In order to increase the pace and scale of managing forests to reduce wildfire risk in the western U.S., federal agencies have adopted policies that promote an all lands management (ALM) approach, which extends management actions across jurisdictional boundaries. To better implement such policies, ALM approaches require new governance systems that overcome barriers found in existing systems, which typically address jurisdictions separately. Polycentric governance systems, characterized by multiple and diverse actors at different scales operating in coordination with one another under an overarching set of rules, have emerged to address wildfire risk in multi-ownership landscapes. We describe these polycentric systems using three case studies of US Forest Service-Natural Resources Conservation Service Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects in Oregon and California. While all three cases demonstrate polycentric systems, we found diversity in terms of partnering organizations and levels of success in implementing wildfire risk reduction projects. Lessons from our research can inform more effective implementation of ALM policies for managing natural resources and processes in multi-jurisdictional landscapes. Our research suggests these systems can be strengthened when: bottom-up and top-down processes and incentives for establishing them converge; actors within the system coordinate effectively; policies enable flexibility and adaptiveness for how systems function in different places; multiple actors at multiple scales are able to supplement one another’s capacity; and legal and policy mechanisms facilitate efficient transfer of funding and resources between actors in the system to accomplish work.
We defined habitat requirements (source habitats) and assessed trends in these habitats for 91 species of terrestrial vertebrates on 58 million ha (145 million acres) of public and private lands within the interior Columbia basin (hereafter referred to as the basin). We also summarized knowledge about species-road relations for each species and mapped source habitats in relation to road densities for four species of terrestrial carnivores. Our assessment was conducted as part of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project (ICBEMP), a multiresource, multidisciplinary effort by the USDA Forest Service (FS) and the USDI Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop an ecosystem-based strategy for managing FS and BLM lands within the basin. Our assessment was designed to provide technical support for the ICBEMP and was done in five steps. First, we identified species of terrestrial vertebrates for which there was ongoing concern about population or habitat status (species of focus), and for which habitats could be estimated reliably by using a large mapping unit (pixel size) of 100 ha (247 acres) and broad-scale methods of spatial analysis. Second, we evaluated change in source habitats from early European settlement (historical, circa 1850 to 1890) to current (circa 1985 to 1995) conditions for each species and for hierarchically nested groups of species and families of groups at the spatial scales of the watershed (5th hydrologic unit code [HUC]), subbasin (4th HUC), ecological reporting unit, and basin. Third, we summarized the effects of roads and road-associated factors on populations and habitats for each of the 91 species and described the results in relation to broad-scale patterns of road density. Fourth, we mapped classes of the current abundance of source habitats for four species of terrestrial carnivores in relation to classes of road density across the 164 subbasins and used the maps to identify areas having high potential to support persistent populations. And fifth, we used our results, along with results from other studies, to describe broad-scale implications for managing habitats deemed to have undergone long-term decline and for managing species negatively affected by roads or road-associated factors.
Our results indicated that habitats for species, groups, and families associated with old-forest structural stages, with native grasslands, or with native shrublands have undergone strong, widespread decline. Implications of these results for managing old-forest structural stages include consideration of (1) conservation of habitats in subbasins and watersheds where decline in old forests has been strongest; (2) silvicultural manipulations of mid-seral forests to accelerate development of late-seral stages; and (3) long-term silvicultural manipulations and long-term accommodation of fire and other disturbance regimes in all forested structural stages to hasten development and improvement in the amount, quality, and distribution of old-forest stages. Implications of our results for managing rangelands include the potential to (1) conserve native grasslands and shrublands that have not undergone largescale reduction in composition of native plants; (2) control or eradicate exotic plants on native grasslands and shrublands where invasion potential or spread of exotics is highest; and (3) restore native plant communities by using intensive range practices where potential for restoration is highest.
Our analysis also indicated that >70 percent of the 91 species are affected negatively by one or more factors associated with roads. Moreover, maps of the abundance of source habitats in relation to classes of road density suggested that road associated factors hypothetically may reduce the potential to support persistent populations of terrestrial carnivores in many subbasins. Management implications of our summarized road effects include the potential to mit
Species introductions threaten ecosystem function worldwide, and interactions among introduced species may amplify their impacts. Effects of multiple invasions are still poorly studied, and often, the mechanisms underlying potential interactions among invaders are unknown. Despite being a remote and well-conserved area, the southern portion of South America has been greatly impacted by invasions of both the American beaver (Castor canadensis) and Brown Trout (Salmo trutta fario). Here, we compared growth, condition, diet, and stable isotopes of sulfur δ34S, nitrogen δ15N, and carbon δ13C for stream-living Brown Trout from streams with (n = 6) and without (n = 6) beaver in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. We show that beaver may facilitate the success of trout by positively influencing fish growth. Beaver indirectly provide greater food subsidies (i.e., macroinvertebrate abundances) by modifying the local aquatic environment through active dam and lodge building suggesting a one-way positive interaction. Trout in beaver-influenced streams occupied a slightly higher trophic level with more depleted sulfur and carbon isotopic ratios suggesting that food web pathways rely on secondary production from autochthonous origin. Trout in beaver-influenced streams had a wider dietary breadth with diptera and amphipoda as the prey items providing most of the energy, whereas in streams without beaver, trichoptera were the main source of energy for trout. Ultimately, we find that these two species, which have never co-occurred naturally, bring about the same ecosystem function and the beneficial influences in their native ranges as in invaded systems.
The past decade has seen a rapid rise in beaver-related stream restoration (BRR) using beavers and beaver dams (real or artificial) as a tool. Potential benefits of this low-cost, nature-based restoration approach include restoring aquatic and riparian habitat and recovering of threatened species dependent on it, improving water availability and stream flow regulation, reducing erosion and stream incision, and supporting climate change adaptation. Although the ecological restoration literature acknowledges the importance of addressing the human dimensions of restoration. there is a gap regarding the human dimensions of BRR. To help fill this gap we examined six projects involving riparian revegetation or artificial beaver dams to identify central elements of a supportive social environment for BRR on western rangelands. Our research questions examined how beavers, beaver dams, and BRR affect ranching operations and how ranchers view them; the policy context for BRR; and how BRR practitioners, regulatory agencies, ranchers, and partners work together for successful BRR. We synthesized our findings across cases and identified six social factors important for BRR: 1) ranchers who perceive the benefits of beavers, beaver dams, and BRR to outweigh the drawbacks; 2) education and assistance to help landowners adopt nonlethal mitigation techniques for nuisance beavers; 3) grazing practices compatible with BRR; 4) low harvest pressure on beavers; 5) a regulatory environment that enables experimentation, flexibility, and adaptive management; and 6) proponents, ranchers, and partners willing to take risks, innovate, be flexible, and stay committed.
Drought, ozone (O3), and nitrogen deposition (N) alter foliar pigments and tree crown structure that may be remotely detectable. Remote sensing tools are needed that pre-emptively identify trees susceptible to environmental stresses could inform forest managers in advance of tree mortality risk. Jeffrey pine, a component of the economically important and widespread western yellow pine in North America was investigated in the southern Sierra Nevada. Transpiration of mature trees differed by 20% between microsites with adequate (mesic (M)) vs. limited (xeric (X)) water availability as described in a previous study. In this study, in-the-crown morphological traits (needle chlorosis, branchlet diameter, and frequency of needle defoliators and dwarf mistletoe) were significantly correlated with aerially detected, sub-crown spectral traits (upper crown NDVI, high resolution (R), near-infrared (NIR) Scalar (inverse of NDVI) and THERM Δ, and the difference between upper and mid crown temperature). A classification tree model sorted trees into X and M microsites with THERM Δ alone (20% error), which was partially validated at a second site with only mesic trees (2% error). Random forest separated M and X site trees with additional spectra (17% error). Imagery taken once, from an aerial platform with sub-crown resolution, under the challenge of drought stress, was effective in identifying droughted trees within the context of other environmental stresses.
The long-term effectiveness of dry-forest fuels treatments (restoration thinning and prescribed burning) depends, in part, on the pace at which trees regenerate and recruit into the overstory. Knowledge of the factors that shape post-treatment regeneration and growth is limited by the short timeframes and simple disturbance histories of past research. Here, we present results of a 15-year fuels-reduction experiment in central Washington, including responses to planned and unplanned disturbances. We explore the changing patterns of Douglas-fir regeneration in 72 permanent plots (0.1 ha) varying in overstory abundance (a function of density and basal area) and disturbance history—the latter including thinning, prescribed burning, and/or wildfire. Plots were measured before treatment (2000/2001), soon afterwards (2004/2005), and more than a decade later (2015). Thinning combined with burning enhanced sapling recruitment (ingrowth) into the overstory, although rates of ingrowth were consistently low and greatly exceeded by mortality. Relationships between seedling frequency (proportion of quadrats within a plot) and overstory abundance shifted from weakly negative before treatment to positive after thinning, to neutral in the longer term. However, these relationships were overshadowed by more recent, higher-severity prescribed fire and wildfire that stimulated seedling establishment while killing advanced regeneration and overstory trees. Our results highlight the dependence of regeneration responses on the history of, and time since, fuels treatment and subsequent disturbance. Managers must be aware of this spatial and temporal complexity and plan for future disturbances that are inevitable but unpredictable in timing and severity.
U.S. federal government agencies play an important role in mitigating some risks posed to communities by natural hazard events, especially communities with high proportions of low-income or minority residents. Ongoing efforts of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to reduce the buildup of forest fuels on national forests, particularly in dry mixed-conifer forests of the U.S. West, are an example. Federal land management agencies must comply with the Executive Order on Environmental Justice (EJ Order, 59 Fed. Reg 7629, 1994), but there is scant documentation of whether these agencies have substantively complied with the EJ Order in implementing land management activities. There is also little quantitative environmental justice (EJ) research on dispersed rural populations, such as those often found adjacent to national forests. Our research addresses these gaps. We apply a novel mixed-methods approach, including quantitative pattern analysis and interviews with forest managers, to examine whether the benefits of wildfire risk reduction created on twelve national forests in four western U.S. states were equitably distributed among nearby populations. We found that EJ impacts might have occurred on all twelve forests, but they tended to be localized and context specific. We also learned from interviewees that EJ was not considered in decisions about where and how to conduct wildfire hazard reduction and that EJ populations rarely engaged in collaborative project planning apart from the formal tribal consultation process. Our research expands the range of quantitative geographical analysis of EJ issues and our methods could be adopted by land management agencies to achieve more equitable distribution of costs and benefits from their management activities.
To forestall loss of ecological values associated with forests, land managers need to consider where and when to prioritize active reforestation following major disturbance events. To aid this decision-making process, we summarize recent research findings pertaining to the Sierra Nevada region of California, USA to identify contexts in which active reforestation or passive recovery may best promote desirable post-fire ecological trajectories. Based on our synthesis, we suggest conceptual frameworks for assessing landscape conditions and determining areas that may be the highest priorities for tree planting to avoid persistent loss of conifer forests. Field studies have shown that some large patches of high severity burn can have relatively low levels of natural regeneration, especially among desired pine species. The accumulation of fuels and competition with shrubs and resprouting hardwoods may hinder the reestablishment of mature conifer trees. However, severe fires could also play a restorative role, by promoting non-conifer forested communities, such as meadows, shrubfields, and open forests with significant hardwood components. Such communities were historically rejuvenated and maintained by fire but have been replaced by conifer forest due in part to fire suppression. Reforestation in such areas may run counter to restoring ecological function and the ecosystem services that are provided by non-conifer communities. Through this framework, managers and stakeholders may better understand the contexts in which planting and passive recovery may better support ecological restoration.
In recent years, many forest managers have become interested in managing forests for a wider range of objectives than previously. As an initial or intermediate treatment, variable-density thinning (VDT) can help meet objectives such as improving wildlife and plant habitats, increasing structural and compositional diversity, and enhancing aesthetic values in stands that are currently lacking spatial variability. The “skips and gaps” method of VDT is flexible, allowing for the preservation of existing desirable features. Areas that are not thinned (“skips”) will protect existing features that are best preserved by being within an area where logging equipment is excluded. “Gaps” can be created to closely approximate natural disturbance regimes through harvest of small groups or patches of trees. Gaps can increase growth and crown lengths of neighboring trees. Furthermore, gaps can be created that favor underrepresented tree species that are either already present or are planted after treatment. Areas that are not within skips or gaps (the “matrix”), are thinned to encourage growth of the overstory trees and the development of understory plants. This publication demonstrates the steps necessary to implement this type of VDT based on lessons learned from eight sites on the Olympic Habitat Development Study and two western Washington state parks.
Individual growth data are useful in assessing relative habitat quality, but this approach is less common when evaluating the efficacy of habitat restoration. Furthermore, available models describing growth are infrequently combined with computational approaches capable of handling large data sets. We apply a mechanistic model to evaluate whether selection of restored habitat can affect individual growth. We used mark-recapture to collect size and growth data on sub-yearling Chinook salmon and steelhead in restored and unrestored habitat in five sampling years (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016). Modeling strategies differed for the two species: For Chinook, we compared growth patterns of individuals recaptured in restored habitat over 15-60 d with those not recaptured regardless of initial habitat at marking. For steelhead, we had enough recaptured fish in each habitat type to use the model to directly compare habitats. The model generated spatially explicit growth parameters describing size of fish over the growing season in restored vs. unrestored habitat. Model parameters showed benefits of restoration for both species, but that varied by year and time of season, consistent with known patterns of habitat partitioning among them. The model was also supported by direct measurement of growth rates in steelhead and by known patterns of spatio-temporal partitioning of habitat between these two species. Model parameters described not only the rate of growth, but the timing of size increases, and is spatially explicit, accounting for habitat differences, making it widely applicable across taxa. The model usually supported data on density differences among habitat types in Chinook, but only in a couple of cases in steelhead. Modeling growth can thus prevent overconfidence in distributional data, which are commonly used as the metric of restoration success.