A view from the Buckhorn Wilderness in the Olympic National Forest, Washington. Coastal forests in the Pacific Northwest store globally significant amounts of carbon in trees and soil. USDA Forest Service photo by Matthew Tharp.
Urgency is growing among legislators, conservation organizations, and the wood products industry to better understand how forests store carbon and how management choices affect the carbon balance. The Pacific Northwest Research Station is taking a convening role with states and nongovernmental organizations to address research needs across stewardship boundaries.
A park in Portland, Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo.
Many cities in the United States have set goals to increase urban tree canopy cover in response to research that has demonstrated the public health benefits of trees and natural spaces. That research, however, has typically relied on data from 2D imaging of urban trees.
Colville National Forest, Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.
Forests provide significant opportunity for absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon. The amount and rate of carbon sequestration varies over time as a forest can alternately be a carbon source (through wildfire and decomposition) or a sink (tree growth). Quantifying carbon sequestration via change in forest biomass at the landscape scale and larger remains a challenge.
Helicopter dropping water on the Maple Fire in the Olympic National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.
It’s easy to assume that the forests on the western side of the Cascade Range are too wet to burn, but that’s changing. These lush coniferous forests are legendary for their beauty, timber growth rates, and the habitat they provide for iconic species of the region. Historically, ample rain and winter snow kept these Pacific Northwest forest moist throughout much of the year.
A perspective 3D view generated by the fusion of LiDAR data and high-resolution aerial photographs enables precise measurements of tree height and other objects.
Unmanned aerial systems, or drones, now offer a viable alternative to field crews for rapid, reliable, and replicable forest data collection.
A fuels reduction treatment near Worden, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Joshua Petitmermet, Oregon State University.
The commercial use of low-value forest-origin biomass has long been considered for its potential to offset the cost of reducing wildfire hazard. The production of biochar simultaneously consumes low-value forest biomass and produces stable charcoal that, when applied to dryland agricultural soils, can increase water holding capacity and crop yield.
A severely burned area of the 2015 Boulder Creek Fire, British Columbia, one year later. High-severity fires historically were rare in this forest type; three have occurred since 2015 in this Canadian province. Photo courtesy of Kate Peterson.
British Columbia, Canada, experienced 3 years with notably large and severe wildfires since 2015. Multiple stand-replacing wildfires occurred in coastal–transitional forests, where large fires are typically rare.
Eldorado National Forest, California. USDA Forest Service photo by Paul Wade.
California is using its forests to combat climate change. Trees absorb and store atmospheric carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas of concern—in woody tissue, leaves, and roots, collectively referred to as forest biomass. More than a century of fire suppression complicates managing forest carbon in California's dry forests.
Aftermath of the 2007 Tripod Fire in Washington. USDA Forest Service photo by Susan Prichard.
The mixed-severity fire regime of western Oregon forests creates a complex mosaic with patches of low, moderate, and high tree mortality across the landscape. Conversion of old-growth forests to plantations and postfire salvage logging are widespread land uses that dramatically affect forest structure, volume of biomass, and carbon stocks.
Knobcone pine. Photo courtesy of Matt Reilly.
Vegetation in fire-prone ecosystems evolved to handle frequent fire. Many coniferous species in these environments, for example, have serotinous cones that open when heated to release seeds on bare, fire-cleared soil.