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Scheller presented at National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil

posted Dec 26, 2012, 10:04 AM by

Title:  Dynamic Landscape and Forest Change: Integrating Multiple Drivers for Ecological Forecasting

Authors:  Robert M. Scheller

Date: December 18, 2012

Abstract:  Forest change and climate change represent the intersection of a complex suite of ecological processes.  The magnitude of this complexity has often prevented a holistic integration of multiple drivers to forest landscape change.  However, such integration is necessary if we hope to purse the goal of ecological forecasting.  As outlined by James Clark and others in 2001, ecological forecasting is the quantification of plausible futures for ecological systems, including the effects of human activity.  Such information must be delivered to managers and policy-makers in a timely, transparent, and digestible fashion in order for our science to be policy relevant.  I will outline the challenges and opportunities for conducting ecological forecasting and our progress to date.  In addition, I will present a case study of ecological forecasting from the Lake Tahoe Basin (LTB) in California and Nevada, USA.  In the LTB, current management is focused on controlling wildfires and protecting property through fuel treatments.  However, climate change and its effects on wildfire are a growing concern.  Managers need forecasts of the effects of climate change and whether their current actions will become more or less effective under an altered climate regime.  Managers must consider important trade-offs between fuel treatments and long-term Carbon sequestration over time. The extent and time-frame of these potential trade-offs are relatively unknown. We used a landscape model (LANDIS-II) to simulate the multifaceted effects of climate change, wildfire, and forest management on forest carbon and succession dynamics.  Our results suggest that the LTB forests will continue to sequester C, regardless of changes in climate, mainly due to the landscape legacy effect from extensive logging of the late 19th century. Despite this, simulated wildfire activity increased under climate change and fuel treatments were more effective under climate change as the intersection of fuel treatments and wildfires increased.  Such forecasts will become increasingly important as climate change and other anthropogenic effects accelerate, requiring quick and robust actions by managers and policy makers.