Large dams and their respective reservoirs provide renewable energy and water security, but also can profoundly alter riverine ecosystems. Here, we present evidence of changing aquatic food web structure in the seasons following short-duration, extreme manipulation of water levels in a reservoir (i.e., draining of the reservoir to the original riverbed during fall to assist outmigration of juvenile Chinook Salmon). We find unintended and lagged consequences of transitioning from a lake to a river, even temporarily, that resulted in trophic shifts away from piscivory and towards feeding at lower trophic levels for two common piscivorous fishes in reservoirs. Using natural abundances of nitrogen stable isotopes, we observed lower trophic level of feeding for invasive Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) and native Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) during the summers following reservoir refilling than in nearby reference reservoirs that were not temporarily drained during fall. Declines in trophic levels of aquatic top predators have been rarely documented outside of controlled laboratory conditions. While useful for assisting outmigration of juvenile salmonids, the temporary draining of a reservoir to riverbed can also result in novel shifts in foodweb dynamics including reduced piscivory. As large dams continue to be operated and constructed worldwide, increased understanding of the community and ecosystem-level effects of reservoir management will be critical to evaluating trade-offs between human water needs, conservation of high value species, and ecosystem services impacted by river fragmentation.
From 2007 through 2017, Oregon implemented an incentive program for biomass collection and production. This research evaluates renewable biomass production and deliveries during a 3-year period (2012 to 2014) in which this tax credit was in place. We evaluated total delivered tons, average payments per load, delivered location, and average transportation distance of woody biomass. We found that total delivered tons of biomass decreased each year between 2012 and 2014, as did the number of users participating in the tax credit program. The average delivered tons, by participant, was more than double in 2014 its level in earlier years, suggesting that fewer, larger entities were participating. We also evaluated differences in biomass delivery, based on receipts, transportation distances, and tons delivered, for each land ownership class. There were statistically significant differences between private and public land ownership for 2012 and 2013 but not for 2014, which included fewer applicants. Our study showed that effective biomass utilization policies need to provide sufficient economic incentives to encourage adoption by both participants and biomass energy producers, and, to be effective, to consider the complete supply chain and type of energy produced. Future economic conditions in Oregon will most likely include rapid changes in renewable energy technologies and fluctuations in fossil fuel prices, and any truly effective renewable energy policies must be sufficiently nimble to account for these and other uncertainties.
In southeast Alaska, United States, multiple-use forest management objectives include both timber production and wildlife habitat. Following stand-replacing disturbances such as clear-cutting, Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrière) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.) naturally regenerate and competitively dominate resources, excluding understory biomass and biodiversity. Thinning may mitigate the effects of canopy closure and permit understory development, but evidence of the effect on understories 8–10 years after thinning is lacking. We report results 4–5 and 8–10 years after thinning experiments on the Tongass National Forest to demonstrate the effects of precommercial thinning (thinned versus control), stand age (15–25, 25–35, and 35–50 years), and weather on understory dynamics and Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis Merriam, 1898) forage availability. Stand density negatively affected understory biomass, whereas temperature and precipitation positively interacted to increase biomass. Thinning had an enduring effect on understories, with biomass at least twice as great in thinned versus unthinned stands through year 10. We identified compositional differences from thinning as stand age class increased. Deer forage responded similarly to biomass, but thinning-induced differences faded with increased winter snowfall scenarios, especially in older stands. This study aids the understanding of stand overstory and understory development following silvicultural treatments in the coastal temperate rain forest of Alaska and suggests management implications and applications for balancing objectives throughout the forest type.
Monitoring vegetation phenology is important for managers at several scales. Across decades, changes in the timing, pattern, and duration of significant life cycle events for plant groups can foreshadow shifts in species assemblages that can affect ecosystem services. In the shorter term, managers need phenological information to time activities such as grazing, ecological restoration plantings, biocontrol of pests, seed collection, and wildlife monitoring. However, tools to deliver timely seasonal development have been limited either spatially (data from a single tower or weather station, or on a single species, or both) or temporally (annually, quarterly, or monthly summaries). We developed another option called PhenoMap. This is a weekly assessment of land surface “greenness” across the continental United States that employs the Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite data. Here we present the PhenoMap Web map and its validation by using 54 in situ PhenoCam camera sites representing six vegetation structure types and 31 different ecoregions. We found that PhenoMap effectively tracks phenology on grasslands, shrublands, deciduous broadleaf and mixed forests. Results for evergreen needleleaf sites were poor owing to the low green-up signal relative to the total amount of foliage detected by NDVI. Issues of extent and field of view were critical when assessing remotely sensed data with in situ oblique camera imagery.
In this paper, we present a web-based decision support system (DSS)—wSADfLOR—to facilitate the access of stakeholders to tools that may contribute to enhancing forest management planning. The emphasis is on a web-based architecture and a web graphic user interface (wGUI) that may effectively support the analysis of trade-offs between ecosystem services in order to address participatory and sustainable forest management objectives. For that purpose, the wGUI provides remote access to a management information system, enabling users to analyze environmental and biometric data and topological information as well. Moreover, the wGUI provides remote access to forest simulators so that users may define and simulate prescriptions such as chronological sequences of management options and the corresponding forest ecosystem services outcomes. Remote access to management planning methods is further provided so that users may input their objectives and constraints. The wGUI delivers information about tradeoffs between ecosystem services in the form of decision maps so that users in different locations may negotiate bundles of ecosystem services as well as the plan needed to provide them. The multiple criteria programming routines provide proposals for management plans that may be assessed further, using geographical and alphanumeric information provided by the wGUI. Results for an application to a forested landscape extending to 14,388 ha are presented and discussed. This landscape provides several ecosystem services and the development of its management plan involves multiple stakeholders. Results show that the web-based architecture and the wGUI provide effective access for stakeholders to information about the forest management planning area and to decision support tools that may contribute to addressing complex multi-objective and multiple-decision-maker management planning contexts. They also highlight that the involvement and participation of stakeholders in the design of the web-based architecture contributes to assuring the quality and the usability of the system
The shoreline in southeast Alaska is changing. In many places, the shoreline is rising as glaciers melt and the land rebounds; elsewhere, rising sea levels are submerging the current shoreline. These changes are altering coastal habitats and subsistence resources on which many rural Alaska Native communities rely in southeast Alaska.
Forest Service scientists Adelaide Johnson and Linda Kruger modeled the relationships between physical shoreline features and biological communities to project future shorelines and the distribution of food resources. They also engaged high school students from the study communities to document the knowledge and perspectives of elders about food gathering.
They project that shorelines in southeast Alaska will change by nearly 6 feet of land emergence to 0.65 feet of land submergence in the next 100 years. Protected, low-slope gradient bays and estuaries associated with eelgrass and clam habitat will be most affected. Less change in subsistence resources is projected for rocky, steep-gradient shorelines associated with seaweed and kelp.
Elders in the communities reported harvesting more than 100 species and spent, on average, 45 days per year doing so. Ten percent reported harvesting on more than 100 days per year. Shoreline projections help identify areas that are most vulnerable to physical and biological changes and their effects on subsistence foods.
Slow ecological processes challenge conservation. Short-term variability can obscure the importance of slower processes that may ultimately determine the state of a system. Furthermore, management actions with slow responses can be hard to justify. One response to slow processes is to explicitly concentrate analysis on state dynamics. Here, we focus on identifying drivers of Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) territorial occupancy dynamics across 11 study areas spanning their geographic range and forecasting response to potential management actions. Competition with Barred Owls (Strix varia) has increased Spotted Owl territory extinction probabilities across all study areas and driven recent declines in Spotted Owl populations. Without management intervention, the Northern Spotted Owl subspecies will be extirpated from parts of its current range within decades. In the short term, Barred Owl removal can be effective. Over longer time spans, however, maintaining or improving habitat conditions can help promote the persistence of northern spotted owl populations. In most study areas, habitat effects on expected Northern Spotted Owl territorial occupancy are actually greater than the effects of competition from Barred Owls. This study suggests how intensive management actions (removal of a competitor) with rapid results can complement a slower management action (i.e., promoting forest succession).
Coastal Alaska forests consist of 2.6 million hectares of productive timberland and constitute the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir in the state. It has become increasingly urgent to understand potential climate-induced changes in forest structural and species composition in this region. Based on in situ data from 544 permanent sample plots (PSPs) for calibration and 244 PSPs for validation, we developed a climate-sensitive density-dependent, species-, and size-specific matrix model (CSMatrix-AK), to predict fine-scale dynamics of coastal Alaska forests from the present to Year 2100 under three climate scenarios – Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5, RCP6.0, and RCP8.5. With post-sample validation, we showed that the CSMatrix-AK model was more accurate than other existing models for the region. Under low-intensity and high-frequency stochastic shocks which represented natural disturbances typical for the region, we projected a gradual decline of Sitka spruce, a major commercial species in the region, and a significantly lower level of total stand basal area under all three climate scenarios. The results suggest that timber industry, landowners and managers, policymakers, and local communities will need to prepare for substantial impacts of climate change on Coastal Alaska forests and the regional forestry sector. Our CSMatrix-AK model provides a useful tool to better inform the stakeholders of such changes and lays the foundation for adaptive forest management to sustain forests and associated ecosystem services in the region.
The U.S. Forest Service and other federal land managers are responsible for maintaining the productivity of aquatic–riparian ecosystems, the associated native biota, and the ecosystem services they provide. These public lands are important sources of water, recreation opportunities, and habitat for a suite of animals and plants, including many that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. To meet these challenges and responsibilities, recent science suggests modifying practices to provide a broader array of habitat, biological conditions, and ecosystem functions than are associated with traditional management approaches. We suggest that by linking approaches based on natural disturbance and portfolio concepts, managers can achieve a robust strategy and desired outcomes more reliably and cost effectively. Locally complex habitat conditions created by natural disturbances provide the template for biological diversity to play out provided enough time. Accordingly, natural disturbance regimes play an important role in creating and sustaining habitat and biological complexities on the landscape, and management actions can emulate natural disturbance processes at appropriate spatial and temporal scales where possible. The portfolio effect (i.e., diversity that mitigates risk) provides justification for promoting connected heterogeneous habitats that reduce the risk of synchronous large–scale population and ecosystem collapse. In this paper, we describe how disturbance and portfolio concepts fit into a broader strategy of conserving ecosystem integrity and dynamism, and provide examples of how these concepts can be used to address a wide range of management concerns. Ultimately, the outcome for populations, habitats, and landscapes depends on how well environmental change is understood, the degree to which change is appropriately addressed by natural resource managers, and on solutions that allow populations and ecosystems to persist in the presence of and be resilient to a growing scope of human influences.