Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Simulation modeling of complex climate, wildfire, and vegetation dynamics to address wicked problems in land management

January 29, 2020

Complex, reciprocal interactions among climate, disturbance, and vegetation
dramatically alter spatial landscape patterns and influence ecosystem dynamics.
As climate and disturbance regimes shift, historical analogs and past empirical studies
may not be entirely appropriate as templates for future management. The need for a
better understanding of the potential impacts of climate changes on ecosystems is
reaching a new level of urgency, especially in highly perturbed or vulnerable ecological
systems. Simulation models are extremely useful tools for guiding management
decisions in an era of rapid change, thus providing potential solutions for wicked
problems in land management—those that are difficult to solve and inherently resistant
to easily definable solutions. We identify three experimental approaches for landscape
modeling that address management challenges in the context of uncertain climate
futures and complex ecological interactions: (1) an historical comparative approach, (2)
a future comparative approach, and (3) threshold detection. We provide examples of
each approach from previously published studies of simulated climate, disturbance, and
landscape dynamics in forested landscapes of the western United States, modeled with
the FireBGCv2 ecosystem process model. Cumulatively, model outcomes indicate that
typical land management strategies will likely not be sufficient to counteract the impacts
of rapid climate change and altered disturbance regimes that threaten the stability
of ecosystems. Without implementation of new, adaptive management strategies,
future landscapes are very likely to be different than historical or contemporary ones,
with significant and sometimes persistent changes triggered by interactions of climate
and wildfire.

Publication Year 2020
Title Simulation modeling of complex climate, wildfire, and vegetation dynamics to address wicked problems in land management
DOI 10.3389/ffgc.2020.00003
Authors Rachel A. Loehman, Robert E. Keane, Lisa M. Holsinger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
Index ID 70208145
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geography