Archive for the ‘Forests’ Category

Look up! It’s the forest canopy (Part 2)

June 20, 2014
Forest canopy at Deception Pass

Forest canopy at Deception Pass. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

The canopy layer in the forest—the interacting tree crowns that create a remarkable maze of three-dimensional spaces between and on the branches—is a habitat niche with specialized functions for many species of wildlife. The surfaces of these branches and leaves provide shelter and food for a wide variety of arboreal (forest canopy inhabiting) mammals, birds and insects.

Arboreal mammals

Truly arboreal mammals are not as numerous as bird species, but are important members of the forest wildlife ecosystem. Our native conifer squirrels are the Douglas and red squirrels (members of the genus Tamiasciurus), locally known as chickarees. These two species are actually very similar, but occupy different habitat regions. Douglas squirrels are associated with wetter, westside type forests dominated by Douglas fir and hemlock. Red squirrels live on the drier and colder east side, as well as in Rocky Mountain forest types we have in Northeast Washington. Both are common and important mammal species directly tied to the forest canopy as conifer specialists, actively harvesting and caching cones each year. Who among us woods walkers hasn’t been scolded by one of these little dervishes?

Fungi (mushrooms), which help trees grow by adding root absorptive surface to trees, is food for squirrels. The squirrels spread spores throughout the forest through their feces. Flying squirrels occupy a similar niche, but work the night shift, often foraging on the ground for mushrooms to cache. For this reason, flying, Douglas and red squirrels can be considered keystone species in forest ecosystems, e.g., species whose presence has far-reaching impacts. These squirrels need canopy to provide hiding places and food, but also need down logs for cache sites, and woody cavities in snags for denning. Habitat for these squirrels also includes low branches for resting and eating cones dropped to the ground.

Caring for the Canopy    (more…)

Look up! It’s the forest canopy (Part 1)

June 19, 2014
Mature forest canopy, Upper Skagit River

Mature forest canopy, Upper Skagit River drainage. Ken Bevis/DNR

When we walk in the forest, we are dazzled and soothed by the leaves and needles of the trees above and around us. These surfaces — the photosynthetic factory of the forest — gather sunlight and pull carbon from the air to build themselves and all of the organisms that depend on trees.

When trees reach into the sky to form a canopy layer in the forest, the interacting crowns create a remarkable maze of three-dimensional spaces between and on the branches. The surfaces of these branches and leaves, known as the canopy, can be considered a habitat niche with specialized functions for many species of wildlife. Animals that live in trees — “arboreal” species — feed on the cones and seeds that trees produce. The surfaces of needles and branches also are home for insects, and hunting grounds for their predators. This complex habitat contains varying opportunities for wildlife to make a living by hunting insects, eating lichens, gathering seeds, or other taking specialized actions.

Birds in the canopy

Birds are the most obvious species to utilize this habitat niche, with rich varieties showing up at different times of the year. Some are resident, remaining in the same, or nearby, habitats year around, while others are migratory. Many of our migratory birds come back from the neo-tropics (that is, Central America and even South America) for breeding season, and return south in the fall.       (more…)

What good is a cottonwood tree anyway? (Part 2)

June 17, 2014
Black cottonwood

Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) is the largest of the American poplars and the largest hardwood tree in western North America. Photo: University of Washington

Today, we conclude yesterday’s blog, “What good is a cottonwood tree?”

What good is a cottonwood tree?There can be many reasons to dislike cottonwoods — low timber value, low BTUs of energy for firewood  use, and they can crowd out and shade new conifer plantations. But there are many reasons that these large poplars can be worthy additions to the landscape.

For starters it seems like every browsing and gnawing animal thrives on young cottonwood twigs, bark, cambium, and leaves. This includes a host of insects as well as the predatory birds and mammals that feed on them. Obviously, the water-loving cottonwood does well in riparian environments and, consequently, so do beaver, which use cottonwood for food, dam, and lodge building.

Being a deciduous species, cottonwood will root and stump-sprout when felled. Rabbits and hares feed extensively on cottonwood shoots and small stems; deer, elk, and moose are particularly fond of them as well. Ruffed grouse and poplar trees go hand-in-hand. Cottonwoods have large naked terminal buds that develop and persist through the winter months. During high snow events, grouse literally survive in those trees, roosting at night and feeding on these highly nutritious buds during the day.

The older large cottonwoods make excellent nest platforms for a variety of predatory birds. Eagles and ospreys commonly select large branches or broken-top cottonwoods as platforms for nest construction. Eagles frequently use cottonwoods for night roosts and for hunting perches. Great horned owls will commandeer other bird and squirrel nest platforms in cottonwoods and use them as their nest sites, as will red-tailed hawks.

In drier environments, cottonwoods will be relegated to stream bottoms and are often the only large tree for long distances. In these environments, turkeys (in particular the Rio Grande subspecies) select cottonwoods for night roosts. Without suitable night roosts some flocks of turkeys would likely disappear.       (more…)

What good is a cottonwood tree anyway? (part 1)

June 16, 2014
Black cottonwood

Black cottonwood tree (also called western cottonwood). Photo: David Powerll/U.S. Forest Service. bugwood.org

Here at DNR we often talk about trees in terms of their value for habitat as well as for revenue to state trust land beneficiaries, such as public schools, state universities, many counties, and others. Then there are the trees whose main value is for habitat and beauty. Cottonwoods fall squarely into this latter category.

Cottonwoods aren’t worth much on the timber market, they can crowd out and shade new conifer plantations, and they don’t have many BTUs of energy for firewood use. They sprout when and where they aren’t wanted and form impenetrable stands. They can clog septic drain fields. They are notorious for breaking apart during minor storms and, among other annoying habits, their billowing cottony seeds can clog water intake structures and screens. Yet, they are one of the most widespread and important wildlife trees in the western United States and Canada.

Cottonwoods belong to genus Populus. There are at least four primary species of Populus in North America: eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), balsam poplar (P. tacamahacca), black or western cottonwood (P. trichocarpa), and quaking or trembling aspen (P. tremuloides). Two of these–western cottonwood (also called black cottonwood) and quaking aspen–are found on appropriate sites across Washington.

Balsam poplar occurs throughout the intermountain west and is most prevalent in northern Canada and Alaska while aspen, the most widespread native poplar throughout the northern hemisphere, is unique enough for an article of its own. In this article, we will focus on the black or western cottonwood.    (more…)

Communities: Deadline fast approaching for Urban Forestry Restoration Project

June 13, 2014
Travis Johnsey scatters mulch around tree trunks. PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Travis Johnsey scatters mulch around tree trunks.
PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Is your city located in the Puget Sound Basin? Could you use a hand maintaining public trees, green spaces, and natural areas that make up your urban forest? If you answered yes to both of those questions, read on:

The Urban Forestry Restoration Project (UFRP) provides Puget SoundCorps crews to assist communities with urban forestry maintenance and restoration tasks. The UFRP and its crews who do the hard work are back for another year of invasive plant removal, structural tree pruning, mulching, and planting. These crews have made big impacts to urban forestry maintenance in Puget Basin cities such as Burien, Covington, Edgewood, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Puyallup, Redmond, and Renton—the list goes on! You can’t afford not to take advantage of this sweet opportunity. While DNR is working to secure funding for future years of UFRP assistance, there are no guarantees that the program will continue beyond 2015.

Greg Dunbar and Kasey Lambert shovel mulch for young trees in Puyallup to reduce competition from weeds. PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Greg Dunbar and Kasey Lambert shovel mulch for young trees in Puyallup to reduce competition from weeds.
PHOTO: Janet Pearce/DNR

Your applications and participation in the program help to demonstrate the demand for these much-needed services, which provide not only meaningful work experiences for crew members, but also on-the-job training that directly impacts transitions to full-time employment. Crew members learn valuable skills while working hard to improve the health, vibrancy, and sustainability of our urban forests in the greater Puget Sound region. One-third of crew members from last year’s crews have entered tree-related careers, ranging from climbing arborist to production nursery work to studying for an urban forestry degree. Five crew members will be sitting for their Certified Arborist examination this fall during the 2014 Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture Annual Training Conference.

Local project proposals for the 2014-2015 year will be accepted through June 30, 2014. Learn more about the UFRP. Look online to find application forms and other materials about UFRP.

 

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DNR & WSU Extension to present forestry education for small land owners this summer

June 12, 2014
Forest & Range Owners Field Days

Forest & Range Owners Field Days give participants hands-on, ‘in-the-field’ education presented by experts in forest and land management. Photo: DNR

Got a little “home in the woods”? Manage several acres of forestland? Or, do you hope to have a little woodland of your own someday? If that’s you, then this summer’s Forest and Range Owners Field Days presented by DNR and WSU Extension on June 21 and August 9 are just the ticket.

Meet top forestry experts and learn how to reduce risks, protect your financial investment, and accomplish your forestland management objectives at one of these events:

An additional event–the North Puget Sound Forest Owners Field Day–is planned for July 26 in Arlington.

These low-fee educational events are co-sponsored by DNR and Washington State University Extension. Each Field Day features classes and hands-on workshops led by experts in forest and range health, wildlife habitat, grazing, soils, fire protection, forestry skills, and timber and non-timber forest products.

Keep informed about these and other educational, landowner assistance events, courses and workshops in DNR’s Small Forest Landowner News, a bi-monthly e-newsletter that’s free and chock full of information articles for anyone who owns forestland or, really, any land.

Subscribe to DNR’s Small Forest Landowner News

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Climate change and the Northwest’s trees

June 9, 2014

Can we predict how future climatic changes will affect the growth of important Northwest tree species?

Parts of a Douglas fir

Photo: Nancy Charbonneau/DNR

Mathematical models developed by area researchers show great promise in predicting how future climate changes will affect the timing of the budding and flowering of coniferous trees here. That’s important knowledge because conifers, such as Douglas fir, are important to Washington State’s economy and environment.

DNR’s Meridian Seed Orchard, southeast of Olympia, is a major source of tree seeds for state forestlands and small family forestland owners. Owned and operated by DNR, the orchard produces seed for western red cedar, noble fir, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, western larch, western white pine, and other coniferous tree species used to replant after timber harvests around the state.

Meridian Seed Orchard also is an efficient and reliable resource for collecting data to develop climate models because the seeds it gathers and grows come from many different areas and elevations in Washington. DNR’s self-funded Webster Forest Nursery uses seed from Meridian to produce between 8 million and 10 million seedlings annually to plant after timber harvests on state trust lands and small, privately-owned woodlands. The secret to successful planting is matching tree seedlings to meet the many different weather and soil zones around the state.    (more…)

Forestlands pressured by residential development; Housing density near Washington State forests grew faster than in Oregon

April 18, 2014

The number of structures on private lands bordering public forests in Washington and Oregon has more than doubled since the 1970s. The greatest increases in density were on the fringes of public forests in Pierce, King, Snohomish, and Clark counties in Washington, and Deschutes County in Oregon. That growth brings higher risks of wildfire and more negative impacts on native fish and wildlife habitat.

Aerial photographs from 1995 (upper photo) and 2006 document the increased number of private structures -- most residential--on private lands near this unidentified section of National Forest

Aerial photographs from 1995 (upper photo) and 2006 document the increased number of private structures — most residential–on private lands near this unidentified section of National Forest. Photo: National Agriculture Imagery Program.

Using aerial photography to inventory structures and compare the pace of development next to public forests, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station found that the development growth rate on private lands bordering Washington DNR-managed state trust lands was twice that seen on private lands next to state forests in Oregon. The study’s authors speculate that some of the disparity is because Oregon enacted its Land Conservation Act in 1973 while the Washington State Growth Management Act did not become law until 1990 — the study covered 1974 to 2005. All the same, more and more private structures are being built on private lands bordering public forests in both states.

The expansion of development at the edges of public lands raises numerous management issues for forest managers, including:

  • Introduction of invasive plants;
  • Increases in unmanaged recreation;
  • Negative impacts on native fish and wildlife; and
  • More use of roads, which can lead to a rise in human-caused wildfire starts.

While fewer new structures were built next to U.S. Forest Service lands in Washington during the 30-year period studied, it was because DNR-managed lands and commercial forestlands tended to buffer federal lands from activities on private lands. Read the study.

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The simple act of planting a tree is hardly so simple

April 11, 2014
Planting trees by Seattle standards is always a good thing.

Planting trees by Seattle standards is always a good thing.

Most of us recognize that anyone who has stuck a tree into their front yard and managed not to kill it is hardly a tree planting expert. Unfortunately, even the pros will disagree on the best way to plant. At some point, you’ve all played witness to matter-of-fact tree planting dogma from a self-proclaimed tree planting expert, often with some pretty obscure ideas and methodologies.

There are no absolute right answers that apply to each unique tree planting situation, but if we can agree that ‘the right way’ to plant a tree should be based on modern best practices and the best available science, then we’re in luck.

Before you plant a tree this spring, be sure to check out the following resources: 

  1.  The Practical Science of Planting Trees, by Gary Watson and E.B. Himelick: Whoa! Published in 2013, this is a brand new, 250-page manual with full color photos and dozens of illustrations, covers everything there is to know about planting trees. This resource is an absolute must for the tree planting nerd you know. 
  2.  ANSI A300 Transplanting Standard, Part 6: This is the industry standard for planting and transplanting trees and shrubs. Especially if you work for a municipality, you’ll need this to help with writing and enforcing your tree planting contract specifications. 
  3.  ISA Best Management Practices, Tree Planting: Last revised in 2005, this companion publication to the ANSI standard is a modest investment for anyone who calls themselves a tree planter. Keep a copy in the truck for reference in the field. 
  4. DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program has a publication written by Jim Flott, an ISA Certified Arborist and consulting urban forester from Spokane, which specifically details the perils of planting trees too deeply. Check it out on our webpage: Proper Planting Begins Below Ground. 
  5.  Washington State University’s own Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has spent her career debunking numerous horticultural myths, including those relating to tightly held, but outdated beliefs about planting trees.
  6. Not so much the reading type? No worries. Casey Trees, a highly reputable non-profit tree planting organization in Washington D.C. has done a nice job of translating best practices for tree planting into some short, easy-to-follow instructional videos: Planting a Balled-and-Burlapped Tree; or, Planting a Container-grown Tree

Now go forth and plant trees (in accordance with best practices, of course).

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College receives 2013 Tree Campus USA recognition

April 10, 2014
Students from the University of Puget Sound helped make their campus a Tree Campus USA®

Students from the University of Puget Sound helped make their campus a Tree Campus USA®

The University of Puget Sound has been honored with a 2013 Tree Campus USA® recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management.

Tree Campus USA® is a national program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.

“This national recognition is a well-deserved vote of appreciation for all that our grounds staff do to ensure the Puget Sound campus remains a place of local and regional pride,” said Bob Kief, Vice President for Facilities Services. “I want to thank our Grounds Manager, Joe Kovolyan, and his staff for their dedication and passion in maintaining such a beautiful campus.”

Puget Sound is one among only six colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest to be awarded the Tree Campus USA® distinction since the program’s creation. Awardees must meet five standards, including: maintaining a tree advisory committee and a campus tree-care plan; dedicating annual expenditures for a campus tree program; observing Arbor Day; and offering a student service-learning project. The Tree Campus USA program is sponsored by Toyota.

“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for us all.”

The 97-acre Puget Sound campus is home to more than 2,000 trees, including towering Douglas Firs and other native evergreens, alongside deciduous shade and flowering trees such as birch, sycamores, dogwoods, and American Elms.

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