environment and natural resources

Loss of Wolves Causes Major Ecosystem Disruption at Olympic National Park

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Olympic National Park was created in 1938, in part “to preserve the finest sample of primeval forests in the entire United States” – but a new study at Oregon State University suggests that this preservation goal has failed, as a result of the elimination of wolves and subsequent domination of the temperate rainforests by herds of browsing elk.

The park, with streamside ecosystems that have been largely denuded of the young trees needed to replace the old ones, and stream systems that bear little resemblance to the narrower and vegetation-lined rivers of the past, is now anything but “primeval” and a very different place than it was 70 years ago, researchers say.

The extermination of wolves in the early 1900s set off a “trophic cascade” of changes that appear to have affected forest vegetation and stream dynamics, with possible impacts on everything from fisheries to birds and insects, the scientists wrote in their report, just published in the journal Ecohydrology.

Members of the Press Expedition, hiking in 1890 through what is now Olympic National Park, found the banks of the upper Quinault River “so dense with underbrush as to be almost impenetrable,” they wrote at the time. Logs jammed the rivers, dense tree canopies shaded and cooled the streams, and trout and salmon thrived along with hundreds of species of plants and animals.

“Today, you go through the same area and instead of dense vegetation that you have to fight through, it’s a park-like stand of predominantly big trees,” said Bill Ripple, a co-author of the study and forestry professor at Oregon State University. “It’s just a different world.”

That world may still be quite beautiful with its jagged, glacier-covered peaks and towering old-growth trees. But it’s not the same one that so impressed President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 that he created Mount Olympus National Monument – in large part to help protect elk herds that had been decimated by hunting. The Roosevelt elk, a massive animal that now bears his name, can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

With protection from hunters and extermination of wolves not long after that, elk populations surged, and OSU researchers say that in the intervening decades the very nature of Olympic National Park has changed dramatically.

“Our study shows that there has been almost no recruitment of new cottonwood and bigleaf maple trees since the wolves disappeared, and also likely impacts on streamside shrubs, which are very important for river stability,” said Robert Beschta, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of forest hydrology at OSU. “Decreases in woody plant communities allow river banks to rapidly erode and river channels to widen.”

“Tree and shrub species along stream banks and floodplains started crashing first,” Beschta said. “Then, apparently, the rivers began to unravel. Now we have large areas where the forest understory vegetation is mostly just grasses and ferns.”

The study showed that river dynamics are quite different than they were historically. Streams that once were held together in tight channels by heavy bank vegetation are now wider and braided, with exposed gravel bars a common feature. The water is open to the warming sun and less enriched by plants and insects. Nearly half of the terraces along the Queets River have disappeared because of accelerated erosion over a period of multiple decades.

“We’ve seen the impact of wolves on the ecosystem in Yellowstone, the effect of cougars in Yosemite National Park, the same basic story about the importance of key predators being played out in many different places,” Ripple said. “What’s so surprising here is that it’s happening in a temperate rainforest, which is hugely productive and has such high levels of vegetation growth. But even there, when the ecosystem gets overwhelmed with many large herbivores, the vegetation just can’t keep up.”

In an area outside Olympic National Park where little foraging by elk occurred, tree recruitment has been normal and healthy in recent decades.

Since the Olympic National Park ecosystem bears some similarity to much of the temperate rainforests in the Coast Range of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia – with a mild climate and heavy levels of rainfall – it’s reasonable to believe similar forces are at work elsewhere when historic predators have been removed, the scientists said.

“Unlike some of the studies we’ve done in the Rocky Mountains, arid desert or canyon ecosystems, for us this one is hitting a little closer to home,” said Beschta, a forest hydrologist who has studied Pacific Northwest streams for more than 30 years. “These processes are at work right in our backyard.”

In multiple studies in the U.S. and Canada, usually in national parks where supposedly “pristine” ecosystems are still available, the OSU scientists in recent years have documented the critical impacts on ecosystems when key predators disappear – usually wolves or cougars. It has been shown that such predators help control the grazing impacts of elk and deer on several levels, by keeping their population levels down, but also in changing their patterns of behavior – a process that has been called “the ecology of fear.”

In the most classic case where these predators have been brought back into the ecosystem – wolves in Yellowstone National Park – OSU scientists have found that some stream ecosystems are now starting to recover where they had been in serious decline for more than half a century. Streamside trees and shrubs, beaver dams, and native plants, animals and fisheries are being restored.

An effort was considered to restore wolves to the Olympic National Park ecosystem in recent years, but no decision or actions have been undertaken to accomplish that, the OSU scientists said.

To view the Elk Video News clip:



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Robert Beschta,

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Elk grazing in Olympic National Park

Robert Beschta

OSU forestry researcher Robert Beschta

OSU Professor to Test Beijing Air Quality at Olympics

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A researcher from Oregon State University will travel to smog-cloaked Beijing this month to monitor the air quality before and during the Olympics and see what impact cleanup efforts have had.

"Hopefully, the research will help the Chinese government to better understand how it can control air quality in large cities," said Staci Simonich, an associate professor of chemistry and toxicology.

China has been taking steps to clean up its sky in preparation for the Olympics. The government announced this month that it has banned about 300,000 high-emission vehicles – about 10 percent of the total in Beijing – from the capital's roads until Sept. 20. It also said high-pollution businesses have been closed or moved, some provinces have been banned from burning straw, and thousands of government vehicles have been parked in the garage.

Simonich, who will be in China from July 19 to Aug. 15, forms part of a team of researchers who have been testing various aspects of the air quality in a project called CAREBEIJING. Led by Peking University, it was launched in 2006 with the mission of formulating a strategy to control air pollution during the games, which run from Aug. 8-24.

While in Beijing, Simonich will devote her attention to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are produced by burning carbon-based materials such as gas, coal and wood. She'll focus on them because she's an expert on that subject and because they're a serious health concern in China given that some cause cancer, she said.

Simonich isn't worried about these hydrocarbons causing cancer in the athletes and visitors because they will be there only for a short time. But other pollutants, like particulate matter and ozone, could cause Beijing's guests to experience temporary respiratory problems, she said.

Standing on a rooftop at Peking University, Simonich will use a pump to suck air into white, rectangular, filters that will trap particles containing hydrocarbons. She'll begin sampling the air around the last week of July. After she leaves, a student from Peking University will conduct the tests during the last week of the games. Simonich will send the filters to her lab at OSU and determine which hydrocarbons are present. She'll also test them on bacteria to see if they cause cancer.

Simonich became involved in CAREBEIJING after inviting two of its participants to speak at OSU. Her visit will be the third time in recent months that OSU researchers have collected air samples in Beijing. Her graduate students gathered air samples in August 2007 and January of this year. Simonich expects to know the results of those tests as well as the ones from August 2008 within a year.

The Chinese government and the U.S. National Science Foundation will fund her trip and research.

Simonich specializes in studying how pollutants travel through the atmosphere. She runs a lab at OSU that identifies and tracks chemicals, like pesticides, that hitch rides along airstreams that start in Asia and blow across the Pacific Ocean to mountains in the western United States. She also is a member of a National Academy of Sciences committee that studies pollutants entering and leaving the United States.


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Staci Simonich,

Keep It Growing – Plant Fall and Winter Vegetables in July

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In mild parts of western Oregon and along most of the coast, it is possible to grow a succession of garden vegetables throughout the year. You can extend the season well into fall in many parts of the Pacific Northwest with a little knowledge and protection of your plants from the elements.

When space becomes available after harvesting the last of your spring-planted peas or greens, keep those veggies coming.

Even though your summer vegetables are growing like mad, late June through the first of August is time to plant many of your fall garden seeds in many parts of the Pacific Northwest. Lettuce and winter greens can be put in until August in many locations. Transplants can be put into the ground up until the end of July for best odds of a fall and winter harvest.

When planning a winter garden, choose the warmest, most sheltered spots in the garden, advises Ross Penhallegon, Oregon State University Extension horticulturist. Choose heat-resistant varieties and shade and water them frequently as they grow. Enation-resistant pea varieties include Oregon Pioneer shelling peas, Sugar Daddy snap peas and Oregon Sugar Pod II snow peas. Bolt-resistant greens include Tyee spinach and oak leaf lettuce. Greens can be planted in the shade of taller plants for summer and fall growth. July is a good time to put in more carrots for fall and winter harvest, as well.

"Be sure you avoid poorly-drained or windy sites and places that are frost pockets," said Penhallegon. "And add a good dose of organic matter to clay soils prior to planting for fall and winter."

Keep carrot seeds moist until germination. In hot, dry weather, a damp burlap sack or light mulch over the row will ease germination. Keep it damp and check for germination every five days. Twenty to 30 feet of row should keep a family of four in carrots into spring. Royal Chantenay, Danvers 1/2 Long and Merida are good carrots for planting in July and can be harvested all winter.

Other vegetable varieties that will grow through the winter include purple-sprouting broccoli, Utah-improved celery or President endive. Many kinds of Swiss chard, even if planted in the spring, will over winter and resprout the following spring. Improved kales are a very reliable crop to plant in late June into July.

Most members of the cabbage family can be harvested in fall or early winter if planted by early July. Many other greens in this group, such as Chinese cabbage, kale, collards and mustard, hold well into the winter.

If you missed planting leeks in May, try garlic or overwintering WallaWalla sweet onions. Both can be planted in September, and harvested the following late spring into early summer.

Slugs can be a major problem in the fall and winter vegetable gardens. Use properly labeled slug baits until cold weather arrives. Many gardeners prefer the least toxic iron phosphate baits such as "Sluggo," for environmental and safety reasons. Another way to reduce slugs is to thoroughly till the soil before planting to reduce the slug population. Tender crops such as buttercrunch or black-seeded Simpson lettuce especially need protection from both slugs and rain. For best results, grow them under cloches or cold frames during the late fall and winter.

The OSU Extension Service offers a guide to winter gardening for all areas of the Pacific Northwest, called "Fall and Winter Gardening in the Pacific Northwest," (PNW 548). It includes variety recommendations and temperature limitations for each vegetable. Season extending techniques are provided as well. It is on line at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/pnw/pnw548/

Or purchase a printed copy by calling 1-800-561-6719.



Ross Penhallegon,

New Report: Greatest Value of Forests is Sustainable Water Supply

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The forests of the future may need to be managed as much for a sustainable supply of clean water as any other goal, researchers say in a new federal report – but even so, forest resources will offer no “quick fix” to the insatiable, often conflicting demands for this precious resource.

This new view of forests is evolving, scientists say, as both urban and agricultural demands for water continue to increase, and the role of clean water from forests becomes better understood as an “ecosystem service” of great value. Many factors – changing climate, wildfires, insect outbreaks, timber harvest, roads, and even urban sprawl – are influencing water supplies from forests.

Preserving and managing forests may help sustain water supplies and water quality from the nation’s headwaters in the future, they conclude, but forest management is unlikely to increase water supplies.

“Historically, forest managers have not focused much of their attention on water, and water managers have not focused on forests,” said Julia Jones, a professor of geosciences at Oregon State University, and vice chair of a committee of the National Research Council, which today released a report on the hydrologic effects of a changing forest landscape. “But today’s water problems demand that these groups work together closely.

“Because forests can release slightly more water for a decade or so following timber harvest, there have been suggestions that forests could be managed to increase water supplies in some areas,” Jones said. “But we’ve learned that such increases don’t last very long, and often don’t provide water when you need it most.”

The science of how forest management affects water quantity and quality, Jones said, has produced a solid foundation of principles. But forests in the United States are changing rapidly, and additional research may reveal ways to provide a sustainable flow of fresh, clean water.

Changes in water supplies from forests due to climate change, the researchers said, are a particular concern, and water supplies may already be affected by increased fire frequency and insect or disease epidemics. Many such factors require more study, they said.

Among the findings of the report:

  • Forests cover about one-third of the nation’s land area, and although they have roles in timber production, habitat, recreation and wilderness, their most important output may be water.
  • Forests provide natural filtration and storage systems that process nearly two-thirds of the water supply in the U.S.
  • Demand for water continues to rise due to population growth, while forest acreage is declining and remaining forest lands are threatened by climate change, disease epidemics, fire and global climate change.
  • Forest vegetation and soils, if healthy and intact, can benefit human water supplies by controlling water yield, peak flows, low flows, sediment levels, water chemistry and quality.
  • Increases in water yield after forest harvesting are transitory; they decrease over time as forests re-grow, and in the meantime water quality may be reduced.
  • Impervious surfaces such as roads and road drainage systems increase overland flow, deliver water directly to stream channels, and can increase surface erosion.
  • Forest chemicals, including those used to fight fire, can adversely affect aquatic ecosystems, especially if they are applied directly to water bodies or wet soil.
  • One of the biggest threats to forests, and the water that derives from them, is the permanent conversion of forested land to residential, industrial and commercial uses.

The report also outlined a number of research needs for the future, especially to improve specific predictions about the implications of forest harvests, disturbances by fire, insects and disease, climate change, land development, and shifts in forest species composition.

Modern forest practices have helped to protect streams and riparian zones, but more needs to be learned about the implications of such practices as thinning or partial cuts – development of “best management” practices could help balance timber harvest with sustainable water flow and quality.

And global warming, which affects timing and amount of snowmelt runoff, wildfires, and insect and disease outbreaks, is a huge variable.

The study also cited the value of watershed councils and citizen groups in getting more people involved in water, stream and land management issues at a local level, increasing the opportunities for all views to be considered, and conflicts avoided.

Support for this project, which involved numerous representatives from academia and private industry in the U.S. and Canada, was provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. The National Research Council is operated by the National Academy of Sciences. This is one of the first major studies on forests and water since a U.S. Forest Service project in 1976, the authors noted.

“Times have changed,” the authors wrote in the report. “Thirty years ago, no one would have imagined that clearcutting on public lands in the Pacific Northwest would come to a screeching halt; or that farmers would give up water for endangered fish and birds; or that climate change would produce quantifiable changes in forest structure, species and water supplies.”

Those changes demanded a new assessment of current conditions, an understanding of rising tensions, and an evaluation of future needs, the researchers said.


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Julia Jones,

Lionfish Decimating Other Tropical Fish Populations, Threaten Coral Reefs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The invasion of predatory lionfish in the Caribbean region poses yet another major threat there to coral reef ecosystems – a new study has found that within a short period after the entry of lionfish into an area, the survival of other reef fishes is slashed by about 80 percent.

Aside from the rapid and immediate mortality of marine life, the loss of herbivorous fish also sets the stage for seaweeds to potentially overwhelm the coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist, according to scientists from Oregon State University.

Following on the heels of overfishing, sediment depositions, nitrate pollution in some areas, coral bleaching caused by global warming, and increasing ocean acidity caused by carbon emissions, the lionfish invasion is a serious concern, said Mark Hixon, an OSU professor of zoology and expert on coral reef ecology.

The study is the first to quantify the severity of the crisis posed by this invasive species, which is native to the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean and has few natural enemies to help control it in the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed that the first lionfish – a beautiful fish with dramatic coloring and large, spiny fins – were introduced into marine waters off Florida in the early 1990s from local aquariums or fish hobbyists. They have since spread across much of the Caribbean Sea and north along the United States coast as far as Rhode Island.

“This is a new and voracious predator on these coral reefs and it’s undergoing a population explosion,” Hixon said. “The threats to coral reefs all over the world were already extreme, and they now have to deal with this alien predator in the Atlantic. These fish eat many other species and they seem to eat constantly.”

Findings of the new research will be published soon in Marine Ecology Progress Series. The lead author is Mark Albins, a doctoral student working with Hixon.

In studies on controlled plots, the OSU scientists determined that lionfish reduced young juvenile fish populations by 79 percent in only a five-week period. Many species were affected, including cardinalfish, parrotfish, damselfish and others. One large lionfish was observed consuming 20 small fish in a 30-minute period.

Lionfish are carnivores that can eat other fish up to two-thirds their own length, while they are protected from other predators by long, poisonous spines. In the Pacific Ocean, Hixon said, other fish have learned to avoid them and they also have more natural predators, particularly large groupers. In the Atlantic Ocean, native fish have never seen them before and have no recognition of danger. There, about the only thing that will eat lionfish is another lionfish – they are not only aggressive carnivores, but also cannibals.

“In the Caribbean, few local predators eat lionfish, so there appears to be no natural controls on them,” Hixon said. “And we’ve observed that they feed in a way that no Atlantic Ocean fish has ever encountered. Native fish literally don’t know what hit them.”

When attacking another fish, Hixon said, the lionfish will use its large, fan-like fins to herd smaller fish into a corner and then swallow them in a rapid strike. Because of their natural defense mechanisms they are afraid of almost no other marine life. And the poison released by their sharp spines can cause extremely painful stings to humans – even leading to fatalities for some people with heart problems or allergic reactions.

“These are pretty scary fish, and they aren’t timid,” Hixon said. “They will swim right up to a diver in their feeding posture, looking like they’re ready to eat. That can be a little spooky.”

Their rapid reproduction potential, Hixon said, must now be understood in context with their ability to seriously depopulate coral reef ecosystems of other fish. Parrotfishes and other herbivores prevent seaweeds from smothering corals. A major, invasive predator such as lionfish could disrupt the entire system.

Options to manage the lionfish threat are limited, Hixon said. They can be collected individually, which may be of localized value, but that approach offers no broad solution. Recovery or introduction of effective predators might help. Groupers, a fish that has been known to eat lionfish in the Pacific Ocean, have been heavily over-fished in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Hixon said.

“We have to figure out something to do about this invasion before it causes a major crisis,” Hixon said. “We basically had to abandon some studies we had under way in the Atlantic on population dynamics of coral reef fish, because the lionfish had moved in and were eating everything.”

OSU scientists say they hope to continue research on lionfish in their native Pacific Ocean habitats for information that may be of use in their control.


Media Contact: 

Mark Hixon,

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Mark Albins

OSU researcher Mark Albins studying lionfish underwater

Oregon State University Undertakes Measurement of its Carbon Footprint

ORVALLIS, Ore. – How much carbon does Oregon State University cause to be released into the atmosphere each year?

For those Beavers concerned with sustainability and the environment, that’s a key question. To find the answer, the university’s Sustainability Office recently completed a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory for the 2007 fiscal year.

The inventory shows that OSU’s total emissions increased 9.4 percent since a similar survey was done in 2004, for a total of 151,287 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Purchased electricity was the single greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 61 percent.

The inventory counted emissions resulting from electricity use and steam production, student and employee commuting, air travel, solid waste and several other sources. It is the most comprehensive emissions tally OSU has ever undertaken, according to Greg Smith, one of two authors of the inventory report and program assistant in the Sustainability Office.

Measurement of carbon emissions helps to understand the impact that the university’s actions are having on greenhouse gas buildup and thus OSU’s contribution to global warming. OSU is among a small group of colleges and universities around the nation that have undertaken a comprehensive inventory – fewer than 40 at last count.

But with some 558 campuses now having pledged to work toward carbon neutrality as part of a national compact on sustainability -- the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, signed by OSU President Ed Ray last year -- many more carbon assessments are expected to follow. OSU sustainability leaders say the university is taking its leadership role seriously.

“The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is fine-tuning greenhouse gas reporting rules that will likely take effect in 2009,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s Sustainability Coordinator. “This inventory meets and exceeds the reporting requirements DEQ is currently considering.”

In spring 2007, OSU students voted to approve an $8.50 per student, per term green energy fee following an Associated Students of OSU campaign. Funds raised by the fee purchase renewable energy -- primarily wind, biogas and biomass. The current amount of renewable energy purchased equals about 75 percent of total campus electrical consumption.

Largely on the basis of the green energy fee, OSU was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year as one of the nation’s top five higher education users of “green power,” as well as best in the Pac 10.

OSU’s carbon footprint ought to decrease sharply this year because the 2008 inventory will reflect the impact of the green energy fee for the first time, said Trelstad.

Conservation, said Trelstad, is the primary strategy OSU administration is taking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. “Through conservation, we not only use financial and natural resources better, we also lower how much offsite renewable energy we need to purchase to ultimately become climate neutral.”

The Sustainability Office will inventory OSU’s emissions annually.

About Sustainability at OSU: Oregon State University is a campus leader in sustainability through initiatives ranging from its Student Sustainability Center to an electronic carpool system to internationally recognized research in development of green power sources, such as wave energy. Learn more at http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/.




Brandon Trelstad,

Report: Economic Impacts of Invasive Species May Rival that of Climate Change in Oregon

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new report prepared for the Oregon Invasive Species Council concludes that the state needs to more strongly consider the economic consequences of addressing invasive species and not just focus attention on the biology and ecology.

Written by Chris Cusack and Michael Harte of Oregon State University, the report says economics “provides us with many of the tools we need to understand and tackle the invasive species problem.”

“Invasive species already cost Oregon hundreds of millions of dollars each year in lost agricultural production and control, yet we still tend to think of them as biological issues, not economic ones,” said Harte, who directs the Marine Resource Management Program at OSU. “Over the next 20 years, the economic impact of invasive species will be as big, if not bigger in Oregon than the impacts of global warming.

“Not until we make that shift in people’s minds will we get traction on the issue and begin more serious efforts at prevention,” Harte added.

The authors say the best general estimate for direct and indirect impacts of invasive species nationally is about $140 billion a year. Although no total figure is available for Oregon, estimates for some invasive species control projects include:

• $120 million a year for 21 species of noxious weeds, resulting in agricultural production losses, fire damage and control costs;

• $7 million a year to control the outbreak of Sudden Oak Death – a total which could jump to $79 million to $304 million annually through nursery production losses if the disease becomes established;

• $25 million a year maintain 13 hydropower facilities if zebra mussels gain a foothold in Oregon waterways;

• $10 million to $31 million a year to remove invasive plants from Portland and replace them with native species over a five-year period;

• $6 million in 2006-07 to eradicate an illegally introduced fish (Tui Chub) responsible for food chain impacts that led to dangerous levels of toxic cyanobacteria blooms in Diamond Lake;

• $22.7 million invested by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board on invasive species projects since 1999. A portion of this investment went to restoration projects after control of the invasive species.

These estimates don’t even begin to address less measurable economic costs related to invasive species, Harte pointed out. The Australasian burrowing isopod has been discovered in both Coos Bay and Newport’s Yaquina Bay – and billions of burrows created by this invader “made Swiss cheese of estuarine shorelines, leading to massive erosion and loss of pasture and wildlife habitat.”

“There also is a cost to human health associated with invasive species, such as the Asimminea parasitological snail, which is the primary intermediate host for human lung flukes discovered last year in Coos Bay,” said Sam Chan, an invasive species specialist and educator with the Oregon Sea Grant program at OSU.

Another example was the E-coli epidemic in 2006 associated with eating raw spinach that was linked to contamination by feral pigs roaming the fields.

“It can be very hard to put a dollar figure on things like that,” Harte pointed out.

Sudden Oak Death provides a good case study for the economic impacts of invasive species, the authors say. The disease was first reported in Oregon in 2001, and the state began an intensive program to eradicate it by cutting and burning host plants. This invasive pathogen kills not only oaks, but rhododendrons and horticultural plants and is a major threat to southwestern Oregon timber sales should it spread.

Despite the eradication efforts, Sudden Oak Death has continued to appear in new locations in Oregon and earlier this year, the quarantine area in Curry County was increased to 162 square miles, Harte said.

The early detection and eradication program has cost Oregon about $1.8 million a year and the complete cost of eradication is estimated at $7 million annually over the next five years. But Sudden Oak Death could devastate nurseries and timber harvests because of potential quarantine requirements costing Oregon hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues each year.

“You don’t need to be an economist to figure out that $7 million now is nothing compared to the potential costs of this invasive disease if we don’t spend money now on eradication,” Harte said.

Thinking about invasive species in economic terms leads to a different set of strategies and implications, Harte pointed out.

“For a start, we begin to realize locally and for the foreseeable future the impacts of invasive species are on par with those of global warming,” Harte said. “Oregon and Oregonians can’t necessarily stop global warming by ourselves, but we can stop invasive species.”

Prevention, education, vigilance and a common approach to understanding the economics of invasive species is necessary, the authors point out, yet success will depend on consistency. They write: “Three ports on the west coast may have best practice invasive species prevention measures in place, but a fourth port may only put in place the minimum prevention practices required by law. This ‘weakest link’ can result in (invasive species) introductions into the region despite the very best effort of the other three ports.”

Harte says that compared with many countries, the United States has been slow to address the invasive species problem. His native New Zealand, in contrast, allots about 1 percent of all government spending to tackle invasive species issues.

“I’ve had people ask me why Oregon needs to spend so much on invasive species when they’re not even here yet,” Harte said with a laugh. “My grandmother was always quick with the cod liver oil, saying an ounce of prevention was better than a pound of cure. The same goes for invasive species – the ounce of prevention pales in comparison to their potential economic impact if they become established.”

Chan says Oregonians aren’t clear about which species are problems – and what to do about it. A recent focus group study by one of Chan’s graduate students, Gwenn Kubeck, found that Oregonians participating in the study felt a lack of institutional support to prevent invasive species, and without support from institutions, personal behavior changes have no real efficacy.

“Increasing this institutional support will likely require a reallocation or increase in resources,” Chan said.

Chan, along with Oregon Sea Grant colleagues Lynn Dierking, a professor of free choice learning, and Joseph Cone, assistant director of Oregon Sea Grant, reported early findings from a 2008 survey that 79 percent of Oregonians had heard of invasive species in a general sense and expressed concern. But few could describe the threat of invasive species such as quagga mussels, feral pigs or yellow-flag iris.

The survey also showed that 65 percent thought the most serious outcome associated with non-native plants and animals in Oregon was harm to native plants and wildlife.

“That underscores the need to look at invasive species through an economic lens as well as a biological one,” Chan said.

Harte said the goal of the report to the Oregon Invasive Species Council was not to provide a comprehensive outline of Oregon’s invasive species problem, nor to provide a precise dollar figure for addressing each issue. But looking at invasive species through an economic perspective, he added, is long overdue.

“The figures are dramatic,” Harte said, “but even these are only a partial estimate. They don’t account for the potential loss of tourism, lost fishing opportunities, the degradation of habitat or the myriad offshoots that invasive species may engender.”

The report is available from Michael Harte by e-mailing him at mharte@coas.oregonstate.edu


Media Contact: 

Michael Harte,

Oregon State University researcher receives Environmental Stewardship Award

AURORA, Ore. – Oregon State University Extension horticulturalist Robin Rosetta chases rose midges in the Rose City – and with award-winning results.

Rosetta, who works at OSU’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, has received the first Partner in Environmental Stewardship Award from the City of Portland Parks and Recreation. She was honored for her "many years of extraordinary effort" supporting the city's Integrated Pest Management program.

IPM is an approach to pest control that encourages sound, effective practices while minimizing damage to the environment. Rosetta’s research at Portland's International Rose Test Garden has focused on the rose midge, a key pest of roses that has been regaining prominence in the United States. The insect was practically eliminated in the 1980s but began a resurgence in 2003 affecting gardens and the nursery industry. Roses infested with midges lose 75-80 percent of their blossoms.

True to IPM practices, Rosetta has encouraged fewer chemical treatments to eliminate the rose midge – from 12 foliage sprayings a year, which also kills beneficial insects, to one application in the soil before the rose midges emerge.

Rosetta focuses her work on discovering which life stage of a pest is most vulnerable and when to intervene with treatment in the least toxic way. Biological controls can include sending predator mites after other mites. Mating disruption – or "male confusion" – is another effective IPM tool, she said. Pheromone dispensers use female-excreted chemicals to disorient males and reduce mating.

Slugs and snails are part of Rosetta's research, which she calls her "shop of little horrors."

"Slugs and snails can push otherwise organic gardeners over the brink," Rosetta said, but she wants people to be aware of these unpopular pests and use effective IPM methods. She has found 11 different species of slugs and snails in her own garden, and all are non-native.

"The native species play a critical ecological role in the natural environment," Rosetta said. "Exotic species, though, tend to ravage our crops and landscapes in a sometimes irritating and often expensive manner."

Rosetta uses Twitter on a daily basis. Her "tweets" are alerts about pest infestations of plants in the Pacific Northwest. Nursery managers and employees in the area are becoming familiar with the new Twitter Web site @PNWNurseryIPM for brief alerts, and the more extensive IPM Web site at http://oregonstate.edu/dept/nurspest/index.htm for the latest on IPM practices.

A section of the Web site is devoted to identification of snails and slugs to aid in prevention and effective management.


Robin Rosetta, 503-678-5986

Scientists make breakthrough in assessing marine phytoplankton health

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers from Oregon State University, NASA and other organizations said today that they have succeeded for the first time in measuring the physiology of marine phytoplankton through satellite measurements of its fluorescence – an accomplishment that had been elusive for years.

With this new tool and the continued use of the MODIS Aqua satellite, scientists will now be able to gain a reasonably accurate picture of the ocean’s health and productivity about every week, all over the planet.

Data such as this will be critically important in evaluating the effect on oceans of global warming, climate change, desertification and other changes, the researchers said. It will also be a key to determining which areas of the ocean are limited in their productivity by iron deficiency – as this study just showed the Indian Ocean was.

“Until now we’ve really struggled to make this technology work and give us the information we need,” said Michael Behrenfeld, an Oregon State University professor of botany. “The fluorescence measurements allow us to see from outer space the faint red glow of tiny marine plants, all over the world, and tell whether or not they are healthy. That’s pretty cool.”

Ocean phytoplankton are single-celled organisms that are responsible for half of the photosynthetic productivity on Earth. They fuel nearly all marine ocean ecosystems and are the base of the marine food chain.

Measurements of phytoplankton are an important way to understand the broader health and productivity of the ocean, researchers say. Some of the measurements available prior to this, such as phytoplankton biomass or their carbon-to-chlorophyll ratio, provided part of the picture, but were often only available for tiny portions of the ocean at a time.

To grow, however, these phytoplankton absorb energy from the sun, and then allow some of that energy to escape as red light that is called fluorescence. The new measurements of fluorescence, literally the dim glow that these plants put off, will help complete the understanding of ocean health on a much broader and more frequent basis.

Some surprises are already in.

It was known, for instance, that parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, some regions around Antarctica and parts of the sub-Artic Pacific Ocean below Alaska were limited in production by the poor availability of iron. The newest data, however, show that parts of the northern Indian Ocean during the summer are also iron limited – a phenomenon that had been suggested by some ocean and climate models, but never before confirmed.

“Iron is often brought to the oceans by dust coming off terrestrial regions, and is a necessary nutrient that often limits the potential for marine phytoplankton growth,” said Allen Milligan, an OSU assistant professor of botany and co-author of this study, which is being published in the journal Biogeosciences.

“If forces such as global warming, circulation changes or the growth of deserts change the amount of dust entering the oceans, it will have an impact on marine productivity,” Milligan said. “Now we’ll be able to track those changes, some of which are seasonal and some of which may happen over much longer periods of time. And we’ll also be able to better assess and improve the climate models that have to consider these phenomena.”

Funding for this research was provided by the Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program of NASA, which announced the findings today in a news conference. Other collaborators were from the University of Maine/Orono, University of California/Santa Barbara, University of Southern Mississippi, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Cornell University, and the University of California/Irvine.

In continued studies, researchers at OSU hope to reproduce the marine environment that these phytoplankton cells live in, learn more about their basic biology and better understand why and how they can be seen from space. Further research may also explore how the oceans might respond to iron enrichment.


Media Contact: 

Michael Behrenfeld, 541-737-5289

Multimedia Downloads

Fluorescence Yield

A digital image showing how the input of iron into marine ecosystems can affect phytoplankton growth in the oceans.

Oregon State University researchers receive weed science awards

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University professor and three graduate students have received awards from the Western Society of Weed Science.

Carol Mallory-Smith, a professor of weed science at OSU, was named "Outstanding Weed Scientist, Public Sector" for her long-term research and teaching contributions.

OSU graduate student Maria Zapiola was awarded first place in the poster contest at the society’s recent annual meeting for her presentation, "Impact of immersion time and water temperatures on germination of creeping bentgrass seed." Suphannika Intanon took third place for "Target-site mutations and cross-resistance to acetolactate synthase inhibiting herbicides in mayweed chamomile."

Melody Rudenko took second place in the paper contest in the Range and Forestry, Wetlands and Wild Lands category for her paper, "Integrating chemical control and restoration of sites invaded by Japanese knotweed."

Weeds that affect wheat, peppermint and grass seed, as well as other crops, are the emphasis of Mallory-Smith's work. "Gene flow," or the movement of genes by cross-pollination between weeds and crops, is a major focus, she said.

"Gene flow has been an increasing area of interest with the introduction of herbicide resistant crops," she said. "Using the tools of molecular genetics, we seek to understand the nature of hybridization between wheat and the jointed goatgrass weed and how it can be avoided by crop management."


Carol Mallory-Smith, 541-737-5883