The Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot (WFDP) is a research and educational project affiliated with Utah State University and the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station (McIntire Stennis project 1015992). The WFDP is located in the Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwest Washington. It lies in old-growth, Douglas-fir - western hemlock forest. The plot area is 27.2 ha (340 m × 800 m). Together with the companion research plot in Yosemite, the WFDP is the largest permanent research plot in western North America and one of about 40 similarly sized plots around the world. At the time of the plot establishment, there were 31,301 live woody stems ≥ 1 cm dbh, representing 26 species, all of which are taggest and mapped.

For WFDP publications, please visit the color-coded "Publications" tab at http://jamesalutz.com

The WFDP has been established surrounding the 12 ha plot surveyed in 1999 and the 4 ha plot surrounding the flux tower, which was established in 1994. Our research objectives for the WFDP are:

Research Objectives
Change detection and attribution.
Permanent sample plot studies have been able to attribute changes to climate, disturbance, insects, pathogens, and the causes and consequences of tree mortality. Particularly because causes and rates of tree mortality at the WFDP may be changing, with attendant consequences for forest structure, large permanent sample plots are the only way to identify the causes and magnitudes of these changes. The WFDP is complementary to the existing work at the Wind River Field Station, and taken with the Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot, comprises a latitudinal gradient of coniferous forests on the Pacific Slope of the United States.
Biomass and carbon storage.
Generate deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind changes in biomass and carbon storage in Douglas-fir forests, and create extensive data sets on structural elements such as down woody debris and organic components of the forest floor in addition to the live overstory. The large spatial extent of the WFDP combined with the fine-scale spatial resolution of measurements also can enhance understanding of adequate field measurements for these structural elements, as well as the influence of landscape variables such as topography.
Provide the mechanistic understanding of forest dynamics needed to forecast forest changes in the face of ongoing regional and global changes. The WFDP has been located in a forest that was once typical of western Washington and Oregon (before logging and development).
Provide spatially explicit analysis of wind-, insect-, and pathogen-related mortality.
Theoretical ecology.
Contribute to the basic ecological understanding of western coniferous forests and forest ecosystems around the world. As we are affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution ForestGEO network of large forest dynamics plots, the Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot provides a unique opportunity to compare the dynamics of tropical and temperate forests, while raising the profile of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Wind River Field Station within the global ecological community. The large number of trees and the spatially explicit data provide a unique opportunity to test such theoretical constructs such as Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and the Janzen-Connell Hypothesis in a temperate context.
Education and training.
This project provides training opportunities for students, biologists and citizen-scientists every year. Our vision is to integrate research and teaching through the experiential education model. Students learn fundamentals of forest ecology and field work skills by participating in plot remeasurements, and in this way a sizeable cadre of future scientists and land managers gains familiarity with Cascade Range forests and forest management issues. We pair experienced ecologists with newcomers in field sessions, and in this way we hope to introduce many people to the ecology of the Cascade Range and current ecological issues.
If you would like to discuss using the WFDP data in a collaboration, please contact PI Lutz. Data access policy.
This long-term monitoring project represents a collaboration among scientists, land managers, educators, and interested private parties. The principal investigators donate their time to the project, and any available funds are used 100% for equipment, supplies, or field crews (generally undergraduate or graduate students). We are always looking for collaborators and partners who share our goal of understanding and preserving the forests of Washington. Please join us.
The Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot is located in the 3rd Congressional District (Representative Marie Gluesenkamp PĂ©rez) of Washington (Governor Jay Inslee, Senator Maria Cantwell, and Senator Patty Murray). The Forest Supervisor of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is Jody Weil.
Companion Plots
The Wind River Forest Dyanamics Plot has two companion plots, the Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot and the Utah Forest Dynamics Plot. The three plots together allow us to examine late successional forest dynamics over much of the West, minimizing the confounding factors of species and climate.
A television piece broadcast on BBC World by Peter Bowes and Jon Stewart (four minutes).
A web piece on the details of the Wind River Canopy Crane.