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    Read the rest of this entry »

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.       Read the rest of this entry »

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.       Read the rest of this entry »

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.    Read the rest of this entry »

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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Come see aquatic critters and celebrate our shoreline

June 12, 2014
Maury Island beach and Pt. Robinson

Maury Island beach and Pt. Robinson Lighthouse


June 14 at the Low Tide Celebration at Maury Island State Aquatic Reserve

It’s family fun that’s free, local, educational and 100% natural! Come fete Puget Sound at the ninth annual Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Celebration.

Saturday, June 14, 2014
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Point Robinson on Maury Island

Explore, discover and appreciate the panorama of marine life on our shoreline. The summer low tide of minus 3.3 feet exposes beach and tide pools we rarely see—and you can ask Vashon Beach Naturalists about all that is revealed.

Welcome Skipper Mike Evans and the Blue Heron Canoe Family with a traditional Salish welcoming song as they paddle their way to the Point to honor the celebration. Learn about traditional native uses of shoreline resources from Odin Lonning, Tlingit artist and cultural educator. Tour the Point Robinson Lighthouse and hear its history from Captain Joe Wubbold, the Head Keeper. The beautiful Maury Island Aquatic Reserve and learn the many ways you can help protect this valuable natural resource.

A shuttle bus will run along Point Robinson Road to transport people between their parked cars and the festivities. Refreshments, native crafts and Low Tide t-shirts also will be available for sale on site.

Broad community support

The Vashon-Maury Island Low Tide Celebration is sponsored by: Vashon Beach Naturalists, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington Scuba Alliance, Vashon Park District, Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society, King County, Vashon College, Keepers of Point Robinson, Washington Environmental Council, and Vashon Watersports.

State aquatic reserve

For the people of Washington, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is steward of more than 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands—the lands under Puget Sound and the coast, navigable lakes and rivers, and many tideland beaches—including those at Maury Island Aquatic Reserve, where the Low Tide Celebration is being held. State aquatic lands are home to fish and wildlife, and support commerce and navigation, and access for all the people of the state.

 

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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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Recreation Alert: Woodard Bay NRCA to close temporarily for construction

June 10, 2014

Starting in July, DNR will close a large portion of Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) through December 2014.

Woodard Bay NRCA will be closed July through December 2014 for construction efforts. Photo by: DNR/Jessica Payne

Woodard Bay NRCA will be closed July through December 2014 for construction. Photo by: DNR/Jessica Payne

The access point from Whitham Road, and the trails leading from this area, will be closed to protect public safety during construction of public access facilities and interpretive sites in the NRCA.

Once completed, the updated interpretative design will highlight both the ecological values and rich cultural history of Woodard Bay.

Will I be able to visit Woodard Bay NRCA this summer?
Partially. The entire NRCA will be closed for the month of July. However, the Woodard Bay Upper Overlook Trail—currently closed to protect nesting herons—will re-open in August, providing public access to views of the bay. The Overlook Trail will be accessible from the parking lot at the north end of the Chehalis Western Trail.

What’s happening at Woodard Bay NRCA?

Woodard Bay NRCA concept drawings

This concept drawing shows one possible final look for Woodard Bay NRCA once construction is complete later this year. Click this image to see a larger version. Drawing by: DNR

This temporary closure marks the next phase of a larger project to restore and improve Woodard Bay NRCA.

The restoration phase was completed in March 2013, allowing DNR to develop improved educational and low-impact recreation opportunities.

In addition to the natural beauty of Woodard Bay NRCA, the area holds valuable cultural, historical, recreational, and conservation qualities.

Project details
The development project includes four major features:

  • A new environmental and cultural learning shelter.
  • An expanded parking lot with a new bike shelter to accommodate bike parking, since bicycle use is not allowed in the NRCA.
  • Relocation of the current “boom foreman’s” office and bathroom away from the shoreline.
  • Installation of several educational areas and signs.

Where can I go instead?
We encourage you to visit nearby parks and the Chehalis Western Trail during this closure. Nearby parks include:

This site shows the future home of new public access facilities and interpretive sites in the NRCA. Photo by: DNR/Jessica Payne

This site is the future home of new public access facilities and interpretive sites in the Woodard Bay NRCA. Photo by: DNR/Jessica Payne

Learn more about Woodard Bay NRCA on the DNR website: http://bit.ly/WoodardBayNRCA.

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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.    Read the rest of this entry »

Yard Talk – Puget Sound is our front yard

June 5, 2014
Maury Island homes across Quartermaster Harbor

Maury Island homes across Quartermaster Harbor

Puget Sound—such an important asset for Washington— looks pristine as we gaze out at our watery ‘front yard.’ And we love to see the wildlife and eat fish, shellfish, and other tasty delights from the bay.

For decades we have progressed significantly on restoring habitat and cleaning up messes. And yet, beneath the surface are junk and chemicals ‘flushed’ into the Sound through storm drains.

Stormwater outfall

Stormwater outfall

Take a look at YouTube: Puget Sound is Our Front Yard, King County TV’s Yard Talk program that sheds some light on why and how we can be great stewards of the Sound AND create solutions that benefit our home and personal lives, too.

Many of the underwater and beach shots were taken at Maury Island Aquatic Reserve, managed by DNR to protect this aquatic ecosystem and provide research and educational opportunities for scientists, students and the public.

Rain garden along a Seattle street

Rain garden along a Seattle street

Most of the reserve is healthy, but even here, cleanup and restoration are necessary to undo damage of the past 150 years—and sustain the long-term health of the ecosystem.

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