Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sierra

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M.W.Taylor
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Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sierra

Post by M.W.Taylor » Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:46 pm

On 1/28/2019 I measured a few tall trees (found by using LiDAR) in Sierra County with Zane Moore and Duncan Kennedy in the Yuba River watershed. The results are summarized as follows:

Height Dbh Species Survey Type

260.4 ft 5.83 ft Pacific Ponderosa Trupulse200x with Tripod & Prism Pole
255.9 ft Not Recorded Coast Douglas Fir Handheld Trupulse 200x
246.9 ft Sugar Pine Trupulse200x with Tripod & Prism Pole
242.7 ft 7.2 ft Sugar Pine Handheld Trupulse 200x

The rare 260'+ class ponderosa grows on a high perched bench next to a small spring. Site elevation 3,250 feet. The LiDAR from 2013 shows the tree being around 250' so it appears to have grown considerably over the last 5 years. It's a younger old growth tree with an unusual double leader pointy top. Perhaps 150-200 years old.
Attachments
side profile of the rare 260' class ponderosa towering over its neighbors
side profile of the rare 260' class ponderosa towering over its neighbors
Duncan and Zane measuring a 242.7' and 7.2' dbh sugar pine in Cherokee Creek basin. Lots of huge yew trees here !
Duncan and Zane measuring a 242.7' and 7.2' dbh sugar pine in Cherokee Creek basin. Lots of huge yew trees here !
Duncan under another large ponderosa in the same grove as the 260'+ specimen
Duncan under another large ponderosa in the same grove as the 260'+ specimen
260'+ ponderosa in very dense forest
260'+ ponderosa in very dense forest
246.9' sugar pine with "chemtrail" in background
246.9' sugar pine with "chemtrail" in background
Post measurement with Duncan making one last check of the height calculation
Post measurement with Duncan making one last check of the height calculation
very high to first branch on the 260.4' pondy
very high to first branch on the 260.4' pondy
rare 260'+ ponderosa
rare 260'+ ponderosa

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mdavie
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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by mdavie » Thu Jan 31, 2019 6:50 am

Nice! Is that openly available LiDAR? It looks to be such a high resolution! What are you using for processing it?

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Don
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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by Don » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:13 pm

Michael/Zane/Duncan-
Great finds, both sugars and ponderosas! They're still out there!!
Those images that included area around tree bases looked like they had significant duff accumulation...how do you deal with such duff piles when you go to establish bottom/mid/top slope measurements for determining breast height?
-Don
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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by M.W.Taylor » Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:21 pm

That's a good question Don. With ponderosa, sugar pine and other trees that constantly sluff bark you get a debris field around the base. I try to measure at the edge of the trunk and gently move away the bark/needle debris to expose the dirt a few inches underneath. But if there is a large mound of tightly packed debris like with ponderosa it is hard to say where the sluff ends and dirt begins. As you know, the sluffing bark transitions into an intermediate mulch layer before turning into soil.

To avoid digging around trees with a debris pile and also to avoid subjectivity in determining where the ground starts, I will instead go 1 trunk dbh away from the edge and take the ground level at that point for both high and low sides. Usually outside the debris mound at 1 trunk dbh you will find soil only a few inches under the duff. I take the average of the high and low sides at the ground here at 1 dbh away from trunk edge. When using a prism on a pole I mount the prism on the pole at the low side and survey to it, then mount the prism pole on the high side and survey to it, all from a common station where I have set up the laser on a tripod with swiveling/panning bracket that always stays level. Then I get the average high and low to prism centroid by averaging their vertical distance below the laser center + the height of the pole above the ground + the height of the top above the laser center to get the final height total. I mount the prism poles so that the pole point is just touching the top soil. In the last picture of the 260.4' ponderosa you will notice a small disturbance at 1 trunk dbh away in front of Duncan where I parted the needles to expose the ground a few inches underneath it.

Before setting up the prism poles I study the general contour of the ground to determine if it is a good representation of the forest floor around the tree. If not I will go closer than 1 trunk diameter. For instance, if there is a depression on either the low or the high side at 1 dbh away, I will avoid that and try to match up to the ground contour closer to the trunk. For trees on a steep slope I stay at the edge of the trunk and avoid the 1 dbh away rule to avoid inflating the height. If the tree is in a flat or gentle slope then I used the 1 diameter rule. For nearly all sluffing trees, once you get about 1 trunk diameter away you are usually outside the debris field. This way the re-measurement is repeatable and other surveyors will get similar results. With trees like Hyperion that are on a steep hill, we took the height right at the edge of the trunk to avoid inflation.

Of course this is not an exact science but my colleagues who use the same method almost always come within an inch or two of my measurements in their own independent surveys. We feel this is the best representation of tree height above average ground level for trees with a mound of debris. True, it adds a little to the height. But I don't consider a mound of sluffing bark or needles to be representative to the true ground level.


Don wrote:Michael/Zane/Duncan-
Great finds, both sugars and ponderosas! They're still out there!!
Those images that included area around tree bases looked like they had significant duff accumulation...how do you deal with such duff piles when you go to establish bottom/mid/top slope measurements for determining breast height?
-Don
Last edited by M.W.Taylor on Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by Don » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:13 am

Michael-
Very well explained, and a worthy undertaking when measuring potential champions. I can imagine it becoming a Standard !

During my tenure at Grand Canyon NP, I had a series of research plots (Wildfire Hazard Reduction Research) where one of the plots was to represent the effectiveness of clearing the debris (debris/duff exactly as you describe above) from around the base of large old ponderosa pines on the North Rim. The thought was that the thick duff accumulation was an issue with ponderosa pine mortality, as once the duff catches fire, it burns down into the depths, not on oxygen, but on nitrogen, anerobically continues to burn, and literally 'fries' the roots. As one who supervised the research crew raking the duff out to an approximation of the crown spread (proxy for extent of roots) distance from the base, quite large amounts of duff can accumulate, when raking to ground.

Much less common, but often highlighted by USFS/NPS signs, some large ponderosa pines are labeled 'Wildlife Trees', with duff accumulations often several feet thick and out a significant distance...heavily laden with cone pieces, bracts, seeds, etc., primarily from squirrels foraging.

Of course it's all more complex than that, with the role of fungal growth in the debris/duff/soil interface getting significant attention by researchers. Not all new, there's long been an synergistic association between certain fungi, squirrels and ponderosa pines, to the point that at one point there was a Park preserve listed on older Grand Canyon maps to protect said association.

Congratulations on assembling such a crack crew, Michael...not much the three of you will miss!!!

By the way, your LiDAR image could make a good Christmas Card image!
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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by dbhguru » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:12 am

Michael,

Will you kindly ship one of the 260-footers out my way? Just one. Not too much to ask, is it? But seriously, it is inspiring to learn of your continued discoveries, and of course, your measurement methods are the gold standard.

I've been buried in FIA-based carbon models that combine more data sources and methods that Carter has little liver pills (dating myself). I can only marvel that any of their models work. But using the FS model, the volume in ft^3 of your 260-footer is 2546.5 ft^3. My seat of the pants guess would be about 3,000 ft^3 based on a form factor of 0.44. That seems a little low for such a tall, columnar tree. Do you have any quick trunk volume estimates?

Bob
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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by mdvaden » Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:58 am

M.W.Taylor wrote:The rare 260'+ class ponderosa grows on a high perched bench next to a small spring. Site elevation 3,250 feet. The LiDAR from 2013 shows the tree being around 250' so it appears to have grown considerably over the last 5 years. It's a younger old growth tree with an unusual double leader pointy top. Perhaps 150-200 years old.
If growth may be that good there, are Ponderosa pines the most common tree there, or more like few and far between?
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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by M.W.Taylor » Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:51 pm

Bob, just going by memory of the trunk taper and size higher up I think 2,500-2,700 cubic feet would be a reasonable estimate.

dbhguru wrote:Michael,

Will you kindly ship one of the 260-footers out my way? Just one. Not too much to ask, is it? But seriously, it is inspiring to learn of your continued discoveries, and of course, your measurement methods are the gold standard.

I've been buried in FIA-based carbon models that combine more data sources and methods that Carter has little liver pills (dating myself). I can only marvel that any of their models work. But using the FS model, the volume in ft^3 of your 260-footer is 2546.5 ft^3. My seat of the pants guess would be about 3,000 ft^3 based on a form factor of 0.44. That seems a little low for such a tall, columnar tree. Do you have any quick trunk volume estimates?

Bob

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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sier

Post by M.W.Taylor » Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:59 pm

Mario, This 260.4' ponderosa was a "few and far between" type. It was mostly a douglas fir forest with a small grove of ponderosa on a well protected north facing bench. Just like the forest we found that 268'+ pondy, it was competing with coast douglas fir which is more shade tolerant. It appears this tall ponderosa began life after a fire event opened up the forest. Now it has to rocket upward to keep in the light and prevent it from being shaded out by nearby douglas fir.
mdvaden wrote:
M.W.Taylor wrote:The rare 260'+ class ponderosa grows on a high perched bench next to a small spring. Site elevation 3,250 feet. The LiDAR from 2013 shows the tree being around 250' so it appears to have grown considerably over the last 5 years. It's a younger old growth tree with an unusual double leader pointy top. Perhaps 150-200 years old.
If growth may be that good there, are Ponderosa pines the most common tree there, or more like few and far between?

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Re: Rare 260' Class Ponderosa Pine Measured in Northern Sierra

Post by DAKennedy » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:10 pm

God, it's really been almost a year since this trip? My, how time flies.

Overall this was a fruitful trip that gave us some good measurements for some tall trees, and got us into an area that Michael and I got to earlier in 2018 in what we've dubbed "The bushwhack from hell". The car accident on the way home was lovely too; it's been a year and mom is still pissed at me for it :D

Looking forward to the next adventure!

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