, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 427–439 | Cite as

Ecological Setting of the Wind River Old-growth Forest

  • David C. ShawEmail author
  • Jerry F. Franklin
  • Ken Bible
  • Jeffrey Klopatek
  • Elizabeth Freeman
  • Sarah Greene
  • Geoffrey G. Parker


The Wind River old-growth forest, in the southern Cascade Range of Washington State, is a cool (average annual temperature, 8.7°C), moist (average annual precipitation, 2223 mm), 500-year-old Douglas-fir–western hemlock forest of moderate to low productivity at 371-m elevation on a less than 10% slope. There is a seasonal snowpack (November–March), and rain-on-snow and freezing-rain events are common in winter. Local geology is characterized by volcanic rocks and deposits of Micocene/Oligocene Micocene-Oligocene (mixed) Micocene and Quaternary age, as well as intrusive rocks of Miocene age. Soils are medial, mesic, Entic Vitrands that are deep (2–3 m), well drained, loams and silt loams, generally stone free, and derived from volcanic tephra. The vegetation is transitional, between the Western Hemlock Zone and the Pacific Silver Fir Zone, and the understory is dominated by vine maple, salal, and Oregon grape. Stand structural parameters have been measured on a 4-ha plot. There are eight species of conifers, with a stand density of 427 trees ha−1 and basal area of 82.9 m2 ha−1. Dominant conifers include Douglas-fir (35 trees ha−1), western hemlock (224 trees ha−1), Pacific yew (86 trees ha−1), western red cedar (30 trees ha−1), and Pacific silver fir (47 trees ha−1). The average height of Douglas-fir is 52.0 m (tallest tree, 64.6 m), whereas western hemlock averages 19.0 m (tallest tree, 55.7 m). The regional disturbance regime is dominated by high-severity to moderate-severity fire, from which this forest is thought to have originated. There is no evidence that fire has occurred in the forest after establishment. Primary agents of stand disturbance, which act at the individual to small groups of trees scale, are wind, snow loads, and drought, in combination and interacting with root-rot and butt-rot fungi, heart-rot fungi, dwarf mistletoe, and bark beetles. The forest composition is slowly shifting from dominance by Douglas-fir, a shade-intolerant species, to western hemlock, western red cedar, Pacific yew, and Pacific silver fir, all shade-tolerant species. The Wind River old-growth forest fits the regional definition of Douglas-fir “old growth” on western hemlock sites.


old growth temperate coniferous forest ecological characterization soils geology climate vegetation disturbance 



The Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility is a cooperative scientific venture between the University of Washington, College of Forest Resources, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Joel Norgren and Ted Dyrness provided the soil profile descriptions of the T. T. Munger RNA and input on the soils section. Tom High also provided input on the soils section. Some of this work was supported by the Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program (BER), US Department of Energy (DOE), through the Western Regional Center (WESTGEC) of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change (NIGEC) under Cooperative Agreement DE-FCO3-90ER61010. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of DOE.


  1. Acker, SA, Halpern, CB, Harmon, ME, Dyrness, CT 2002Trends in bole biomass accumulation, net primary production and tree mortality in Pseudotsuga menziesii forests of contrasting ageTree Physiol222137PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Agee JK. 1991. Fire history of Douglas-fir forests in the Pacific Northwest. In: Ruggiero LF, Aubry KB, Carey AB, Huff MH, technical coordinators. Wildlife and vegetation of unmanaged Douglas-fir forests. General technical report PNW-GTR-285. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p 25–33Google Scholar
  3. Bible, KJ 2001Long-term patterns of Douglas-fir and western hemlock mortality in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington [dissertation]University of WashingtonSeattleGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolsinger CL, Waddell KL. 1993. Area of old-growth forests in California, Oregon and Washington. Resource bulletin PNW-RB-197. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationGoogle Scholar
  5. Bond, BJ, Franklin, JF 2002Aging in Pacific Northwest forests: a selection of recent researchTree Physiol22736PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Brady, NC, Weil, RR 1996The nature and property of soilsEnglewoodCliffs (NJ)Prentice HallGoogle Scholar
  7. Brockway DG, Topik C, Hemstrom MA, Emmingham WH. 1983. Plant association and management guide for the Pacific Silver Fir Zone, Gifford Pinchot National Forest. R6-Ecol-130a-1983. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationGoogle Scholar
  8. Braun, DM, Runcheng, B, Shaw, DC, Scoy, M 2002Folivory of vine maple in an old-growth Douglas-fir–western hemlock forestNorthwest Sci7631521Google Scholar
  9. Chen, J, Franklin, JF, Spies, TA 1992Vegetation responses to edge environments in old-growth Douglas-fir forestsEcol Appl238796Google Scholar
  10. Chen, J, Franklin, JF, Spies, TA 1993aAn empirical model for predicting diurnal air-temperature gradients from clearcut-forest edge into old-growth Douglas-fir forestEcol Modell6717998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chen, J, Franklin, JF, Spies, TA 1993bContrasting microclimate patterns among clearcut, edge, and interior area of old-growth Douglas-fir forestAgric For Meteorol6321937CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cromack, K,Jr, Miller, RE, Helgerson, OT, Smith, RB, Anderson, HW 1999Soil carbon and nutrients in a coastal Douglas-fir plantation with red alderSoil Sci Soc Am J632329Google Scholar
  13. DeAngelis, DL, Gardner, RH, Shugart, HH 1981Productivity of forest ecosystems studied during the IBP: the woodlands data setReichle, DE eds. Dynamic properties of forests ecosystemsCambridge University PressCambridge567673Google Scholar
  14. DeBell, DS, Franklin, JF 1987Old-growth Douglas-fir and western hemlock: a 36-year record of growth and mortalityWest J Appl For21114Google Scholar
  15. Franklin, JF 1972Wind River Research Natural Area.Federal Research Natural Areas in Oregon and Washington: a guidebook for scientists and educatorsPacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station.USDA Forest ServicePortlandWR-1WR-12Google Scholar
  16. Franklin, JF 1988Pacific Northwest forestsBarbour, MGBillings, WD eds. North American terrestrial vegetationCambridge University PressCambridge10330Google Scholar
  17. Franklin JF, Cromack K Jr, Denison W, McKee A, Maser C, Sedell J, Swanson F, Juday G. 1981. 16. Ecological characteristics of old-growth Douglas-fir forests. General technical report PNW-118. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationGoogle Scholar
  18. Franklin, JF, DeBell, DS 1988Thirty-six years of tree populations change in an old-growth PseudotsugaTsuga forestCan J For Res186339Google Scholar
  19. Franklin JF, Dyrness CT. 1973. Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington. General technical report PNW-8. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 417 pGoogle Scholar
  20. Franklin JF, Spies TA. 1991. Ecological definitions of old-growth Douglas-fir forests. In: Ruggiero LF, Aubry KB, Carey AB, Huff MH, technical coordinators. Wildlife and vegetation of unmanaged Douglas-fir forests. General technical report PNW-GTR-285. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p 71–80Google Scholar
  21. Franklin JF, Waring RH. 1980. Distinctive features of the northwestern coniferous forest: development, structure, and function. In: Ecosystem analysis: proceedings, 40th Annual Biological Colloquium, 1979 April 27–28. Corvallis: Oregon State University. p 59–86Google Scholar
  22. Gray, AN, Franklin, JF 1997Effects of multiple fires on the structure of southwestern Washington forestsNorthwest Sci7117485Google Scholar
  23. Hammond, PE 1980Reconnaissance geologic map and cross sections of southern Washington Cascade Range, latitude 45 degrees 30 minutes–47 degrees 15 minutes N., longitude 120 degrees 45 minutes–122 degrees 22.5 minutes WPortland State UniversityPortlandGoogle Scholar
  24. Hammond PE, Korosec MA. 1983. Geochemical analyses, age dates, and flow-volume estimates for Quaternary volcanic rocks, southern Cascade Mountains, Washington. Open file report 83-13. Olympia (WA): Washington Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Earth Resouces. p 36Google Scholar
  25. Harmon, ME 2001Carbon sequestration in forestsJ For99249Google Scholar
  26. Harmon, ME, Bible, K, Ryan, MG, Shaw, DC, Chen, H, Klopatek, J, Li, X 2004Production, respiration, and overall carbon balance in an old-growth PseudotsugaTsuga forest ecosystemEcosystems..7 [this issue]Google Scholar
  27. Harr, RD 1986Effects of clearcutting on rain-on-snow runoff in western Oregon: A new look at old studiesWater Resour Res221095100Google Scholar
  28. Heilman, PE 1981Minerals, chemical properties and fertility of forest soilsHeilman, PEAnderson, HWBaumgartner, DM eds. Forest soils of the Douglas-fir regionWashington State UniversityPullman12136Google Scholar
  29. Hemstrom, MA, Franklin, JF 1982Fire and other disturbances of the forests in Mount Rainier National ParkQuat Res183251Google Scholar
  30. Homan, PS, Lollins, P, Chappell, HN, Stangenberger, AG 1995Soil organic carbon in a mountainous, forested region: relation to site characteristicsSoil Sci Soc Am59146875Google Scholar
  31. Ishii, H, Ford, ED 2002Persistance of Pseudotsuga-menziesii in temperate forests of the Pacific Northwest Coast, USAFolia Geobotanica37639Google Scholar
  32. Ishii, H, Clement, JP, Shaw, DC 2000aBranch growth and crown form in old coastal Douglas-firFor Ecol Manage131 8191Google Scholar
  33. Ishii, H, Reynolds, JH, Ford, ED, Shaw, DC 2000bHeight growth and vertical development of an old-growth PseudotsugaTsuga forest in southwestern Washington, U.S.ACan J For Res301724Google Scholar
  34. Janisch, JE, Harmon, ME 2002Successional changes in live and dead wood carbon stores: implications for net ecosystem productivityTree Physiol227789PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Kemp L, Schuller SR. 1982. Checklist of vascular plants of the Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area. Administrative report PNW-4. Portland (OR). USDA Forest Service. Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment StationGoogle Scholar
  36. King, JP 1961Growth and mortality in the Wind River Natural AreaJ For5976870Google Scholar
  37. Lawrence, DB 1939Some features of the vegetation of the Columbia River Gorge with special reference to asymmetry in forest treesEcol Monogr921757Google Scholar
  38. Margot BG, Holthausen RS, Teply J, Carrier WD. 1991. Old-growth inventories: status, definitions, and visions for the future. In: Ruggiero LF, Aubry KB, Carey AB, Huff MH, technical coordinators. Wildlife and vegetation of unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests. General technical report PNW-GTR-285. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p 47–60Google Scholar
  39. Mathiasen, RL, Shaw, DS 1998Adult sex ratio of western hemlock dwarf mistletoe in six heavily infected western hemlockMadrono452104Google Scholar
  40. Means, JE, MacMillan, PC, Cromack, K,Jr 1992Biomass and nutrient content of Douglas-fir logs and other detrital pools in an old-growth forest, Oregon, U.S.ACan J For Res22153646Google Scholar
  41. Meyers AP, Fredricks N. 1993. Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area management plan. USDA Forest Service. On file Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Vancouver (WA). p 62Google Scholar
  42. Parker, GG, Harmon, ME, Lefsky, MA, Chen, J, Pelt, R, Weiss, SB, Thomas, SC, Winner, WE, Shaw, DC, Franklin, JF 2004Three-dimensional structure of an old-growth PseudotsugaTsuga canopy and its implications for radiation balance, microclimate, and atmospheric gas exchangeEcosystems 7..[this issue]Google Scholar
  43. Paw U, KT, Falk, M, Suchanek, TH, Ustin, SL, Chen, J, Park, Y-S, Winner, WE, Thomas, SC, Hsiao, TC, Ustin, SL, Shaw, RH 2004Carbon dioxide exchange between an old-growth forest and the atmosphereEcosystems7.[this issue]Google Scholar
  44. Perry, DA, Pitman, GB 1983Genetic and environmental influences in host resistance to herbivory: Douglas-fir and the western spruce budwormZ Angew Entomol9621728Google Scholar
  45. Radwan, MA 1992Effect of forest floor on growth and nutrition of Douglas-fir and western hemlock seedlings with and without fertilizationCan J For Res2212229Google Scholar
  46. Schowalter, TD, Ganio, LM 1998Vertical and seasonal variation in canopy arthropod communities in an old-growth conifer forest in southwestern Washington, USABull Entomol Res8863340Google Scholar
  47. Schoonmaker, PK, Von Hagen, B, Wolf, EC 1997The rain forests of homeIslandWashington (DC)Google Scholar
  48. Shaw, DC, Freeman, EA, Mathiasen, RL 2000Evaluating the accuracy of ground based hemlock dwarf mistletoe rating: a case study using the Wind River canopy craneWest J Appl For15814Google Scholar
  49. Thomas, SC, Winner, WE 2000Leaf area index of an old-growth Douglas-fir forest: an estimate based on direct structural measurements in the canopyCan J For Res30192230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Topik C, Halverson NM, Brockway DG. 1986. Plant association and management guide for the Western Hemlock Zone, Gifford Pinchot National Forest. R6-ECOL-230A-1986. Portland (OR): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p 133Google Scholar
  51. Walsh, TJ, Korosec, MA, Phillips, WM, Logan, RL, Schasse, HW 1987 Geologic map of Washington: southwest quadrant—geologic map GM-34Washington State Department of Natural ResourcesOlympiaGoogle Scholar
  52. Wise, WS 1961Geology and mineralogy of the Wind River area, Washington, and the stability relations of celadonite [dissertation]Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore (MD)Google Scholar
  53. Wise, WS 1970Cenozoic volcanism in the Cascade Mountains of southern WashingtonWash Div Mines Geol Bull60145Google Scholar
  54. Woodfin RO Jr, DeBell DS, Franklin JF. 1987. Wind River Experimental Forest Research Management Plan. USDA Forest Service. On file: Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station (now, Pacific Northwest Research Station), Portland (OR)Google Scholar
  55. Youngberg, CT 1966Forest floor in Douglas-fir forests. I. Dry weight and chemical propertiesSoil Sci Soc Am J304069Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. Shaw
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jerry F. Franklin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ken Bible
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jeffrey Klopatek
    • 3
  • Elizabeth Freeman
    • 1
  • Sarah Greene
    • 4
  • Geoffrey G. Parker
    • 5
  1. 1.Wind River Canopy Crane Research FacilityUniversity of WashingtonCarsonUSA
  2. 2.College of ForestResourcesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant BiologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.Pacific Northwest Research Station, Forestry Sciences LaboratoryUS Forest ServiceCorvallisUSA
  5. 5.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA

Personalised recommendations