Integrating ecological forecasting methods to improve applications for natural resource management: An invasive species example

Science Center Objects

Projecting the effects of climate change on plant and animal species distributions and abundance is critical to successful long‐term conservation and restoration efforts. There have been significant recent advances made in the areas of: (1) climate forecasts; (2) habitat niche modeling; (3) mechanistic modeling; and (4) observation techniques and networks. However, projections of biological cha...

Projecting the effects of climate change on plant and animal species distributions and abundance is critical to successful long‐term conservation and restoration efforts. There have been significant recent advances made in the areas of: (1) climate forecasts; (2) habitat niche modeling; (3) mechanistic modeling; and (4) observation techniques and networks. However, projections of biological change are fundamentally limited by a lack of integration and inter‐comparison between these various forecasting approaches.

The proposed working group will focus on integrating ecological forecasting methods for two well studied invasive species: cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar). Our goal is to produce robust, spatially explicit assessments of invasion risk under current and future climate conditions. Input data will include cutting‐edge distribution information derived from remote sensing and ancillary point collections, current climate change projections, and expert knowledge of the two invasive species. The working group will produce the first synthesis model results from a suite of habitat niche models and process‐based mechanistic models. Spatial agreement between niche and mechanistic models indicates a risk assessment with high confidence for management planning. Discrepancy between the niche and mechanistic models will indicate a risk assessment with lower confidence that can be used to inform future data collection and direct management toward scenario‐based planning. The group will bring in natural resource managers in the second year to explore how the risk maps and the estimates of their uncertainty (constructed in the first year) can improve invasive management decisions for these two species. Our synthesis of approaches will produce a research framework for creating robust, integrated ecological forecasting tools.

The various disciplines represented by our team (climate, habitat niche, and mechanistic modelers; remote sensing specialists; and observation networks) are rarely combined for focused research. The nature of science funding mechanisms often indirectly discourages interdisciplinary research. This can lead to a situation where advances made in individual fields are not used to the fullest extent possible by the land management community, because there is no clear method to synthesize the results from the various fields. The Powell Center provides an opportunity to use state‐of‐the‐art data and modeling approaches (many housed with USGS) to address specific invasive species concerns and develop approaches for combining previously disparate results.

 

Principal Investigator(s):

Jeffrey T Morisette (National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and Climate Science Centers)

Bethany Bradley (UMass)

Participant(s):

Thomas J Stohlgren (Fort Collins Science Center)

Catherine S Jarnevich (Fort Collins Science Center)

Jimmie Chew (U.S. Forest Service)

Hong He (University of Missouri)

Steven W Hostetler (Branch of Regional Research, Western Region)

Kurt Gottschalk (U.S. Forest Service)

Jeanne Chambers (U.S. Forest Service)

Louis Iverson (U.S. Forest Service)

Terry Rich (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Mike Pellant (Bureau of Land Management)