A few days ago I met up with a fantastic photographer here in the Pacific Northwest, Marc Adamus ( www.wildphoto.smugmug.com — or see link here on the blog). We were planning on heading over to the coast, but we got socked in with fog and drizzle, a perfect time to visit and photograph an old growth rain forest here in Oregon. I met Marc in Corvallis and the drove west to an area called Mary’s Peak located in the Siuslau National Forest in the coastal range here in Oregon. It is about 4000′ in elevation. After a short but a bit demanding ( at least for me—not for Marc) hike (Marc knows all the areas!) we were among some of the most beautiful trees in an almost indescribable environment. There aren’t too many of these pristine areas left and after you’ve seen one, you understand why they are so important.
Old growth forests are forests whose natural cycles of growth have not been disturbed by logging, building roads or clearing. Many of these old growth forests have been growing and evolving naturally for millions of years.
Old growth forests require several criteria, under which forests with sufficient age and minimal disturbance are considered old growth. Typical characteristics of old-growth forest include presence of older trees, minimal signs of human disturbance, mixed-age stands, presence of canopy openings due to tree falls, down wood in various stages of decay standing snags (dead trees), multi-layered canopies, intact soil a healthy fungal ecosystem.
Standing snags provide food sources and habitat for many types of organisms. Several species of woodpeckers in particular, must have standing snags available for feeding. The spotted owl is well-known for needing standing snags for nesting habitat.
Down wood contributes rich organic material directly to the soil, which provides suitable habitat for mosses and fungi and for seedlings. Down wood is also significant in some ecosystems such as the temperate rain forests here in Oregon, near the Pacific coast for providing a place for new seedlings to prosper. There are termed nurse logs.