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The Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot (WFDP) is a research and educational project affiliated with Utah State University, the University of Montana, Washington State University, and the University of Washington. The WFDP is located in the Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwest Washington. It lies in old-growth, Douglas-fir—western hemlock forest. The plot area is 25.6 ha (320 m x 800 m). Together with the companion research plot in Yosemite, the WFDP is the largest permanent research plot in western North America and one of about 40 similarly sized plots around the world. At the time of the plot establishment, there were 31,301 live woody stems ≥1 cm dbh, representing 26 species, all of which are taggest and mapped. The WFDP has been established surrounding the 12 ha plot surveyed in 1999 and the 4 ha plot surrounding the flux tower, which was established in 1994. Our research objectives for the WFDP are:
Change detection and attribution
Permanent sample plot studies have been able to attribute changes to climate, disturbance, insects, pathogens, and the causes and consequences of tree mortality.

Particularly because causes and rates of tree mortality at the WFDP may be changing, with attendant consequences for forest structure, large permanent sample plots are the only way to identify the causes and magnitudes of these changes.

The WFDP is complementary to the existing work at the Wind River Field Station, and taken with the Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot, comprises a latitudinal gradient of coniferous forests on the Pacific Slope of the United States.

Biomass and carbon storage
Generate deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind changes in biomass and carbon storage in Douglas-fir forests, and create extensive data sets on structural elements such as down woody debris and organic components of the forest floor in addition to the live overstory.

The large spatial extent of the WFDP combined with the fine-scale spatial resolution of measurements also can enhance understanding of adequate field measurements for these structural elements, as well as the influence of landscape variables such as topography.

Forecasting
Provide the mechanistic understanding of forest dynamics needed to forecast forest changes in the face of ongoing regional and global changes. The WFDP has been located in a forest that was once typical of western Washington and Oregon (before logging and development).

Disturbance
Provide spatially explicit analysis of wind-, insect-, and pathogen-related mortality.

Theoretical ecology
Contribute to the basic ecological understanding of western coniferous forests and forest ecosystems around the world.

As we are affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution Center for Tropical Forest Science network of large forest dynamics plots, the Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot provides a unique opportunity to compare the dynamics of tropical and temperate forests, while raising the profile of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Wind River Field Station within the global ecological community.

The large number of trees and the spatially explicit data provide a unique opportunity to test such theoretical constructs such as Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and the Janzen-Connell Hypothesis in a temperate context.

Education and training
This project provides training opportunities for students, biologists and citizen-scientists every year. Our vision is to integrate research and teaching through the experiential education model. Students learn fundamentals of forest ecology and field work skills by participating in plot remeasurements, and in this way a sizeable cadre of future scientists and land managers gains familiarity with Cascade Range forests and forest management issues. We pair experienced ecologists with newcomers in field sessions, and in this way we hope to introduce many people to the ecology of the Cascade Range and current ecological issues. Starting in summer 2013, PI Lutz teaches a field class at the WFDP (ESRM 491c). For most students, this will be their first experience working in the field with ecologists and learning the how and the why of ecological science.
Companion Plot
The Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot has a companion plot, the Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot. The two plots together allow us to examine late successional forest dynamics over 8° of latitude, minimizing the confounding factors of species and climate.
Governance
The Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot is located in the 3rd Congressional District (Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler) of Washington (Governor Chris Gregoire, Senator Maria Cantwell, and Senator Patty Murray). The Forest Supervisor of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is Janine Clayton.
Press
A television piece broadcast on BBC World by Peter Bowes and Jon Stewart (four minutes).
A radio piece broadcast on the Science in Action program on BBC World. This was also rebroadcast on NPR in the United States.
A web piece on the details of the Wind River Canopy Crane.
Social Media
Follow our efforts on Facebook: “Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot”. The Facebook page includes many photos of plot conditions.
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