OLYMPIA – At three-quarters the size, Washington has twice as much urbanized land and eight times as many miles of coastline as Oregon. On the other hand, the Beaver State has its northern neighbor beat hands down when it comes to Ponderosa pine forests and herbaceous wetlands.
Black bears and harbor seals are common to both states but only Oregon can claim the tricolored blackbird.
This is just a sampling of the wealth of information about natural conditions in the Pacific Northwest contained in the new book, "Wildlife-Habitat Relationships in Oregon and Washington," a comprehensive guide to the region's ecology published by the Oregon State University Press.
Written and compiled by a team of 600 contributors in disciplines ranging from biology to vegetation mapping, the 736-page volume draws on thousands of scientific studies to create an up-to-date environmental source book for land managers, biologists, students and anyone else interested in the complex relationship between the land, the sea and the wildlife of the Pacific Northwest.
Included with the book is a CD-ROM, which cross-references all 605 common terrestrial, freshwater and marine wildlife species identified in the region with their respective habitats, life histories, "key ecological functions" (e.g. predator, scavenger, burrower) and other characteristics.
"This book recognizes the fact that Washington and Oregon are part of a unique regional ecosystem, where wildlife species are dependent on both their habitat and one another," said David Johnson, one of two co-directors for the project. "Our goal was to synthesize current scientific findings about natural conditions in both states so that decision makers can see the region as a whole."
Johnson, a habitat scientist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), spent nearly five years working on the project with co-director Thomas O'Neil, who previously co-authored "Atlas of Oregon Wildlife" and now serves as director of the Northwest Habitat Institute in Corvalis, Oregon.
As a first step, the two scientists worked with their growing list of contributors to identify all wildlife vertebrates (mammals, marine mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians) in the two-state region – itself no small task.
"We found a lot of cases where Washington and Oregon had different names for the same species," Johnson said. "We had to sort that out before we could move on."
Of the 743 distinct wildlife species they identified in the two states, 700 are found in Oregon and 651 are found in Washington. Rather than discuss these species in isolation, they are instead considered in terms of their relationship to their habitat and to each other.
The American beaver, for example, plays a unique role in its environment by building dams that impound water. The CD lists 49 other species that depend on, or benefit from, that single activity.
Turkey vultures, on the other hand, are one of 39 different species identified as carrion feeders while nearly half of all wildlife species are identified as herbivores.
Salmon are accorded a special chapter of their own because so many wildlife species – 137, according to the authors' research – rely on them directly or indirectly for their dietary needs. Bald eagles, for example, not only eat salmon but also prey on other animals that depend on salmon for part of their diet.
Other chapters are dedicated to non-native wildlife species, extirpated (regionally extinct) species, various wildlife population-modeling techniques and the 32 types of wildlife habitat identified in the region, from upland aspen forest lands to urban environments.
In addition to the support provided by WDFW and the Northwest Habitat Institute, 32 other organizations – from the Weyerhaeuser Company to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation – contributed staff time and financial resources to the project.
"Wildlife-Habitat Relationships in Oregon and Washington is a long-needed upgrade of the ... work that was pioneered in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1970s and early 1980s," wrote Jack Ward Thomas, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service, in a back-cover tribute to the book. "This new, and most excellent, work in the field, upgraded with the new information and insights that have become available over the intervening decades, will prove a boon to land managers."
The book and accompanying CD are available through bookstores and also can be ordered directly from the Oregon State University Press (1-800-426-3797) or on-line (http://www.orst.edu/dept/press/WildlifeHabitat.html – item ISBN 0-87071-488-0). The cost is $65.00. In Canada, order through the University of British Columbia Press (1-800-561-8583).
Current and historic wildlife-habitat maps for each of the two states are available on the CD and as GIS data layers at http://www.nwhi.org.