Knobcone Pine Monitoring in Oregon

After I completed plant association training on the Siuslaw National Forest in coastal Oregon, I got to participate in some knobcone pine monitoring on the Willamette National Forest in central Oregon. 

Knobcone pine is a serotinous species, meaning the cones have their scales glued shut with resin until they reach high temperatures in fires. In a fire, the resin will start to melt, and the cones will open to release the seeds. The knobcone pine on the Willamette National Forest are at the northernmost part of the species’ range. 

Open knobcone pine cones on downed trees, Photo courtesy of Analise Sala
Closed, serotinous knobcone pine cones on a downed branch

Our main objectives for the project were to evaluate and record how well knobcone pine and other associated species were doing in these plots. For knobcone pine, Douglas fir, grand fir, and other trees, we measured their diameter at breast height, canopy position, and canopy cover. For the brush and understory species, we would measure their presence/absence or percent cover.

Measuring the DBH of a tree on the ridge, Photo courtesy of Analise Sala
Pine drops in the understory of the mixed knobcone pine forest, Photo courtesy of Analise Sala

It was great to be outside for work, and I enjoyed working with our field crew and meeting employees from different areas within our region. The monitoring itself was often challenging due to the steep, rocky terrain on the ridge where we were working. We also had trouble finding some of the plots, as they were established in the early 1990s and had only been monitored a few times since then. The terrain and ecosystem had changed since then, so following the directions written by previous monitoring groups was difficult.

Climbing up the ridge to the plot locations, Photo courtesy of Leela Hickman

Even though the work was challenging, I had a good time with the other members of the field crew. We were camping together for the week, so we got to spend lots of time with each other.

Propping ourselves against some trees while taking a snack and water break on our way up the ridge, Photo courtesy of Analise Sala
Thankfully, there was a cold stream we could cool off in at the end of every day of field work on the ridge, Photo courtesy of Analise Sala
Our portable homes for the week
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