February 14, 1989

PNW RESEARCH STATION

LONG-TERM SITE PRODUCTIVITY PROGRAM CHARTER

 

PROBLEM STATEMENT AND JUSTIFICATION

 

Problem: Land management agencies cannot accurately predict the effects of management practices on long-term site productivity for the purposes of meeting state and federal laws and regulations. Land managers need new knowledge from research to design forest management systems whose sustainability is more certain. Management standards and monitoring systems need to evolve as new information from research becomes available. We need new approaches to research that incorporate longer time perspectives, link basic and applied research, and provide better overall coordination to improve our ability to predict management effects.

 

There are many definitions of long-term site productivity (e.g. economic, ecosystem, soil) within the research and management communities. These definitions reflect differences in perspective and desired approach. Our working definition of long-term site productivity conceptually encompasses the productivity over long periods of time (three or more rotations of tree crops) of the entire forest ecosystem as determined by the cumulative interaction of soil, biota, chemical and physical climate, natural disturbance, and management practices. From a pragmatic perspective, this program will initially emphasize management practices, soil processes, and potential productivity as measured by growth of dominant vegetation. This initial focus, however, will not inhibit consideration or study of other components of ecosystems or the socio-economic implications of management decisions. Further definition of productivity and potential productivity will be a research priority under this program.

 

Long-term site productivity is one of the most complex issues facing scientists and managers concerned with forest land management. Difficulties result from the long-term (centuries) nature of the issue itself, site-to-site variability, difficulty in establishing controls, multiple confounding effects including changes in climate and desired products, and an inadequate understanding of how interacting and interdependent ecosystem processes affect productivity. We need to improve our ability to identify actual or potential problems and opportunities; to develop methods to avoid, minimize, or ameliorate negative effects of management; to learn how to improve productivity wherever appropriate; and to develop a practical system for land managers to assess positive and negative effects of management activities as a basis for refining management decisions and guidelines.

 

The need for a long-term site productivity program evolves from Congressional mandates, public interest, and lack of synthesis of fragmented and short-term research. This has been emphasized by WO management reviews, Region 6 staff reviews, and several PNW Research Station committees and task forces. The latest such effort, "Report of the Long-term Productivity Task Force, Dec. 7, 1987", chaired by Dean DeBell (PNW-Olympia), recommended that the PNW Research Station spearhead a research and development program in cooperation with Region 6, Region 10, and the Bureau of Land Management. This Charter relies heavily on the DeBell Report and consultation from R-6 and BLM. Applicable laws and broad public concerns mandate that the health and productive capacity of forest ecosystems be sustained. Applicable laws and broad public concerns mandate that the health and productive capacity of forest ecosystems be sustained. The Oregon and California Railroad Act of 1937 (which covers BLM lands) states that "Lands valuable for timber shall be managed for permanent production...in conformity with the principle of sustained yield." The National Forest Management Act of 1976 and the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 and state that federal forest lands are to be managed without "substantial and permanent impairment of the productivity of the land." No legal interpretation of this National Forest Management Act provision has been established, but the Office of General Counsel believes it refers to "long-term" soil productivity (the WO-National Forest System Soil Productivity Task Group, Sept. 9, 1987).

 

Public concern about long-term productivity is increasing. The current scarcity of relevant scientific results has contributed to an increased uncertainty and skepticism about the appropriateness of current forest practices. This potential lack of trust in federal land stewardship leads to a greater probability that forest management activities on federal lands will be increasingly legislated or controlled by judicial decisions. National Forests and BLM are required to inform the public about current and future policies and programs related to forest management and site productivity on federal forest lands. In addition, the PNW Research Station needs to summarize and make known to forest managers and the public how its research provides or can provide solutions to long-term productivity issues.

 

PROGRAM GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

 

The goal of this Program is to establish and foster integrated long-term research on the effects of forest management practices on long term soil productivity. Specific objectives for these first five years include:

        Conduct research on fundamental mechanisms controlling forest productivity and potential productivity as a basis for interim modeling efforts that predict the effects of management over the long-term.

        Establish and follow replicated long-term applied research on benchmark soils or ecosystems to study stand-level responses to cumulative management practices including harvesting and site preparation, species selection, and other stand management practices.

        Link basic and applied research on an Integrated Research Site as part of each series of long-term applied studies. Use these Integrated Research Sites as demonstration grounds to facilitate technology transfer.

        Provide federal land managers with interim guidelines for effectively monitoring management influences on long-term productivity.

 

 


APPROACH

 

This program attempts to integrate basic and applied research and to use a focused ecosystems approach to attack the problem at a regional level. The program will: emphasize a long-term research and application perspective, generate new information on fundamental processes of productivity, build partnerships between basic and applied researchers and land managers, and link basic and applied research into a regional analysis of the effects of management practices on long-term productivity.

 

Ecosystems are usually described as an entire functional system encompassing a complex and interacting assemblage of plants, animals, and microbes and their abiotic environment, which acts on them and on which they act. An ecosystems approach stresses the importance of complexity, interaction, and functional processes. A focused ecosystems approach is based on three assumptions: (1)that you can not study one or two members/factors/processes without considering the potential importance of all members/factors/processes, (2)that because of inherent complexity, all members/factors cannot be studied and accounted for, and (3) that a set of key members/factors/processes can be identified with conceptual modeling.

 

Promote a long-term perspective

 

We base our current understanding of how various types of harvesting, site preparation, vegetation control, and ameliorative measures affect forest productivity primarily on short-term observations. Few convincing studies on long-term effects of such practices are available for assessing environmental impacts or for responding to possible legal challenges. Ideally, we would like to know how management practices affect productivity over three or more rotations. Initial interpretations should be limited to at least one full rotation.

 

Nearly all continuing and past forestry research contributes in some manner to better understanding of ecosystems and appropriate management of forests. However, most studies concerned with forest productivity provide information on short-term effects on tree growth or other processes related to productivity. Long-term effects on productivity are implied from short-term results, but actual effects are yet to be demonstrated. Determining long-term effects of forest practices is a challenging need not adequately served by current research efforts in the PNW Research Station or elsewhere. In recognition of short-term needs of land managers, this program will seek to improve our ability to predict effects through conceptual and numerical modeling of long-term processes.

 

Conduct research on fundamental processes affecting long-term productivity

 

Basic forest biology research faces an important dilemma: the need for increasing specialization to understand complex natural processes on one hand, and, on the other, the need to prioritize research and synthesize fragmented information. Our approach is to develop a broad-based conceptual model of long-term ecosystem productivity that will identify key deficiencies in current knowledge and serve as a framework for integration. A committee of scientists from around the country will be assembled to build this model, develop a broad consensus, and to determine research priorities.

 

Research will test general assumptions in, and hypotheses generated by, the conceptual model. This research will be carried out in natural and manipulated forest ecosystems and is designed to develop new information of regional or national scope. We agree with the DeBell report that due to the complex nature of forest ecosystems, research should focus first on soil productivity as measured by growth of dominant vegetation. We recognize, however, that we need a multi-disciplinary approach to account for complex interactions within the ecosystem. Combining both perspectives results in a focused ecosystems approach. Further, our in-depth productivity research could attract concurrent study on other important issues such as species diversity, global warming, and forest-atmosphere interactions.

 

Establish partnerships to carry out applied research

 

Establish partnerships between researchers and land managers to carry out applied research on benchmark soils of Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Working closely with land management agencies and other land owners, we will establish long-term applied studies designed to test the effects of management practices on long-term productivity. A set of administrative studies will be established on large plots in each of about six important benchmark soils or ecosystems. Together, these studies will make up a well-designed regional research study that will emphasize those practices which either alone or in combination with others are thought to have a long-term influence on tree growth. Studies will focus on the ability of the land to return to a desired state following disturbance or to sustain improvements in site productivity gained from individual or combinations of practices. Common protocols and quality control measures will be required to insure data quality and comparability.

 

Link basic and applied research

 

One site from each set of applied studies will be selected for more intensive basic and applied research and designated an "Integrated Research Site." Our goal is to exchange ideas and information among basic researchers, applied researchers, and land managers. To do this, we will encourage formation of teams of scientists and managers throughout Oregon, Washington, and Alaska to work on Integrated Research Sites and associated applied studies. Each team will formulate a conceptual model of long-term productivity that is specific to the ecosystem studied. These models will help focus and prioritize research on the Integrated Research Sites and associated applied studies, and help integrate designs and results. Integrated Research Sites form a critical physical and intellectual link between the basic and applied programs. Multi-disciplinary research on Integrated Research Sites will be designed, in part, to study mechanisms that lead to responses obtained on the associated broader series of applied studies. Technology transfer of both short-term and long-term research results will occur in the form of team interaction, published articles, timely workshops, and newsletters.

 

 


Link research and monitoring

 

This program will provide land managers with guidelines for effectively monitoring management influences on long-term productivity. Guidelines will include protocols and quality control measures that will enable monitoring systems to feed into a regional database on long-term productivity. Local research and monitoring will be linked in a regional data base to allow a more powerful analysis of management practices and synthesis of research results. This database will be a valuable foundation for modeling efforts and economic analyses of changing demands for resources.

 

ORGANIZATION AND ADMINISTRATION

 

The program will consist of two administrative functions: basic and applied research. Each be chaired by a Program Leader. Program Leadership will be a special assignment made by the Station Director. Program Leaders will remain housed in their respective work units, reporting to the Director's office on matters relating to the Program, and to their Project Leader for personnel matters and research conducted by the individual which falls under the work unit mission. During the planning stage of the program, the Program Leaders will report to the Assistant Director for Planning and Application (P&A AD) for overall guidance and interaction with other PNW Research Station efforts. The P&A AD will supervise the performance of the Program Leaders for the work related to the program.

 

The integrated research sites will be individually administered by local scientists, with overall coordination divided between the two leaders. Research activities of work units which contribute to obtaining the goals of this Program are covered under the respective unit's work unit description and problem analyses.

 

Basic Research: The Program Leader will require a scientist (Post-doc) and a technician to support personal and program research. A science board composed of 3-4 scientists (FS and university nationwide), the P&A AD, Project Leader for RWU 4356 and Program Leader for applied research will assist in narrowing down the research issues and studies to be considered, advise on appropriate funding strategies, facilitate a peer review process for study proposals, and help develop broad-based support for the program. The Program Leader for basic research will then organize the scientific talent needed for each research issue to define hypotheses and set studies in motion. The Program Leader will coordinate this research with similar efforts nationally and internationally.

 

Applied Research: The Program Leader for applied research will require a programmer analyst to develop integrated database and supporting software. A coordinating committee will act in a similar capacity to the basic science board and will be composed of the P&A AD, the Program Leader for basic research, scientists, and representatives of Region 6, BLM, and industry. The Program Leader will gain a loose consensus at the practitioner level on research needs and issues. The board will define scientific approaches to those needs and issues. Scientists and practitioners pooled for each topic will further refine the approach. Individual practitioners may serve on detail to the Program Leader to gain expertise in study design and execution. These practitioners will then return to the field to champion individual study sites. The Program Leader will help to establish study sites and coordinate research within and between applied studies and basic research program. We anticipate that the applied studies will require support concerning study design, quality control, field methods, data management, statistical analysis, and technology transfer.

 

Integrated Research Sites: Each integrated research site will be administered by a Lead Scientist from a PNW Project, university or other organization. Jointly the Lead Scientist and Program Leaders will be responsible for gaining consensus on focus, and obtaining funding and cooperation from land management agencies. The Lead Scientist will make final decisions on site selections and study design within broad program guidelines. The participation of other scientists will be enlisted as needed. The Lead Scientist is responsible for ensuring integrity of research conducted on these sites. Participating scientists and managers will hold an annual workshop for each site to develop consensus on research focus, review individual study plans, and gain support for the program, both politically and financially.

 

Policy Board: This group will consist of top line officers of participating agencies and organizations. Its purpose will be to keep top leadership informed and excited about program development and results, and to provide management direction to the Long-Term Site Productivity Program.

 

Program Organization Chart. Program structure for FY 89, to be reviewed after one year. Solid lines indicate direct personnel authority. Dotted lines represent linkage between key individuals in the Program.


 

 



PROGRAM DURATION AND COST

 

The PNW long-term productivity program will phase-in during FY 1989, be fully operational in FY 1990. This charter will cover Program activities through FY 1995. The program will be reviewed annually and may be revised as needed. The total research appropriated funds directed towards solution of long-term productivity problems will be approximately $2 MM annually. The appropriated funds will approach $ 500 M by the end of FY 1990. Establishment and maintenance of administrative studies and Integrated Research Sites will be largely supported by participating management agencies, who may also contribute to research efforts directly or indirectly.

 

IMPACT ON CURRENT PROGRAMS

 

PNW Research Station intends to re-direct some research effort within the Station towards program goals. Because we anticipate that most program funds will be "new" money, from increase-list, priority research program funding, and outside partners, we expect only positive impacts on PNW work unit funding. Research by PNW scientists supported by the program will be covered under their work unit descriptions and problem analyses. Credit for attainment will stay with the primary author's work unit. Other long-term productivity research that is not included within the Station's program will continue under existing project problem analyses and funding. The Program will also develop a reporting mechanism for Program outputs. There will be increased workloads for those Forests and Districts participating in the applied research program to install sites, apply treatments, and maintain sites. The work will augment and enhance monitoring designs established in the Forest Plans.

 

COORDINATION WITH OTHER EFFORTS

 

Coordination with NFS and BLM related activities will be promoted through active participation on the applied coordinating committee by staff specialists. Program activities will be coordinated with the following research efforts and cooperatives:

 

National management impacts on LTSP study (Powers, PSW; Loftus, WO)

NSF LTER Collaborative Research Program (J. Franklin, UW)

NSF LTER (HJ Andrews Exp. Forest group)

Coastal Oregon Productivity Enhancement Coop (Steve Hobbs, OSU)

Forest Health and Productivity in a Changing Atmospheric Environment-

Priority Research Program (WO)

Biological diversity - Priority Research Program (WO)

Levels of Growing Stock (Curtis, PNW)

Stand Management Coop (Curtis, PNW)

Inland Empire Growth and Yield Coop (Bob Phister, U Mont)

Fertilization Coops (Nick Chappel, U W; Jim Moore, U I)

Managed Stand Survey (John Teply)

FIR (Owston study on cc/shelterwood; burn,no burn)

Uneven-aged mgt administrative studies (Don Wood, Ochoco NF)

Integrated Pest Management Strategic Plan

Southern Forest Productivity Initiative (SO, SE, R8, FPL)

National Soils Evaluation Project

 

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

 

Environmental analyses of forest management activities will be aided by program research. By the very nature of the subject, the environmental consequences of individual and collective activities on research sites will not be known. Some of the treatments and on the ground activities will be typical of standard practices and will be covered by the environmental analyses conducted by the local management agency. Lead scientists will assist in the environmental analyses for research requiring adverse treatments unfamiliar to the participating office.