environment and natural resources

Woodland owners learn resource management

OREGON CITY - For some people, weekend chores mean more than cleaning the garage.

Ground truth aerial photos; inventory forest resources; sample streams and riparian areas.

These are just a few of the tasks landowners in the Portland area are undertaking as they learn how to manage their forested land.

For five months, a dedicated corps of small woodland owners have attended class at night and slogged through wet woods on Saturdays as they learned the fine points of resource management planning in a new program offered by the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Mike Bondi, OSU professor and Extension forester in Clackamas County, helped create the Resource Management Planning program as part of a growing curriculum he has developed for small woodland owners in the metro area. Bondi's forestry educational classes range from planting trees to passing on the family farm.

"Mike is a super educator," said Scott Russell, an engineer by training and a tree farmer who has taken several of Bondi's classes. "His forestry programs are models for the rest of the country. To us, he walks on water … and logs!"

Russell and his wife live outside Scappoose on a tree farm they have stitched together from cutover or neglected pieces of land.

"We could only afford to buy clearcuts," Scott said with a chuckle. After cobbling together a few hundred acres, the Russells knew they needed help managing their land and rehabilitating their forest.

"Our goal is to leave the land better than we found it. But managing a tree farm is really more than sticking a tree in the ground," said Scott. "It's beyond my education." So, the Russells signed up for OSU Extension's Resource Management Planning program last winter, along with a dozen other landowners.

The goals of the participants are as diverse as their lands.

For example, Ron and Walt Dilley inherited 80 acres of forestland near Colton from their father, and now their goal is to manage the land for a steady, sustainable income from timber.

For woodland owners like the Dilleys who intend to harvest timber, having a resource management plan may allow a tree farm to be certified, which can put the forester in a better position to market his logs.

"Dad always had a plan in his head for the forest," Walt recalled. "He knew what he was doing, but no one else did."

"When Ron and I took over, we did the same thing, just kept it all in our heads and told ourselves we knew what we were doing."

The OSU Extension program taught the Dilleys how to survey and inventory their forest resources and to prepare a written plan.

" After that we saw things we didn't know we had, and we didn't find things we thought we had," Walt said. "And now we have a plan on paper."

Mike and Cheryl Schwartz's forestland may be a fraction the size of their classmates', but their love of the land is just as expansive. Having recently moved from Florida onto an eight-acre parcel of forestland just beyond Portland, they felt they had everything to learn.

"We didn't even know what kinds of trees we had," Cheryl said, laughing.

An aeronautical engineer and an aquatic biologist, the Schwartzes enrolled in the Extension program in order to learn what they had and how to take care of it.

"Lots of the others in the program were tree farmers who had been doing this for years. We were starting our management plan from ground zero," said Cheryl.

The Schwartzes dedicated their weekends to mapping every inch of their forest, clearing out invasive species, and enlisting neighborhood children to help count trees.

They were first in the class to finish their management plan, with goals to enhance wildlife habitat and manage without chemicals.

"We've got our neighbors interested in taking care of the roads and streams, so the benefits really do flow downstream," said Cheryl.

A program such as Bondi's has benefits beyond the woodland boundary, as property owners learn to care for waterways and wildlife as well as trees, according to Jim Cathcart of Oregon Department of Forestry in Salem.

"The best thing we can do is have people take an interest in their land," said Cathcart. "Developing a management plan helps the tree farmer, and it helps the rest of us, too."

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Mike Bondi, 503-655-8631

New publication explains options for forest certification

CORVALLIS - How "green" is a forest? For forest owners and managers, that question has bearing on forest practices, conservation and marketing. In the last several years, forest certification has developed as a way to identify forest products in the marketplace that come from forests being managed with conservation-minded practices. But not all certification processes demand the same standard or carry the same credibility.

A new publication from Oregon State University Extension Service sorts out various systems of forest certification to help forest owners and managers choose the best system for their forests and markets.

Written by a team of Extension foresters from OSU and University of Wisconsin, the publication explores the opportunities, limitations and costs of forest certification. "Forest certification is no longer a new topic in forestry, but new systems and features are always developing," said Rick Fletcher, one of the publication's authors and an OSU Extension forester in Benton County. "Certification is now a worldwide reality in forest product markets and looks like it will be with us for some time to come."

"Forest Certification in North America," EC1518, is available by mail for $2 per copy plus $3 for shipping and handling. Send your request and check or money order payable to OSU to: Publication Orders, Extension and Station Communications, OSU, 422 Kerr Administration, Corvallis, OR 97331-2119.

Or view it on the web at: http://eesc.oregonstate.edu. Select "Publications and Videos," then "Forestry," then "Business management."

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Rick Fletcher, 541-766-3554

OSU Press publishes Willamette Basin planning atlas

CORVALLIS - The Oregon State University Press has published an unprecedented new reference book detailing ecological conditions and human activity in the Willamette River Basin through the past century-and-a-half and beyond.

"Willamette River Basin Planning Atlas, Trajectories of Environmental and Ecological Change" is a large format volume, full of color maps, tables, aerial and archival photos and other illustrations. With lucid text, it provides long-term, large-scale perspective of human and natural systems of the Willamette Basin through time.

The atlas provides a detailed examination of how the Willamette Basin might change between now and the year 2050, when an additional 1.7 million people are expected to live in the region.

Working together as the Pacific Northwest Research Consortium, the project was a major undertaking of scientists from OSU, the University of Oregon and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Thirty to 40 of us worked on this project for about seven years, working together to do something really huge," said Stan Gregory, OSU professor of fisheries and wildlife and a principal investigator of the project. "Usually studies are limited to a certain small area, a municipality or county. We put all our data for communities in the entire Willamette Basin together to see how all our management decisions add up to create a landscape."

According to Gregory and others who worked on the project, results of the analysis necessary to create the atlas offered some surprising hope for the future of the Willamette Basin's environment.

"What blew me away was that we found that we might be able to improve or get back some of what we've lost, as far as wildlife, fish and riparian habitat - even if we have two million more people in 2050, if we choose to take conservation seriously," said Gregory. v Harnessing population forecasting, mathematical models, natural resource inventories, land use patterns and computer mapping technologies, the authors "looked" into future alternatives and their likely effects on important natural resources including water, terrestrial habitats and wildlife. The three possible scenarios they considered were:

  • The Plan-Trend Scenario, in which present-day policies and land use practices in forestry, agriculture and urban development are assumed to carry on unchanged from now until the year 2050;
  • The Development Scenario, in which land use laws and other environmental policies are loosened and "market forces" would have greater influence to 2050;
  • The Conservation Scenario, in which conservation and restoration of ecological function would play a larger role in land and water allocation to 2050, relative to today's practices.

"The models and scenarios told us, yes, all the little cumulative land use and public policy decisions we make now and into the future may make a difference for future generations," said Gregory.

The 192-page atlas is rich with history, geography, geology, biology and patterns of human population and land use from the time of European settlement up to the present. It offers concepts for river restoration and potential future scenarios as well.

Intended to inform policy makers, public officials, resource managers, and scientists - as well as students and citizens - the atlas provides a comprehensive means to learn about past ecological conditions and human activity and plan for the future of the Willamette Basin, the most populated and productive region of Oregon.

Although the atlas focuses on the Willamette River Basin, it can provide a useful model for planners and residents of other river basins as well, said Gregory.

"We hope that both public and private agencies and watershed councils will use it as they think about land use and resource decisions," said Gregory. "Only by understanding the full implications of the choices before them can local communities make informed decisions about future land and water use."

"Willamette River Basin Planning Atlas - Trajectories of Environmental and Ecological Change" was edited by David Hulse, Gregory, and Joan Baker for the Pacific Northwest Ecosystem Consortium. The book is available in bookstores, libraries or by calling 1-800-426-3797.


Stan Gregory, 541-737-1951

Multimedia Downloads

Willamette basin atlas

Old growth research outlined at "First Monday" lecture

BEND - An expert on the relationship between old growth forests and the Earth's climate will speak on Monday, Feb. 3, at Oregon State University-Cascades Campus, as part of its First Monday Lecture Series.

William Winner, an OSU professor of botany and plant pathology, will present "Old Growth Forests and SUVs: Ancient Forests and Carbon Use in the Pacific Northwest." The lecture begins at 7 p.m. in Hitchcock Auditorium on the Central Oregon Community College campus in Bend; it is free and open to the public.

Winner will discuss increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, their impact on global climate, and the accumulation and output of carbon in old growth forests.

Forests can be sinks or sources of carbon and thereby offset or contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that there are differences in carbon use between species, between the upper and lower canopies, between seasons, and between years.

Using a crane that towers 250 feet into the sky, Winner and some of his students perform experiments high in the forest canopy to measure carbon levels.

"The crane allows us to do scientific research in a way that cannot be done anywhere else in the Northwest," Winner said. "When we come here it's like we're taking their pulse and asking how they are at that moment."

Winner will discuss the increases in carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere and also how the Pacific Northwest's love affair with the sport utility vehicle contributes to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The "First Monday" lecture, presented by OSU-Cascades, is a monthly series featuring experts in a variety of fields and subjects of interest to Central Oregonians. Call OSU-Cascades Campus at 541-322-3100, or visit this the web at www.OSUcascades.edu, for more information.


Bill Winner, 541-737-1749

Isotope tracing finding use from China to Oregon

CORVALLIS - An Oregon State University hydrologist is using one of the more peaceful forms of nuclear technology to help experts in China learn more about water movement in their streams, groundwater and soil, with possible applications to such issues as groundwater protection or flood management.

Jeff McDonnell, a professor and Richardson Chair in Watershed Science in the OSU Department of Forest Engineering, just returned from a training course in China that focused on the use of stable isotopes to trace water movements.

As the editor of several books and journals and more than 100 technical papers on this technology, McDonnell helped instruct Chinese researchers on the application of isotope tracing techniques to water management problems in Asia.

"Tracing of naturally applied isotope tracers represents a way for developing countries to side-step expensive research infrastructure and understand where their water is moving, its age and how different groundwater systems connect," McDonnell said. "This provides valuable information for groundwater remediation, understanding groundwater-surface water interactions and various types of pollutant transport."

China has historically had major problems with flooding that caused massive loss of life - more than one million people died in the 1980s from flooding of the Yangtze River. And rapid growth in industrial development in China has made it important to better understand the movement of surface waters and protect groundwater from contamination.

All of these problems can benefit from the type of water movement data made possible by isotope tracers, experts say.

The work in China is being supported by the United Nations and its International Atomic Energy Agency.

This technology is also being used to address water resource issues in Oregon, McDonnell said, such as in the Klamath and Willamette River basins.

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Jeffrey McDonnell, 541-737-8720

Stream health may hinge on violent floods, drought

CORVALLIS - A group of studies by an aquatic entomologist at Oregon State University suggest that at least some of the problems facing streams in the American West may relate to their loss of extreme water flows, ranging from severe droughts to flash floods.

The same dams that have tamed the violent or extreme nature of these streams may also be disrupting aquatic ecosystems that depend on such events to favor native species, keep out invasive plants or animals, and maintain a natural ecological balance that evolved over millennia, researchers say.

Studies ranging from the unusual evolution of a giant waterbug in high mountain streams of Arizona to the mysterious disappearance of cottonwoods on river banks across much of the West all point to the same conclusion - that streams and rivers in the West have evolved with regular floods, droughts and everything in between, and any disruption of those patterns may pose a risk to native ecosystems.

"Right now in the American West there are more than 15,000 dams," said David Lytle, an OSU entomologist. "They remove the extreme flow events that used to exist, preventing both the major floods and the extremely low flows during summer months. But the increasing level of knowledge we're gaining about these extreme disturbances suggest they are critical to many native ecosystems."

The concept is not new, Lytle said. But its implications are significant.

Just as forest scientists have discovered in recent decades the critical role of fire in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems in many areas, so too are stream ecologists now learning more about the nature and extent to which streams have been disrupted by efforts to tame their extreme events. Many other natural disturbances - windstorms, insect outbreaks, terrestrial droughts - may also have similar effects.

But recent research done by Lytle and his colleagues in this area, published in several professional journals including Ecology and American Naturalist, is revealing what he calls the "footprint of evolution" in some stream systems, in which certain species are fully adapted to extreme events and may even depend upon them for survival.

In one mountain stream system in Arizona that is periodically blasted by flash floods, caddisfly larvae are almost completely scoured out of the stream by the floods. About 96 percent disappear. But through generations of evolution, a significant amount of the insects metamorphose into their flying adult phase during a period that's timed exactly with the most common flood season, keeping them out of the stream while the waters sweep by.

Research has been done on cottonwood trees that once grew thickly along the banks of many western streams and rivers, providing shade, nutrients and woody debris that further aided the health of the ecosystem. These trees can experience some mortality due to floods. But it has also been learned that cottonwoods need bare, mostly scoured banks, the types of conditions common after a flood, to germinate their seeds and reproduce. And cottonwoods are now in serious decline in many areas.

In the Colorado River, loss of flooding following construction of the Glen Canyon Dam has caused a wholesale shift in fish and fauna, allowing invasive species to displace native ones. The problem is bad enough that "simulated floods" have been attempted with rapid water releases - so far with mixed ecological results.

"We've seen the ecology of many western streams change dramatically," Lytle said. "Some fish species have declined or disappeared, possibly relating to the change in flow regime or other factors. And the removal of these floods and droughts, which native species could handle but many others cannot, opens the door to a whole range of new, invading competitors."

Lytle's research documented another interesting example of adaptation to extreme conditions which appears to go back 150 million years. There are species of giant waterbugs that thrive in some desert streams. During a major rainstorm of the type that can cause flash floods, Lytle and his colleagues once observed these water bugs do a mass exodus from the stream, literally marching up the canyon wall for protection just before a flood burst through the area. They came back within a day.

Later, in a controlled experiment that simulated heavy rain, the scientists were able to trigger the same behavior. The insects thought a flood was coming and headed for cover.

"If you look carefully for adaptation to extreme events, you tend to find it," Lytle said. "This includes adaptation by plants, insects, fish, trees, all the components of a stream ecosystem."

The research suggests that loss of extreme events is a major factor in the problems being experienced across much of the West in stream ecology, Lytle said. At this point, aquatic organisms, including fish, are among the most imperiled fauna in North America, he said, with problems often far surpassing those of their terrestrial neighbors.

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David Lytle, 541-737-1068

OSU scientists find deformities in Newberg pool fish

CORVALLIS - After the first year of a two-year study, Oregon State University scientists have found about three times as many juvenile minnows with backbone deformities in the Newberg Pool of the Willamette River than at a site 80 miles upstream near Corvallis.

Larry R. Curtis, an OSU professor of environmental toxicology, will present preliminary results of a Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board-funded study on pike minnow fish deformities in the Willamette River to the Oregon Legislative Emergency Board in Salem this Thursday (Jan. 9).

For years, the Newberg Pool of the Willamette, just south of Portland, has been a notorious place for finding a high percentage of young fish with skeletal deformities.

"There's significant public concern over deformed fish in the Newberg Pool of the Willamette River, but little scientific basis for explaining the deformities," said Curtis, head of the OSU Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology. "These fish are sentinels for environmental contamination. People want to know what's causing the deformities and whether they have any implications for human health."

As the lead investigator of OSU's interdisciplinary study of the Willamette River and its deformed fish, Curtis has gathered together OSU's Agricultural Experiment Station toxicologists, chemists, microbiologists and fisheries biologists in an effort to determine the prevalence of skeletal deformities in juvenile fish in stretches of the Willamette River near Newberg and Corvallis.

The OSU researchers also are trying to determine what causes these deformities. They are comparing the physical and chemical conditions and the accumulated toxicants in ovaries of fish from adult northern pike minnows at Corvallis and Newberg and conducting laboratory studies that might show a link between physical or chemical conditions in the river and the incidence of deformities.

OSU researchers in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Microbiology have examined the deformities and found tiny parasites associated with some of the deformed fish. The suspected parasite is a microscopic myxozoan in the genus Myxobolus, a relative of the microorganism that causes whirling disease in salmon.

There are no human health threats associated with this fish parasite, said Curtis.

So far, the researchers have found most of the physical and chemical characteristics of the water at Newberg and Corvallis to be similar. Temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and nitrate levels did not vary significantly between the two sites.

The investigators detected similar low concentrations of heavy metals cadmium, copper, lead and zinc at both sites, although they found one high zinc sample measured in the Newberg Pool. They found concentrations of persistent organic contaminants including dieldrin, DDT, DDD and DDE to be two to four times higher in Newberg Pool than Corvallis, but all detections were extremely low, below one part per trillion, said Curtis.

They haven't yet completed analyses for other chemical classes, including currently used pesticides. The researchers are now measuring persistent bioaccumulative toxicants in ovaries collected from adult pike minnows in both sites on the river. Results are not yet available.

In recent experiments, newly fertilized eggs were exposed to river water from each site for 15 to 47 days. They didn't detect any differences in development between fish reared in water from either location.

The scientists have another field season, spring through the fall of 2003, to collect data and fish and study both sites on the Willamette. They will also conduct more laboratory experiments on zebrafish with various concentrations and fractionations of toxic materials from the river water from each site. The final report will come out in 2004.


Larry Curtis, 541-737-1764

Multimedia Downloads

pool1 pool2
Testing water in the Willamette

Watershed Stewardship Manual Goes Digital

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The hefty manual that has taught nearly 1,000 Oregonians how to protect and manage rivers, streams and wetlands has gone digital.

"Watershed Stewardship: A Learning Guide" is now available on CD from the Oregon State University Extension Service. The digital format makes it easier and more affordable to share sections of the 450-page manual used in OSU Extension's Master Watershed Stewards program, a streamside learning program similar to the OSU Master Gardener program.

"An increasing number of people are interested in watershed stewardship and reading sections of the manual," said Derek Godwin, watershed management specialist with OSU Extension Service and leader of the Watershed Steward program. "We are offering the CD version to better meet their needs."

Whether presented on paper or CD, the Master Watershed Stewards program is much more than a creek-side biology primer. It is a comprehensive resource for creating community-based watershed councils, even in areas polarized by water politics.

Before any mention of hydrology, water quality or riparian habitat, the Learning Guide focuses on communicating effectively, developing dialogue and running a fair, open and honest meeting. It discusses "body language" and "active listening" and gives guidance for expressing and receiving anger. By addressing these human factors, the program has become a practical tool for consensus building.

"It is amazing that despite all the controversy surrounding water issues, so many volunteers have quietly stepped in and gotten their hands dirty on lots of valuable projects to help fish habitat and water quality," Godwin said.

To date, Master Watershed Stewards have contributed more than 14,000 hours of restoration work in 25 locations across the state.

News of the program's effectiveness has traveled far, drawing almost 300 inquiries from outside the state and around the world. International queries have come from Canada, Mexico, India, Pakistan and Botswana. Most are requests for assistance in setting up similar programs. The new CD will make it easier and more affordable to respond to future requests.

"Watershed Stewardship: A Learning Guide" (publication number EM 8714-CD) can be purchased through OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications at 800-561-6719 or email: puborders@oregonstate.edu.

For complete information about the Master Watershed Steward program visit the OSU Watershed Extension website at: http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/wsep/

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Derek Godwin 503-566-2909

Medical Approach May Reduce Natural Resource Disputes

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A system that's been successful in the field of medicine to compare research results and seek a scientific consensus is being considered for use with natural resource management in Oregon - as a possible way to get past "dueling studies" and prolonged court fights.

A report on the concept, called "systematic evidence review," is being prepared by the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University and will be presented to the Oregon Board of Forestry at its Jan. 4 meeting in Salem. The board has not yet determined if or how information in the report may be used when science is considered in future policy issues.

The problem, officials say, is that natural resource management approaches have too often become paralyzed by conflicting studies, ecological complexity, legal disputes and different goals. There's no guarantee that systematic evidence review, an approach that has been highly successful in medicine, will translate effectively to natural resource issues. But it may be worth a try, some experts say.

"In medicine, this approach emerged about 20 years ago in the United Kingdom as one way to bring some consistency and optimal practice to medical treatments," said Jeff Behan, an OSU research assistant with the Institute for Natural Resources. "It may help sort through the problems with dueling science, in which interest groups point to different studies and it's very difficult to reach a consensus."

The Board of Forestry identified systematic evidence review as an issue of interest, based in part on the testimony of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, said Rosemary Mannix of the Oregon Department of Forestry. The Institute of Natural Resources was asked to develop some background material and ideas on how these principles could be adapted to the natural resources arena.

This system is essentially a "turbo-charged literature review" with a clear protocol that's outlined before the review begins, Behan said, so the process is transparent and everyone can see how a conclusion is arrived at, on what basis, and with what qualifications. It can consider both peer-reviewed and published studies as well as other evidence, but the quality of evidence may be ranked and weighted based on various criteria. At the end of the process, the goal is to identify a credible, scientific consensus, even if one or more studies are at odds.

But the problem, researchers say, is that the natural world is not as simple as the human body.

"In the case of medicine, you are usually considering the effect of a single treatment on a single problem in a single species," Behan said.

"And the overall goal is also pretty clear - the health of the patient. For instance, you might want to see if aspirin reduces the risk of heart attacks. But in the natural world with multiple species, many variables and conflicting goals, it's often not that simple."

The strength of this process, experts say, is that you can start with a clearly defined and focused question, outline a protocol that will be used for reviewing evidence, decide what studies are relevant or not, and at the end of the process have some assurance that the process was both fair and comprehensive.

There remain questions about the use of this on issues that have limited data and broad scope.


Medicine has tens of billions of dollars of research each year to do exhaustive studies, while natural resources gets a tiny fraction of that - and even in medicine the results are often inconclusive due to inadequate data. Laboratory controls and double-blind studies in medicine allow a measure of certainty that is often lacking in the natural environment.

In medicine, the results can often be extrapolated to other people with similar medical situations, but in the natural world, ecosystems can vary widely over short distances. And the narrow focus of medicine is the opposite of an ecological setting with multiple species and poorly understood interactions.

"It won't be difficult to criticize the use of systematic evidence review in natural resources if that's what people want to do, and it may not be appropriate for every question," Behan said. "But in cases where we can narrow down the scope of questions and do solid studies, it appears it could have a place. And just going through the process may also help us identify what's a question of science and what's a question of values or philosophy."

For instance, if the question is the value of placing wood in streams to help salmon recovery - a single action to aid a single species - then systematic evidence review might work fairly well, Behan said.

"We won't suggest that this approach will solve all of our natural resource disputes," Behan said. "But it could give us a place to start, and it might move the ball down the field a ways. I think we're going to have to do a couple of test cases with this, before we really know how well it works, and our report will suggest that it's time to do this."

The idea, officials say, has attracted considerable interest from land management officials and agency leaders, and could ultimately be applied much more broadly around the nation.

"Occasionally the Board of Forestry receives conflicting scientific information, particularly from public testimony," said Steve Hobbs, chair of the Oregon Board of Forestry and executive associate dean of the OSU College of Forestry. "For some questions, a systematic evidence review would increase confidence in the information presented and help identify the most credible information."

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Jeff Behan, 541-737-9938

Log 'Smelling' Might Aid Forest Products Industry

CORVALLIS, Ore. - In the continuing effort to add value to forestry operations and improve efficiency, one of the latest ideas is to use "aroma tagging" of logs to track their movement from the forest to the mill and possibly even the finished product - a feat that might make a bloodhound envious.

Forestry researchers at Oregon State University have done some of the earliest work in this emerging field of study and outlined the challenges, which are many.

But with improved technology scientists may be able to apply various scents to trees and effectively track the movement of wood, in a competitive industry where every bit of information can add to a product's value.

Around the world, 5 billion logs a year are harvested and moved. They are not easy to track.

"We're trying to create a 'wood hound,' something that can track a tree by its smell," said Glen Murphy, a professor of forest engineering in the OSU College of Forestry. "It's hard to tell where all this may lead, but it's clear there would be ways to use this technology."

If you could track a log through the maze of the timber production system, Murphy said, there might be key advantages in marketing - the certification of "green" forest products, for instance, requires careful chain-of-custody monitoring. Measurements of a log made in the field could find immediate application in the timber mill, increasing production efficiency. If the wood quality from a certain area or type of forest stand was desirable, operators would be able to track where the wood came from and what forest management techniques were used to produce it.

And such technology might be very useful in preventing timber theft, experts say, along with the lost government taxes and revenues associated with it.

"At the moment, we have ways of tracking logs that are only partially effective," Murphy said. "Bar coding is awkward and leaves plastic tags or metal staples that can cause problems in mills. Radio frequency identification tags are very expensive; with some pulp logs they might cost more than the product you are selling. So we need improved technologies."

Aroma tagging, Murphy said, is already being used in the marketplace - some manufacturers have used it to help prevent brand piracy. The food industry uses electronic nose systems to measure freshness, the medical profession to detect disease, natural gas companies to detect leaks and in law enforcement to identify drugs or explosives.

The days when only a trained dog had the smell capability to track something are long past.

The technology uses an instrument that can detect specific chemical scents - with about 25 chemical scents in various combinations you could track more than 33 million logs, Murphy said. The spray-on technology is already available, but improvements need to be made in the chemicals and electronic nose used for this concept, which are based on sophisticated sensing and pattern recognition systems.

The ideal chemical tag would have to withstand harsh climatic conditions, be dragged over dirty ground, sit for weeks in the hold of a ship, or undergo processing with heat or preservatives.

"I think the right chemicals could deal with the issues of time, weather, and other wood treatments," Murphy said. "You need something you can apply that will still be detectable through the processing of the wood. Conceptually, this is a little like the unique code found in every animal's DNA, except it's something you can smell."

The technology of using aroma tagging only goes back about 10 years, Murphy said, and is still in its infancy in the timber industry. Work is needed to identify the most appropriate chemicals for tagging, develop better scent detection systems, and perfect other technologies. Additional funding is needed to move the technology into commercial use, he said.

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Glen Murphy: 541-737-2192