Flying squirrels help the forests they live in!

Flying squirrels help the forests they live in!

Truffles, also known as hypogeous fungi, live a mysterious existence, fruiting below ground in the mineral soil/organic layer interface. While their mushroom relatives fruit above ground and loudly display their wild array of colors, textures and shapes, truffles quietly play out their important roles out of human sight. Truffles provide food for various mammals (and in turn the predators), and their mycorrhizal fungi networks contribute to the health of certain trees, including Douglas-fir. Flying squirrels are adept at hunting for truffles, drawn by the aroma. The truffle spores and bacteria pass through the squirrels’ digestive tracts, ready to colonize the roots of nearby trees and understory plants with mycorrhizal fungi.

“Mycorrhizal fungi enhance the ability of trees to absorb water and nutrients from soil, and they move photosynthetic carbohydrates from trees into the soil,” explains Andy Carey, former research biologist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Olympia, WA. “In turn, this carbon supports a vast array of microbes, insects, nematodes, bacteria, and other organisms in the soil.1” Fungal networks actually “take up minerals and water from soil and transport them into the fine feeder roots for use by the host plant.2”

Several species of truffles grow in Eastern WA, when fir, pine, hazelnut or other tree species establish mycorrhizal relationships with truffle-forming fungi species. Squirrels and other forest-dwelling mammals play an essential role in dispersing fungal spores, thus helping to complete the web of life in the forest. “Truffle species also perform many important ecosystem functions including organic matter decomposition, nutrient cycling and retention, soil aggregation, and transferring energy through soil food webs. These functions contribute to the overall health, resiliency, and sustainability of forest ecosystems.2”

1. Science Findings, Issue 60 www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi60.pdf
2. Diversity, Ecology, and Conservation of Truffle Fungi in Forests of the Pacific Northwest, Trappe et al, www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr772.pdf

Flying squirrel in nesting box photo by Chloe Lahondere and Clement Vinauger
Flying squirrel in Lost Lake nesting box photo by Chloe Lahondere and Clement Vinauger

Supporting the Northern flying squirrel is one way that natural resource professionals are working to recover the threatened spotted owl. Learn more:
www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/44793
www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/5525

Read the lyrics to our song about fungi and flying squirrels on the Wild Mushrooms and Fungi Ecology event page.

We have made the difficult decision to cancel the Get Lost! Trail Race for this year. As soon as we are able, we will schedule next year’s event and it will be better than ever!

In the meantime, we hope that you get outside, stay safe and recreate responsibly! We’ll see you next year in the beautiful Okanogan Highlands!

Choose from 4 different race options: 3 miles, 7 miles, 14 milers and a free 0.5 mile kids race, there is something for everyone! Come early and camp at the Lost Lake Group Camp on Saturday night before the race!

Hope to see you there!

Fifty-six runners age 4 and up gathered at Lost Lake in the Okanogan Highlands on Sunday, June 30, to participate in OHA’s 2nd annual Get Lost! Trail Race event. This year, the fundraiser for OHA offered a 3-mile race in addition to the half-marathon, 7-miler, and free 1k kid’s race.

“A highlight of the day for me was the amazing people,” said AJ Baker, half-marathon winner for the men’s division, “especially considering I was an unfamiliar face to most, I felt so welcomed by everyone involved with the event.” He added, “the course and surrounding area were incredible. I’m glad there are opportunities like this to experience the beauty of the Okanogan!”

“It was a beautiful day,” said Erin VanderStoep, who ran the 7-mile distance. She added: “The sun was shining, the loons were laughing, and the wildflowers were in full bloom on top of Strawberry Mountain; it couldn’t have been a more beautiful course on a more beautiful day.”

A huge thank you to…

  • Our volunteers who helped facilitate the event
  • This year’s sponsors: Tonasket Natural Foods Co-Op, Lee Frank’s Mercantile, North 40 Outfitters, Big 5 Sporting Goods, and REI Co-Op
  • The runners for supporting OHA!

Click here for full results!

Get Lost! 2019 Trail Race results
Click to view the Fall 2014 Lost Lake Preserve update
Click to view an article about Lost Lake in the Washington State Lake Protection Association (WALPA) newsletter
Channel at south end of Lost Lake wetland, impounded by beaver and storing much more water than in previous years, September 2015 (botanist George Thornton on the right)

Click here to view our full photo album of the Lost Lake wetlands year-round!

The Lost Lake calcareous fen, unusual for its almost neutral pH, creates conditions for a unique community of plants.

“The wetlands within the Lost Lake Preserve are of high conservation value due to the rare plants and plant communities which occur there and the fact that the site retains excellent ecological integrity despite numerous human stressors in the surrounding landscape. The site supports numerous wetland types such as a calcareous fen, shrub swamp, and forested seepage swamp. Of particular interest is the calcareous fen, which are rare in Washington and are primarily limited to the northeast corner of the State. Calcareous fens are also one of the rarest wetland types in the United States. Calcareous fens differ from other peatlands in that their pH is circumneutral to alkaline and they typically have a high amount of calcium and other base cations. Such conditions result in a unique set of plants which are able to grow in the fen. One of the more significant plant community types found at Lost Lake Preserve is the bog birch/slender sedge (Betula glandulosa/Carex lasiocarpa) plant association. This plant association is typically found in rich to extremely rich fens (e.g. calcareous fens) and is known to occur in northwestern Montana through northern Idaho and into northeastern Washington. Within Washington it is considered to be very rare. In summary, the Lost Lake Wetland Preserve harbors some significant pieces of Washington’s natural heritage. The long-term protection of this wetland complex would contribute to the conservation of these biodiversity treasures within Washington state.”

Joe Rocchio, WA Dept. of Natural Resources
Building a habitat pile
  1. If you enjoy fishing, you can use fishing weights made from non-poisonous materials such as bismuth, steel, clay, rock, ceramic and tungsten-nickel alloy. Non-lead jigs and other tackle are also available. You can find these supplies locally in hardware and sporting goods stores. If you don’t see non-lead tackle, ask for it so the store managers know you care. Many people love to see loons and other lead-sensitive wildlife while they fish. Please pass this information along to others!

  2. You can also stay informed about issues related to rotenone treatment of highland lakes by the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, and provide public input whenever it is solicited. Read about OHA’s concerns about waterfowl–including impacts on Loons and Black Terns–in our WDFW Rotenone comment letter.

  3. Through ongoing volunteer help, OHA has been steadily improving the habitat for wildlife at the Lost Lake Preserve. View our photo album of habitat enhancement projects!

Columbia Spotted Frog (Rana luteiventris) at Lost Lake

A wide variety of amphibians find everything they need to thrive in the Lost Lake Wetland.

The wetland hosts a healthy population of the State Candidate Species, Rana luteiventris, the Columbia Spotted Frog. This species is abundant in the Lost Lake wetland, though statewide it is ranked by the Natural Heritage Program as “Apparently Secure,” meaning that while they are at fairly low risk of extinction or elimination, there is “possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats, or other factors.”

The recently reestablished beaver population in the Lost Lake wetland improves wetland function. Significant increases in the water storage capacity of the wetland caused by beaver activity will not only benefit the hydrology of the wetland and the nesting waterbird and plant populations, but will provide additional water for late season flows into the Myers Creek subwatershed.

Beaver dams built beginning in the summer of 2010, holding water back–making it available during late season flows

Another waterbird of note that has traditionally nested at Lost Lake is the Black Tern, a Category 2 candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and a bird-at-risk on the Washington Gap Analysis list. According to the Seattle Audubon Society (2008), Black Tern numbers have “decreased since the 1960s due in part to the destruction or degradation of much of their breeding…habitat.”

You may see these black and silver birds swooping to pluck food from the surface of Lost Lake or foraging in flight as they seize flying insects from the air. In order to nest, the Black Tern needs habitat with extensive cover vegetation as well as open water. Like the loon, the small and graceful tern nests on floating debris or near the water, making the Lost Lake non-combustible motor rule a key factor for successful nesting for both species.

© Okanogan Highlands Alliance 2019. All Rights Reserved.
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