Douglas Sprugel

Douglas Sprugel

Professor Emeritus
Conifer canopies; Ecological thinning for forest restoration; Subalpine forests; Natural disturbance

Office: Winkenwerder 16
Email: sprugel@uw.edu

Graduate Interest Group(s): FOREST ECOLOGY

B.S., Botany, Duke University, 1969
M.Phil., Forest Ecology, Yale University, 1974

My most recent research looks at responses of understory plants to forest restoration treatments. Ecological thinning and gap creation are being widely used in Pacific Northwest forests to increase habitat diversity, but controlled and replicated studies of understory responses are rare. Charlie Halpern and I studied responses to thinning and gap creation in three different areas at the city of Seattle’s Cedar River Watershed, with each treatment replicated 4 or 5 times at each site. Unfortunately, the research has shown that responses to thinning and gaps vary drastically even within a small area, and could not easily be predicted from pretreatment conditions, suggesting that developing treatment prescriptions for forest restoration will be challenging.

Before the restoration studies I worked with Linda Brubaker, a paleoecologist, using high-resolution pollen records to trace stand-level changes in the composition, structure, and natural disturbance regime of western Washington low-elevation forests. Although previous regional-scale work indicated that these forests have been relatively stable over the last 7000 years, our work has shown that at the stand level there were significant changes in both species composition and fire frequency, particularly on drier sites within the region, apparently in response to fairly minor environmental changes. These changes, and the ways different stands responded to the same environmental change, may contribute to our understanding of modern forest structure and dynamics.