Wind River Experimental Forest (WREF)

The Wind River Experimental Forest, north of the Columbia River River Gorge and part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest, has been studied by the USFS since 1908.  With one exception, plots occupy the slopes of an ancient volcano, with substrates consisting of weathered aa lava, including many large boulders, and steep terrain.  Old growth stands in this moderate, winter-precipitation climate support the the iconic Pacific Northwest species, including Pseudotsuga menziesii, Tsuga heterophylla, Abies amabilis, andThuja plicata.

Data from this site come from two sources, our sampling at NEON WREF plots, and the Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot, established by Jim Lutz, with seed trap data collected by Janneke HilleRisLambers.

Abies amabilis cones
Pinus monticola cones

The WREF site visit began with a stop at the NEON domain office in Vancouver Washington and discussions with the Ben Vierra, who explained that tree censuses are scheduled several years in the future.  Christoph and Jim were joined by Janneke for two of the sampling dates.

Plot 9 is the highest elevation plot on a steep aa lava flow of weathered boulders.  Tsuga heterophylla and Pseudotsuga menziesii occupy an open canopy.  Vaccinium ripe with berries dominate the understory.  Due to large tree size, we mapped the NEON 40×40 plot, including all trees > 2 cm in diameter.

Boulder substrate at plot 9

P. menziesii and T. heterophylla dominate plot 11 with Acer circinatum in the understory.  Some trees are already tagged, perhaps by NEON.  This young stand consists of small trees.

At plot 3, the inner 20×20 m plot supports young trees 20 to 35 m tall, some mature, many not.  Large trees occupy the outer 40×40.  We mapped a 10×40 strip where traps were placed—this strip included larger T. heterophylla and some Abies amabilis.  All trees > 30 cm were mapped.   Abies amabilis were mapped for all trees > 10 cm.

Plot 4 occupies a valley of low relief with T. heterophylla and P. menziesii dominant in the canopy.  This old-growth stand included large canopy gaps from blowdowns that littered the plot with > 1 m diameter stems.  Berries of mature Taxus brevifolia had already ripened and been consumed by the time of our census; few were observed on large trees.  The understory included A. amabilis recruitment and abundant Vaccinium with ripe berries. We mapped trees > 4 cm diameter on the 20×20 on 14 July and trees > 30 cm diameter on the 40×40 on 15 July.  All Taxus individuals were mapped.

Nothing was mapped at plot 13, where trees are all small.  We plan to use NEON data for the 20×20 plot.

Cornus nutallii fruiting at plot 12

Plot 12 lies the northeast of the main site on an alluvial bottomland.  P. menziesii dominates the canopy, with Acer circinatum, A. macrophyllum, Cornus nuttallii in the understory.  We mapped trees > 30 cm diameter in the outer 40×40; we will use NEON data for the 20×20.  Unlike other plots, this fertile site supported few cones and canopy, and few were found on the forest floor.  Christoph discovered yellow jackets in the 20×20.

Seed traps match NEON litterfall trap design

Plot 5 included some T. plicata in an open canopy over A. amabilisrecruitment in the understory.  We mapped the outer 40×40 plot.

Plot 1 represents a recent blowdown, with many trees snapped 10 to 20 m high.  The residual canopy includes large P. menziesii and T. heterophylla.  There is a high density of Vaccinium with ripe berries in the understory that includes limited recruitment of A. amabilis, some just reaching maturity.  We mapped all trees.

Plot 14 is an old growth stand, with some large P. menziesii in a canopy that is dominated by A. amabilis.  Vaccinium is abundant in the understory.  We mapped the outer 40×40.

Interrupted old-growth canopy at plot 14

WREF Plot 1
WREF Plot 3
WREF Plot 4
WREF Plot 5
WREF Plot 7
WREF Plot 9
WREF Plot 11
WREF Plot 12
WREF Plot 14

Field Researchers

Don't miss these other field sites:

Soaproot Saddle (SOAP)

Soaproot Saddle is part of the Sierra National Forest and managed by the Forest Service. Jessica Bolis, NEON domain manager, facilitated access to the plots.

Yellowstone (YELL)

Parent materials combine a history of volcanism, faulting, and glaciation. The park remains seismically active, with frequent earthquakes and many hydrothermal features. Vegetation includes a mosaic of forest, sagebrush-steppe and riparian bottomlands.

Treehaven (TREE)

The 560-ha Treehaven Forest lies within the northern Great Lakes region south of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Operated by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, this site focuses on natural resource education.

Bartlett Forest (BART)

Bartlett Experimental Forest (BART), located in the White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire, is managed as the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station.

Harvard Forest (HARV)

Sampling at Harvard Forest includes long term plots established by our lab in 2012 and new efforts located at NEON plots.

Mountain Lake Biological Station (MLBS)

Mountain Lake Biological Station is located in the Southern Appalachians of Southwest Virginia. This field site is administered through the University of Virginia. The NEON plots extend from mixed decidious forests to pine plantations.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is located south of Annapolis, MA. Formally farmland, this coastal plain forest sits on the western shore of the Chesapeake bay. The 1070-ha site is operated by the Smithsonian Institute.

Talladega National Forest (TALL)

The Talladega NEON site is located within the Oakmulgee Ranger District of the Talladega National Forest. This rolling terrain is part of the Fall Line Hills of the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain. In the 1800’s this area was heavily logged, but since the 1980’s the Forest Service has worked on restoring this area back to the Longleaf Savannah ecosystem.

Ordway-Swisher Biological Station (OSBS)

The University of Florida hosts the NEON OSBS site at their Ordway-Swisher Biological Station in north-central Florida. Andrew Rappe, the Assistant Director, gave us an orientation to the site.

Disney Wilderness Preserve (DSNY)

Formerly ranchland, the Disney Wilderness Preserve has been restored to Pine savanna under ownership of The Nature Conservancy. Previously, most of the preserve consisted of flatwoods open to cattle and excluded from fire.

Niwot Ridge (NIWO)

Niwot Ridge is an LTER site administered through University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)at their Mountain Research Station. NEON sites extend from P. contorta and subalpine spruce-fir to above treeline.

Our Partners

PBGJAM is a collaborative project with financial and logistical support from the following partners