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Title: Northwest Forest Plan—the first 10 years (1994-2003): status and trend of late-successional and old-growth forest.

Author: Moeur, Melinda; Spies, Thomas A.; Hemstrom, Miles; Martin, Jon R.; Alegria, James; Browning, Julie; Cissel, John; Cohen, Warren B.; Demeo, Thomas E.; Healey, Sean; Warbington, Ralph.

Date: 2005

Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-646. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 142 p

Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)

Description: We monitored the status and trend of late-successional and old-growth forest (older forest) on 24 million ac of land managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service in the Northwest Forest Plan (the Plan) area between 1994 and 2003. We developed baseline maps from satellite imagery of older forest conditions at the start of the Plan. We used remotely sensed change detection to track losses of older forests on federally managed lands to stand-replacing harvest and wildfire, and we analyzed the amounts and spatial distribution of older forests by using the mapped data. We also performed statistical analysis on inventory plot information collected on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. These analyses provided statistically rigorous estimates of older forest acres bracketed by confidence intervals. We analyzed remeasured inventory plots to estimate net change in the amount of older forests on federally managed lands.

We estimated the amount of older forest at the start of the Plan corresponding to three different older forest definitions based on average tree size, canopy layering, canopy closure, and life form. The results ranged from 7.87 million ac (± 1.96 million ac) of federally managed lands with average tree size at least 20 in (medium and large older forest), to 7.04 million ac (± 1.93 million ac) using a definition that recognizes variation in regional forest vegetation (older forest with size indexed to potential natural vegetation zone). We found 2.72 million ac (± 0.35 million ac) were in stands with average tree size 30 in and greater, with multistoried canopies (large, multistoried older forest). At least 1.7 million ac of existing "medium and large" older forest were in fire-adapted vegetation types characterized by high fire frequency and low severity in the Eastern Cascades and Klamath provinces. Up to 1 million additional older forest ac occurred in dry mixed-conifer types in the Western Cascades.

Our data from remeasured inventory plots indicated that the annual net rate of increase of “medium and large” older forest was about 1.9 percent, outpacing losses from all sources. The extrapolated gain in older forest 20 in was between 1.25 million ac and 1.5 million ac in the first decade after the Plan. The gain came primarily from increases in the area of forest at the lower end of the diameter range for older forest. The net increase took into account the older forest removed by stand-replacing harvest, 0.2 percent of the total (about 16,900 ac on all federally managed lands), and the amount burned by stand-replacing wildfire, about 1.3 percent (about 102,500 ac on all federally managed lands). The area mapped as logged or burned had an error estimate of between 7 and 12 percent.

The initial amount, distribution, and arrangement of older forest on federally managed land appears to have met or exceeded Northwest Forest Plan expectations. But the large amount of older forest susceptible to catastrophic wildfire may be a concern for managers. Losses to wildfire in the first decade were in line with assumptions for the Plan area, but rates of loss were highly variable among provinces, with the highest rates of loss occurring in the dry provinces. Loss of older forest to harvest was a fraction of the approximately 230,000 ac of older forest expected to have been harvested. Overall gain was about twice the 600,000 ac expected during the first decade of the Plan.

Older forest maps based on remote sensing allowed for a spatial assessment of landscape patterns, but map accuracy was low in some areas, especially the Eastern Cascades. Remotely sensed change detection was highly accurate for assessing older forest losses to catastrophic disturbance (clearcutting and stand-replacing wildfire). But technological improvements are needed to use remotely sensed data for detecting less severe disturbance from par

Keywords: Northwest Forest Plan, effectiveness monitoring, late-successional and old-growth forests, remote sensing, existing vegetation, change detection, Pacific Northwest, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, land use allocations, late-successional reserves, physiographic provinces

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
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Moeur, Melinda; Spies, Thomas A.; Hemstrom, Miles; Martin, Jon R.; Alegria, James; Browning, Julie; Cissel, John; Cohen, Warren B.; Demeo, Thomas E.; Healey, Sean; Warbington, Ralph. 2005. Northwest Forest Plan—the first 10 years (1994-2003): status and trend of late-successional and old-growth forest. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-646. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 142 p

 


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