CORVALLIS, Ore. – Research and education at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, one of the nation’s premier ecological science sites, has received a six-year, $6.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Funds will support a new round of projects through the Long-Term Ecological Research program at the 16,000-acre Andrews forest in the Cascades east of Eugene. Since 1980, the Andrews forest has been the site of groundbreaking forest research and educational programs that serve more than 1,500 children and adults annually.
Oregon State University, the USDA Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station and the Willamette National Forest collaborate in ecological research and application to critical resource management issues such as restoration of aquatic ecosystems, managing carbon stocks and adaptation to climate change..
The goal of the latest round of funding, known as LTER7, is to examine how forested mountain ecosystems respond to changes in climate and land-use and how people interact with the forest through ethical decision-making, said Michael Paul Nelson, the Ruth H. Spaniol chair of renewable resources at OSU and lead principal investigator for the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest LTER research program.
It is focused on a central question: How do climate, natural disturbance and land use as controlled by forest governance – the structures and processes through which people make decisions and share power – interact with biodiversity, hydrology and carbon and nutrient dynamics?
Researchers will continue to address issues such as the transport of carbon and other nutrients through air and water flows. They will study the decomposition of organic matter and changes in the timing of events such as the blossoming of plants and insect emergence from streams.
“Many aspects of LTER7 will have broader social impacts,” Nelson said. “We will continue the strong tradition of fostering public engagement and producing policy-relevant knowledge in the area of ecosystem science. We’re engaging the public, resource managers and policymakers in studies of how changing social networks influence forest landscapes. We’ll also analyze forest governance from the perspective of conservation ethics.”
Tight federal budgets made this a demanding funding year for all 26 of the locations in the Long-Term Ecological Research Network, he said. Support for the Andrews program reflects an innovative combination of physical and social science activities.
Education and outreach projects include a rich K-12 teacher-training program and a strong arts and humanities effort through the Long-Term Ecological Reflections program, which includes partnering with the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word at Oregon State.
The National Science Foundation’s review panel praised the partnership between Oregon State and the Forest Service. “It could be a model for other collaborative research groups with diverse requirements,” reviewers noted.
“The Andrews forest has offered exceptional opportunities for students and faculty, not just from OSU, but other schools and colleges, to be part of relevant, impactful research on our forest landscapes,” said Thomas Maness, dean of OSU’s College of Forestry, which houses the Andrews LTER program.