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:: Home > Watersheds > Forest Zones of Oregon > Western Hemlock/Sitka Spruce Forests
range map, subalpine forests

Western Hemlock/
Sitka Spruce Forests

Ecology: Forests dominated by western hemlock and Sitka spruce hug the fog belt along the Oregon coast, seldom reaching more than a few miles inland or a few hundred feet above sea level. Both species are shade tolerant, but Sitka spruce is more resistant to salt spray. Sitka spruce sometimes grows in pure stands but is more commonly mixed with western hemlock, western redcedar, Douglas-fir, red alder, and lodgepole pine (commonly called shore pine along the coast).

Along the Oregon coastline, near Cape Perpetua. Near the California border, Port-Orford-cedar, Oregon-myrtle (also called California-laurel), and coast redwood join the mix. Understories are typically dense with shrubs, ferns, herbs and epiphytes. Hemlock and spruce seedlings often establish on rotting tree logs called “nurse logs.” Straight lines of trees originally established on the same log are commonly seen.

Climate: The climate of this zone is wet and mild. Frequent and dense summer fog helps limit the evaporative power of the sun, while “fog drip” that condenses on tree crowns adds to soil moisture.

Management: These forests are among the most productive in the world. Clearcutting followed by planting is the most common timber management practice, but recently a disease called Swiss needle cast has caused managers to reconsider where to plant Douglas-fir. Plantations are commonly invaded by western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and red alder, resulting in mixed stands. Thinning is a key to maintaining the productivity and vigor of these stands. Western hemlock/Sitka spruce forests have traditionally provided pulp for high quality paper; they are also managed for specialty wood products and a variety of wildlife.

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