From late August through December, 2014, I was publishing roughly a chapter a week of my MEH project on Nature Intrudes. I got close to the end but hit a sticking point for some reason. Here, for what it’s worth, is the final chapter of the project, called… wait for it… Conclusion. In fact, this was newly revised this week.
This document was originally written in Summer, 2014. At that time, implementation of the WNPS stewardship grant, further monitoring and control of the south plateau street runoff, and monitoring of the 24th ave. wall conduit during a rain event were considered primary.
This revision of the original document is being written in March, 2015. We will look at the plans for 2014 as originally outlined and how they have been carried out. For 2015, we will look at the efforts to date, and project for the rest of the year.
We then look at possible scenarios for 2021 and 2061, ten and fifty years after restoration began, respectively.
The rest of 2014
The August work party returned to the areas cleared in January and February to prepare them for planting in November. August work parties are generally the lowest-attended of the year, and there were only three volunteers.
The September work party was held in the South Plateau, and included almost twenty students from Seattle Pacific University participating in their “CityQuest” program. We did extensive weeding, mulched some bare areas, and built a couple composting platforms.
The October work party featured the first phase of planting for the WNPS stewardship grant. Please see “Stewardship Grant” for details. Working with students from North Seattle College’s iCare program, we planted 450 plugs of obligate wetland, which were 50 each of Carex amplifolia, Deschampsia Caespitosa, and Juncus ensifolius; and 100 each of Carex stipata, Glyceria striata, and Scirpus microcarpus.
In November, we executed the first phase of installing the plant provided by Green Seattle Partnership. The work was carried out in the Central Valley, Headwaters Bowl, and the North Slope. We were joined by students from North Seattle College’s iCare program and Circle K International, from the UW.
In early December, a large Acer macrophyllum (Big leaf maple) at the base of the North Slope fell across the trail to the Central Valley, landing in areas A and B (see figure below). It blocked access to an area that had been cleared in 2011 and had received heavy planting in the meantime. Luckily, a lot of plants survived the collapse. Enough of the main stem remained standing to create a new snag, and the fallen wood and brush added a lot of woody debris to both the stream and the wetlands.
The tree fell from the North Slope side of the trail across area A (blue) and into area B (red) in this image.
The tree fall created a large gap on the North Slope. Forest stewards removed many holly suckers and shoots from the ground and logged the holly trees for removal. This gap will receive some attention from Natural Area Crews in 2015, focusing on invasive removal, erosion control, and upland planting.
The January work party featured the installation of some upland plants into open areas of the South Plateau. We were joined by members of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity from the UW. One forest steward worked on the water channel, creating a meander to help spread the flow across the surface of the plateau.
The February work party featured the implementation of the second half of the WNPS stewardship grant. In this case, we were planting facultative wetland trees and shrubs. Doug Gresham (a wetland scientist) helped immensely by sorting the trees and shrubs by where they fell in the gradient from wetland to upland. Although this planting was late in the season, the plants are likely to do well because they are in fairly wet areas of the park.
March will have a site review with Parks Department staff and forest stewards to prioritize Natural Area Crew work in the park for 2015. March will also feature Friends of North Beach Park tabling at and participating in Groundswell Northwest’s “Civic Social.” The March work party will feature clearing new areas for the fall planting.
In April, Friends of North Beach Park will table at the “Natural Area and Greenbelt Mini Summit Open House,” sponsored by the Parks Department. Some plans to open parks designated as Natural Areas to more active recreation are very controversial. The April work party will again feature clearing new areas for fall planting.
We have not previously had a work party in May for a couple reasons: First, it’s the height of nesting season, which is a good reason to stay out of the forest if at all possible. Second, the 4th Saturday schedule puts in in Memorial Day weekend, when many people want to get out of town if at all possible. However, an opportunity presented itself to have a largish group work in the park. We will work in the South Plateau with middle school youth from the “Bureau of Fearless Ideas.” The work will be weeding of quick-seeding annual weeds such as wall lettuce and nipplewort. This will be part one of a two-part writing workshop for the youth, coordinated by Green Seattle Partnership.
June through November
The work done in these months has started to follow a regular pattern: In June and July, we use the stream to water plants located at the rim of the park and other dry areas. August might feature more watering or a return to invasive removal. In September, we again hope to host students from Seattle Pacific University at the South Plateau. October and/or November will feature planting from GSP supplied plants.
The Seattle Metropolitan Parks District comes into being in 2016. Many groups are already meeting to make sure the new funding has a positive impact. Exactly how this will affect forest stewards and Green Seattle Partnership is unclear, although it is likely to increase funding for Natural Area Crews and forest steward resources.
2021 is ten years after the start of restoration. If FoNBP is able to keep working with the same energy and quality of work, it’s likely that all of the volunteer and forest steward-accessible areas of the park will be in at least Phase 1 of restoration, and that all the slopes requiring crew time will have received at least an initial invasive removal.
The existing monocultures will have been eradicated, and forest stewards will work on restoration using methods that avoid disrupting the soil and shrub layer as much as possible. During the early stages of Phase 1 of new restoration, we will introduce a new conifer generation. During the Phase 2 and 3 restoration, we will increase shrub and groundlayer diversity and introduce a new deciduous generation.
Some well-established areas of restoration, such as the South Plateau and the Headwaters Bowl, will be approaching Phase 4. When a restoration site enters Phase 4 restoration, we will introduce a new conifer generation. Please see “Success Metrics” for a discussion of the restoration phases.
On the other hand, NBP loses one to three deciduous trees a year to age and failure. This means that by 2021 we will have lost between 10 and 30 mature deciduous trees, with a consequent enlargement of canopy gaps. These gaps can provide beneficial edge effects, and the greater light levels on the forest floor will stimulate conifer and shrub growth. But the increased light will also make the park more susceptible to sun-loving weeds and grasses. Each fall must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The rate of fall means that removing ivy from trees has to continue to be a priority. A tree with ivy on the trunk and into the canopy that fell into a cleared area would recontaminate it.
This is much more difficult to predict, not least because of the possible effects of climate change. But 50 years is also much longer than the lifespan of a typical “Friends of” group. It would be unrealistically optimistic to suggest that the “Friends of North Beach Park” will have continued in a recognizable form for so long. However, continuing restoration, whether through FoNBP or another agency, is the only prediction I can make.
It’s likely that by 2061 North Beach Park will have a well-established young conifer forest. Surviving conifers that had been planted at the start of restoration will be at the mid-canopy, halfway between the shrub layer and mature trees. The mature canopy is likely to be made up of the few current mature conifers, with some regenerating deciduous trees that are currently at the mid-canopy level. This layer will be much patchier than currently.
Even optimistic scenarios say that the average temperature will be noticeably warmer mid-century than it is now. It is likely the increasing warmth will disrupt existing plant communities. There will be new invasive plants, both from the introduction of new exotic species and plants from southern areas moving north.
If we can maintain enough canopy, the shade and cooling will help mitigate the effects of climate change. The wet, nutrient rich soils will also greatly aid the establishment and survival of the plants installed there, mitigating to some degree the stress of increased temperatures.
I have two optimistic hopes for the future, in regards to North Beach Park. Neither can be considered a “prediction.”
One is that this ravine, and other riparian ravines in Seattle and the lower Puget Trough, will be restored with an eye to becoming refugia, habitats for plants and trees at all forest layers that would otherwise be threatened or endangered by climate change. They might be completely novel ecologies compared to plant communities today, incorporating plants from different ranges.
The other is that socially, I hope that stewardship is seen not as something done for five or even ten years, but is something that one does for one’s entire life, and that it affects all phases of life choices. The forest doesn’t end, why should stewardship?