OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of forestry

Overgrazing turning parts of Mongolian Steppe into desert

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Overgrazing by millions of sheep and goats is the primary cause of degraded land in the Mongolian Steppe, one of the largest remaining grassland ecosystems in the world, Oregon State University researchers say in a new report.

Using a new satellite-based vegetation monitoring system, researchers found that about 12 percent of the biomass has disappeared in this country that’s more than twice the size of Texas, and 70 percent of the grassland ecosystem is now considered degraded. The findings were published in Global Change Biology.

Overgrazing accounts for about 80 percent of the vegetation loss in recent years, researchers concluded, and reduced precipitation as a result of climatic change accounted for most of the rest. These combined forces have led to desertification as once-productive grasslands are overtaken by the Gobi Desert, expanding rapidly from the south.

Since 1990 livestock numbers have almost doubled to 45 million animals, caused in part by the socioeconomic changes linked to the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the report said. High unemployment led many people back to domestic herding.

The problem poses serious threats to this ecosystem, researchers say, including soil and water loss, but it may contribute to global climate change as well. Grasslands, depending on their status, can act as either a significant sink or source for atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“This is a pretty serious issue,” said Thomas Hilker, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Forestry. “Regionally, this is a huge area in which the land is being degraded and the food supply for local people is being reduced.

“Globally, however, all ecosystems have a distinct function in world climate,” he said. “Vegetation cools the landscape and plays an important role for the water and carbon balance, including greenhouse gases.”

Even though it was clear that major problems were occurring in Mongolia in the past 20 years, researchers were uncertain whether the underlying cause was overgrazing, climate change or something else. This report indicates that overgrazing is the predominant concern.

Mongolia is a semi-arid region with harsh, dry winters and warm, wet summers. About 79 percent of the country is covered by grasslands, and a huge surge in the number of grazing animals occurred during just the past decade - especially sheep and goats that cause more damage than cattle. Related research has found that heavy grazing results in much less vegetation cover and root biomass, and an increase in animal hoof impacts.

Collaborators on this research included Richard H. Waring, a distinguished professor emeritus of forest ecology from OSU; scientists from NASA and the University of Maryland; and Enkhjargal Natsagdorj, a former OSU doctoral student from Mongolia. The work has been supported by NASA and OSU.

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Thomas Hilker, 541-737-2608

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Oregon State University researcher receives national award for soy-based adhesive

CORVALLIS, Ore. — When Kaichang Li developed a new adhesive inspired by the extreme rock-holding power of mussels, he didn’t foresee that it would change the plywood industry.

Today, after his innovation has been adopted by about 60 percent of the plywood and veneer industry, he is receiving a national award for federally supported research that benefits society. At a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University received the 2017 Golden Goose Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), several other science societies and congressional supporters.

In 2003, with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Li began working with Columbia Forest Products to adapt his new soybean-based adhesive to hardwood plywood manufacturing. By 2006, the company had converted all of its plants away from formaldehyde-based adhesives — whose emissions are known to cause cancer — to this new, soy-based glue.

“OSU scientist Kaichang Li’s work in partnership with Columbia Forest Products is a wonderful demonstration of the power of innovation and public-private collaboration to address real-world challenges and create new opportunities,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR). “Li’s discovery of a soy-based glue has swept through the wood products industry, but we wouldn’t have this green invention if Li hadn’t first wondered how mussels can stick to rough surfaces underwater.

“We all benefit when federal researchers, university scientists and private companies follow their curiosity and collaborate in solving problems. Federal investment in science and research, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture award that supported this work, allows scientists like Kaichang Li to turn curiosity into new knowledge and practical solutions.”

Li is one of six researchers to receive the award this year. The Golden Goose Award honors scientists whose federally funded work may have been considered silly, odd or obscure when first conducted but has resulted in significant benefits to society.

In 2012, a coalition of business, university and scientific organizations created the Golden Goose Award, conceived by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) as a strong counterpoint to criticisms of basic research as wasteful federal spending, such as the late Sen. William Proxmire’s (D-WI) Golden Fleece Award. Learn more about the award, including past winners and supporters: www.goldengooseaward.org.

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Kaichang Li, kaichang.li@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-8421   

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The photo of Kaichang Li to the left is available at https://flic.kr/p/8oWiQU.

 

A video produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science is available at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/g4txrrlvr4e9c04/AABmAJbVoZ9mjYMWsjhnor2Ia?dl=....

When it comes to the threat of extinction, size matters

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Animals in the Goldilocks zone — neither too big, nor too small, but just the right size — face a lower risk of extinction than do those on both ends of the scale, according to an extensive global analysis.

Reporting today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers who determined body masses for thousands of vertebrate animal species showed that the largest and smallest species face a greater risk of extinction than do mid-sized animals.

Disproportionate losses at the large and small ends of the scale raise the likelihood of significant changes to the way natural ecosystems function in forests, grasslands, oceans and even rivers and streams — “the living architecture of the planet,” the researchers wrote.

“Knowing how animal body size correlates with the likelihood of a species being threatened provides us with a tool to assess extinction risk for the many species we know very little about,” said William Ripple, a distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University and lead author of the study.

Ripple and colleagues from the United States, Australia and Switzerland looked at the more than 27,000 vertebrate animal species assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in the so-called Red List. About 4,400 are threatened with extinction.

Among the groups of animals evaluated were birds, reptiles, amphibians, bony fishes, cartilaginous fishes (mostly sharks and rays) and mammals.

The largest animals are threatened principally with harvesting by humans. “Many of the larger species are being killed and consumed by humans, and about 90 percent of all threatened species larger than 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) in size are being threatened by harvesting,” said Ripple.

“Harvesting of these larger animals takes a variety of forms including regulated and unregulated fishing, hunting and trapping for meat consumption, the use of body parts as medicine and killing due to unintentional bycatch,” the authors wrote.

Meanwhile, threats to the smallest animals may be grossly underestimated. The smallest species with high extinction risk consist of tiny vertebrate animals generally less than about 1.2 ounces (35 grams) in body weight. These diminutive species are mostly threatened by loss or modification of habitat. Examples include the Clarke's banana frog, sapphire-bellied hummingbird, gray gecko, hog-nosed bat and the waterfall climbing cave fish. Small species that require freshwater habitats are especially imperiled.

Different conservation strategies will be needed to address threats to the largest and smallest animals, the scientists said. Well known mammals at the large end of the scale — whales, elephants, rhinos, lions — have been the target of protection programs, but conservation attention is also needed for large-bodied species that are not mammals. They include large fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles such as the whale shark, Atlantic sturgeon, Somali ostrich, Chinese giant salamander and the Komodo dragon.

“For the large animals, there is an urgent need to reduce the consumption by humans of harvest sensitive species to lessen the negative impacts of hunting, fishing and trapping,” said Thomas Newsome, co-author and research fellow at Deakin University and the University of Sydney in Australia. “But it’s ultimately slowing the human population growth rate that will be the crucial long-term factor in limiting extinction risks to many species.

Human activity seems poised to chop off both the head and tail of the size distribution of life, the authors added, which will fundamentally restructure many ecological communities.

In addition to Ripple and Newsome, co-authors included Christopher Wolf at Oregon State, Michael Hoffman at the IUCN, Aaron Wirsing at the University of Washington and Douglas McCauley at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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William Ripple, 541-737-3056, bill.ripple@oregonstate.edu

    

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Use of structural wood in commercial buildings reduces greenhouse gas emissions

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Substituting wood for concrete and steel in the structural systems of commercial buildings reduces fossil fuel use and cuts emissions of greenhouse gases on average 60 percent, according to a recent analysis by Oregon State University researchers.

This is significant because materials are a significant component of carbon dioxide emissions associated with construction. In the United States alone, building construction and use contribute about 40 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Reporting in Wood Fiber and Science, a professional journal, the OSU researchers from the College of Forestry and College of Engineering found that much of the savings are achieved through the use of wood as a fuel source in manufacturing. Although most of the energy used to produce building materials — whether they are wood, concrete or steel — comes from fossil fuels, wood products tend to be less energy intensive. In addition, a portion of the energy for making structural panels, beams and other wood products comes from wood wastes, which, the authors assumed, is carbon neutral.

“The study is just the first step leading to a sustainability metric for use of wood in code-compliant commercial buildings,” said Ari Sinha, professor of renewable materials in forestry and a co-author on the paper. “Generally, we know wood is renewable, resulting in lower environmental impacts in many cases than other building materials. What was lacking was confirmation and quantification of these benefits.”

The researchers analyzed structural systems in six types of buildings and assumed each would be built in Portland. The structures included an office building, exercise facility, medical center, basketball arena, residential building and warehouse.

In each case, they took a life-cycle approach, which tracks the environmental impacts of materials through five stages in the life of a building: manufacturing of materials, building construction, building operation, demolition and recycling. The researchers assumed that the choice of structural materials would not alter building operation, so their analysis ignored that aspect of the life cycle.

In addition to the six case studies, the authors analyzed a scenario in which the structural system of one of the buildings — a one-story medical center — was completely redesigned using wood products. That approach achieved the largest greenhouse gas emissions reduction, about 166 percent, over conventional construction methods using other materials. “That’s because the analysis takes carbon sequestration into account,” said Sinha. “A growing tree removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and when it is used in building products, the carbon is sequestered for the life of the building.”

The authors used software developed by the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, a nonprofit organization, to estimate the consequences of substituting wood for concrete and steel.

Kristina Milaj, a former graduate research assistant at Oregon State now with the engineering firm CH2M, performed the study in coordination with Sinha, Thomas Miller in the OSU College of Engineering and John A. Tokarczyk of the Oregon Department of Forestry, which provided financial support for the study.

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Ari Sinha, arijit.sinha@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-6713

    

Oregon State University breaks record with $441 million in research grants

CORVALLIS, Ore. –Oregon State University crossed the $400 million threshold in grants and contracts for the first time in the fiscal year that ended June 30, including being awarded a grant to build a $122 million regional research vessel.

Oregon State received $441 million from state and federal governments, businesses and foundations for research on a wide range of projects in natural resources, health, engineering and science across the state and around the world. Federal agencies provided $315 million (71 percent), and additional funds came from state agencies, businesses and foundations.

“OSU research spurs solutions to problems and serves and involves people, communities and businesses across the state and world,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU vice president for research. “Investment in research affects our daily lives —  the food we eat, health care, the environment — and pays back dividends in economic growth for Oregonians. Researchers are starting new businesses and assisting established companies.”

Altogether, Oregon State’s research revenues leapt 31 percent over last year’s record-breaking total of $336 million. Over the past 10 years, OSU’s research revenues have more than doubled and exceed those of Oregon’s public universities combined.

OSU research totals surged in June with a $122 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a new regional research vessel, which will be stationed at the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. It was the largest single grant ever received by the university.

Revenues from business and industry — including technology testing, sponsored contracts and licensing of innovations developed at the university — grew to $34 million last year, up 10 percent from the previous year.

“Our latest success is the result of hard work and strategic decisions by our faculty and partners in business, local and state government and the federal delegation,” Sagers said.

Based on past OSU research, startup companies such as Agility Robotics (animal-like robot motion), Outset Medical (at-home kidney dialysis) and Inpria (photolithography for high-performance computer chips) are attracting private investment and creating jobs. Advances in agricultural crops (winter wheat, hazelnuts, small fruits and vegetables) and forest products (cross-laminated timber panels for high-rise construction) are bolstering rural economies as well.

Since it began in 2013, the Oregon State University Advantage program has provided market analysis and support services to more than 70 local technology businesses and start-up companies. 

Other major grants last year included:

  • Up to $40 million by the U.S. Department of Energy for testing systems for ocean wave energy technologies;
  • $9 million for a next-generation approach to chemical manufacturing known as RAPID, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory;
  • $6.5 million from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make artificial-intelligence systems more trustworthy;
  • A combined $1.15 million in state, federal and foundation funding for a state-of-the-art instrument known as an X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system. The XPS system brings world-class capabilities to the Pacific Northwest to address challenges in surface chemistry. Partners included the Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center and the National Science Foundation.

 “Whether it’s with the fishing and seafood industries on our coast, federal labs working on energy and the environment or local governments concerned about jobs and education, partnerships with business, government and other research organizations are absolutely vital to our work,” said Sagers. “We care about these relationships, the benefits they bring to our communities and the educational opportunities they create for our students.”

Research has long been a hallmark of graduate education, and undergraduate students are increasingly participating in research projects in all fields, from the sciences to engineering, health and liberal arts. OSU provided undergraduates with more than $1 million last year to support projects conducted under the mentorship of faculty members.

“Research is fundamental to President Ray’s Student Success Initiative,” said Sagers. “Studies show time and again that students who participate in research tend to stay in school, connect with their peers and find meaningful work after they graduate. Research is a key part of the educational process.”

Federal agencies represent the lion’s share of investment in OSU research. That investment has more than doubled in the last five years. The National Science Foundation provided the largest share of funding, followed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Energy. 

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Project summaries and FY17 research totals for OSU colleges are posted online:

College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/our-best/research-awards-2016-17

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/research/map/

College of Education: http://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach

College of Engineering:  http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy17-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/college-forestry-continues-advance-research-efforts#

College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2017-research-summary

College of Pharmacy: http://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information

College of Public Health and Human Sciences: http://health.oregonstate.edu/research/funding-highlights 

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2017/08/research-funding-continues-upward-trajectory/

College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights

Video b-roll is available with comments by Cindy Sagers, vice president of research, at https://youtu.be/pkGD-lhVTwo.

 

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Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research, cynthia.sagers@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-0664

    

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Wild bees thrive after severe forest fires

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Early results from a two-year study in southern Oregon suggest that moderate and severe forest fires create conditions that lead to greater abundance and diversity of wild bees.

Because Oregon’s more than 500 species of native bees are important pollinators of wild plants and crops, the study suggests that fires may promote bee populations that in turn may influence agricultural productivity and overall floral diversity.

In 2016, scientists began trapping bees at 43 sites in forests burned by the 2013 Douglas Complex fire north of Grants Pass. The sites ranged from places where fire severity was low — flames were confined to low-growing vegetation and failed to reach the canopy — to places where severity was moderate and high.

“In low severity spots, if you weren’t looking for the markers of fire, you wouldn’t know that it had burned,” said Sara M. Galbraith, a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. “The canopy is completely closed, and the trees are usually older. There isn’t a lot of evidence of fire except for some blackened areas on some of the tree trunks.

“And then, when you go to some of the high-severity fire sites, it’s a completely open canopy. There are a lot of flowering plants in the understory because the light limitation is gone. It just looks completely different,” she added.

In a study led by Jim Rivers, OSU forest wildlife ecologist, Galbraith and a team of field researchers collected bees with blue-vane traps, which attract the insects by reflecting ultra-violet light. “The bees basically think it’s a huge flower,” said Galbraith. “Once they get inside the trap, they are unable to fly out because of the shape of the entrance.”

In addition, researchers recorded the characteristics of each site, such as the types of plants, the degree of forest cover and whether or not logging had taken place after the fire.

Such studies are important, Galbraith said, because the early stages of forest development — what researchers call early seral forests — have become less common. “This research adds to the evidence that there is high biodiversity in early seral forests relative to older stands, and moving forward, this could have an impact on services like pollination in the landscape overall. Without this fundamental information, we can’t be sure of the best management actions to conserve pollinator populations within managed forests.”

The study will conclude this year. It was funded by the federal Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Habitat in Managed Forests Research Program in the College of Forestry, and the Mealey/Boise Cascade/Boone and Crockett/Noble Endowment Fund in the College of Forestry.

Galbraith received a joint Ph.D. from the University of Idaho and CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) in Costa Rica. She will present a paper on the first year of results at the annual conference of the Ecological Society of America on August 10 in Portland. 

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 Jim Rivers, jim.rivers@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-6581; Sara M. Galbraith, sara.galbraith@oregonstate.edu

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With support from the state, forest industry, and conservation groups, OSU researchers gather data on threatened seabird

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A multi-year study of the marbled murrelet, a threatened West Coast seabird that nests as far as 50 miles inland, aims to discover the animal’s habitat needs and understand the reasons for the species’ ongoing population decline in the Northwest.

In addition to determining the needs of this elusive bird, the study aims to help forest managers on public and private lands balance habitat conservation with timber land management.

The project is possible because of an increase in funding for research in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University provided by the state Legislature in 2015 with broad support from the timber industry and conservation groups. “We are investing in this project because all interests want to know the breeding habitat requirements of the marbled murrelet, so that land management decisions in our productive coastal forests benefit from the best data and science available,” said Thomas Maness, dean of the college.

“Managing our forests is not just about producing timber. It’s also about habitat. We need to understand where these birds go to nest and the best way to protect this species while actively managing our forests to produce timber revenue that is vital to state and local economies.”

The project is managed through the Institute for Working Forest Landscapes at Oregon State and is a joint effort between researchers at the College of Forestry and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The research project aims to answer questions about how forests can be managed for both murrelets and timber. “Murrelets prefer mature, late-successional forests, but they may not be restricted to old growth,” said James Rivers, professor of animal ecology in the college and the lead scientist on the project.

“The goal of our project is to determine the murrelets’ requirements for nesting, to learn more about where the birds are located on the landscape and to understand the factors that influence nest success and their relationship to active forest management.” 

The long-lived, dove-sized marbled murrelet spends most of its time in coastal waters dining on krill, other invertebrates and forage fish such as herring, anchovies, smelt and capelin. They nest in mature and old-growth forests and typically produce only one offspring per year, if the nest is successful.

Many seabird species, such as common murres, terns and gulls, tend to nest in colonies, but murrelets are comparatively solitary, nesting in the forest and sometimes within small groups. They typically lay their single egg high in a tree on a horizontal limb that is at least 4 inches in diameter, said Rivers.

Globally, marbled murrelets are one of the few seabirds that nest in this fashion. Scientists don’t know why the birds have evolved this particular habit. “The end goal for these birds is to be very secretive and quiet so predators don’t find their nests and they can produce young,” said Rivers.

“We know we have nesting habitat for murrelets throughout our coastal forests. But we don’t have large sample sizes of nests. If you look at data along the coast from California to Washington, central Oregon has the highest population based on surveys of birds at sea. The Siuslaw National Forest is in that area, and we think the birds may be going in there to nest.”

Only 75 nests have been documented in Oregon since OSU avian ecologist Kim Nelson, a scientist on the project, identified the first one in 1990. “I was on Marys Peak in 1985 when I heard a seabird and wondered what this bird is doing so far from the ocean,” said Nelson. She saw murrelets that year at some of her study sites in the Coast Range.

Three years later, she began a series of systematic murrelet surveys funded by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service. Progress was slow, since identifying the birds required people to be physically present at specific locations by dawn for extended periods of time and to listen for the birds’ smooth, high-pitched call. Nonetheless, they found more than 20 active nests and hundreds of occupied sites throughout the Oregon Coast Range.

In a project funded in the 1990s by the Oregon Department of Forestry and the National Council for the Advancement of Air and Stream Improvement, a forest-products industry research organization, Nelson and other scientists climbed about 5,000 trees in a search for murrelet nests. That study identified an additional 45 nests in Oregon and more in Washington, although most of those nests were not active. “Thus, there is limited information about whether those nests were successful and what factors played a role in any nesting failures that may have occurred,” said Rivers.

Along the West Coast, marbled murrelets have been found as far south as Baja California, where they winter, and as far north as the Aleutian Islands. Their populations have been declining by about 4 percent a year in Washington, Oregon and California.

In California, the birds are federally listed as threatened, primarily because of low recruitment of new individuals into the population. The Alaska population is not considered endangered, although population declines have been documented there as well.

The first known murrelet nest was found in the California redwoods in 1974. Based on studies of known nests in the listed range, scientists have found that Steller’s jays and other corvids, such as crows and ravens, are the main predators of murrelet nests.

The researchers aim to learn more about how human activities in the forest affect the risk that predators pose to murrelets. Little is known regarding the effects of logging, camping and the presence of garbage dumps on predator numbers and the chances that predators will find and depredate murrelet nests.

Other unknowns about the birds include how long they live (estimated to be 10 to 15 years), the juxtaposition of nesting to foraging areas and whether individual birds shift their primary feeding areas along the coast from one place to another. 

To answer such questions, members of the OSU research team have been capturing murrelets on the ocean, tagging the birds with miniature VHF radio transmitters and then tracking where they go. Only adult birds with a “brood patch,” a spot with little or no feathers on the breast, are tagged. Such patches indicate that the bird is preparing to breed and incubate an egg.

Last spring, researchers succeeded in capturing and tagging 61 birds. “That was a huge success. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to capture birds on the open ocean,” said Rivers.

Other research methods include the use of infrared cameras to watch nests 24/7, drone-mounted cameras to search for nests in the forest canopy and a customized audio recorder that can record murrelet calls and help researchers document inland movements.

When the birds are stressed by a lack of food, they have been known to forgo reproduction and not lay any eggs, said Nelson. This year, some of the birds that were captured on the central Oregon coast have been tracked to areas south of Cape Blanco where foraging conditions may be better.

Long-term studies such as this enable scientists to understand how birds adjust to unpredictable ocean conditions, which can influence murrelet behavior from year to year. “We will be able to document rare conditions that might not be detected by a typical two- to three-year study,” said Rivers. “Those conditions might have important consequences for the population.”

Other scientists on the project include Dan Roby, ornithologist in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. In the College of Forestry, participating researchers include Matt Betts, associate professor and specialist in landscape ecology; Joe Northrup, postdoctoral scientist; and Cheryl Horton and Lindsay Adrean, faculty research assistants.

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Jim Rivers, jim.rivers@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-6581; Jennifer Guerrero, 541-737-2063, jennifer.guerrero@oregonstate.edu

    

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Conserve intact forest landscapes to maximize biodiversity, reduce extinction risk

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A new global analysis of forest habitat loss and wildlife extinction risk published today in the journal Nature shows that species most at risk live in areas just beginning to see the impacts of human activities such as hunting, mining, logging and ranching.

The researchers argue that these intact areas deserve higher priority for limited conservation dollars than areas already impacted heavily by human activity even though species are also threatened in the impacted areas.

“We have seen declines in species in landscapes that have already lost a massive amount of habitat,” said Matthew Betts, lead author and professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. “But we found much more support for what we call the initial intrusion hypothesis. It’s the initial hit caused by roads going into tropical forests and the human activities that follow that is most substantial. These are also the spots with the greatest sheer numbers of species.”

Betts and a team of researchers at Oregon State and BirdLife International, a nonprofit organization, reached their conclusions by analyzing global datasets of forest habitat and species extinction risk. Betts and Christopher Wolf, an Oregon State Ph.D. student in forest ecosystems and statistics along with six co-authors, used forest data assembled by Matthew Hansen at the University of Maryland and categories of extinction risk for 19,432 verterbate species, the so-called Red List, maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Hansen’s data indicate that forest is continuing to be lost at high rates (about 1.5 million square kilometers, or 371 million acres, per year). Most of those changes occur in the tropics. South American rainforests account for nearly half of global forest loss. In total, the new analysis shows that 37 percent of the world’s forests have been converted to other land uses. 

“It should be quite obvious that forest loss increases the risk of species being listed,” said Betts. “But our work provides the first global quantitative link between forest loss and forest species decline.”

However, the question the researchers asked was this: Should conservation efforts be focused on areas where forest habitats have already been lost and species might be reaching a threshold, or on forests that are largely intact and are only just beginning to be affected by development?

At Oregon State, Betts started the Oregon Forest Biodiversity Research Network to use big datasets to answer such questions. In his research in Costa Rica and elsewhere, he has studied the impact of forest clearing on hummingbird pollinators and on other bird species.

It’s likely, Betts added, that heavily impacted areas have already gone through what scientists call an “extinction filter.” Species that are sensitive to development may have previously been eliminated.

High-risk hot spots for forest biodiversity, the researchers wrote, exist in southeast Asia, particularly Borneo, the central-western Amazon and the Congo basin in Africa. Population growth, bushmeat hunting and trapping, and resource extraction in response to consumer demand may fuel future extinction risks in such areas, said Betts.

An ongoing debate among scientists and policymakers focuses on whether conservation programs should prioritize forests already affected by development. “Granted that there’s no such thing as a place that hasn’t been touched by humans in some way due, for example, to a changing climate,” said Betts. “But then there’s the view that humans can quite tightly co-exist with nature assuming that we undertake certain ameliorative measures, that as long as we’re softer on the Earth, we can still have productive landscapes for agriculture. Our paper suggests that we would be helped by having these intact forest landscapes well protected.”

Dedicating some areas to intensive production may allow other areas to be preserved as habitat, said Taal Levi, co-author and assistant professor in Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State. “There are many potential benefits to concentrating our environmental impact by intensifying drivers of land-use change, such as agriculture and forestry, in exchange for gazetting large remote undisturbed reserves. A disproportionately large impact arises from the first disturbance to forests.”

Co-authors included William Ripple, Kimberly Millers, Adam Duarte and Ben Phalan at Oregon State; and Stuart Butchart at BirdLife International.

Funding support was provided by the Institute for Working Forest Landscapes professorship at Oregon State.

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Matt Betts, 541-737-3841, matthew.betts@oregonstate.edu; Chris Wolf, christopher.wolf@oregonstate.edu, 971-645-0936  

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Seismic experiments will test performance of innovative cross-laminated timber structure

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Engineering researchers are putting an innovative two-story structure made of cross-laminated timber panels through a series of seismic tests to determine how it would perform in an earthquake.

The tests are being conducted at the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure at University of California San Diego (NEHRI@UCSD) site, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). They will produce data that can be used in the design of a new generation of wood-frame high-rises, such as a four-story parking structure designed for Springfield, Oregon, and the 12-story Framework building in Portland. Scheduled to open in 2018, the 90,000-square-foot Framework structure will be the tallest mass-timber building in the United States.

A consortium of universities, agencies and engineering firms is conducting the tests with funding from the NSF, Katerra, Simpson Strong-Tie, Tallwood Design Institute, DR Johnson Lumber Co., the Forest Products Laboratory, City of Springfield, the Softwood Lumber Board and MyTiCon Timber Connectors.

“The overarching goal of the project is to propose a design methodology for seismic loading for large panels subjected to large in-plane loading, including some consisting of a composite made of concrete and cross-laminated timber (CLT),” said Arijit Sinha, associate professor of renewable materials in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University

“Several tests will be conducted at different shaking intensities,” said Andre Barbosa, assistant professor of structural engineering in the College of Engineering at Oregon State. “The three different phases of testing include designs for locations in San Francisco, Seattle and Berkeley.”

Barbosa, Sinha and Christopher Higgins, professor of structural engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, are leading the test of the building’s horizontal elements. The three researchers are affiliated with the Tallwood Design Institute at Oregon State, a collaboration between OSU and the University of Oregon.

The tests reflect a range of stresses associated with a variety of earthquake and wind conditions. “Just for reference, the shake-table motions on one of the tests are calibrated to what is expected to occur in a magnitude 9.0 subduction earthquake zone event in Seattle,” Barbosa added.

Researchers will collect data through more than 300 channels in three phases of testing on the 22-foot-tall structure. Data will be generated at pre-selected points to measure how the CLT panels bend and how the panels move relative to each other. Researchers are particularly interested in a system that allows the building to rock in response to an earthquake and how the walls and floors interact during shaking.

In a so-called “rocking wall system,” vertical walls are connected to a steel footing by post-tensioned rods that run up next to a CLT wall and special U-shaped brackets on the side of the wall. The rods allow the wall to rock during an earthquake and snap back into its original upright position, minimizing the impact and resulting structural damage.

Other collaborating researchers include Shiling Pei of the Colorado School of Mines, John van de Lindt of Colorado State Universit, Jeffery Berman of the University of Washington, Dan Dolan of Washington State University, James Ricles and Richard Sause from Lehigh University, and Keri Ryan from University of Nevada Reno. Also participating in the tests are representatives of KPFF Consulting Engineers and WoodWorks, an initiative of the Wood Products Council.

Researchers plan to evaluate larger buildings in the future, including a 10-story tall CLT structure by 2020.

Ongoing activity at the outdoor shake-table of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure facility is live-streamed by webcam at http://nheri.ucsd.edu/video/

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Andre Barbosa, andre.barbosa@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-7291; Arijit Sinha, arijit.sinha@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-6713  

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Pacific Northwest forests are at a crossroads, scientists argue in new book

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Pacific Northwest faces two stark choices for managing its forests, scientists suggest in a new book. One choice leads to stagnant or declining rural communities and risks to some native species, and the other leads to environmental benefits and increases in employment.

In “People, Forests, and Change: Lessons from the Pacific Northwest,” forestry scientists at Oregon State University, the USDA Forest Service and other universities and research organizations offer a detailed look at the region’s forest management as well as its history, new science discoveries and projections for the future. The book has been published by Island Press.

“We wanted to provide a synopsis of Northwest moist coniferous forests – where we are now, how we arrived at this point and directions into the future,” said Deanna “Dede” Olson, co-editor with Beatrice Van Horne. Both are forest scientists with the U.S. Forest Service.

Northwest forests will face an important potential pivot point in the next few years, said Olson. The Northwest Forest Plan is due to be evaluated, and the results will lead to renewed plans in each of the region’s national forests and lands supervised by the Bureau of Land Management. Also, collaborative groups are gaining recognition for contributing to forest governance on lands managed by a variety of public and private entities.

Other factors driving forest management include habitat requirements for sensitive species and strategies that produce a greater variety of forest conditions including both young and mature stands (more than 80 years old). Forest managers need to address the need for forest resilience in the face of climate change and fire and new forest products that can come from younger trees.

The Northwest Forest Plan mandates a one-size-fits-all management approach, said Thomas Maness, dean of the College of Forestry and co-author.

“Yet we know that northwest forests are exceedingly diverse and fragmented. We have an opportunity to actively manage for the desired characteristics of the landscape, while at the same time producing revenue to support communities and pay for management," he added. "Collaboration and building trust are the keys to achieving this goal.”

A shift in relationships among forest landowners, communities and other organizations may herald such an approach, Olson noted. “There is increased recognition that fragmented federal lands have limitations for maintaining ecosystem integrity. A new definition of sustainability seems to be developing, and what that will be is being crafted by the decisions that will come around these various issues.”

“We hope to inspire new conversations about how these topics are emerging as priorities in several places and contexts, and both bottom-up inspiration and top-down motivation can address them.” 

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Deanna H. Olson, 541-750-7373, dedeolson@fs.fed.us

Beatrice Van Horne, 541-750-7357, bvhorne@fs.fed.us

Thomas Maness, 541-737-4603, thomas.maness@oregonstate.edu

    

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