Paul Alaback

Photo of Alaback, Paul

Paul Alaback

Professor Emeritus of Forest Ecology

Office Hours:

By appointment. Please send email.

Personal Summary

While the main focus of my research has always been aimed at better understanding ecological relationships in forests and grasslands, I have found that the integration of knowledge from other disciplines is often a vital part of understanding the broad picture which is requisite to doing meaningful conservation work. Early in my career I was able to develop research information that was key to changing conservation practices and policies on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Learning how to translate scientific information and make it useful for practitioners of conservation and policy makers has been both stimulating, challenging, and personally rewarding. This is why I am especially supportive of the broad interdisciplinary nature of the resource conservation program here, as it helps stimulate this synthesis, both for faculty and students, and trains students not only in the science of conservation but also in how to actually do conservation I taught many field - oriented courses through the Wilderness Institute, which provides a unique opportunity for students to learn in what I think is the most stimulating possible way — in the diverse array of landscapes and ecosystems across the Northern Rockies. Learning and teaching natural history has always been my passion: web site. I retired from regular teaching in 2009, and my work is now focused on research, consulting, public education, and various aspects of conservation. I am now quite involved in work relating to promote sustainability and conservation of temperate rainforests in Alaska, and promoting citizen science with the natural history guide and a nation-wide phenology monitoring program (Project Budburst and National Phenology Network)


Ph.D. Forest Science (forest ecology) September 1980. Thesis topic: understory biomass successional dynamics in the Sitka spruce-western hemlock forests of southeastern Alaska. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.

B.S. Botany, B.S. Forest Science. University of Washington, Seattle, WA 1976.

International Studies Program. Central Washington State College, Ellensburg, WA. and University of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 1974.

Professional societies

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1983
  • Ecological Society of America since 1995
  • Montana Native Plant Society since 1995


Research Interests

My research centers on structure and function of forests and their relation to biological diversity across a range of scales. I am specifically interested in old growth ecology, biogeographic and land-use effects on plant diversity, global distribution and ecology of temperate rainforests, and understory vegetation ecology. I am also interested in comparing parallel ecosystems in North and South America to address the role of historic and societal influences on contemporary ecological processes. Current projects include ecological effects of salvage logging, effects of thinning on understory plants, ecology of exotic species, demography of long-lived forest understory plants, and developing better resources for learning natural history.


Lead Scientist, Project Budburst  (

Board of Directors, Northwest Connections

Consultant for Nature Conservancy-Alaska

Science Advisor, Aububon Society -Alaska

International Experience

My international work has been key to being able to better understand ecology and to place the work I have been involved with in a larger context. My international work has mostly focused on understanding the ecology of temperate rainforests and associated xeric forests in the Patagonia region of South America. I have also studied temperate rainforests in Canada and Europe.  I teach a course on the ecology of Patagonia, and am working on a book on the natural history of plants in Patagonia


Photography, solar greenhouses, gardening, environmental education, observational astronomy,  nature writing, conservation, music

Selected Publications

Selected Publications

Alaback,P., G. Nowacki and S. Saunders. In Press.  Disturbance Ecology of the Temperate Rainforests of Southeast Alaska and Adjacent British Columbia.  In: J.W. Schoen and G. Orians, eds.  Ecology & Conservation of North Temperate Rainforests. University of Washington Press, Seattle.

Bisbing, S.M., P.B.  Alaback and T. Deluca. 2010.  Carbon storage in old-growth and second growth fire-dependent western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.) forests of the inland Northwest, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 259:1041-1049.

Mouw, Jason E.B., Stanford, Jack A.. and Paul B. Alaback. 2009. Influences of flooding and hyporheic exchange on floodplain plant richness and productivity.  River Research and Applications 25:929-945.

Anibal Pauchard and Paul Alaback 2006. Edge type defines alien plant species invasions along Pinus contorta  burned, highway and clearcut forest edges.  Forest Ecology and Management 223:327-335.

Alaback, P.B. 2005. Was Fernow wrong? Reflections on the search for a sustainable timber industry in Southeast Alaska during the past century. In: Tom Litwin and Lawrence Hott, eds.  The Alaska-Harriman Retraced Expedition 2001, a companion volume to the PBS series. Rutgers University Press.

R. Lawford, P. Alaback, and E.R. Fuentes (eds.).  1995. High-latitude rain forests and associated ecosystems of the west coast of the Americas: Climate, hydrology, ecology and conservation.  Springer-Verlag. 409 pp

Journal Articles

Alaback, Paul B. 1982. Dynamics of understory biomass in Sitka spruce-western hemlock forests of southeast Alaska. Ecology 63:1932-1948

Alaback,P.B. 1986. Biomass equations for understory vegetation in coastal Alaska: The effects of species and sampling design on biomass estimates. Northwest Sci. 60:90-103.

Alaback,P.B. and F.J. Herman. 1988. Long-term response of understory vegetation to stand density in Picea - Tsuga forests.  Can J. For. Res. 18:1522-1530

Alaback, P.B. and G.P. Juday. 1989.  Structure and composition of old-growth forests in the Research Natural Areas of Southeast Alaska.  Journal of the Natural Areas Association 9:27-39.

Tappeiner, J.C. II and Paul B. Alaback. 1989.  Early establishment and vegetative growth of understory species in the western hemlock Sitka spruce forests of Southeast Alaska. Can J. Bot. 67:318-326.

 Alaback,P.B. and J.C. Tappeiner II. 1991.  Response of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophllya) and early huckleberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium ) seedlings following forest windthrow.  Canadian Journal of Forest Research  21:534-539.

Alaback,P.B. 1991.  Comparative ecology of temperate rainforests of the Americas along analogous climatic gradients.  Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 64:399-412.

den Ouden, J. and Paul B. Alaback. 1996. Successional trends and biomass of mosses on windthrow mounds in the temperate rainforests of southeast Alaska.  Vegetatio 124:115-128.

Mouw, Jason and Paul B. Alaback. 2003. Putting floodplain hyperdiversity in a regional context: an assessment of terrestrial-floodplain connectivity in a montane environment. J. Biogeography 30:87-103.

Pauchard,A. , P. Alaback, and E. Edlund. 2003. Studying plant invasions in protected areas at multiple scales: Linaria vulgaris (Scrophulariaceae) in the West Yellowstone area. Western North Am. Naturalist 63(4):416-428.

Pauchard,A. and P. Alaback. 2004. Roads as dispersal corridors for exotic plants in protected areas of South Central Chile: How elevation and land-use influence invasion patterns. Conservation Biology 18:238-248.

Alex Fajardo and Paul Alaback. 2005Effects of natural and human disturbances on the dynamics and spatial structure of Nothofagus glauca in south-central Chile. Journal of Biogeography.  32: 1811-1825.

Anibal Pauchard and Paul Alaback 2006. Edge type defines alien plant species invasions along Pinus contorta  burned, highway and clearcut forest edges.  Forest Ecology and Management 223:327-335.

Scientific Books & Book Chapters

Hall,J.K. and P.B. Alaback. 1982. Preliminary checklist of the vascular flora of McDonald and Paul Dunn State Forests. Special Publication No. 3. Forest Research Laboratory, Oregon State University. Corvallis, OR.

Alaback, Paul B. and Michael McClellan. 1993. Effects of global warming on managed coastal ecosystems of western North America.  Chapter 22. p 299-327. In: H.A. Mooney, E. Fuentes and B.I. Kronberg (eds.).  Earth System Response to Global Change. Contrasts between North and South America.  Academic Press.

Alaback, Paul B. 1993.  North-South Comparisons: Managed systems.  Chapter 24.  p 347-348.  In: H.A. Mooney, E. Fuentes and B.I. Kronberg (eds.).  Contrasts in global change responses between North and South America.  Academic Press.

Veblen,T.T. and P.B. Alaback. 1995.  A comparative review of forest dynamics and disturbance in the temperate rainforests in North and South America.  pp. 173-213 In: R. Lawford P. Alaback, and E.R. Fuentes(eds.).   High latitude rain forests and associated ecosystems of the west coast of the Americas: Climate, hydrology, ecology and conservation.  Ecological Studies Vol. 116. Springer-Verlag.

Alaback,P.B. 1995.  Biodiversity patterns in relation to climate: the coastal temperate rainforests of North America.  In: R. Lawford P. Alaback, and E.R. Fuentes(eds.).  High latitude rain forests and associated ecosystems of the west coast of the Americas: Climate, hydrology, ecology and conservation.  Ecological Studies Vol. 116. pp. 105-133 Springer-Verlag

R. Lawford, P. Alaback, and E.R. Fuentes (eds.).  1995. High-latitude rain forests and associated ecosystems of the west coast of the Americas: Climate, hydrology, ecology and conservation.  Ecological Studies Vol. 116.  Springer-Verlag. 409 pp.

Alaback,Paul  B. and J. Pojar. 1997. Vegetation from ridgetop to seashore. p 69-87 In: The Environment and people of coastal temperate rain forest. Peter K. Schoonmaker and Bettina von Hagen (eds.). Island Press

Alaback, P.B., M. Krebs, and P. Rosen. 2000. Ecological characteristics and natural disturbances of interior rainforests of northern Idaho. p 27-37 In:  Robert G. D'Eon, J. Johnson and E. Alex Ferguson, eds.  Ecosystem Management of Forested Landscapes.  UBC Press, Vancouver.

Alaback,P.B., T.T. Veblen, C. Whitlock, A. Lara, T. Kitzberger and R. Villalaba. 2003. Climatic and human influences on fire regimes in temperate forest ecosystems in North and South America. pp 49-88. In Gay Bradshaw , and P. Marquet eds. How landscapes change. Ecosystem fragmentation in the Americas. Ecological Studies 162. Springer. Berlin.

Symposia and Proceedings

Alaback, Paul B. and R. E. Frenkel 1978. Preserve analysis: Saddle Mountain. Oregon Natural Area Preserves Advisory Committee, Salem, Oregon. 69 p.

Alaback, Paul B. 1982. Long-term community structural changes during secondary succession in southeast Alaska. p 70-79 (in) J.E. Means (ed) Forest suc­ces­sion and stand development research in the Northwest. Proc. Symp March 26, 1981. Corvallis, Oregon. Forest Research Laboratory, Oregon State Univ.

Alaback,P.B. 1984. Contrasting old-growth and second growth forest structure in the Sitka spruce-western hemlock zone of southeast Alaska. Symp on Wildlife - old-growth relationships. The Wildlife Society, April 14-16, 1982. Juneau. p 219-226

Alaback,P.B. 1984. Plant succession following logging in the Sitka spruce-western hemlock forests of southeast Alaska: implications for management. USDA For. Serv. Pac. Northwest For. Range Exp. Sta. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-173.

Alaback,P.B. and Roy Sidle 1986. Biomass, productivity, structure and nutrients of riparian vegetation on a small forested watershed in southeastern Alaska. In: Perspectives in Watershed Research Symposium. Smithsonian Environmental Res. Center, Edgewater, Maryland. June 10-15, 1985. p 135-165.

Alaback, P.B. 1987. Biomass-dimension relationships of understory vegetation in relation to site and stand age.  p 141-148 In Wharton,Eric H.; Cunia, Tiberius. Estimating tree biomass regressions and their error. Proc. of the Workshop. May 26-30 1986. Syracuse, NY. NE-GTR-117. Broomall, PA. USDA Forest Service Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-117. 303p.

Alaback, P.B. 1988. Measuring light interception through conifer canopies. p 82-83 In: E. Hamilton and S. Watts (eds.) Proceedings of the third annual vegetation management workshop, February 15-17, 1988, Vancouver, B.C. Research Branch Ministry of Forests and Lands, Victoria, B.C.

Alaback, PB  (1990)  Dynamics of old-growth temperate rainforests in Southeast Alaska.  p 150-153 In: AM Milner and JD Wood (eds) Proceedings of the 2nd Glacier Bay Science Symposium, September 19-22, 1988, Gustavus, Alaska. National Park Service, Alaska Region, Anchorage, AK.

Doyle, Arlene T., Paul Alaback, Matthew D. Kirchhoff, Jere Christner and Ronald R. Wolfe. 1989.  Biodiversity and watershed management. p 13-22. In: Alexander,E.L. (ed.) Proceedings of Watershed 89, March 21-23, 1989. Juneau, AK. USDA Forest Service Region 10 R10-MB-77. Juneau.

Alaback, P.B. 1989. Logging of temperate rainforests and the greenhouse effect-- some ecological factors to consider. p 195-202. In: Alexander,E.L. (ed.) Proceedings of Watershed 89, March 21-23, 1989. Juneau, AK. USDA Forest Service Region 10 R10-MB-77. Juneau.

Samson,F., Paul Alaback, Jere Christner, and Tom Demeo. 1989.  Conservation of rain forests in Southeast Alaska: report of a working group.  Trans. N. Am. Wildf. Nat. Res. Conf. 54:121-133

Alaback,P.B.; Naiman,R. and J. Pastor  1991.  Plant ecology. pp 34-39 In:  Bryant,M. D. (Tech. ed.) The Copper River Delta Pulse Study: An Interdisciplinary Survey of the Aquatic Habitats.  USDA Forest Service PNW Res. Sta Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-282. 

Samson,F.; Suring,L.; and P.B. Alaback. 1989.  Discovering the diversity of the North American rainforest.  p 8-10 (In) Summer 1989 issue USDA Forest Service Habitat Futures, Wildlife and Fish Ecology Unit, Logan, Utah.

Alaback, P.B. 1991.  Yellow Cypress: An overview of biology and evolution.  Keynote address.  p 21-22  In: J. Daniel Lousier (ed.) Yellow Cypress: can we grow it?  Can we sell it?  Proc. Symp. 26-28 March 1990  , Richmond, B.C., Canada.  FRDA, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria, B.C. December 1991.

Alaback, Paul B. and James Wiegand. 1992.  Coastal Temperate Rainforests: definition and global distribution.  Ecotrust Special Report.  On File, Ecotrust, Portland, OR.

Kirchhoff,M.D.; Hanley, T.A.; Alaback P.B.; Prather, M.L.; Weyermann, D.L.  1990.  The Deer submodel. p 64-78 In: SAMM: a prototype southeast Alaska multiresource model. Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Gen. Tech. Rep. GTR-225, Portland, OR.

Alaback,P.B. 1993. Temperate rainforests in British Columbia: a global perspective.  p 55-57 In: Proc. Experimental Forests Workshop.  April 28-29th, 1992 Victoria, B.C.  B. C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria, B.C.  FRDA Report 202, BCFRAC  Report 2, ISSN 0835 0752.

Means,J.E.; H.A. Hansen; G.J. Koerper, P.B. Alaback and M.W. Klopsch. 1994.  Software for computing plant biomass-- BIOPAK users guide.  USDA Forest Service PNW Res. Sta. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-340.  184 pp.

Hartwell,M. and Paul Alaback. 1996. Determination of fire-initiated landscape patterns: restoring fire mosaics on the landscape. p 46-48 In: C.Hardy and S.F. Arno (eds.), The use of fire in forest restoration. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-GTR-341. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. Ogden, UT.

Brown, Michael J,  Paul B. Alaback, and Thomas T. Veblen. 1998.  Floristic monitoring in the cool temperate rain forest biome.  Chapter 27 p 481-491  In:  Monitoring Biodiversity. Proceedings of a workshop.  Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Hartwell,M.G., Paul Alaback and Steven F. Arno. 2000. Comparing historic and modern forests on the Bitterroot Front.  P  11-16 In: Bitterroot Ecosystem Management Research Project: What we have learned.  Symposium Proceedings, M issoula, MT, May 18-20, 1999. USDA Forest Service Rocky Mtn. Res. Sta.  Proceedings RMRS-P-17.  Ogden, UT.

Miller, Carol, Peter B. Landres, and Paul B. Alaback.  2000. Evaluating risks and benefits of wildland fire at landscape scales.  In: Proceed. Fire Science Conf.

Six, Diana, Paul Alaback, Robert A. Winfree, Della Snyder and Anne Hagele.  2000.  Wilderness for science: pros and cons of using wilderness areas for biological research.  p 271-275  In: S.F. McCool, D.N. Cole, W.T. Borrie and J. O’Loughlin (eds).  Wilderness Science in a time of change conference.   Missoula, MT, May 23-27, 1999.  USDA Forest Service Rocky Mtn. Res. Sta.  Ogden, UT.  RMRS-P-15-Vol 3.

Pauchard, A. and Alaback, P. 2002. La amenaza de plantas invasoras. Chile Forestal. 289:13-15. (Spanish)

Sikkink,P. and P. Alaback.  In pressThrough the historical lens:  An examination of compositional change in Yellowstone’s bunchgrass communities (1958-2002).  8th Biennial Yellowstone Scientific Conference. Mammoth Hot Springs October 19, 2005.  U.S. Dept Interior, National Park Service.

General Books and Articles

Alaback, Paul.  1988. Endless battles, verdant survivors. (The ecology of Alaska's coastal rainforests). Natural History. (August) 97:44-51.

Alaback, Paul. 1990.  Alerce: the South American Giant. The World & I Magazine.  October pp 316-321.

J. Pojar and  A. MacKinnon (eds). 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Coast. P.B. Alaback, J.Antos, T. Goward, K. Lertzman, A. MacKinnon, J.Pojar, N. Turner, and D. Vitt (authors).  Lone Pine Publ., Edmonton, Alberta. 527 pp. Illus.  Title in Canada: Plants of Coastal British Columbia.

Alaback,P.B., K. Lertzman and N. Turner. 1994. Introduction. p 11-27 In: J. Pojar and  A. MacKinnon (eds). Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Coast.. Lone Pine Publ., Edmonton, Alberta. 527 pp. Illus.  Title in Canada: Plants of Coastal British Columbia.

Alaback,Paul. 1996. A last hope for sustainability. Inner Voice 8(5): 15.

Alaback,P.B. 1999. A sense of place and time -- the Tongass rainforest.  pp 53-70 In: The Book of the Tongass. Don Snow and Carolyn Servid, Editors. Milkweed Press.

Alaback,Paul. 2003. Matrix matters. Book review of Lindenmeyer and Franklin.  Conserving Biodiversity. Ecology 84(5):1341-1343.

Alaback, Paul. 2005. Conservation. Book review of Clive Hambler “Conservation”, Cambridge Univ. Press. Ecology 86(6):1661-1663.

Alaback, P.B. 2005. Was Fernow wrong? Reflections on the search for a sustainable timber industry in Southeast Alaska during the past century. In: Tom Litwin ed.  The Alaska-Harriman Retraced Expedition 2001, a companion volume to the PBS series. Rutgers University Press. 304 pp.