college of forestry

Forest recreation to be the focus of annual Starker Lecture Series

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Hiking, biking, camping and other types of recreation draw thousands of outdoor enthusiasts to the woods every year. When conflicts arise, users can be at odds with each other and with the businesses and agencies responsible for managing forestland.

The annual Starker Lecture Series at Oregon State University will explore this issue with presentations, discussions, forest tours and a capstone field trip.

The series is hosted by the OSU College of Forestry. It kicks off at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, with a film, “Pedal Driven” at the Whiteside Theatre, 361 S.W. Madison Ave., in downtown Corvallis.

Other events in the series will be held at the LaSells Stewart Center, C&E Hall, at Oregon State. They include:

  • Feb. 15, 3:30 p.m.: “The Intersection of Outdoor Recreation, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: from increasing awareness to creating relevance,” with Nina S. Roberts, San Francisco State University
  • March 8, 3:30 p.m.: “Sustainable Recreation on the National Forest – Healthy Balance?” with John Allen, U.S. Forest Service, Deschutes National Forest
  • April 12, 3:30 p.m.: “Is National Monument Designation an Economic Blessing or an Economic Curse?” with Paul Jakus, Utah State University

“The challenges of balancing the needs of those who use our forests are immense,” said Thomas Maness, the Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry. “For instance, conflicts between recreationists and land managers arise and are costly, while forest recreation remains an opportunity enjoyed mostly by users of a certain income status and demographic set. The series will be a wonderful opportunity for audiences to learn about the challenges and how they can be addressed.”

The Starker Lecture Series is sponsored by the Starker family in memory of T.J. and Bruce Starker, prominent leaders in the development of the Oregon forest products industry. The series is also supported by the OSU College of Forestry and the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.

The entire lecture series is free and open to the public. More information on the series is available at http://starkerlectures.forestry.oregonstate.edu.

Media Contact: 

Nick Houtman, nick.houtman@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-0783



Michael Collins, OSU College of Forestry, 541-737-3140


Economics of forest biomass raise hurdles for rural development

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The use of residual forest biomass for rural development faces significant economic hurdles that make it unlikely to be a source of jobs in the near future, according to an analysis by economists at Oregon State University.

In a model of the forest industry, researchers in the College of Forestry combined an evaluation of costs for collecting, transporting and processing biomass with the potential locations of regional processing facilities in western Oregon. Each location was chosen because it is adjacent to an existing or recently-closed wood product operation such as a sawmill or plywood manufacturing plant.

The study, published in Forest Policy and Economics, focused on biomass generated during timber harvesting operations. Biomass consists of branches and treetops that are generally left in the woods or burned. In some highly accessible locations, these residues are ground up or chipped and used to make a product known as “hog fuel.”

“There’s a lot of interest in focusing on the use of biomass to meet multiple objectives, one of which is support for rural communities,” said Mindy Crandall, who led the research as a doctoral student at Oregon State and is an assistant professor at the University of Maine. 

“We thought this might provide some support for that idea,” she said. “But from a strictly market feasibility perspective, it isn’t all that likely that these facilities will be located in remote, struggling rural communities without targeted subsidies or support.”

While researchers don’t dismiss the possibility of reducing costs by increasing the efficiency of biomass operations, the future feasibility of such development may depend on public investments and the creation of new markets. And while the study considered the possibility of generating biomass from restoration or thinning operations on federal forestlands, it concluded that the additional supply does little to change the economic feasibility of processing facilities.

It would take changes in technology from transportation to processing as well as the development of new value-added products — such as aviation fuel and industrial chemicals — to improve the economic feasibility of biomass, scientists say.

The study may be the first to combine a model of biomass operations with specific locations for regional processing facilities where the material could be processed and stored. Researchers identified 65 likely locations in western Oregon for such facilities, which they call “depots.”

The cost of harvesting, chipping and loading biomass at timber harvesting sites comes to about $37.50 per dry ton, researchers estimated. Operating costs of a regional depot — including labor, fuel, maintenance, electricity and supplies — would add another $11 per dry ton. These estimates do not include transportation and depot construction.

“The actual levels of these costs that operators experience will be really critical to feasibility,” added Crandall.

Researchers have explored the potential for biomass to be used to make aviation fuel, said John Sessions, an OSU professor of forestry who did not take part in this analysis. Sessions has studied the use of forest harvest residues to produce aviation fuel in a project led by Washington State University. While it is technically possible, the economic feasibility of making aviation fuel from biomass would depend on generating income from co-products as well. The first commercial airline flight using aviation fuel made from forest harvest residues was flown by Alaska Airlines last month from Seattle to Washington, D.C., said Sessions, using residues from this project.

Other efficiencies in biomass processing and transportation could improve economic feasibility, added Sessions. They include reducing its moisture content and increasing its density to reduce trucking costs. The scale of processing facilities could be adjusted to minimize the cost per ton.

Crandall and her colleagues estimated that a depot operating three shifts per day and producing 75,000 dry tons per year would create about 19 jobs.

They also considered the possibility that an increase in material from federal forests would make a difference, but transportation costs would rise because such lands tend to be remote from likely depots.

“Just like with real estate, it’s ‘location, location, location’ that matters here, and national forest lands are not uniformly distributed across the landscape,” said Darius Adams, co-author on the paper. “They are frequently in less accessible areas, and it would cost more to transport material.”

The potential for biomass, the researchers said, will likely depend on the ability to achieve other aims in addition to generating biomass as a product: wildfire risk reduction, forest restoration, energy and rural economic stimulus.

Support for the research came from the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance led by Washington State funded through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Story By: 

Mindy Crandall, 207-581-2855


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Northeast lakes recovering from acid rain may give trout refuge from climate change

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Lakes recovering from the impacts of acid rain in the northeastern United States may offer a buffer from the effects of climate change for an iconic recreational fishery.

Brook trout are sensitive to acidity and to water temperature. While recent reductions in acid rain have led to brook trout recovery in many mountain lakes, these fish are increasingly under threat from more frequent and severe hot summers.

Fortunately, trout may benefit from an unanticipated change in lake water chemistry. That’s because changes in water clarity can affect the amount of deep, cold water habitat, and provide a key refuge for trout from increased warming at the lake surface.

Lakes recovering from acid rain tend to experience increases in the amount of plankton and dissolved organic matter in the water. As a result, sunlight can’t penetrate as far into the lake. The darker water reduces light penetration and the amount of solar radiation that reaches deep water. 

In a report published today in the journal Global Change Biology, scientists led by Dana Warren, an aquatic biologist at Oregon State University, described the changes that are unfolding in these lakes and the implications for brook trout. Co-authors were from Syracuse and Cornell universities

Since passage of federal Clean Air Act regulations in the 1980s and 90s, the researchers wrote, acid rain has been reduced, and lake-water chemistry has begun to return to pre-industrial conditions. That process is expected to take many more decades, but scientists are now seeing self-sustaining brook trout populations become re-established in lakes where they have been absent or in low abundance for three decades or more.

The changes in water chemistry may facilitate that trend.

“As lakes recover, they get darker. Darker water absorbs more light, and solar radiation doesn’t go as deep,” said Warren. “This means that warming is kept to the upper layers of the lake, which can lead to more cold-water refuge habitat in deeper water during hot summers, like the one we saw last year across the northeast.”

This process is particularly important for trout in the numerous small lakes across eastern North America, he said, where the amount of cold-water refuge and the degree of lake stratification can be limited in hot summers.

Warren is affiliated with the colleges of Forestry and Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State. His research focuses on the interaction of chemical, physical and biological factors in lakes and streams.

In the Adirondack region of New York — an area heavily impacted by acid rain — a self-sustaining brook trout fishery has returned to a lake where Cornell researchers have worked for more than 50 years. Located on private land, the lake represents a well-studied example of native trout recovery in a historically acidified mountain lake ecosystem. Similar improvements have been seen in Brook Trout Lake in the southern Adirondacks and in a dozen other lakes in Adirondack Park that have been stocked with this iconic fish species.

Brook trout generally prefer temperatures below 61 degrees and become stressed when temperatures exceed 68 degrees.

In addition to changing the amount of organic matter leached from the landscape, chemical changes brought about by acid rain reductions can also increase the supply of phosphorus, a critical nutrient for plankton. As plankton multiply, they reduce light penetration into the water and cause the boundary between the layer of warm surface water and colder deep water to rise — creating a thinner, warmer layer at the top and a larger, cooler area below.

Climate models for the Northeast suggest that summer temperatures in this region are likely to increase, and the top layers of stratified lakes are therefore also expected to become warmer and larger.

“It is important to recognize that this fortunate by-product of acid-rain recovery does not eliminate the direct and indirect threats to these populations from climate change,” Warren added.

“It may afford the populations in these lakes greater resistance to impacts of climate change in the near future, but in the long term, climate change remains a major issue for trout, especially those in more southerly regions at the edge of their range.” 

Story By: 

Dana Warren, 541-737-2244, dana.warren@oregonstate.edu

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New prototype plywood panels tested at Oregon State may be world’s largest

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A new massive plywood building panel developed by an Oregon company and tested at Oregon State University may be the largest such product ever manufactured.

Builders are familiar with standard plywood sheets that measure 4-feet wide, 8-feet long and between a quarter-inch and more than one-inch thick. The new panels made by the Freres Lumber Company of Lyons, Oregon, can be as much 12-feet wide, 48-feet long and 2-feet thick.

The company announced its new panels in October, capping more than a year of development and performance testing at Oregon State’s Advanced Wood Products Laboratory. “The results look very promising,” said Ari Sinha, assistant professor in OSU’s College of Forestry, who oversaw the tests. “This is a unique product with the potential for creating jobs in rural Oregon.”

Versatility is one of the benefits of the product known as a Mass Plywood Panel (MPP). “These panels can be customized for different applications. Because they have very good compression qualities, they could be used for columns as well as panels,” said Sinha.

The veneer manufacturing process enables manufacturers to orient wood grain and to distribute the defects found in smaller trees, such as knots, in a way that maintains the strength of the final product, Sinha added.

Tests in Sinha’s lab focused on the panels’ structural and physical properties such as density, adhesive bonding and resistance to the kinds of vertical and horizontal stresses experienced in an earthquake. Additional tests are planned after the first of the year.

Mass Plywood Panels can achieve the performance characteristics of a similar product known as Cross Laminated Timber panels with 20 to 30 percent less wood.

“The market is wide enough that this product can compete in niche applications,” said Sinha. “MPP can be made to order.”

Sinha’s lab conducts wood-product testing year-around for companies in Oregon, Washington and other states. He evaluates connections between building components as well as component stresses stemming from wind, earthquakes and other forces.

With support from businesses, Oregon BEST and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the new National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design will continue to conduct tests on Mass Plywood Panels and on Cross Laminated Timber panels manufactured by companies in the Northwest and elsewhere. Housed at the OSU College of Forestry, the center is a collaboration between the college, the OSU College of Engineering and the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts.

Media Contact: 

Nick Houtman, 541-737-0783, nick.houtman@oregonstate.edu



Geoff Huntington, geoff.huntington@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-9103; Ari Sinha, arijit.sinha@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-6713 

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OSU receives $4 million grant to identify mechanisms for control of genetic engineering in plants

CORVALLIS, Ore. — With a $4 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, scientists at Oregon State University will develop new approaches to identifying genes that control the ability of a plant to be genetically engineered.

Researchers will create new methods to image and analyze plants undergoing the process of genetic engineering. Their goal is to identify the genes that promote or retard the process. 

Genetic engineering generally requires that DNA be inserted into cells. By modifying DNA, researchers can generate organisms with desired characteristics. 

“Many crop species, and many of the valuable varieties within them, remain extremely difficult to genetically engineer,” said Steve Strauss, OSU distinguished professor in the College of Forestry and project leader. “This greatly limits the ability of this method to be used for plant breeding and scientific research. There can be blockages at any of the several steps. Regeneration of modified cells into plants is usually the most difficult to overcome.”

In collaboration with Fuxin Li in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the investigators will develop state-of-the-art image analysis methods to visualize the genetic engineering process. This will include the use of machine vision where the computer learns how to recognize key plant organs and cell types. That would enable researchers to monitor and quantify the complex process through which a genetically engineered cell turns into a new plant.  

The research will focus on the cottonwood tree, a species whose DNA sequences have been previously determined by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Oregon State researchers will collaborate with Wellington Muchero at the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory on genetic mapping and gene identification. 

OSU social scientist Troy Hall and other members of the project team will work with Jay Well of the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE) program at Oregon State to develop education modules around genetic engineering in agriculture for middle- and high-school students. They will first analyze how youth approach the ideas and scientific concepts behind genetic engineering and then pilot the modules with underserved students in rural communities throughout Oregon.

This work will benefit from collaborations with the biotechnology industry, including Monsanto and Simplot, which will provide plant materials and methods of genetic analysis for student laboratory exercises.

“The research will shed new light on the mechanisms of genetic engineering so we can improve its efficacy and lower its costs,” said Strauss. “The work will also produce insights into how to effectively educate, both in Oregon and elsewhere, about the complex issues of crop genetic engineering.”

Story By: 

Steve Strauss, 541-737-6578, steve.strauss@oregonstate.edu


Storing more carbon in western Cascades forests could benefit some wildlife species, not others

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Forest management policies that aim to store more carbon in the Pacific Northwest may benefit some wildlife species more than others.

According to a recently published analysis, increasing carbon storage could lead to more favorable conditions for northern spotted owls, pileated woodpeckers, olive-sided flycatchers, Pacific marten and red tree voles. These species may benefit from management policies that favor less intensive logging and longer periods between tree harvests.

However, mule deer and western bluebirds may not fare so well. Both species rely on open, early successional forests that could become less common under management policies that reduce harvesting.

The analysis of timber harvesting, wildlife habitat and the amount of carbon stored in vegetation and soils focused on a 400,000-acre landscape in the western Cascade Range. It is one of the most exhaustive studies of its type ever performed. Scientists at Oregon State University, Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service, and the University of Connecticut studied the consequences of 13 different logging intervals, from no harvest to removing all live and dead trees every 25 years. 

The results were published in Ecological Applications, a professional journal.

“Our analysis shows that implementing forest management strategies to store additional forest carbon will influence habitat for different species, improving or expanding it for some and reducing it for others,” said Jeff Kline, lead author and an economist with the U.S. Forest Service. “Although forest managers already know that intuitively, our study helps to put some numbers on the possible outcomes of an array of management options.”

The researchers used computer models to simulate the consequences of tree harvesting on wildlife habitat, as well as on the amount of carbon stored in forest ecosystems and in wood products. Their simulations did not focus on public versus private land ownership, but rather on the potential of the landscape to produce carbon storage, timber and habitat under management strategies of all types. They included harvesting operations but not other disturbances stemming from wildfire, storms or climate change.

Existing USDA policy directs the Forest Service to lead efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This study is the first to broadly describe the consequences of one type of mitigation, carbon storage, for other benefits such as wildlife habitat. The results show that management aimed at one goal, such as carbon storage, may lead to trade-offs with other goals, such as wildlife habitat for specific species.

The study enables forest managers to consider the range of long-term outcomes that are possible under forest management scenarios, the scientists said. There may be opportunities to store additional carbon without reducing timber harvests, because current management practices represent only a small fraction of the outcomes that are possible in the western Cascades.

“The study will enable managers to consider more novel forest management possibilities that may be outside of the subset of current forest management strategies in widespread use,” said Kline.

Forest managers will need to account for other factors in actually implementing policies to increase carbon storage, the authors concluded. Natural disturbances, climate change and biological processes that might constrain wildlife populations should be considered.

The research was funded by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Story By: 

Mark Harmon, 541-737-8455, mark.harmon@oregonstate.edu; Tom Spies, 541-750-7354, tspies@fs.fed.us; Jeff Kline, 541-758-7776, jkline@fs.fed.us


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Public invited to groundbreaking celebration for Oregon Forest Science Complex

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The College of Forestry at Oregon State University will celebrate the construction of the new Oregon Forest Science Complex with a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, October 29.

The 95,000-square-foot project will encompass a new Peavy Hall and the A. A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory. It will showcase innovative uses for wood in building construction and design, including advanced wood products such as cross-laminated timber. The complex will also feature recycled wood beams from the old Peavy Hall to honor the college’s storied past.

“The complex will highlight materials grown and produced in the state of Oregon,” said Thomas Maness, the Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford dean of the College of Forestry. “The state is perfectly positioned to produce products like cross-laminated timber. This complex is for the people of Oregon and represents the future of forestry in the entire region.”

The public is invited to the event, which will begin at 4:45 p.m. and feature remarks by Maness; Oregon State President Ed Ray; Governor Kate Brown; Allyn Ford, chairman of the board of directors for Roseburg Forest Products; and others.

The new buildings will serve a growing student population and meet the research needs of people working throughout the state and region toward a healthy forest landscape. In the last decade, the college has nearly doubled its enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students. In the last fiscal year, faculty researchers successfully competed for $11.4 million in research grants and contracts, up $2.9 million in the last decade.

To support Oregon’s wood-products industry, the A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory will serve as the hub for the National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design. The center brings together expertise from OSU’s College of Forestry and College of Engineering and the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown worked with both universities to secure funds for this first-in-the-nation collaboration among forest-product scientists, engineers and architects. To support the mission of the center, a total of $2.6 million in state funds has been allocated and used to leverage an equal commitment in federal funds for research and wood-product testing.

“The complex is crucial to the future of our working forest landscapes,” Maness said. “The way we thought about forestry, natural resources and wood science in the past is very different from how we think about them now. This complex will help prepare our students to tackle our most complex landscape challenges, improve rural economies and establish a healthy forest landscape.”

In 2016, OSU was named the world’s 14th best university for forestry and agriculture by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, in a survey of more than 200 schools.

The new forest science complex has been supported by $29.7 million in state and $35 million in private funds, including lead gifts from Sierra Pacific, Starker Forests, Inc. and Roseburg Forest Products.

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Michael Collins, 541-737-3140, michael.collins@oregonstate.edu

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Wildlife migration routes for multiple species can link conservation reserves at lower cost

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Scientists have demonstrated a new technique for designing effective wildlife migration corridors while reducing the costs of conservation.

The method will assist managers of public and private lands that provide routes for animals to roam. Researchers have long known that such migration corridors are crucial for conserving rare and endangered species. For example, land has been set aside in Africa and India to enable elephants to migrate. In Canada, structures have been built to enable wolves and other animals to cross highways.

Focusing on one species at a time, however, has proved to be expensive. Developed by a team including researchers in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, the new method can meet most of the migratory needs of two species simultaneously while reducing the total cost of buying land by about three quarters.

“We demonstrate that a lot of potential gain can be made at moderate increases in cost as you try to connect habitat areas,” said Claire Montgomery, a forest economist at Oregon State and one of the researchers on the project. “Looking at trade-offs between target species is something that no one has done, as far as I know, in terms of corridor design.”

Research such as this can help land managers who juggle competing priorities, including biodiversity, the scientists said. Species such as grizzly bears and wolverines range over large areas, some of which overlap. The animals need to be able to move between wilderness, parks and other reserves to avoid becoming inbred and losing genetic diversity.

The research was published in the journal Conservation Biology. Scientists at Oregon State, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development, Cornell University and the U.S. Geological Survey collaborated in a five-year effort to develop a computer model that could be applied to wildlife corridors.

“This approach could revolutionize the process of corridor design,” said lead author Bistra Dilkina at Georgia Tech. “By incorporating economic costs and multiple species needs directly into the planning process, it allows for a systematic exploration of cost-effective conservation plans and informs policy-makers about trade-offs, both between species as well as between costs and connectivity benefits.”

The researchers had been asked to help identify parcels of potential interest if opportunities arose to purchase land for wildlife corridor purposes. “If the scientific community were asked which land should be a priority to purchase for connectivity, the issue was whether or not we could answer that question,” said Montgomery.

The research team developed a method for combining two types of landscape data in a computer model: tax records that show the market values of land and ecological information about the ease with which animals can move across the landscape. They then applied the model to the design of corridors to serve grizzlies and wolverines. They compared corridors for bears and wolverines separately and together.

The cost of buying land to serve as ideal migration corridors for wolverines and grizzlies separately came to about $31 million. However, by combining corridors that meet most of the animals’ needs and including the cost of buying land in the analysis, the researchers cut that cost to about $8 million.

The corridors that the researchers identified pass through key breeding habitat for wolverines in western Montana. The routes connect the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in and around Yellowstone National Park with the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which extends as far north as the Canadian border.

The closest points of the two reserves are 130 miles apart as the crow flies, but the corridors are longer, reflecting the animals’ complex habitat needs. A corridor that meets the ideal needs of grizzlies was calculated to be about 231 miles long. Since wolverines require snowpack for reproduction and tend to prefer high elevations, the researchers identified a network of pathways that served the elusive animals.

“Many efforts have tried to prioritize which lands to swap or purchase for connecting rare species given biological and economic realities. This new research leads the way in optimizing the use of scarce resources to achieve essential connectivity,” said Michael Schwartz, director of the U.S. Forest Service National Genomic Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation and co-author of the study. “It provides a transparent solution for optimizing connectivity while taking into account economics.”

Implementing the new method requires a large amount of data about land values and barriers to animal movement. The researchers chose to work with the State of Montana because it maintains an exceptional database of land parcels for tax purposes.

For information about barriers to movement, the scientists calculated a “resistance” score for each parcel. Parcels with higher scores were judged to be more difficult to move through, so land with lower scores was more likely to be included in a potential corridor.

In each case, the corridors were presented as a potential example of connectivity, not an actual project involving a land purchase. More information would be useful to implement such a proposal. “Even with high-profile species like grizzly bears and wolverines, more data about habitat needs would be beneficial for long-term planning,” said Rachel Houtman, co-author on the paper and a research assistant at Oregon State.

Montgomery continues to evaluate ways to enable forest landowners to simultaneously achieve their management goals and to meet the habitat and migratory needs of wildlife. “Instead of saying we’re going to buy these lands, how can we protect the functionality that’s there or improve it? That’s a lot harder to analyze,” she adds.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.

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