Western redcedar trees are some of the oldest living organisms in the Pacific Northwest. They can live to nearly a thousand years old, and their fallen trunks will remain for hundreds of years more. This iconic species provides substantial ecological benefits and has made cultural contributions since time immemorial. Lessons of generosity can be learned from the western redcedar, but for all it has given to us, what are we giving back?
Concerns rise around Western redcedar dieback
There is growing concern around the health of western redcedar trees. Areas with dead and declining redcedar have been increasingly mapped during annual aerial surveys by federal and state agencies This dieback trend has been referenced in news articles and Forest Health Highlights from both Oregon and Washington. These sources indicate broad concern for the species from both forest health professionals and the public.
More information is urgently needed
Experts agree the dieback is linked to longer and hotter droughts in the region, but more information is urgently needed to understand what the future will bring. Is western redcedar the ‘canary’ of climate change? With so much recent dieback, many land stewards are questioning whether—or where—to plant western redcedar, and researchers don’t have all the answers yet.
More information is needed to understand what conditions make these trees vulnerable and what is needed for western redcedar to thrive in the future. More data will improve knowledge of the climate factors that contribute to the variation in tree health across our landscapes. Once researchers better understand the conditions that make these trees vulnerable, they can compare populations and explore ways to help redcedar trees thrive in a changing environment.
You can help us learn about redcedar dieback
With your help, we can accelerate research to find ways to keep western redcedar in our region for future generations. The Forest Health Watch program invites everyone to join the effort to understand western redcedar dieback by becoming community scientists. Sign up as a community scientist or share your western redcedar observations on iNaturalist.org. Instructions and information for getting involved is available at https://foresthealth.org/map.
Although the Forest Health Watch program has focused on western redcedar, the program has many projects on iNaturalist for people to share observations of issues like bigleaf maple dieback or top dieback on Douglas-fir. The program also launched a project to document plants affected by drought and heat. Help us conserve our regions natural resources by getting involved with these projects at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/forest-health-watch-projects.
For more information, please contact Joey Hulbert from Washington State University at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is eager to give back to communities through partnerships or educational presentations to your organization.