought, invasive species, climate change, and other topics. I always look forward to this meeting as an opportunity to brush up on my knowledge of these issues. The speakers came from various backgrounds, representing the many forest ecosystems and ownership types we have across the state, and the audience was equally diverse. With that in mind, I’ve tried to distill the takeaways from the conference that seem most relevant to small woodland ownerships in northwest Oregon.

ODF conducts an annual insect and disease aerial survey. Click on the image to be taken to a short video from the air.

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

I don’t need to tell you it’s hot out there today. (Oops! I just did. Sorry.) temp 7.31.15

Between the extreme heat and the very real fire danger, it’s not a good afternoon to be working in the woods.  Rarely do I say I’d rather be in the office than in the field, but today is one of those days that I’m appreciating the air conditioning.

Since everyone is talking about the weather anyhow, it seems appropriate to share some reading material that relates to it, which you can enjoy in the comfort of whatever cool spot you’ve found today.  Oregon Forests and Climate Change is the subject of a little writing project which a number of my Extension colleagues have taken on as a group. Continue reading

Feel like spring to you? It did to me earlier this week on a sunny walk in the woods. I spotted new leaves on many of our native shrubs, including Indian plum, huckleberry, elderberry, red flowering currant and salmonberry. These caught my attention particularly because I’ve just started dipping a toe in a new project – tracking phenology of a couple of our forest plant species through the National Phenology Network’s Nature’s Notebook. Continue reading

(If you missed them, here’s Part 1 and Part 2. Now for the final installment…)

Coweeta and other LTERs have all kinds of equipment which continuously monitor and record temperature, precipitation, stream flow, water chemistry, and so forth, and thus have compiled valuable long-term records.

This is one of the meteorological stations at H.J. Andrews forest, but the one at Coweeta looks pretty much the same. Photo by Al Levno

At Coweeta, these records date back to 1934, and two climate trends are evident from the data that’s been collected since then. First, there’s been an upward trend in temperature since around 1980 (before that, there was no discernible trend). Second, with respect to rainfall, the wettest years have been getting wetter, and the driest years have been getting drier. They collect data on rainfall chemistry too; and interestingly, they started seeing a sharp drop in sulfate concentrations around 1990 – coincident with the passage of the Clean Air Act which was enacted in response to sulfur dioxide deposition (a.k.a. acid rain).

The biggest takeaway I left Coweeta with was an appreciation for the value and power of long-term observation. Forests grow slowly, and so we need to be really patient if we want to understand how they work. This is one of the reasons why the network of LTER sites across the country is so valuable.

This leads to some further musings. One, as a family forest landowner, you probably don’t have access to fancy monitoring equipment, or a Ph.D. scientist (or two or three) for hire. However, you do have a place that you observe on a fairly regular basis and you and your family may have a long-term connection to that place. Your observations, and more importantly your recording of your observations, have power. You can monitor changes on your property for your own purposes – wildlife sightings, stream changes – whatever fits your interests. For example, if you attend the upcoming June 23rd tour at Hyla Woods, you’ll learn how the host family has been monitoring birds in different forest types on their property for years.

Additionally, there are opportunities to contribute your locally collected data to larger networks to help scientists understand long-term and large-scale patterns of change. Some examples include the National Phenology Network, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), and the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline.

The final thought – partly because nature is full of long-term processes, our scientific understanding evolves over time, and sometimes what seems like a pattern or a clear result in the short term turns out to be different in the long term. I suppose that’s why forest management practices are based on the “best available science” of the time, but as time passes we might revisit and revise what is considered a best management practice. If those scientists who planted the pine watershed at Coweeta had stopped their experiment after ten years, they would have come to false conclusions about different tree species’ water use. And if climate scientists looked at trends over just a decade or two, they would certainly also miss the big picture.