With the passage of the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960, the U.S. Forest Service has managed its 193 million acres of forest and grassland for multiple uses, including timber, watersheds, and wildlife. Using today’s terminology, some of these purposes are considered ecosystem services, which encompass a breadth of benefits provided by forests, including their ability to absorb and store atmospheric carbon, a greenhouse gas linked to climate change.
National forests are now working to mitigate climate change, but the tradeoffs involved in managing for multiple ecosystem services are not well understood. Using landscape-scale datasets of forest vegetation, carbon storage estimates, and wildlife habitat profiles, scientists with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station simulated the effects of various management plans on timber harvests, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage in forests of the western Cascade Range.
They found that ecosystem services may be complementary, competitive, or neutral (e.g., a change in one service has little effect on other services). For example, carbon sequestration is potentially competitive with timber harvests and creating wildlife habitat for the western bluebird, but can be complementary to maintaining habitat for the northern spotted owl and the red tree vole. By using this tradeoff management framework, land managers will have a better understanding of the multiple ecosystem services a management plan may provide.
Water temperature drives the complex food web of a river network. Aquatic organisms hatch, feed, and reproduce in thermal niches within the tributaries and mainstem that comprise the river network. Changes in water temperature can synchronize or asynchronize the timing of their life stages throughout the year. The water temperature fluctuates over time and place, creating variability in the network’s thermal regime. Because of this variability, many important details in the thermal regime of a river network cannot be simply represented by an average temperature. New research by Ashley Steel, a quantitative ecologist and statistician with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, and her colleagues documented the variability of water temperature over time and place on the Snoqualmie River network in Washington. They found clear spatial patterns in temperature metrics, and these patterns shifted over time. They demonstrated that it is possible to model key facets of the thermal landscape that are tied to the places and times in which coho and steelhead salmon are at critical life stages. Their findings provide a basis for more precisely focused habitat restoration efforts. This fundamental information can be used to develop tools that help identify where to take action to mitigate the effects of warmer air temperatures and of changes in winter precipitation on salmon and other species of concern.
Managers make decisions regarding if and how to remove dams in spite of uncertainty surrounding physical and ecological responses, and stakeholders often raise concerns about certain negative effects, regardless of whether these concerns are warranted at a particular site. We used a dam-removal science database supplemented with other information sources to explore seven frequently raised concerns, herein Common Management Concerns (CMCs). We investigate the occurrence of these concerns and the contributing biophysical controls. The CMCs addressed are the following: degree and rate of reservoir sediment erosion, excessive channel incision upstream of reservoirs, downstream sediment aggradation, elevated downstream turbidity, drawdown impacts on local water infrastructure, colonization of reservoir sediments by nonnative plants, and expansion of invasive fish. Biophysical controls emerged for some of the concerns, providing managers with information to assess whether a given concern is likely to occur at a site. To fully assess CMC risk, managers should concurrently evaluate site conditions and identify the ecosystem or human uses that will be negatively affected if the biophysical phenomenon producing the CMC occurs. We show how many CMCs have one or more controls in common, facilitating the identification of multiple risks at a site, and demonstrate why CMC risks should be considered in the context of other factors such as natural watershed variability and disturbance history.