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Criterion 7 Indicator 63
Rationale
Development of the Scientific Understanding of Forest Ecosystem Characteristics and Functions
 
As a better scientific understanding of forest ecosystems develops, it is more likely that forests will be managed on a sustainable basis. This indicator evaluates the level of our scientific understanding of forest ecosystem characteristics and functions.

Evaluation
 
Several major research organizations in Oregon make significant contributions to the scientific understanding of forest ecosystems, and the communication and application of this knowledge. These organizations are described briefly below.
 
Forest Research Laboratory (FRL)
 
Located at Oregon State University in the College of Forestry, the FRL is the forestry research arm of the state of Oregon. It was established in 1941 by the Oregon Legislature "to aid in the economic development of the state, to develop the maximum yield from the forests, and to obtain the fullest utilization of the resource." The five research program areas include: forest regeneration; forest ecology, culture, and productivity; protecting forests and watersheds; evaluating forest uses and practices; and wood processing and products. Research results are used by private landowners, state and federal land management agencies, wood processing firms, legislators, environmental agencies, and private nonprofit environmental organizations. The FRL’s research affects virtually all Oregonians because of the importance of forests to the state’s economy and quality of life.
 
Researchers at FRL made significant contributions to the Northwest Forest Plan in 1991 and the Report of the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team (FEMAT) in 1987, both of which made fundamental changes in the way that federal forest lands are managed in western Oregon.
 
The FRL actively participates in a number of integrated programs of research with other state agencies, federal agencies, and planning councils. These programs of research are described briefly below.
 
Blue Mountains Natural Resources Institute (BMNRI) — The institute has a cooperative research, development, and application program to mobilize resources on management issues of the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon.
 
Cooperative Forest Ecosystem Research Program (CFER) — This program is an integrative research and information exchange program that addresses issues of stand management, ecology, management of riparian areas, and biodiversity.
 
Coastal Oregon Productivity Enhancement (COPE) — This program studies the management of multiple resources in the upslope forests and riparian zones in the Oregon Coast Range.
 
Center of Wood Utilization Research (COWUR) — This regional center focuses on developing new wood products and processing systems.
 
Environmental Remote Sensing Applications Laboratory (ERSAL) — The laboratory develops and applies remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to the study of forest lands and related natural resource problems.
 
Forest Photogrammetry Research Laboratory (FPRL) — The laboratory’s mission is to apply modern photogrammetric techniques to natural resource management.
 
Hardwood Silviculture Cooperative (HSC) — The cooperative engages in research and technology transfer on the ecology and reforestation of hardwood tree species in the Pacific Northwest.
 
Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) — Located at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest on the Willamette National Forest, this project studies the long-term ecological relationships in managed and natural forests.
 
Nursery Technology Cooperative (NTC) — This cooperative researches nursery management and seedling production and performance.
 
Pacific Northwest Tree Improvement Research Cooperative (PNWTIRC) — This cooperative does research on genetics and tree improvement.
 
Sustainable Forestry (SF) — The program integrates social and biological aspects of forestry research.
 
Swiss Needle Cast Cooperative (SNC) — This cooperative investigates the causes and remedies for the fungus Phaeocryptopus gaeumannii, known as Swiss needle cast, in coastal Douglas-fir forests.
 
Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative (TGERC) — The purpose of this cooperative is to improve forest tree species through genetic transformation.
 
Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC) — This group researches plant competition, vegetation control, and early growth of forest stands.
 
OSU College of Forestry, McDonald-Dunn Experimental Forest — These 14,000 acres are used for research and educational purposes. Various forest management practices are applied, evaluated, and showcased on the forest.
 
U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNW)
 
The PNW is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s research arm, and has offices in Portland and Corvallis, Oregon. PNW is a sponsor or a partner in many of the research programs already mentioned, such as the Blue Mountains Natural Resources Institute and the Long-Term Ecological Research program. In addition, PNW manages the 16,000-acre H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, which is in the Cascades, east of Eugene, Oregon. PNW’s research programs are described briefly below.
 
Aquatic and Land Interactions
Mission: To understand how natural and human-caused processes and perturbations affect upland and riparian ecotones, water quantity and quality, aquatic habitats and biota with emphases on anadromous and resident salmonids, and stream channel characteristics at the reach, watershed, and landscape scale.
 
Ecosystem Processes
Mission: To improve knowledge of ecosystem processes at multiple scales for the forest sector of the Pacific Northwest, the nation, and the globe; and to develop the approaches for the application of this knowledge for resource protection, utilization, and enhancement.
 
Resource Management and Productivity
Mission: Increase understanding of the biology and productivity of forest ecosystems, and develop management tools and operational systems that enhance production of wood products and other resource values.
 
People and Natural Resources
Mission: To improve our understanding of the social and economic values by which resource management decisions are judged.
 
Pacific Resource Inventory, Monitoring, and Evaluation
Mission: To improve the understanding and management of Pacific Coast forest and range ecosystems by developing and applying inventory and monitoring technology to maintain comprehensive inventories and assessments of the status, trends, and prospective futures of the region’s ecosystems, their use, and their health.
 
Managing Natural Disturbance to Sustain Forest Health
Mission: To study the interrelation among disturbance regimes (insects, disease, fire, climate change, ungulate grazing-browsing), forest development, and resource sustainability; how land management affects these disturbances; and how management can be used to improve forest health, sustainability, and productivity.
 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
 
The EPA’s Western Ecology Division of the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory is located in Corvallis, Oregon. Research is conducted at this laboratory on a wide range of issues that directly affect Oregon’s forest ecosystems. These issues include riparian and wetlands effects on water quality, effects of global climate change on forest succession, and effects of air pollutants on forests.
 
A representative sample of specific research studies include: Interactive Effects of Ozone and Carbon Dioxide on the Ponderosa Pine Plant/Litter/Soil System; Effects of Anthropogenic Factors on the Microbial Ecology of Plant Litter and Soil in Forested Ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest; Effects of Stress on Biosystems Associated with Plant Litter, Soil, and Rhizospheres in Pacific Northwest Forests; Effects of Elevated Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change on Forest Trees.
 
National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI)
 
NCASI is a nonprofit environmental research institute funded primarily by member dues from the wood products industry. The council is a national organization with headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Its West Coast Regional Center is located in Corvallis, Oregon. Many of Oregon’s wood products industries and woodland owners are NCASI members, and much of NCASI’s research is directly pertinent to Oregon’s forest ecosystems.
 
NCASI addresses issues such as emissions of air and water pollutants, global climate change, threatened and endangered plant and animal species, forest practice rules and guidelines, sustainable forestry, and ecosystem management. A representative sample of specific research studies include: Sediment transport distances and culvert spacing on logging roads within the Oregon Coast Mountain Range; Estimating potential impacts of timber harvesting on spotted owls using the resource selection probability function.
 

Trends
 
During the 1970s and early 1980s, funding increased dramatically for scientific research in forestry and ecological processes done by laboratories within Oregon. From the mid-1980s to the present, funding has been level with a slight downward trend in recent years.