The Future of Restoration and Management of Prairie-Oak Ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest

The 24 papers in this issue of Northwest Science summarize research and management presented at a 2010 meeting convened by the Cascadia Prairie-Oak Partnership, a collaboration focusing on the prairie/oak ecosystems of the Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin ecoregion. We present an overview that builds on these papers to consider future threats and conservation priorities in these systems. Human population growth, encroachment by woody vegetation, the spread of invasive non-native organisms, and climatic changes all will provide future challenges. Developing and implementing techniques to abate these threats will require effective collaboration, creative research, and innovative management of natural areas. One priority will be the restoration of highly degraded habitats to increase acreage of native ecosystems, create buffers, and enhance connectivity. Other priorities will focus on detecting and eradicating newly-arrived invasives, enhancing species diversity and habitat heterogeneity, and increasing ecological resilience. Long-term commitments and investments are critical. Developing realistic restoration goals will be particularly challenging, especially when assembling new communities from the ground up, and in a world with a rapidly changing climate. To assist with goal development, we propose a system for conceptualizing restoration goals so that their relative merits can be more easily compared when deciding amongst them. We suggest evaluating goals along two continua, one related to management intensity (ecological goals) and the other to ecological impacts (cultural goals). We conclude by suggesting some specific restoration and management principles that may help to further guide conservation action, and that point toward critical information needs for future research.

Links to the 24 articles listed below:

Historical Vegetation of the WIllamette Valley, Oregon, circa 1850

Fire History of a Douglas-fir-Oregon White Oak Woodland, Waldron Island, Washington

Use of Soil Properties to Determine the Historical Extent of Two Western Washington Prairies

Environmental History of a Garry Oak/ Douglas-fir Woodland on Waldron Island, Washington

Stand Structures of ORegon White Oak Woodlands, Regeneration, and Their Relationships to the Environment in Southwestern Oregon

Growth of Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana)

Techniques to Promote Garry Oak Seedling Growth and Survival in Areas with High Levels of Herbivory and Competition

Effects of Habitat and Landscape Structure on Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana) Regeneration Across an Urban Gradient 

Historical and Current Distribution and Populations of Bird Species in Prairie-Oak Habitats in the Pacific Northwest

Avian Restoration in the Prairie-Oak Ecosystem: A Reintroduction Case Study of Western Bluebirds to San Juan Island, WA

Restoring Invaded Pacific Northwest Prairies: Management Recommendations from a Region-wide Experiment

Carbon Addition as a Technique for Controlling Exotic Species in Pacific Northwest Prairies

Responses of Native and Introduced Plant Species to Sucrose Addition in Puget Lowland Prairies

Restoration of Agricultural Fields to Diverse Wet Prairie Plant Communities in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Responses of Prairie Vegetation to Fire, Herbicide, and Invasive Species Legacy

Comparison of Burning and Mowing Treatments in a Remnant Willamette Valley Wet Prairie, Oregon, 2001-2007

Fire as a Restoration Tool in Pacific Northwest Prairies and Oak Woodlands: Challenges, Successes, and Future Directions

Management Strategies for Invasive Plants in Pacific Northwest Prairies and Oak Woodlands

Comparison of Hand-pollinated and Naturally-pollinated Puget Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea Nutt.) to Determine Pollinator Limitations on South Puget Sound Lowland Prairies

Conservation of Prairie-Oak Butterflies in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia

Dormancy and Germination Pre-treatments in Willamette Valley Native Plants

Germination of Three Native Lupinus Species in Response to Temperature

Climate Change Impacts on Western Pacific Northwest Prairies and Savannas