college of forestry

New era of western wildfire demands new ways to protect people, ecosystems

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Current wildfire policy can’t adequately protect people, homes and ecosystems from the longer, hotter fire seasons climate change is causing, according to a report published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Efforts to extinguish every blaze and to reduce the buildup of dead wood and forest undergrowth are becoming increasingly inadequate on their own.

Instead, the authors — a team of wildfire experts from eight universities and a nonprofit research group — urge policymakers and communities to embrace policy reform that will promote adaptation to increasing wildfire and warming.

“We know we need to learn to live with fire. And when we add climate change to the equation, all signs point to urgent shifts in policies and philosophies of fire in our natural and built landscapes,” said Meg Krawchuk, co-author on the report and an assistant professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.

There is no one-size-fits-all path for adapting to fire in the Pacific Northwest, added Krawchuk, who studies the mosaic of burned and unburned areas left behind by wildfire. “It’s key that we respect the core elements of geography: people and place. Inland dry forests and rangelands face very different environmental pressures and futures from the coast.”

Scientists say this also means accepting wildfire as an inevitable part of the landscape.

“Wildfire is catching up to us,” said lead author Tania Schoennagel, a research scientist at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “We’re learning our old tools aren’t enough and we need to approach wildfire differently.”

The western United States has seen a 2-degree-Celsius rise in annual average temperature and lengthening of the fire season by almost three months since the 1970s. Both elements contribute to what the authors refer to as the “new era of western wildfires.” This pattern of bigger, hotter fires, along with the influx of homes into fire-prone areas — more than 2 million since 1990 — has made wildfire vastly more costly and dangerous.

“For a long time, we’ve thought that if we try harder and do better, we can get ahead of wildfire and reduce the risks,” said Schoennagel. “We can no longer do that. This is bigger than us, and we’re going to have to adapt to wildfire rather than the other way around.”

As part of this adaptation process, the authors advocate for actions that may be unpopular, such as allowing more fires to burn largely unimpeded in wildland areas and intentionally setting more fires, or “controlled burns,” to reduce natural fuels like undergrowth in more developed areas. Both these steps would reduce future risk and help ecosystems adapt to increasing wildfire and warming.

They also argue for reforming federal, state and local policies that have the unintended consequence of encouraging people to develop in fire-prone areas. Currently, federal taxpayers pick up the tab for preventing and fighting western wildfires, a cost that has reached some $2 billion a year. If states and counties were to bear more of that cost, it would provide incentive to adopt planning efforts and fire-resistant building codes that would reduce risk.

Re-targeting forest-thinning efforts is another beneficial reform suggested by the authors. The federal government has spent about $5 billion since 2006 on thinning dense forests and removing fuel from 7 million hectares (17 million acres) of land, often in remote areas. But these widespread efforts have done little to reduce record-setting fires. Directing thinning projects to particularly high-risk areas, including communities in fire-prone regions and forests in particularly dry areas, would increase adaptation to wildfire, the authors said.

Additionally, as climate change forces species to move their ranges, some species may vanish entirely. Familiar landscapes will disappear, a fact that makes many people balk. But such changes, including those caused by wildfire, could be necessary for the environment in the long run, says Max Moritz, co-author and fire scientist at the University of California Cooperative Extension. “We need the foresight to help guide these ecosystems in a healthy direction now so they can adjust in pace with our changing climate,” he said. “That means embracing some changes while we have a window to do so.”

Critical to making a policy of adaptation successful, said Schoennagel, will be education and changing people’s perception of wildfire. “We have to learn that wildfire is inevitable, in the same way that droughts and flooding are. We’ve tried to control fire, but it’s not a control we can maintain. Like other natural disasters, we have to learn to adapt.”

Story By: 

Meg Krawchuk, 541-737-1483, meg.krawchuk@oregonstate.edu; Tania Schoennagel, 303-818-5166, tania.schoennagel@colorado.edu


As more of the Pacific Northwest burns, severe fires change forest ecology

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Over the last 30 years, the landscape annually affected by forest fires has slowly increased across the Pacific Northwest, and in some regions, severe blazes account for a higher proportion of the area burned than in the past.

As a result, the ecology of some of the region’s forests is changing in unprecedented ways.

Scientists calculated that less than one-half of 1 percent of the region’s forest is subject to fire in any given year. But in a project using satellite imagery and ground-based tree inventories, they also found that, in areas historically dominated by low- and mixed-severity fires, nearly a quarter of the burned landscape was subject to patches of high-severity fires that often exceeded 250 acres in size.

Studies of fires prior to 1900 suggest that severe fires occurred over smaller patches of forest and accounted for a much smaller proportion of the total burned area than they do today.

To reach their conclusions, researchers analyzed images taken by the LANDSAT satellite between 1985 and 2010. The study evaluated burned area and fire severity in seven different ecosystems, ranging from high-elevation subalpine forests to those dominated by western hemlock, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. Since high-severity fire kills trees outright, the scientists were able to link fire-related tree mortality to changes in images from year to year.

They published their findings in the journal Ecosphere.

“Large fires can have significant social and economic costs, but they are also playing an important role in the ecology of our forests,” said Matthew Reilly, lead author and a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.

“From a regional biodiversity perspective, they are enhancing diversity by creating early seral habitats (the first stage of forest development dominated by grasses, forbs and shrubs). These provide important habitats for species that depend on open conditions and fire-killed trees (or snags). Such habitats are very rare and dispersed across the region but are concentrated in hotspots of high-severity fire like southwest Oregon, Santiam Pass in central Oregon, the North Cascades in Washington and more recently the Blue Mountains, following the Canyon Creek Complex fire near John Day.”

About 98 percent of forest fires are put out before they have a chance to grow, said Reilly.

“Our study is really about the other 2 percent that tend to burn during the hottest, driest, windiest conditions,” he said. “Suppression tends to be more effective when it’s cool and wet.”

More high-severity fires occur in hotter, drier years, the scientists said. But in dry areas east of the Cascades, fires burn a smaller portion of the landscape than they did before 1900. Consequently, forests are becoming denser as vegetation accumulates, creating what scientists call a “fire deficit.”

“In the ponderosa pine forests in eastern Oregon, we estimated it would take about 380 years at the current rate for fire to cover the whole region,” said Reilly. “But historically, we know that those forests were subject to fire every 12 to 28 years.”

The scientists’ results are consistent with other studies that document a fire deficit in the forests of the western United States, but this is the first study to document how recent fires vary in different ecosystems across the Pacific Northwest.

“There’s no one out there who thinks that fire will play the historical role that it used to. We just can’t really have that,” Reilly said. “But we need to figure out how to let the low- to moderate-severity fires burn in forests where fire was frequent historically. There is growing consensus among scientists that use of managed wildfire may be one way to do this, especially in cool, wet years.” 

Researchers at the University of Vermont, the USDA Forest Service and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU were co-authors on the paper. Funding for the study was provided by the USDA Forest Service.

Story By: 

Matthew Reilly, matthew.reilly@oregonstate.edu, 706-338-1372


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Workshop to explore bees, birds and other forest pollinators

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Fires, harvesting and other forest disturbances can affect the birds and insects that pollinate plants in Oregon and worldwide.

The College of Forestry at Oregon State University will offer a look at research on forest pollinators in a workshop at the CH2MHill Alumni Center on the OSU campus on Thursday, March 30. It will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Registration is required by March 20 at http://cpe.forestry.oregonstate.edu/PollinatorWorkshop.

“Our goal is to communicate what we know about how forest management affects pollinators,” said Brianna Beene, workshop organizer and program coordinator in the office of continuing and professional education. “We will also seek input from land managers about what kinds of research would be most useful to them.”

Speakers from Oregon State, Washington State, Montana State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will address a variety of topics, including the influence of wildfire severity, salvage logging, herbicides and practical ways to augment blooms for native bees.

Story By: 

Brianna Beene, brianna.beene@oregonstate.edu, 541 737 3740


Southern Oregon forest restoration may take precedence over spotted owl habitat

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Restoring parts of the Fremont-Winema National Forest in southern Oregon to withstand a warmer, more fire-prone future may require thinning young trees and promoting the growth of large, old ponderosa pine.

However, such activities may not maintain habitat for northern spotted owls, which surveyors have detected in these forests over the past several decades, researchers say in a recent study.

The owl, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, tends to prefer dense forests with older trees for nesting and foraging purposes. That presents forest managers with a challenge — in the drier part of its range, more dense forests may also increase the likelihood of severe fires or drought-induced mortality. This could destroy large old trees as well as owl habitat.

To shed light on historic conditions in owl habitat and other forest characteristics, researchers studied changes in density, tree size and other aspects of a 98,000-acre forest near Chiloquin in Klamath County. They found that, since the 1920s, the density of relatively small trees — ponderosa pine as well as white fir and Douglas fir — has increased by 600 percent across the study area 

Inspiration for the study came from K. Norman Johnson, professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. He discovered detailed tree inventories done between 1914 and 1924 for the part of the Fremont-Winema National Forest that was in the Klamath Reservation.

With Keala Hagmann and Debora L. Johnson of Applegate Forestry in Corvallis, the researchers compared the inventories to modern records and published their findings in Forest Ecology and Management.

The forest on the east side of the Cascades is not considered prime owl habitat. It comprises “an isolated island,” the researchers said, on the eastern edge of spotted owl habitat in a fire-prone environment. Northern spotted owls have been known to reproduce and forage in these forests, although at lower rates than in areas west of Klamath Lake or on the west side of the Cascade Range.

Since the forest is somewhat removed from higher-quality spotted owl habitat in the Cascades, the researchers considered whether restoring the forest to a more open condition dominated by fire- and drought-tolerant trees — which would be more resilient to fire — would impede survival and recovery of the northern spotted owl population.

They found that, in the past, these predominantly open-canopy forests featured a complex mosaic of trees, shrubs and open grasslands dominated by large ponderosa pine. Such conditions are inconsistent with northern spotted owl habitat as currently defined.

However, the researchers said such a landscape provides other desirable values. Large pines and predominantly open-canopy forests with fine-scale variability in patterns of tree density and openings provide unique ecological functions.

A number of areas that are a high priority for northern spotted owls are also high priority for restoration, given the abundance of old fire- and drought-tolerant trees, creating a potential conflict.

“The analysis stems from fundamental questions about prioritizing single species management, even at-risk species, over forest restoration in areas where desired future conditions are consistent with historical conditions,” said Hagmann. “Northern spotted owl habitat, as measured by current metrics, was lacking historically, and the forest is now vulnerable to disturbance processes like fire and drought that historically maintained this area as predominantly open-canopy forest.”

The decision to prioritize restoration over habitat may depend on whether the area contributes to owl survival and recovery and the degree to which habitat, created as an unintended consequence of public policy, is at risk of loss to uncharacteristic stand-replacing fire or extensive drought-induced mortality.

“Forest restoration generally considers historical conditions as a starting point,” said Norm Johnson. “Landscape context matters.”

The presence across the landscape of many large, old ponderosa pines and the absence of large, treeless areas in the historical record, said Hagmann, suggests that such severe fires were uncommon.

“Historically, frequent fire strongly influenced this landscape, resulting in open-canopy ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests dominated by fire- and drought-tolerant trees,” she said. Since then, fire suppression and other management actions have allowed trees to fill in areas that had been open. As a result, more densely packed trees fuel uncharacteristically severe fires.

“Large and old fire- and drought-tolerant trees are the structural backbone of dry, fire-prone forest ecosystems and make many unique contributions to ecological function,” Hagmann added. “If the remaining, substantially reduced population of large and old fire- and drought-tolerant trees are lost to fire, drought, or competitive stress, it would take centuries, if ever, to replace them and their ecological functions.”

The Klamath Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service provided support for the study.

Story By: 

Keala Hagmann, hokulea@uw.edu, 206-979-1456; Norm Johnson, norm.johnson@oregonstate.edu, 541-737-2377


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National wood building center renamed TallWood Design Institute

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design at Oregon State University has been renamed as the TallWood Design Institute.

The institute brings together the OSU College of Forestry; OSU College of Engineering; and the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts. It’s the nation’s only research collaborative that focuses exclusively on the advancement of structural wood products, and will serve as a national research, education, teaching and outreach hub in the development of tall wood buildings.

Iain Macdonald, an international leader in high-rise wood structures who led the Centre for Advanced Wood Products at the University of British Columbia for the past 10 years, has been hired as its first acting director.

“Oregon’s forest products industry and sustainable design profession are recognized for their products and progressive leadership internationally,” said Thomas Maness, dean of the College of Forestry. “The TallWood Design Institute works to link these two together in order to grow and leverage the use of new wood products in sustainable building design. The addition of Iain Macdonald is one more step toward putting mass timber on the map and Oregon as the go-to place for expertise and new products.”

The institute’s applied research on the strength and durability of mass timber products is key to widespread adoption of this technology. Data from product testing and development enables building code officials to modify rules to allow for mass timber buildings in the United States. Mass timber has been successfully used in Europe for over two decades.

“I’m excited to lead the TallWood Design Institute and partner with two outstanding universities,” said Macdonald, who played a key role in garnering support for UBC to build the world’s tallest timber structure in 2016, an 18-story student dormitory called Brock Commons. “We are conducting collaborative, world-class research that will advance solutions for designers, manufacturers and engineers of advanced wood structures and encourage the widespread adoption of tall wood buildings.”

The institute and its affiliated wood science, architecture and engineering faculty have already played a key role in developing market-ready mass timber products that are either being used, or will soon be used, in commercial projects.

"There is a lot of excitement around mass timber in the design community,” said Judith Sheine, head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture & Allied Arts. “But for mass timber to be fully embraced in the U.S., we need demonstration projects, performance testing, and new product development. The TallWood Design Institute is doing the kind of research needed to make it possible for design professionals to realize the potential of mass timber and to make it practical to use in a variety of project types."

Oregon State is one of only three locations in the world with a multi-chamber environmental conditioning system capable of conducting durability and advanced climate testing. The institute is equipped to perform structural, seismic, fire and acoustic testing on engineered wood products and their distinct components.

Currently, the institute is testing panels for the 12-story Framework project in Portland, one of two national winners of a U.S. Department of Agriculture mass timber design competition.

It is also partnering with D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations to conduct fire and structural testing on cross-laminated timber panels and is working with Freres Lumber Company, Inc. of Lyons to create a new Mass Plywood Panel for structural applications in buildings.

For more information about the TallWood Design Institute, please visit http://tallwoodinstitute.org.

Story By: 

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


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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.