About Field Sites
Wind River Experimental Forest (WREF) is a terrestrial NEON field site located 60 km (37 mi.) northeast of Vancouver, WA. The 42 km2 (10,400 acre) site lies within the Wind River Experimental Forest in the south central area of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. While best known for its old-growth Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) stands, the forest is a mosaic of tree ages due to management practices and wildfire history. Known as the cradle of forestry in the Pacific Northwest, the Wind River Experimental Forest has a long history of ecology and silviculture studies. WREF is located in NEON's Pacific Northwest Domain (D16), which is bounded by the Pacific on the west and Canada on the north. It includes the eastern halves of Washington and Oregon and parts of northern California. The Domain hosts three other field sites: two aquatic and one additional terrestrial. It is near the MART aquatic site. 
The climate of WREF is significantly influenced by its close proximity to the Columbia River Gorge, with secondary orographic lifting effects from the Cascade Range. Warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters are the norm, with approximately 2225 mm (87.6 in.) of annual precipitation in the form of rain and snow and a mean annual temperature of 9.2°C (49°F). Interannual variation plays a major role in yearly precipitation levels; the El Niño Southern Oscillation is a driving force behind warmer, drier years, which lead to an increased chance of drought and wildfires.   
The geology of the majority of plots at WREF are defined by Pleistocene-age basalt and andesite flows of the Trout Creek formation, often covered by volcanic mudflows and ejecta. The remaining plots are situated five kilometers away on steep mountain slopes formed of volcanoclastic breccias and tuffs.   
Soils in the vast majority of plots at WREF are derived from andesite and basalt bedrock, supplemented by airborne pumice and volcanic ash. The minority originate from chemically and physically weathered volcanoclastic tuffs and breccias. Despite differences in parent material, WREF soils classify as Vitric Hapludands and are part of the Stabler or Stabler taxadjunct series. This series, as with most volcanic soils in the Pacific Northwest, displays andic properties deriving from a significant percentage of weathered volcanic glass present in the soil.  
The two divisions of the experimental forest are named for their permanent tributaries of the Wind River: Trout Creek to the west, and Panther Creek to the east. Other small permanent and ephemeral streams drain into the creeks. The Wind River itself originates about 25 km (15 mi.) north of the forest and its watershed covers over 580 km2 (225 sq. mi.), supporting a fifth-order system of streams that flow south into the Columbia River Gorge.  
Often more than 450 years old, older stands in Wind River Experimental Forest are dominated by Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis). Canopy species throughout the rest of forest include grand fir (Abies grandis), noble fir (Abies procera), Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), Western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and red alder (Alnus rubra). The understory includes vine maple (Acer circinatum), salal (Gaultheria shallon), and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). 
The Wind River Experimental Forest supports many large mammals including elk (Cervus canadensis), black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), cougar (Puma concolor), coyote (Canis latrans), black bear (Ursus americanus), marten (Martes americana), several species of weasels, and many species of small mammals including the Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii). Birds of all sizes inhabit the forest, including the Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), which is federally listed as a threatened species.  
Past Land Management and Use
Forest research began in the Wind River Valley in 1909 with the establishment of a seedling nursery aimed to repopulate local areas devastated by the severe wildfires of the early 20th century, including the 1902 Yacolt Burn. In the same year, long-term studies of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) ecology were initiated by Thornton T. Munger in old-growth stands within the valley. Establishment of an arboretum and experimental station in the early 1910s and the official establishment of the Wind River Experimental Forest in 1932 solidified the area as a center of research which became the cornerstone of Douglas-fir silviculture and management in the Pacific Northwest.  
Current Land Management and Use
Managed cooperatively by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Wind River Experimental Forest has been home to silvicultural studies and forest research since 1909, with many decades-long projects continuing to this day. The 1994 installation of a 75 m (250 ft.) canopy crane allowed researchers to access over 24,000 m2 (6 acres) of old-growth canopy and study tree physiology, canopy-atmosphere gas exchange, nutrient cycling, epiphyte biology, climate monitoring, and much more. The crane was removed in 2011, but the 70 m (230 ft.) tower remains, sporting sensors and data collectors used by NEON and other organizations to monitor gas exchange, carbon flux, and isotope data. Besides forest research, the experimental forest is also managed for logging and day-use recreational activities, including several kilometers of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.  
NEON Site Establishment
TOS Distributed Plots were allocated at WREF according to a spatially balanced and stratified-random design. The 2006 National Land Cover Database (NLCD) was selected for stratification because of the consistent and comparable data availability across the United States. TOS Tower Plots were allocated according to a spatially balanced design in and around the NEON tower airshed. Due to increased hiking times at this site, plot allocation was constrained to areas near roads and hiking trails. TOS and TIS sampling began in June and July 2018, respectively. 
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 16. NEON.DOC.003899vA
 McDaniel, P. A., & Wilson, M. A. (2007). Physical and Chemical Characteristics of Ash-influenced Soils of Inland Northwest Forests. In Volcanic-Ash-¬Derived Forest Soils of the Inland Northwest: Properties and Implications for Management and Restoration. 9-10 November 2005; Coeur d'Alene, ID (pp. 31–45). Proceedings RMRS-P-44; Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Retrieved from https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p044/rmrs_p044_031_045.pdf
 Dahlke, Erik. (2019). NEON Site-Level Plot Summary, Wind River Experimental Forest (WREF), March 2019. https://data.neonscience.org/documents/10179/2361410/WREF_Soil_SiteSumm…
 Shaw, D., & Greene, S. (2003). Wind River Canopy Crane research facility and Wind River Experimental Forest. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 84(3), 115–121. https://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/lter/pubs/pdf…
 PRISM Climate Group., Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a flux/meteorological tower that is 74 m (243 ft) tall with eight measurement levels. The tower top extends above the vegetation canopy to allow sensors mounted at the top and along the tower to capture the full profile of atmospheric conditions from the top of the vegetation canopy to the ground. The tower collects physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, and net ecosystem gas exchange. Precipitation data are collected by a tipping bucket at the top of the tower, a Double Fence Intercomparison Reference (DFIR) near the tower, and a series of throughfalls located in the soil array.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface, soil heat flux, solar radiation, and throughfall are measured at the soil surface in each soil plot. Soil moisture, soil temperature, and CO2 concentration are measured at multiple depths in each soil plot.
At terrestrial sites, field ecologists observe birds and plants, and sample ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, soil microbes, and ticks. Lab analyses are carried out to provide further data on DNA sequences, pathogens, soils, sediments, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about terrestrial observations or explore this site's data products.
NEON Field Operations Office
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
Number of Tower Levels
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Pleistocene-Recent volcanic rocks
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Predominantly dark-gray to black vesicular basalt; olivine-rich in part. Includes andesite flows and pyroclastic rocks.
USGS Geology Age
Pleistocene to Holocene
Megapit Soil Family
Medial, amorphic, mesic. Typic Hapludands.
Other Domain 3 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in WA