We celebrate Washington’s old-growth trees for the landscapes they sustain, the habitats they create and the inspiration they spark as strong and steadfast giants. And though their history stretches far back, these sentinels continue to teach us new lessons—yielding key scientific insight as we pursue solutions to avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change.
A new story in the Seattle Times digs into the vast potential held within stands of cedar and spruce at our Ellsworth Creek Preserve along Washington’s Pacific coast:
Standing between nearly uniform rows of hemlock trees, scientist Tiara Moore clutched a tiny vial of evidence.
Filled with dirt and no bigger than her pinkie finger, the vial contained traces of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of creatures that had oozed by, crawled past or fluttered into this tiny corner of the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.
The microscopic flecks of DNA — from insects, amoebas and mushrooms — could help tell the story of a forest trying to regrow to its former might.
These forest forensics, part of a fast-growing field called environmental DNA, will tell researchers what’s living here, which, in turn, tells forest managers if what they’re doing is working here….
This research at Ellsworth Creek is the latest in several studies we have conducted to evolve conservation and forest management strategies at a watershed scale. We have worked in the landscape for more than 18 years, implementing and testing experimental restoration approaches in this living lab.
After two decades, we can now step back and observe. Our research today will quantify the impact of restoration on forest structure, biomass, carbon and biodiversity. The Ellsworth Creek Preserve has become proof of concept for many other forest-restoration projects on the Olympic Peninsula and beyond.
Banner photo by Harley Soltes.