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The North Creek Forest is 63.8 acres on the side of Maywood Hill in Bothell, Washington. This second growth, mature forest has nine wetlands and seven streams connecting to North Creek, the Sammamish Slough and the Puget Sound.

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A non-profit group of residents and businesses defending the natural refuge in the heart of Bothell, WA

Some Benefits of the Boy Scout Property

By Dan Paquette

 

This early March morning, in a cluster of maples and cedars on the border of the Boy Scout Property, a varied thrush sings his one-tone song.  He sounds much like the thrushes I’ve listened to every year downstream from the Carbon glacier at Mount Rainier.  I have to wonder whether his home will ever be as secure as that of those thrushes residing on the north flanks of the mountain.  

 

Knowing that there will be serious population pressures in the decades ahead, it is important that we plan well for those dwelling here, both humans and other life forms that also call this home.  While we may not be able to control all change in our future, yet we can garner some control on a local basis and make decisions which will sustain the quality of life we wish for our children and other living things.  Stepping into that future, the value of this urban forest will prove itself many times and in many expected and unexpected ways.  Here is a sampling of what the forest has to offer.

 

Food source:  The forest provides food sources at times when many of the mobile life forms need it most, The Spring can be a very tough time for wildlife, especially migrating birds, exhausted from long flights returning to this area, finding many traditional food sources becoming scarcer as more habitat is used for human activities.  The Boy Scout Property is an oasis in this regard as its large numbers of Indian plum and salmonberry flower in late February and early March, providing a nectar source for insects which in turn become a source of protein for the birds as do the fruits from these shrubs in June.    

 

Another great food source early in the year as is conifer pollen which is eaten by Douglas squirrels and most likely the non-native eastern gray squirrels, and a host of smaller species as well.  These smaller species of insects, mites, spiders, and worms can also feed on creatures that we normally associate with fresh water ponds such as amoeba, nematodes, diatoms, ciliates, rotifers and flagellates found among the mosses and liverworts on trunks and logs.  Collectively, these tiny critters number in the hundreds per cubic inch.  Those preying on these very tiny creatures are in turn, an important food source for many species of birds requiring lots of protein for the hatchlings.   

 

The pine nuts of Douglas fir, western hemlock and California hazelnuts become available later in the summer as do billions of spores from sword fern and berries from sources like salal  and Oregon grape.

 

Shelter for wildlife:     Birds gather nesting material from an array of forest mosses which can resemble a shag carpet.  Birds prefer these fluffier, branched, carpet-like forest mosses over those mosses that resemble bottle brushes which we typically find in disturbed areas next to sidewalks.  Birds typically use the bushy-type lichens also found in the forest which besides being building material, also camouflage the nest.  The forest provides a safer place to gather these materials by virtue of its size.  Many invasive species including our domestic pets and starlings are less apt to interfere in the lives of our natives when pockets of forest greater than 100 square yards are available.  And the larger these islands of forest, the better the chances of survival for these natives.  That is why acquiring the entire 63.8 acres along Interstate 405 is so important.      

 

Protection from flood and erosion:  The city of Bothell receives about 36 inches of precipitation annually.  Imagine three feet of water over the entire surface of the city.  Where does that water go?  When there are heavy rains, water runs off on-porous pavement and rooftops; some water runs along, just under the lawn sod-- just above the packed earth hardened by heavy equipment preparing the lot during the house’s construction.  Most of this water flows into the sewers and into our rivers like North Creek and Sammamish slough where these high volumes of water tend to scour the creek beds or in rare events cause flooding.  The Boy Scout forest tempers the effects of all its precipitation in a number of ways:  Annually, it receives 62 million gallons of water, but instead of  62 million gallons reaching the ground, conservatively, a million gallons is caught up in the tree canopies and evaporates back into the atmosphere while some water is absorbed by bark, and lichens, mosses, slime molds and ferns growing on trunks and branches.

 

Besides intercepting water in the canopy, trees in the forest store large amounts of water.  Every cubic foot of  trunk holds at least a gallon of water.  Douglas firs and western redcedars hold about 1 ¼ gallons per cubic foot of wood.  At the other end of the range, black cottonwoods hold about 3 1/3 gallons and big leaf maples hold about 2 1/3 gallons for each cubic foot.   These trees need to routinely replenish their water supply as water is needed for photosynthesis and growth.  In the case of conifers, this need is practically year round as photosynthesis and cellular respiration occur any time the temperature is warmer than about 26-28 degrees Fahrenheit.  There can also be breaks when it is too dry and too hot.

 

Trees release water vapor as they release oxygen during photosynthesis.  Several gallons are lost to evaporation from leaves in a day, and reserves are somewhat replenished at night, as water is both removed and returned to the ground.  This two-way traffic results in a net  removal of water from the soil.  This result increases the amount of moisture the soil can absorb during a future rain event, thus providing protection from flooding, runoff, and erosion.  For a 90 foot Douglas fir, evaporation could be around 1800 gallons from June through December, and probably close to the same for January through May.  

 

Yet, all of this water just described does not include all of the water that will be needed to grow the tree.   Water (H2O) also needs to react with carbon dioxide (CO2)  in the presence of certain enzymes and after a number of chemical reactions, long building blocks of cellulose (C6H10O5) and lignin are produced that add to the tree’s height, girth and branching.  So these are a number of the different ways the forest utilizes the water and reduces the volumes reaching North Creek during major storm events.

 

Note:  For  list of some of the sources used for this paper, contact Dan Paquette (jdanj.paquette@gmail.com)