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Northwest Forest Plan provides co-benefits to people and wildlife in coastal rainforests

   Dominick A. DellaSala,
Ph.D. Geos Institute, 541-482-4459 x 302
   Patric Brandt, Ph.D. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Garmisch
          Partenkirchen, Germany; Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany;
          +49 4131 677 1571;

Ashland, Oregon and Lüneburg, Germany – Scientists from the Pacific Northwest and Germany released new findings in the journal Biological Conservation documenting linkages between the richness of rainforest plants and wildlife and the provisioning of key ecosystem services in coastal rainforests of North America, particularly those managed under the landmark Northwest Forest Plan.

North America contains 35% of the world’s temperate rainforests, stretching from California’s ancient redwoods to Alaska’s magnificent Tongass National Forest. Scientists examined several categories of ecosystem services, defined as goods and services that people appropriate from nature, and tested whether their occurrence in an area was also associated with high numbers of tree, mammal, bird, and amphibian species.

Patric Brandt, lead author of the study, said “Our findings confirm for the first time that the integrity of the region’s coastal rainforests is linked to its clean water, climate regulation, and other ecosystem benefits that intact rainforests uniquely provide.”

The study used datasets from the public domain to correlate levels of ecosystem services (salmon abundance, timber, park visitation, deer hunting, organic soil matter, carbon in vegetation, drinking water, land aesthetics, and net primary productivity) to the richness of wildlife groupings (birds, mammals, trees, and amphibians).

Key Findings:

(1).  Pacific Northwest rainforests provide critical ecosystem services to human communities, in comparison to grasslands and cultivated areas that have a lower diversity of such services.

(2). High levels of biological diversity occur in areas where a high diversity of ecosystem services is found. Most notably, this likely includes intact rainforests, given that ecosystem services are compromised by over-allocation of any one provision (such as timber harvest).

(3). A multifunctional ecosystem managed for a myriad of ecosystem benefits simultaneously is a bell-weather for diverse wildlife communities.

(4). Loss and fragmentation of intact rainforests by development degrades biological diversity and provisioning of ecosystem services like clean water and climate regulation.

Dominick DellaSala, co-author of the study and an award winning book on temperate and boreal rainforests of the world, said: “This study reaffirms the importance of co-managing forests for both their ecosystem benefits and biodiversity conservation, such as that accomplished under the Northwest Forest Plan. Legislative proposals that undermine the plan’s conservation focus will come at the expense of clean water, climate regulation, and salmon, which nature is providing to us as long as we protect forests from over use.”

The Northwest Forest Plan is celebrating its 20th anniversary and is still considered a global model in ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation. Scientists are questioning legislation proposed by Oregon’s U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, which would shift the management focus to logging, at the expense of clean water, carbon storage in forests, tourism, landscape aesthetics, and wildlife diversity, key benefits linked in this study to multi-functional ecosystems that are uncompromised by logging.

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