college of forestry

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


Multimedia Downloads


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


Multimedia Downloads


Iain Macdonald

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


Multimedia Downloads

Forest biomass
Oregon forest biomass

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

Multimedia Downloads

HAL stnottagged_edited-1.JPG

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 

Multimedia Downloads


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: