We have recently been funded by NSF!! More details soon:
PI: Michael R. Coughlan
Co-PI: Bart Johnson
Co-PI: Kelly Derr
Institution: University of Oregon
Co-PI: James Johnston
Co-PI: David Lewis
Institution: Oregon State University
Investigating historical Indigenous use and management of temperate rainforests
This project investigates the historical management of a highly productive temperate rainforest by Indigenous North Americans. The research asks how traditional management practices such as cultural burning and selective harvesting of natural resources may have contributed to forest health and increased resilience to catastrophic wildfire and changing climate. Past Indigenous land management and its legacies are not well understood for temperate rainforests. Prior to colonization of the Pacific Northwest by European peoples, Native Americans successfully stewarded their lands for thousands of years. Recent increases in the frequency and severity of wildfires in rainforests of the Pacific Northwest have focused a new spotlight on the need for improving forest resilience to these changing conditions. This research contributes to efforts to improve forest resilience by informing forest planners about how people successfully lived with and managed these same hazards in the past, and by showing how such practices could guide contemporary forest management practices. It also supports Tribal community efforts to preserve and interpret their cultural heritage, and to re-engage in restoration and stewardship of their traditional lands.
Other studies have examined the long term, intertwined history of temperate rainforests and wildfires, but few have focused on records of fires and other cultural activities preserved within the annual growth rings of trees. Still fewer studies have linked these tree ring histories to the traditional harvesting and burning practices of Indigenous peoples – either through oral tradition or by using archaeological evidence. In collaboration with traditional indigenous culture practitioners, this project integrates tree ring studies and archaeological evidence to reconstruct the history of Indigenous forest management. By synthesizing these diverse sources of information, we will more fully understand how Indigenous cultural practices may have helped build forest health and resilience in the face of potentially catastrophic wildfires. The results will contribute detailed factual evidence that informs current forest management strategies and supports efforts to mitigate the growing threat of extreme wildfires under climate change.