Moss growing on urban trees, such as this species sample of Lyell’s orthotrichum, is a useful bioindicator that can help monitor cadmium, a carcinogenic heavy metal, in the air. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service
In December 2013 when Sarah Jovan and Geoffrey Donovan, two scientists with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, Oregon, crisscrossed the northwest area of their city they had no idea they were onto something big. Armed with a ladder and collection equipment, the two spent most of that gray and rainy month carefully plucking hundreds of moss samples off the trunks of the city’s hardwood trees.
They were in relatively uncharted scientific territory, though their research focus seemed straightforward enough: determine if moss, in particular, the ubiquitous Lyell’s orthotrichum moss which grows abundantly across much of the city, could help measure urban air pollution. Read more »
Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)
The bull trout in the McKenzie River on the Willamette National Forest have a survival story to tell, thanks to U.S. Forest Service stewardship of local rivers and fresh, healthy sources of groundwater.
“We’re reintroducing the top predator back into the river ecosystem,” said Ray Rivera, the district fisheries biologist on the forest’s McKenzie River Ranger District. “Their presence means two things to us. First, because bull trout are very sensitive to environmental changes compared to other salmonid fishes, their existence means the river’s water quality is excellent and the physical quality of their habitat is also good. Second, since bull trout are the top predator and they are doing well this means the overall ecosystem is doing well. Their presence is an excellent barometer of a river’s health.” Read more »
The very existence of frogs worldwide is being threatened by a killer fungus. Photo Credit: National Science Foundation
A lethal fungus is killing frogs and other water-dwelling amphibians all over the world, but a team of international scientists led by U.S. Forest Service scientist Deanna Olson is working to understand why.
Olson, who works at the agency’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, and her colleagues have the daunting task of tracking the disease, known as the amphibian chytrid fungus. Unlike the clearly visible white-nose syndrome killing bats in the U.S., the frog fungus cannot be seen except with a microscope. That makes scientists’ jobs that much more difficult.
Since the discovery of the malady is so recent, scientists still don’t understand a great deal about the fungus except that it affects the skin and ultimately leads to cardiac arrest in amphibians. Read more »