541-947-5461 nick.johnson@lcri.org
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Information, photos and reports for the monitoring project on the Fremont/Winema National Forest

Gathering such a diverse amount of data requires many different types of survey methods and techniques. Among those used on this project are the selection of locations, vegetation surveys, canopy surveys, soil surveys, stream cross sections, macro-invertebrate surveys and pebble count surveys. There are also minor surveys done within riparian zones along with the other surveys.

One of the most striking things about this project is the depth and connection that each piece of data has with each other. The methods used to collect the data were conducive for understanding the interrelationships of the various components of the ecosystem. The combination of particular elements of data and the unity achieved in the database create the ability to see both the broad picture of the watershed and the specific particulars within their proper context.

The listed methods here provide our own descriptions of what we do in the field and how we do it. We have tried to be concise and simplify as we continually try and test new methods we therefore expect to modify our descriptions accordingly.

Choosing a Base Area

Base areas are chosen because they contain one or more of the following characteristics: dynamic, representative, unique, and/or managed. The meanings of these terms are as follows:

Dynamic: A base area or individual transect which possesses ecological factors or elements that are unique in combination and/or rapidity of change.
Representative: A base area or transect which contains ecological factors or elements which represent a significantly larger area than the particular vicinity of a certain base area.
Unique: A base area or transect which contains one or more ecological factors or elements that are one-of-a-kind or at least extremely rare in occurrence for the watershed.
Managed: A base area or transect which has been, is being, or will be managed in some way (e.g. – restoration, treatment, and/or logging).

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Location & Base Area Mapping Method

After choosing a base area, an individual tree within sight from the road nearest the base area is painted with a green dot and designated as the marker tree (MT). Either before or after painting the MT the individual transects are designated by placing small flags in the ground and stretching a measuring tape in the desired direction.

Next, small pieces of rebar are pounded in the ground at the ends of the stretched tape. The rebar is then marked by attaching a small, round, aluminum tag (marked by alpha-numeric sets with the appropriate transect code and stake letter). The tags are then attached with aluminum wire. The same tags are also used to label the MT and are attached with a galvanized nail. After the transects are set up (the tapes are laid out and the stakes are pounded in) and the MT is painted, then the distance and bearing can be measured. By standing at the MT a compass is used to determine the direction from the MT to the various transects’ stake “A” within that base area. Distance from the MT to a stake A can be measured one of two ways: with an electronic distance meter or GPS.

The electronic distance meter requires two people, because there are two hand-held devices, a ‘sender’ and ‘receiver’. GPS distancing involves using the GPS device’s ‘route’ function. Whether the second method of distance calculation is used or not, the GPS coordinates are always taken for all stake A’s, the MT (and sub-MT if applicable).

After providing all the necessary location information (distance, bearing, GPS coordinates), the orientation of each transect is measured by standing at stake A and looking with a compass to stake B.  The ‘A to B orientation’ can be recorded. The slope and the aspect of the slope is measured by a clinometer and compass and is always directed uphill. The slope is measured in percent, not degrees. If there is more than one distinct slope then each slope relative to the individual transects is recorded. If the transects are in a riparian zone the slope and aspect of the stream is recorded.

The final element after collecting all the previous information is the actual drawing of the Location Map. Though it can be accomplished in a variety of ways, the following is recommended. The field form is placed in an orientation that will suit the general shape of the base area’s layout. The compass is set to North and rotated, not the field form, until North is found. North is marked in the circle on the lower-right corner of the field form. Generally a 1 mm = 1 meter ratio scale is used to draw the distance accurately. The form is left in the same orientation as it was when North was marked. Using the compass the bearing and distance is representatively drawn on the form. The MT is labeled in the drawing and the transects are oriented with the compass and marked with a dotted line between two circles with X’s. The aspect of the slope is also drawn using the compass in the same manner as the bearing to stake A and the A to B orientation.

Finally, the other key features are sketched in roughly, such as the nearest road, streams, or partially distinguishing features.

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Vegetation Survey Method

Quadrats are used to sample vegetation found in one-tenth acre plots that are not necessarily on the line intercept. Quadrates are used as well to sample areas in transition within the plot. The specie name and the number of plants per specie are recorded along with the percent of effective ground cover. Percent effective ground cover is recorded as litter, moss, or grasses/herbs. A picture of each quadrat is taken and identified by recording the following on a small whiteboard: 1) plot location, 2) quadrat number within the plot, 3) location in the plot, and 4) date.

Location of the quadrat within the plot uses a Cartesian coordinate system with the 30 meter tape stretched from the A stake to the B stake being used as the X axis and the distance above and below the tape as the Y axis. To orient the graphing coordinates correctly, stand with the A stake on your left and the B stake on your right. The area above the 30 meter tape is positive, and the area below is negative. Quadrat distances are measured to the center of the quadrat.

Quadrat pictures are taken with the photographer’s back toward the A stake and the whiteboard identifying in the lower right corner of the quadrat.

Quadrat information is combined with line intercept data to calculate species richness. Quadrats from different years can be compared in trend studies to identify changes that are occurring within the quadrat. These can be combined with line intercept data to extrapolate changes occurring within the plot.

Green Line:
Green line surveys are used to determine changes occurring within the one-tenth acre plot. Species changes are indicators of disturbance and succession, as well as soil, canopy and/or water changes.

The standard line intercept protocol of vegetation analysis is employed along the 30 meter tape/transect in the middle of the plot.

The 30 meter transect is divided into 10 subsections each three meters long. The species, number of plants and medium width of each species is recorded for each subsection. Vegetation measurements of density, cover, frequency, importance and diversity are then calculated. All plants are identified by a six letter code consisting of the first three letters of the genus followed by the first three letters of the specie.

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LMS (Landscape Management System) Protocols

LMS is a forest modeling program that calculates stand characteristics including average heights, diameter, and basal area as well as variances of height and diameter. It also draws representations of the stand showing canopy closure, basal area, and stem profiles. It can be used to model future growth and responses to various

Stand measurements for correct modeling include aspect, slope, latitude, habitat, and average age. Individual tree measurements include species, diameter, height, crown ratio, crown width, and rings per centimeter. All data is measured using the Empirical system utilized in forestry.

Sampling is carried out by gridding the site, and taking data in one-fiftieth acre circular plots (16.4 ft radius), along the grid.

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Canopy Survey Method

Canopy data includes information on trees such as height, diameter at breast height (DBH), crown width, crown ratio and growth index as well as spatial orientation details and the location of trees, boulders, downed woody debris, noxious weeds, seedlings, skid trails and other prominent features.

Tree species, composition, height of saplings, length, width and orientation of downed woody debris are all recorded on the canopy map. Each tree greater than 10cm is given a number so that attributes of that tree can be cross-referenced. Each tree is identified by specie using a six letter code. The first three letters are the first three letters of the genus. The second three letters are the first three letters of the specie.

Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) is measured with a DBH tape at 1.3 meters from the uphill side of the tree and is recorded in cm.

Tree Height is measured using a clinometer. The surveyor paces parallel to the slope a distance of 10-30m (the greater the distance the more accurate) and notes the percent reading on the clinometer. The percent of base is then multiplied by the distance from the base of the tree to get the height which is recorded in feet.

Crown Ratio is found by visually breaking the tree into 10 portions. The number of portions that contain live photosynthetic material (i.e. green crown) is recorded as a decimal between 0 and 1, which represents the Live Crown Ratio in percent.

Canopy Width is determined by measuring the maximum width of the living branches starting at the furthermost point of the initial branch straight through the tree to the outermost point of the opposite branch. A clinometer is used at 90 degrees to make sure the measurement starts and stops directly under the end of the longest branches.

Each tree is also surveyed for health status, damage and disease. These categories include:

Health Status

  1. Live (healthy) tree
  2. Dead tree
  3. Marked harvest tree
  4. Forked
  5. Dying back
  6. Crooked stem
  7. Suppressed
  8. Flagging


  1. Insect (crown)
  2. Insect (bole)
  3. Fire
  4. Bole scar
  5. Broken or spiked top
  6. Snow load (bent)
  7. Lightening scar
  8. Animal

  1. Needle cast
  2. Needle blight
  3. Atropellis piniphila
  4. Atropellis pinicola
  5. Cronartium ribicola
  6. Perdermium stalactiforme
  7. Peridermium harknessli
  8. Phordendron juniperinum
  9. Phor. Pauciflorum
  10. Arceuthobium americanum
  11. A. campylopodum
  12. A. californicum
  13. A. abietinum sp.concoloris
  14. Annosus root disease
  15. Armillaria root disease
  16. Phellinum Weiri root rot
  17. Brown cubical rot
  18. Fomes root and butt rot
  19. Fomitopsis officinalis
  20. Red belt fungus
  21. Lentinus lepideus
  22. Indian paint fungus

Canopy position of the trees is also taken. Canopy position refers to the amount of direct sunlight a tree gets. A dominate tree gets direct sunlight without much competition. A co-dominate tree is competing proportionally with surrounding trees for sunlight but still gets direct sunlight. An intermediate tree rarely gets direct sunlight. A suppressed tree is one that is in the understory of the stand. A tree that has an open canopy position doesn’t have to compete for light at all.

Rings per Centimeter of each tree is taken using an increment borer. Each individual ring represents one year of growth of the tree. The higher the number of rings per unit of measure the slower the tree is growing. Rings per centimeter is always taken on the north side of the tree and does not include the new phloem and xylem of the tree, (i.e. excluding this year’s growth).

The canopy survey map is a hand drawn map of trees that shows the general layout of the transect. The purpose of the canopy map is to show tree spacing, large woody debris, (LWD, greater than 5m) boulders, shrubs, grasses, noxious weeds.  The map also captures information about the transect that can’t be seen on the vegetation survey by photos or by soil information. Tree specie, quadrats, topographic changes, heights of sapling sized trees, lengths and widths of LWD and species of LWD are all characterized on the canopy survey map.

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Preparation of Sample for Soil Chemistry Tests

Beginning in 2006, soils were analyzed for soil chemistry using LaMotte Smart 2 Soil Spectrophotometer/Colorimeter. Protocols developed by LaMotte for soil Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, Phosphate, and Potassium were used. All concentrations are recorded in parts per million and milligrams per liter (ppm, mg/L).

LaMotte Chemical Protocols
Chemical Protocol LaMotte Code
Ammonia-N Nesslerization 3642SC
Nitrate-N Cadmium Reduction 3649SC
Nitrite-N Diazotization 3650SC
Phosphate Ascorbic Acid Reduction 3653SC
Potassium Tetraphenylboron 3639SC

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Cross-section Profile

Stream channels are constantly changing their shape and size which affects all users of the stream. Each stream cross-section is permanently staked, tagged and hidden below ground to be found the next year by a metal detector. Between each stake on the opposing banks height measurements are taken at one-foot increments that generate a profile of the channel. This is repeated annually at the exact point to gauge the channel’s lateral movement as well as material buildup from deposition or removal by the natural stream process. Vegetative composition, effective ground cover and canopy surveys are also performed in the immediate area to gauge the level of protection afforded the stream.

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Aquatic Macro-invertebrate Survey

The monitoring team enjoys identifying insects and counting the populations of these organisms that live in the streams. Some of these insects, such as the mayfly, are like canaries in a mine. They are very sensitive to pollutants and changes to water chemistry;whereas water snails can put up with a fair amount of pollutants before they disappear from the site.

Specie diversity is also an important indicator and the Chewaucan Watershed generally contains a large specie and sub-specie diversity of Mayflies, Stoneflies, Caddisflys, true flies, beetles, dragon and damsel flies, crustaceans, snails, clams, mussels, worms, leeches and a myriad of other small creatures and plants. The few that are mysteries end up in a sample vial for later identification.

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Pebble Counting

Picking up and counting not only pebbles but sand, rocks and stones out of a cold stream sounds like a strange thing to do. You have to collect whatever your hand touches and is conveniently removable.The ones you cannot move are measured where they sit. The method is to collect at least one hundred of these items and measure their width then return them to the water. We employ the Wolman Form, which sorts the pile into 20 size classes, from sand to bedrock.

Pebble counts tell how the stream behaves in water velocity and volume, which acts to sort out the various sizes of material on the floor of the stream. Fast-moving, high-volume streams usually contain an assortment of large stones and boulders, downstream transport of the smaller material. Slow-moving streams are usually full of sands and gravels that came from the fast-moving stretches of the stream to settle in the slow-moving sections. The relocation of stream materials, sediment, is what changes steam inhabitants, riparian vegetation, fishing holes, water temperature and chemistry and places folks like to camp at. The monitoring team’s work is to keep an eye on these movements and conditions as well as the Forest Service’s efforts to repair and enhance the streams and river of the Upper Chewaucan.

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Hand Mapping

At every monitoring site, of which there are now nearly 900 tenth-acre plots, we photo-document our work area using active panoramic imagery and photos of individual quadrat placements, as well as items of interest. A previous staff member, Zayne Turner, had hand-mapped our work area around the stream sites because a camera cannot pick up the layout and placement of the trees, shrubs, stream channel curves, etc. Her work gives us a bird’s eye view and identifies what we are looking at. This wonderful mapping enhances the photo-documentation. Hand-mapping is becoming a lost scientific art, but is being actively used on this project to keep the art alive.

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