Old growth forests in western Washington, including those in Mt. Rainier National Park, provide important ecosystem services (resources and functions of value to humans). Specifically, forests house endangered species (e.g. the Northern Spotted Owl), sequester carbon (thus mitigating the negative impacts of fossil fuel consumption), and stabilize water supply (e.g. the Nisqually River, which has its headwaters in Mount Rainier National Park, provides Tacoma with hydropower through the Alder Lake Dam). Also, old growth forests provide aesthetic and spiritual pleasure to both local and international visitors to Mount Rainier National Park.
Picture 1. Undergraduate field assistants Mitch Piper and Anna O’Brien quantify seedling germination in a meter squared plot (marked by white pvc pipes). The laundry basket next to Mitch Piper is a seed trap (which allows us to measure seed production). A small microclimate sensor is visible right on the forest floor in front of Anna O’Brien, this sensor monitors hourly temperature and allows us to identify when snow disappears from our seedling quadrat.