Dr. Malcolm North to Present at February Meeting. NCCLF Loan Approved.

There is good news with respect to financing a scoping study of how best to utilize the excess biomass in our forests.  The Northern California Community Loan Fund has approved a $20,000 zero interest non-recourse loan which will serve as the matching funds for a still to be applied $80,000 Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant.  This would not have been possible without the support of CHIPS which is acting as our fiscal agent.  Special thanks are due to CHIPS and Steve Wilensky for helping us qualify for these matching funds.  Many others helped in ways they will never know, but the key support came from CHIPS and Steve Wilensky.

The February meeting will be about recent research on the relationship between forest cover, forest health and the spotted owl’s preferred habitat.  Dr. Malcolm North, Research Forest Ecologist with the US Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station will be presenting the results of his research.


Western dry forest restoration often focuses on decreasing fuel loads, canopy cover and tree density, treatments that could reduce preferred habitat conditions for sensitive species such as the spotted owl.  In particular, high levels of canopy cover (>70%) have been widely reported as an important feature of spotted owl habitat, but stand-level averages of forest cover do not provide important information on foliage height and gap structure.  In an effort to provide better quantification of canopy structure, we used airborne LiDAR imagery to identify canopy cover in different height strata and the size and frequency of gaps that were associated with owl nest, protected activity center (PAC), and territory scales across four study areas and 316 owl territories.  Although total canopy cover was high in nest and PAC scales, the cover in tall (>48m) trees was the canopy structure most highly selected for, while cover in lower strata (2-16m) was avoided compared to availability in the surrounding landscape. Tall tree cover gradually decreased and lower strata cover increased moving from the nest to the landscape.  Large (>1000m2) gaps were avoided near nests, but otherwise for PAC and territory scales there was no difference in gap frequencies and sizes from the surrounding landscape. With cluster analysis we classified canopy conditions into five structural classes and four levels of canopy cover to assess the relationship between total canopy cover and tree size in nest, PAC and territory scales. High (>70%) canopy cover mostly occurs when large tree cover is high, indicating the two variables are often confounded. Our results suggest that the area in tall trees may be a better measure of preferred owl habitat than total canopy cover as the latter can include cover in the 2-16 m strata that owls actually avoid.  Management strategies that preserve and facilitate the growth of tall trees while reducing the cover and density of understory trees may improve forest resilience to drought and wildfire and may also enhance future owl habitat.

Malcolm North is a Research Forest Ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, and an Affiliate Professor of Forest Ecology, Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis.  He received his Master of Forest Science at Yale University and his PhD in Forest Ecology from the University of Washington with Dr. Jerry Franklin.  Malcolm has worked on understanding many aspects of the ecology of Sierra Nevada forests, including the effects of fire suppression, carbon dynamics, ecosystem resilience and management constraints on increasing pace and scale and the broader use of fire.  He is also the lead author of the Forest Service publication GTR 220, an ecosystem management strategy for Sierran mixed-conifer forests.

We will also be continuing the discussion on the advisability of forming a 501c(3) (non-profit) entity to make it easier to attract funding and complete projects.

The February meeting is scheduled for Tuesday February 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

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