Home
The Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot (YFDP) is a research and educational project affiliated with Utah State University, the University of Montana, Washington State University, and the University of Washington. The YFDP is located near Crane Flat in Yosemite National Park. It lies in old-growth, sugar pine—white fir forest. The plot size is 25.6 ha (320 m x 800 m). The YFDP is the largest permanent monitoring plot in the National Park System, and together with the companion plot in Wind River, is the largest permanent plot in western North America. All trees > 1 cm at breast height (1.37 m) are mapped (35,027 trees). Shrub species are presently mapped by a combination of polygons and 2m x 2m demography patches. Canopy trees are generally 100 cm to 200 cm dbh. Our research objectives for the YFDP are:
Change detection and attribution.
Permanent sample plot studies have been able to attribute changes to climate, the effects of blister rust and fire, and the causes and consequences of tree mortality. Particularly because causes and rates of tree mortality in Yosemite 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 YFDP is complementary to the existing USGS/NPS Sierra Nevada Network of 1 ha plots located in Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks.
Biomass and carbon storage.
Generate deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind changes in biomass and carbon storage in Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer 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 YFDP 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 Yosemite in the face of ongoing regional and global changes. The YFDP has been located in a forest type that may experience a high level of climate-induced change.
Fire.
Provide spatially explicit analysis of fire-related mortality in support of Yosemite’s wildland fire use program.
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 Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot provides a unique opportunity to compare the dynamics of tropical and temperate forests, while raising the profile of Yosemite National Park 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 Yosemite forests and Yosemite 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 Sierra Nevada and current ecological issues. Every summer, PI Lutz teaches a field class at the YFDP (ESRM 490b). For most students, this is their first experience working in the field with ecologists and learning the how and the why of ecological science.
Partners
This long-term monitoring project represents a collaboration among scientists, land managers, educators, and interested private parties. The principal investigators donate their time to the project, and any available funds are used 100% for equipment, supplies, or field crews (generally undergraduate or graduate students). During the field campaigns of 2009, 2010, and 2011, people donated more than 10,000 hours of field time. We are always looking for collaborators and partners who share our goal of understanding and preserving the forests of Yosemite National Park. Please join us.
Governance
The Yosemite Forest Dyanamics Plot is located in the 19th Congressional District (Representative Zoe Lofgren) of California (Governor Edmund Brown, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Senator Dianne Feinstein). The Superintendent of Yosemite National Park is Don Neubacher.
Companion Plot
The Yosemite Forest Dyanamics Plot has a companion plot, the Wind River 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.
Press
All pieces produced by Peter Bowes.
The five-minute TV piece (different from the web and radio piece).
A four-minute customized web video clip and article (“Mapping America’s giant trees”, BBC America).
The same video clip with a slightly different introduction (“How to track the life of a tree”, BBC World).
The four-minute radio clip (“Survey ‘must stand test of time’”, BBC Today) The BBC Today program is the most-listened to morning show in the UK (on TV or radio), and this clip was broadcast in the 08:00 half hour (peak listening).
Social Media

Follow our efforts on Facebook: “Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot”. The Facebook page includes many photos of plot conditions.

What's the weather like in the plot? The Crane Flat Lookout is less than 1 km away and only 200 m higher in elevation.

Our terms of use. Our privacy policy.
DateHits CountOld VisitorsNew Visitors
Today25128
Yesterday56309
Average39167