Working at Siuslaw has been a unique experience, being able to learn about the different ongoing projects they have here; gave me a complete perspective of the protection and restoration work behind the stewardship of a National Forest. The Siuslaw National Forest’s present ecosystems are continuously changing, its ecosystems are the result of thousands of years of balanced range restrictions, ecological succession and species resilience. Although, the Oregon dunes are disappearing due to invasive species that stabilizes the soil and allow other plant species to colonize the dunes, this process of succession is natural and began thousands of years ago.
The Dunes are the result of erosion from volcanic material sediment on rivers, the accumulation of sand and the climatic conditions changed the course of rivers and shaped the dunes. Under different periods of time the conditions favored the colonization of the Dunes by plant species that stabilized the dunes forming forests, which are buried feet under the sand once the conditions were ideal for sand accumulation and dunes formed again. However, humans have thrown off natural cycles, especially in vulnerable ecosystems. As we known the first people that settled at the dunes changed this ecosystem by introducing aggressive species like the European beach grass, which has changed the course of natural succession and the dunes cycle at Siuslaw National Forest.
However, curious things may happen from chaos and I would like to mention the case of the Coastal marten, after European beachgrass was introduced, the succession of forests in the Dunes began rapidly offering suitable habitats for forest species. Frequent cases of dead martens on Siuslaw roads started to be reported in the 90’s, and a population the American marten was thought to be discovered in the Dunes, recent DNA analysis proved that this unique species of marten was the Coastal Marten. The discovery of this new and unique species at Siuslaw National Forest makes me wonder if this species was the result of recent isolation from American marten populations thanks to the rapid succession due to human disturbance in the Dunes, or if it is a species that has inhabited the Dunes for thousands of years.