Modeling Disturbance and Ecosystem Change at Landscape Scales

Science Center Objects

Models can be used to investigate changes in ecosystems and disturbance regimes across large landscapes and over long periods of time, i.e., at spatial and temporal scales that are typically not possible or practical using field-based observational or experimental methods. These spatially explicit models can also be used to investigate complex relationships and interactions among various ecosystems processes (e.g., species dispersal, natural disturbance), land use, and climate change. Moreover, such models can also provide retrospective or historical insights into past disturbance regimes and vegetation characteristics. 

We are using a spatially-explicit, stochastic, landscape simulation model (LANDIS-II) to project potential future changes in forest composition and fire regimes under different land use and climate change scenarios in southern boreal forests, Rocky Mountain forests, and Great Basin aspen woodlands. We have also begun using an ecological-niche modeling approach to investigate the role of climate and edaphic conditions in the distribution of ponderosa pine genotypes at regional scales. In addition to developing a better understanding of key ecological dynamics over time and space, our modeling research can help land managers estimate future natural community variability and distribution, identify key restoration and conservation opportunities, and better gauge future threats to ecological integrity and sustainable natural resources.